When I think about my quarterlife crisis, I don't think about regrettable text messages or the science behind 4 a.m. nachos that "soak up" alcohol -- though those things were certainly a part of it. I think, instead, of the disconnect I felt between what I was doing and what I actually wanted. Though I regularly committed to jobs, boyfriends and friendships, I completely lacked conviction in any of those choices. I passively accepted whatever came my way.
One restless evening while mindlessly applying to jobs I hoped might save me, I realized how ridiculous it was that I expected a job, boyfriend or carefully constructed Instagram persona to rescue me. To be happy, I needed to take control of my choices. And I knew my biggest hurdle would be self-confidence. Finding self-confidence was as illusive to me as finding twenty bucks in an old jacket pocket.
I began writing about my struggle to escape various twentysomething ruts for the website HelloGiggles and quickly realized that what I was going through was relatable -- and it had actionable solutions. Confidence became more and more tangible to me. My book The Twentysomething Guide To Getting It Together [Adams Media, $16.99] focuses on the practical tactics that helped me start feeling good about my life. Here are some of those tactics, which build confidence while simultaneously conquering any quarterlife crisis -- because, after all, one victory does not exist without the other.
1. Find a career mentor. They are all around you!
You are not alone in this -- as much as you may think so while struggling to fall asleep at night. Not only do you have friends to commiserate; you've got coworkers, bosses and teachers who are happy to share their secrets. So get on their calendar and learn their magical ways. Having the courage to speak your goals aloud can help make them feel real.
2. Do whatever it takes to limit your social media consumption. Whatever it takes.
Some ideas? Don't let your phone or computer automatically save your social media passwords. Keep technology just out of reach. Give your roommate a water gun and instruct them to hit you right in the eye every time you log in. Social Media can be a fun way to check out your aunt's Farmville activity, but it can also damage your confidence. Profiles represent each member's greatest hits, not their experimental polka album. If you try to compare your real life to those standards, you may lose track of your own goals in favor of impressing others.
3. Exercise your brain to make positive connections.
Stop bombarding yourself with negativity. Contrary to the mythology that surrounds him, LeBron James was not born with the ability to make his free throws -- he practiced until his brain became so comfortable with the motion he didn't even need to think about it. In much the same way, your brain can be trained to think positively. How? Try giving out five compliments a day to the people around you. It'll help you recognize life's finer points.
4. Get to know your vices so well they can't fool you anymore.
People use vices to distract themselves from responsibility. Some vices are obvious: smoking, television, videogames, etc. Others are a bit sneakier. During my quarterlife crisis, I did things like stay up hours past my bedtime trying to book the cheapest possible trip to a friend's wedding. I hid procrastination behind a seemingly productive activity. Why I avoided something as glorious as sleep so adamantly, I'll never know.
5. Don't waste time trying to attain the perfect "beach body."
In my twenties, I got pretty tired of trying to love my body: a finicky organic machine that would rather catch a cold than sprout even one lousy abdominal muscle. Taking care of your health should not be about loving your body, but about learning to love yourself. So take yourself on long runs on the beach, draw yourself an Epson salt bath and curl up with yourself for a long night's sleep. You are worth it!
6. Get a planner and let it work it's magic.
Write everything down and your planner will do the rest. It'll keep track of bills, your toilet paper supply and whether happy hour is going to conflict with your friend's improv show. Being on top of your schedule helps you to feel less like a scatterbrain and more in control. Maybe one day you'll have a Spidey-sense for the things on your to-do list, but during your quarterlife crisis? Write everything down.
7. Don't allow break ups to become breakdowns.
It seems obvious, but I'll say it anyways: nobody has to be the bad guy during a break up. When feelings get hurt, there is an urge to place blame -- but that's not always helpful. Even if you outwardly blame the other person, you'll inevitably end up blaming yourself deep down. So don't engage in the blame game. Comfort yourself with a Die Hard movie whenever possible.
8. Don't take your friends for granted. Maybe take them for ice cream, instead.
As hectic as it is to wrap your mind around adult responsibilities and as tempting as it is to accumulate large quantities of acquaintances, don't blow off close friends in your twenties. Tell them what's on your mind and listen to what's on theirs because comparing notes on your quarter life crisis with a trusted confidant is essential to survival.
9. Make a five-year plan but don't etch it in stone. Who are you? Moses?
It's good to plan for the future: to look ahead and focus small tasks towards a larger goal. But make sure you are happy most of the time. Don't be afraid to admit that you were wrong about your dream career. Take a deep breath and allow new inspiration in.
10. Don't be so hard on yourself.
Your twenties are essentially Life Lessons 101, not a Master Class in Perfection. So relax! Save some soul-searching for your thirties, nerd!