Rather than rushing to catch up or wishing you were the same as others, embrace who you are and fly at your own pace.
From the minute a human is born, a lifetime of milestones stretches ahead of them. But each person’s journey is diﬀerent.
Such milestones continue throughout life. In the early years, they mostly mark physical and mental development, but after that they tend to chart a person’s personal growth and attainments, largely as society deﬁnes them. Some of the markers that might fall into this category include ﬁrst solo bus trip, ﬁrst kiss, ﬁrst relationship, ﬁrst job, moving into your own ﬁrst home and, for many, ﬁnding someone special and creating a family.
The important thing to remember is that just like walking and talking, people experience things at diﬀerent ages and not everyone will share the same path. Human beings are unique. We’re not mass-produced by a machine, and there are no battery-operated buttons that you can press to switch on your body’s magic mechanisms for physical change or emotional readiness to spread your wings – and there’s no pre-programmed way to live your life either.
When you’re a child, teenager or young adult, it’s easy to become trapped in a cycle of compare and contrast and to be ﬁlled with self-doubt when your friends seem to be racing ahead of you. It’s human nature to compare – adults do it, too – but what often happens is that people use those comparisons to evaluate how they measure up against others, and that isn’t always helpful. You might be aware, for example, that some classmates are maturing faster than others and that their bodies are growing upwards and outwards as they start to morph into teenagers. You might be among those who are developing fast, or maybe you’re taking longer to get going, but try not to stress either way. Even though you’re all in the same class, some peers will be almost a year older than others. And, regardless, the fact is that everyone will grow into teenagers and then adults, and the milestones change again.
APPRECIATE WHO YOU ARE NOW
Try to be patient on your unique journey. Wanting to be grown-up is natural. Human beings seem conditioned to anticipate the future, yet spending too much time thinking about it can stop us from seeing what’s actually happening in the here and now. In other words, it can prevent us from being present and appreciating the way we are today.
Psychotherapist Vicky has helped many young people who were over-anxious about not ﬁtting in with the norm. ‘The norm is just another word for average,’ she says. ‘We try to help children celebrate their individuality, and to view not being average as a positive. Childhood is precious and brief, and it’s a shame that so many children want to race through it. Social media and inﬂuencers who’ve achieved so much by their late teens add to the pressure some children feel to grow up.’ ‘It’s understandable that young people might admire successful vloggers, but sometimes they can also inﬂuence feelings of inadequacy.’
TAKING LIFE AT YOUR OWN PACE
It can be frustrating to feel like you’re playing catch-up in life, but take heart – there are plenty of advantages to life in the slower lane:
1 In The Tortoise and the Hare, one of Aesop’s fables, the two animals race each other. The hare leaps oﬀ, laughing at the tortoise, who is way behind. So sure of success, the hare takes a nap and is overtaken by the tortoise. The moral is that taking things slowly and surely is no hindrance to success, as author JK Rowling proves. She was in her 30s when she became one of the most-read novelists on the planet.
2 Spend time getting to know yourself and ﬁnding out what’s important to you. Don’t rush through your life. Savour every stage as much as possible.
3 Adulthood brings autonomy, but it also brings a lot of responsibility, and that can be stressful, too. Try not to look at the future through rose-coloured glasses. Your life has so much value in this present moment.