Women have a habit of putting too much pressure on themselves; myself included. We build up expectations of what we should be doing; what we should look like; where we should be going. The 'picture-perfect' lives portrayed on Instagram don't help.
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But very few of us will follow that pre-set, idyllic path. Life is unpredictable and we have to make the best of whatever situation we’re in; without feeling guilty for our choices.
You don't have to sign up for a marathon just because your friends did; nor do you have to wear make-up every day or eat porridge each morning. Life is for living, after all. Here are eight things we should stop feeling guilty right now:
Staying in when it's sunny outside
Something about a hot, summer's day makes you feel like you should be outside, enjoying the weather. But if you're tired; hungover; have a Netflix series to catch up on; or if you just don't feel like it; then why bother? If the things you want to do are inside, then why feel guilty about not going outside? Life is too short for that carry-on.
There's no shame in not enjoying your job. Many of us were forced to choose our career path at the age of 17; when we had no life experience and were fresh out of school. I chose to study English Literature at UCD, thinking I'd like to be a teacher. Two years in I realised it wasn't for me. I dropped out, did an online course in marketing before deciding to study journalism at Dublin Business School. By the time I realised what I actually wanted to do with my life, my classmates had already graduated and were settled in full-time jobs. Part of me felt guilty for not being as far along as everyone else; that is until I realised we're all different. The path I took was the right one for me; simple as that.
While some people think napping is a lazy man's hobby, it's actually really good for you. A study published in the June issue of Psychologies magazine says a 20-minute nap can boost brain productivity by up to 40%. What's more, it goes on to say how napping in the afternoon is more beneficial than staying in bed for an extra 20-minutes each morning. If that's not good enough, studies show having a brief nap during the day can also boost learning, memory, and creative problem-solving.
Not seeing friends or family regularly
Me-time is time well spent. We all need a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to sit back, relax and reflect. While it's important to keep up with friends and family when you can, it's more important to put yourself first and avoid burning out.
Living at home
When I was little, my friends and I used to have big plans for our adult lives. "I'll have my own house when I'm 23, I'll be married at 25 and I'll have a baby by 26." Nah. More like, "I'll live at home with my parents 'til I'm in my mid-thirties". You don't need me to tell you how severe the Irish housing crisis is; but until it's sorted, I (and the majority of 20-somethings I know) will continue to live with the folks.
Whether your boss has asked you to take on extra tasks; a friend wants you to join her on a wild night out; or a door-to-door salesperson is trying to switch your energy provider; embrace the power of 'no'. It might feel awkward at first, but sometimes we've got to put our foot down. “We live in a ‘yes’ culture, where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead is the go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way,” said career counsellor Dara Blaine to the New York Times. But really, it’s the people who say no who get ahead; they have more time to focus on what really matters to them. “It’s when people learn to say no that I’ve really seen their careers take off,” Blaine said.
Having 106 unread emails
I used to (and sometimes still) feel panicky when there are unread emails in my inbox. I'd stay late in the office replying to not-particularly-urgent queries, before sorting through newsletters and subscriptions in my personal Gmail account. There's only so much time in the day. We need to cut ourselves some slack and learn to leave things till the following day (or week...).
It’s okay to indulge yourself sometimes. Buy the shoes; drink the frappuccino. Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives says, “When we don't get any treats, we feel depleted, resentful and angry and justified in self-indulgence. We start to crave comfort—and we'll grab that comfort wherever we can, even if it means breaking good habits.” She says it’s better to treat yourself regularly. No matter how small the treat may be, it’s better for your happiness and productivity in the long run.
Photo: Valerie Elash, Unsplash