As you get older, it might seem like there’s a lot of pressure to ‘keep up’ with people your age, in terms of interests, clothes, appearances, etc. This can be really hard, especially when it feels like you’re ‘falling behind’ because you don’t like a certain thing or look a certain way.
You might feel hurt, or discouraged, or even like there’s something wrong with you. I want to tell you a little secret:
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, because there is no ‘falling behind’. Everyone matures at a different rate, even those who are in your age group. And roping people into certain categories based on what some people like or look like, is ridiculous, because the vast majority of people in that age group won’t fit into those pre-determined categories.
Our culture is shaped around planning people’s lives for them before they can even walk: Outgrow dolls and toy cars by age 10; start wearing makeup and ‘fashionable’ clothing by middle school; have a significant other by high school; get a job and driver’s license by 17; go to college right away and know every single thing you need to know in order to do that by 19; move away from home for good after college; etc.
Because of the way our lives are structured, people feel like they’re ‘falling behind’ when they don’t fall into that pre-determined formula for how we live our lives. It creates a lot of double standards, and a lot of unrealistic expectations, because that formula assumes every single person is exactly the same. It has no room for diversity.
And the pressure to follow that formula is real! If you still play with toys in high school, you’re frowned upon. If you don’t have a significant other by the time college rolls around, you’re considered unattractive. If you don’t move out of your parents’ house and go to college at age 18-19, you’re seen as needy and lazy. And the list goes on.
And because of this harmful formula, people start to feel like something is wrong with them if they don’t reach a certain milestone by this or that age, and like they’re falling behind everyone else because of that.
So how do you keep yourself from feeling like you’re falling behind everyone else? =
First of all, I think everyone (or almost everyone) has struggled with the ‘falling behind’ feeling at least once or twice in their lifetime, simply because we’re all so different and unique, as a species. So even if it might feel like you’re the only one struggling with those feelings, know that you are not alone. I personally struggle with the ‘falling behind’ feeling a lot!
Second of all….remember that each and every person is different, and that we all like different things at different times. There is no ‘normal’ time to like/not like or wear/not wear certain things, no matter what other people (or the media) might tell you.
After all: If we all liked/wore the same things at the same ages, we would all be very boring, and so would life, because there would be no variation! We would all be doing the same things as our peers, without exceptions. That would get old really fast.
Part of the ‘falling behind’ feeling is what we see in the media. We always see teenagers with a significant other, and we always see younger kids outgrowing their toys by the time they’re 9-10. And that has an impact on how we think and act, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Media influences quite a bit, and it’s part of the reason we think and act some of the ways that we do.
But remember: Media is not real life. Books, movies, TV…those are all fiction. We shouldn’t use them as a standard or a guide on how to live/act, because they set so many unrealistic expectations for us all.
We are all different. We all like different things, at different times. And that’s okay. It’s part fo what makes us human.
Playing with toys at age 16? That’s fine! Not having a significant other at age 25? That’s perfectly all right! Still living at home at age 20? That’s okay! Still don’t like makeup or trendy clothes at age 14? Perfectly a-okay! Having trouble with high school level schoolwork at age 22? Nothing wrong with that! Not having social media or a cell phone at age 12? That’s all good and groovy!
Live your life the way YOU want to. Not the way someone else wants you to. Those pre-determined formulas on how to live? Ignore them. They’re not a guide, they’re someone’s fantasy.
Life is too short to not do or wear what you love. If someone gives you flack for playing with toys/not wearing makeup in middle school, or for not having a significant other/wearing trendy clothes in high school, or for not having a job/still hugging stuffed toys in your twenties, ignore them, and continue to do what you love.
Because, in the end, only you know how to live your life. That sounds deep, and mildly nerve-racking, but it’s the truth. You are your own person, and there is no ‘falling behind’ in life, because there is nothing for you to fall behind!
The next time you feel like you’re falling behind in life, or like there’s something wrong with you, remember that everyone is different, and that everyone likes different things, and that marching to the beat of your own drum isn’t only okay - it’s downright amazing.