“If I was 22”, what advice would I give to my younger self? Here are my thoughts…..
22 is an interesting age! We have crossed teenage chronologically, but its dilemmas of unique identity and self-worth may persist. It’s an age where we announce our arrival on the world’s stage as a capable individual. Yet, we are still wet behind our ears as an adult. An “adultling” or a fledgling adult – that’s what I like to call it!
We may still be struggling to understand ourselves, what we stand for, what we value and what we want out of life. The remnants of parental expectations linger around, the peer pressure continues, and the desire for approval flickers on and off. This can result in confusion and anxiety, leading to a lot of self-doubt. Even the smartest people may have self-doubts, as these are an inherent part of human reality.
22 is an age where many of us may not be comfortable in our own skin. And the first thing I want to tell a 22 year old is “Love yourself”. Psychologist Carl Rogers defines self-love beautifully as “a quiet sense of pleasure in being one’s own self”. Accept yourself as you are – warts and all. You may not be perfect, none of us are. But, you have unique gifts and abilities, and it’s up to you to leverage your strengths to get what you want from life. When I say love and accept yourself, it also means to be careful about who and what you accept from the world as advice or opinions. People with fragile self-esteem get tossed around like a piece of wood in the rough sea of the world’s opinions. One would rather be a well steered boat, which does get impacted by the waves, but it can either adapt itself by making course corrections, or withstand the stormy waters and continue in the right direction.
It’s important to make “what will people think” un-important in your life. “What will people think” must not be the top-most criteria for your life’s decisions. What people think about you is their business, and leave it to them. There is a caution here! Don’t confuse “people’s opinions” with constructive feedback. Constructive feedback from others is important, and should be valued. Remember the difference between constructive feedback and “people’s opinions”. The former is well thought out by the giver, given with genuine care and concern about you, and is in your best interests. The latter lacks most of these attributes and can be quite hurtful at times.
So, add a dash of irreverence to your life. Just like a dash of spice which makes food delightful. Don’t overdo the irreverence as that can make you arrogant, but just the right amount of it can make you a playful and confident risk-taker. What you think about yourself is what matters most. If there are genuine areas of improvement, work on those, and become a person you yourself love, respect and admire. When you love someone, you take care of them, protect and nurture them. So, do that to yourself as well. That is self-love. And, if your Self is aligned with the universal principles of integrity, perseverance, compassion, courage and humility, it’s unlikely that you will veer very far off the right path.
“CHOOSE” a boss
At 22, many of us find it difficult to resist the allure of a fancy job title, global travel, money, status and fame. I am not a proponent of self-deprivation, and I consider all these desires as natural and healthy. But, I wish to add one more item to this checklist, while looking for the first few jobs in your career. And that is the “right boss’! We all know a boss can make a huge difference to your engagement level at work. But, in the early stages of your career, the right boss is even more important. The first few bosses that you have in your career can be excellent mentors, encouraging and nurturing you in the right direction.
Try to work with a boss who is passionate about people development. Someone who will take you under his wing and teach you the ropes. If you are unlucky to have not-so-good bosses in the early part of your career, you can lose out on a significant amount of learning, guidance and wisdom that come from a well-seasoned professional. When trying to choose between two or more comparable jobs, let the scales tip in favour of a better boss. It will be “a better decision” in the long run.
Don’t look for a good job, look for a good boss!
Re-size your perspective
A piece of candy was very important when you were 5 years old. At 15 years of age, it was’nt. Not merely a re-sizing of your body, but a re-sizing of your perspective has also taken place. Didn’t get into the college you wanted, didn’t get the job you wanted, the one who studied less than you got better grades! All these can seem extremely overwhelming at the tender age of 22. But, it is also true that these situations will slowly even out over the long marathon of life.
Keep this in mind “Life is not a sprint race, it is a marathon”.
Even if things go wrong (as they will every once in a while) opportunities will still come your way, if you stay on the lookout for them. At a young age, we haven’t really developed our coping skills, and something that gives you sleepless nights at 22, may not even catch your attention at 32. Time is your ally in life’s journey. Develop a larger, more holistic perspective of life, work and play. Don’t allow setbacks to disillusion you, instead learn from them to emerge sharper and stronger. Stay resilient to bounce back from whatever life throws at you.
Come what may, it will NOT be the end of the world. The sun will still rise tomorrow morning, and it will be time to make hay once again!