I currently follow 970 accounts on Twitter. Some of those accounts are brands or long-since inactive users I can’t seem to unfollow, but most of them are real people doing real things. Many of them are creative types — writers I admire, musicians with strong followings, and friends with cool jobs and personal projects. In a way, I’ve curated my Twitter feed to be full of people making cool things, in an effort to motivate myself to make my own cool things.
A phrase has emerged in Writer Twitter (and other online communities) over the last few years that’s become a bit of a meme. We all know what’s coming when we see the words “some personal news”: A writer just joined the staff of a prestigious magazine. Someone decided to quit their day job in favor of freelancing. A friend from college just got engaged. A YouTuber just signed their first book deal.
I’m always happy to hear that a friend or someone I admire on the internet is doing something cool. But between the speed of my Twitter feed and the ever-increasing amount of engagement and “We bought a house!” photos on Facebook and Instagram, it’s hard not to feel a bit stuck. Some days it feels like there’s a digital Greek chorus shouting “some personal news” at me, while I’m backed into a corner with nothing to show for myself.
Everyone moves at their own pace, and naturally, everyone puts the best version of themselves on social media, hiding their more complicated feelings and struggles. I can repeat these truths to myself a million times, but it’s usually just cold comfort. However, I’ve developed a few strategies to regain some perspective in these moments and keep myself from spiraling down the “I’ve done nothing with my life” rabbit hole. Here’s how I keep my cool while wading through a feed full of “some personal news.”
1. Read about successful people who got started later in life.
You know that meme? The one that starts, “At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job,” and goes on to list several other famous people who made it later in life, such as Vera Wang, J.K. Rowling, and Morgan Freeman? I find it kind of (very) cheesy, but there’s something to it. I like to read about the people I admire — not to model my career on theirs, but to know that I’m not alone when I feel stuck or directionless or inadequate. Everyone’s struggled at some point. Even Oprah.
2. Talk to your younger friends.
One cannot sustain oneself on outside validation alone — but it definitely helps. I made friends with a lot of underclassmen in college, some of whom are just graduating and starting their careers now. Occasionally, some of them will ask me for advice on breaking into the entertainment industry or moving to a new city, and I’ll realize how much I’ve actually accomplished in the four years since I’ve graduated. I’m not saying you should go fishing for compliments among your younger friends, but if someone reaches out for advice or asks you to be on an alumni panel, recognize that they’re turning to you for a reason. Sometimes you have to step outside yourself to realize how far you’ve come.
3. Find a hobby.
It’s so easy to get lost in the spiral of inadequacy when your life consists of nothing but work, side hustles, Netflix marathons, and the occasional happy hour. It’s important to do something active that will take your mind off of your career/life path for a few hours a week. For me, that meant joining a women’s barbershop chorus that fills my free time with rehearsals, meetings, and shows. Maybe for you, it’s a knitting circle that meets at your local pub or regular hours volunteering at a greyhound rescue. Regardless, you’ll be able to redistribute some of your brain space, meet some new people from different backgrounds, and blow off steam in a constructive way.
4. Improve your skills.
Maybe seeing all this “personal news” has pushed you to make a change in your life, but for whatever reason, you just can’t make the big step yet. Or maybe you’re just not sure exactly what that step should be. This is a fantastic time to explore your interests, learn something new, or improve your skills. There are plenty of affordable classes online and in your neighborhood that will allow you to explore a new path without totally upending your life. When I was feeling a bit stuck in my career a few months ago, I decided to sign up for a digital marketing certificate program at a local university. This was something I could easily balance with my job and other activities, and it gave me some great new skills to add to my resume.
This formula may not be perfect; sometimes all you really need to do to avoid the spiral is just log off of social media for a while. But these little methods have helped me immensely in the past few years. I’m getting a little closer every day to pushing those feelings of inadequacy aside for good. Until then, I’ve got some pretty good coping strategies in my repertoire.
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