Nobody Likes You When You’re 23

2 Apr

Last weekend was Stefano’s 23rd birthday and it got me to thinking about this awkward age we’re in. When I think of the early 20’s, I imagine this no man’s land where you are old enough that you are supposed to know where your life is going, but not only enough for anybody to actually take you seriously.

I feel like in 10 years (or even five!), I will look back on my early 20’s the way I look back on my teens: I had no idea what was going on but pretended like I had everything figured out. I scrutinize everything that comes out of my mouth when I’m around older co-workers or family members because I don’t want to say something that will inevitably make them think to themselves, “oh honey, just wait ten years” or “that sweet, naive young’n who hasn’t a clue in the world”. I hate being patronized and nothing gets me riled up like a conversation with condescending overtones.

That said, I know that I am going to look back at my 23 year-old self and think that I was a naive idiot who thought the world would stop spinning on its axis if I didn’t get my life together rightthisminute. With that in mind, I try to check myself when I worry about how little I have accomplished at my age (I’m not a Rhodes scholar, I’m too old for the Olympics, I’ll never be a child genius!) and I think it comes down to an underlying fear of being forgotten.

In world full of seven billion people, there are constant reminders that I am one little person in a very, very big world. Despite its size, the global population seems to focus its headlines, TV shows, and other forms of interaction on a minute percentage of the population. I feel bombarded by images and video clips of the same people that the media is trying to get us to care about: so-and-so is pregnant! So-and-so got a new dog! Couple that with the constant pleas for validation in the form of Facebook likes, Twitter re-tweets, and Klout and I feel like my life is a never-ending need for validation.

Growing up, I was the girl who followed all the rules and obsessed about her performance in school. I tried my hardest not to make trouble with my family and nothing upset me more than thinking somebody was unhappy with me. You might call me people-pleaser.  It’s a total sham though, isn’t it? Because when it comes down to it, I’m not a people-pleaser, I’m a Sara-pleaser. Pleasing people is just a means to the end of making myself happy. If I do something to please my mom, I get a mental gold star and that makes me happy.

Why?

Because all these gold stars are my way of reminding myself that I matter, that I’m worth it, that my presence on Earth is just as important as the presence of Steve Jobs or Martha Stewart or Kim Kardashian. Every time somebody ‘likes’ my Facebook post is just another drop in the bucket of perceived self-worth.

It’s exhausting.

I’m sure many of you can relate. You can relate to those times when you’d really rather not leave the house but you promised a friend that you’d support them at so-and-so event. Or the time when you had a million and one things to do but somebody asked you to edit their graduate school admissions essay.

Why can’t we say no?

Because then we don’t get our gold star and we don’t just feel like we let another person down, we let ourselves down, too.

What’s the solution? Unfortunately, I’m still working on that one. For now, it’s enough for me to ruminate about the feelings I have and to be more mindful about what triggers my feelings of inadequacy.

I hope I look back at this post in a few years, shake my head, and say “Oh Sara, you spent so much time worrying about this! Of COURSE you’re a special little snowflake!”

Well, maybe my wording will be a little different, but I hope the sentiment is the same.

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3 Responses to “Nobody Likes You When You’re 23”

  1. Manasi April 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    I think you might enjoy reading this…http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/magazine/is-giving-the-secret-to-getting-ahead.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    • Sara @ Magia e Pasta April 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      I’ve seen this poking around the Internet today, I will definitely give it a read. Thank you!

  2. wickedhealthywashingtonian33 April 2, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Pretty sure this blog post hits the nail on the head dead on. I couldn’t put into words more perfectly what you did in this post. Gold star for you, Sara 😉 But seriously, this post couldn’t be more spot on.

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