Feeling Unsuccessful

Feeling Unsuccessful

 

Between my first year of University and my second stood an unexpectedly long Summer. After being so relieved to have submitted all my coursework, I found myself struggling to fill up the time I suddenly had on my hands and, unsurprisingly, a lot of boredom ensued. As I’m sure we all know, boredom often leads to mindless scrolling through social media which actually does nothing to resolve the problem and tends to simply make us more bored. Except now we’re bored with the knowledge that most of our peers are not. Seeing my friends and people who I’d gone to school with appearing on Instagram and Facebook to be living the exciting life I wanted to have left me feeling inadequate. Why wasn’t I backpacking by myself already? Why didn’t I have a blog? Why didn’t I have a thing or a hobby that was distinctly mine? Most importantly, why didn’t I feel successful in any way? Everybody appeared to be achieving things while I did not feel like there was anything I could achieve without classes to go to and a prescribed reading list. Everybody appeared to have found their ‘thing’ while I was struggling to figure out even a vague route I wanted to take with my life post-university, now three years down the line. As a result, much of that Summer was spent feeling an invisible pressure to ‘catch-up’ with these friends, which led to what was, quite frankly, an unnecessary amount of stress. However, now that I am back at University and feeling more optimistic about the success which I feared I was not achieving over the Summer, a few things have straightened themselves out in my mind.

 

Firstly, success is an incredibly subjective thing that undoubtedly comes in hundreds of different shapes and sizes - one individual’s personal success may be nowhere near what another deems to be a personal success. Our experiences are separate from one another’s and definitively unique, therefore our values are going to differ. Instagram is a particularly aggressive culprit when it comes to platforms which tend to fuel inadequacy. Perfection has become so important on the site that it is too easy to view somebody’s profile, see that their feed has a ‘theme’, and instantly believe that they themselves are successful. A closer look into their individual images which showcase the plethora of places they have travelled, their healthy breakfast bowls, and even well-positioned images of their study set-up can lead anybody to perceive this person as being successful. It is important to remember though that Instagram is an incredibly edited and condensed version of what is probably not a perfectly all-achieving life at all. A success is not limited to travelling alone, getting straight As or having a full-time career at a young age. I climbed Bennachie over the Summer and went to bed that night feeling like I had achieved something. To an experienced hiker, however, Bennachie is literally a baby hill which definitely should not have taken the amount of time I took to climb it or the number of snack breaks. Success is subjective.

 

Secondly, not yet knowing what exactly you want to succeed in is okay. You more or less have all the time in the world to figure it out. However, for some reason, we are conditioned to believe that certain milestones must be met within a tight time period. Such milestones feel particularly claustrophobic to a University student who has no idea in what direction they want their life to go. But, University does not necessarily need to be the period of your life where your biggest successes take place. There is no rule which states this, other than the train of middle-aged people you meet who insist that these ‘are the best years of your life so make sure you take every opportunity!’ The unfortunate truth is, sometimes we just don’t really want to and that’s okay. Personally, I found that my lack of motivation over the Summer came from a longing to be seen by others as successful, just as I was seeing my friends online as successful. What I failed to realise was that my success would come naturally. Forcing some kind of achievement which did not feel authentic simply to be perceived as successful would be useless, and probably fuel an even bigger lack of motivation. Try out different things, you will know where your successes lie eventually.

 

After all of the strange success-related-stress that I experienced over the Summer, I have now come to terms with the fact that in reality, success does not really matter. One person’s success could easily be another’s failure and finding an area within which you find the motivation to be successful might take some time. The biggest successes often come out of just living your life without thinking about it, so support and celebrate the successes of your friends on Instagram and Facebook. Their success is not your failure.