The Rising Pressure to Achieve Success at a Young Age

The Rising Pressure to Achieve Success at a Young Age

Feeling Behind When the Future is Uncertain

As a 22 year old in my final year of university, I constantly grapple with society's expectation to have your career mapped out and be working towards major success already.

Between friends landing corporate jobs and entrepreneurs on social media building empires, it often seems like I'm behind if I don't have everything figured out yet.

The truth is, I launched my blog earlier this year but I'm still exploring what I'm passionate about and uncertain if I want to work in my field of study. I'm feeling pressure from all directions to have a flawless trajectory lined up.

But the reality is, very few 22 year olds have it all together! The journey to finding fulfilling work is long and nonlinear for most. As long as I keep developing my skills and learning about myself, I know the right path will unfold eventually.

In this post, I'll share how I deal with feeling “off track” and tune out arbitrary societal timelines. There are many versions of success – we don't all need to achieve it by 25! Progress isn't always linear.

The Rising Pressure to Achieve Success at a Young Age
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

The Social Media Influence

Social media has undoubtedly intensified the pressure to succeed young. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok showcase curated highlights reels of people launching businesses, making millions, or attaining fame before 25.

Seeing the meteoric success stories makes you feel like you're lagging behind if you don't land your dream job or release a bestselling book immediately after graduation.

But social media rarely depicts the messy behind-the-scenes journey and failures that eventually led to those accomplishments. The snapshots are carefully edited to appear flawless and accelerated.

Mindlessly scrolling through these curated images of luxury cars, magazine covers, and milestone celebrations fuels our anxieties about not achieving enough. Who isn't made to feel inadequate looking at peers living out their dreams already?

We have to consciously remember that social media does not reflect reality. No one's path is as linear and accelerated as their feed implies. Focus on your own definitions of success rather than getting lost in comparisons.

The reality is good things take time to build. As long as you're making intentional progress, you're not behind – despite what your social feed wants you to believe.

The Rising Pressure to Achieve Success at a Young Age

Role Models and Early Achievers

It's easy to see influential figures who skyrocketed to success early on and feel like you're lagging behind. Hearing about teenage entrepreneurs, 20-something celebrities, or 30 under 30 achievers can be disheartening.

I used to beat myself up comparing my career to prodigies or phenoms in my industry who made it big before 25. Why hadn't I reached their level of accomplishments yet?

But over time, I realized I was holding myself to unrealistic standards that didn't account for my own strengths and growth trajectory. Just because Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook at 19 doesn't mean I'm a failure for not matching that!

We have to remember that extraordinary success stories are the exceptions, not the rule. Idolizing outliers often only breeds self-doubt.

Instead, I work on celebrating incremental wins in my own journey. If I spend energy comparing myself to start-up unicorns or award-winning artists, I'll only feel discouraged.

Your path is uniquely yours. Role models are important, but make sure to find ones that inspire you rather than discourage you. Stay focused on your own definition of success.

Parental and Family Expectations

Growing up in a Zimbabwean household, the emphasis on achieving certain milestones by a set age was deeply ingrained. Elders in our community would proudly rattle off the accomplishments of young people as markers of status and parental success.

I internalized early on that securing a good corporate job, marrying, and owning property by your late 20s were non-negotiable expectations, not just goals. My parents were incredibly supportive, yet the cultural pressure persisted.

Walking across the graduation stage was just the starting line in my family's eyes. I was then expected to immediately land a prestigious job and quickly climb the ladder. Finding my own path at my own pace felt indulgent.

Over time, I've learned to acknowledge but tune out familial pressures and match my own definition of success. Their values come from a place of love, yet can fuel anxiety about meeting rigid timelines.

Remembering that your timeline won't look the same as your parents' journey brings freedom. Honor your heritage while still feeling empowered to forge your own path – even if it doesn't match cultural narratives.

Impact on Mental Health

The relentless pressure to succeed young can severely impact mental health. When you're made to feel like you're constantly behind before even finding your footing in the world, it inevitably breeds anxiety and stress.

I've struggled with imposter syndrome and related burnout during seasons where I was killing myself trying to launch a business overnight or land a director role at 25. In my scramble to prove I “made it,” I lost myself.

Pushing progress at an unsustainable rate alongside peers who seemed to have it all together exacerbated insecurity and exhaustion. My self-worth became tied to external validation through arbitrary achievements.

We have to give ourselves permission to define success in a way that feels healthy and aligned. Comparing our progress to others is destructive. Honor your own abilities and timelines.

While easier said than done, affirming our inner wisdom helps drown out the noisy pressures. We're often harder on ourselves than society is – be your own best advocate

The Value of Personal Growth:

Amid the race for rapid external results, it's easy to overlook the immense value of inner growth that unfolds more slowly. Personal development at your own pace is the foundation for sustainable success.

I spent years treating my 20s like a rushed checklist, impatient for status and validation. But looking back, the most rewarding seasons were when I gave myself spaciousness to explore, pivot, and learn deeply.

There is so much richness in taking time to gain diverse experiences, nurture new passions, understand your strengths, sit with failures, and evolve as a person. You build mental fortitude and self-awareness.

True success is not built overnight, no matter how effortlessly others may make it appear. Be present along your unique journey, wherever it leads you. There is no perfect path or pace.

Your talents and contributions will be uncovered through intentional yet gentle self-discovery. Trust this process and define success by your growth, not arbitrary external metrics.

Challenging Norms and Redefining Success:

Rather than conforming to society's skewed timeline, we need to thoughtfully challenge those norms and find our own definitions of success. This requires tuning out outside pressures to meet others' standards.

I work on setting meaningful goals based on my own values and needs, not external expectations. My version of success prioritizes creativity, community impact, and work-life balance – not status symbols or inflated job titles.

Of course this is easier said than done. But regularly reframing your mindset helps block out narrow definitions of achievement. Evaluate if your priorities actually align with perceived societal standards.

On this path, you will likely need to say no to some opportunities that don't resonate, even if they fit the typical roadmap. Have courage to diverge, even if it means temporary discomfort.

There are endless ways to craft a life of meaning and purpose. Let go of seeking others' validation. Focus on growth and goals that fulfill you rather than conforming to the norm.

Support Systems and Well-Being:

While challenging to implement alone, redefining success requires having strong support systems in your corner. Surround yourself with mentors and communities that celebrate the whole you.

I'm grateful for mentors who reassure me that my path is unfolding as it should be. Their perspective and guidance help me stress less about timelines.

I also limit time with friends or groups that fuel comparison and perfectionism. Make space for people who encourage you to prioritize wellness.

Beyond your social circle, develop regular self-care practices like journaling, exercising, or speaking affirmations that keep you grounded. Channel stressful energy into healthy outlets.

Lastly, don't be afraid to set boundaries around work and availability. Overextending yourself for the sake of early achievements only breeds burnout. Remember, progress isn't linear.

You deserve mentors and communities that make you feel seen and valued as you are. Take time to nurture these vital relationships and practices.

It's a lot

The pressure to succeed young can feel suffocating. But remembering these key points provides reassurance:

  • Social media rarely depicts reality. Don't compare yourself to carefully curated feeds.
  • Early achievers and prodigies are outliers, not the benchmark. Honor your own path.
  • Tune into your inner wisdom over family pressures. Forge your own definition of success.
  • Go at your own pace. Personal growth and wellbeing should be the priority.
  • Build strong communities that support you holistically. Limit toxic comparisons.
  • Progress is not linear. Be gentle with yourself through twists and turns.

At the end of the day, how you choose to spend your precious time and energy defines your version of success. Don't let society hijack your self-worth through rushed timelines.

Focus on pursuing work that makes you come alive. Learn from failures. Nurture your talents patiently. Develop meaningful relationships. The rest will unfold as it's meant to.

Join the Conversation

I hope sharing my experiences helps us feel less alone in navigating early pressure to succeed. What are your thoughts on this topic? How do you define success in your own terms?

Please share any insights, struggles, or lessons learned from your own journey in the comments. Let's build a supportive community to lift each other up.

You can also join our Facebook group and share there!

Stay strong friends. While the path may wind, we have the power to carve our own version of success if we encourage each other. Wishing you clarity, conviction, and the courage to forge your purpose. You've got this!

Remember to tailor the content to your personal insights and experiences, and feel free to elaborate on any specific aspects that resonate with you.

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