Whether it’s the day after graduation or three years after you’ve finished college, it can sometimes seem like all your friends—and even those Facebook friends you don’t know that well—have their lives together. And you… do not. They’ve all got great jobs and relationships, maybe even a baby on the way, and you’re just doing your best to be a functional adult who doesn’t wear the same the same shirt to work two days in a row.
But here’s the thing—we’ve all been there. It’s no fun to feel like you’re standing still while everyone is moving on without you, but it’s important to keep in mind that everyone moves at their own pace. Here’s how to keep life in perspective.
Remember that Facebook isn’t the real story
Facebook has made it easy to stay in touch but it’s also given us all the sense that all our friends know exactly what they’re doing—and are having a great time doing it.
That feeling that everyone else is probably having way more fun than you are isn’t unique to the post-college experience. “Freshman year of college I felt like everyone was finding their organizations, clubs and internships that were perfect for them while it seemed like I was stuck,” says Dajin Kim, a sophomore at UT Austin. Add to that the sense that everyone you meet appears to have found a friend group and people to party with, and it becomes easy to assume that you’re the only one who doesn’t have the whole college thing figured out.
Once you hit graduation, though, the pressure seems to quadruple. It’s not just a club or an internship that you’re hoping to find. Now it’s jobs, romances, apartments, and financial stability. And yeah, it still seems like everyone else has their friend groups and party people all lined up. You know this because you’ve seen the pictures they post of all those fabulous moments. Heading off to work in a great outfit, hanging with the cute significant other, vacationing somewhere you only wish you could afford. When it seems like your updates are just that song you listened to on Spotify or the occasional Instagram pic of your cat, it’s easy to feel down about the comparison.
Obviously, people only post things to Facebook that they want other people to see. But it’s one thing to know this and another to really know it. It can be frustrating to see all of your friends (or even just acquaintances) having fun and moving on when you feel stuck. Still, sometimes the best thing you can do is take a step back from social media. Professional life coach Erin Hopkins suggests that sometimes you may need to hide the people you’ve been comparing yourself to from your newsfeed for a while. She says, “Know that avoiding it isn't going to help you heal any negative stories about yourself, but if for the time being you need to disengage from anything that makes you feel crappy about yourself, give yourself permission to do so.”
Alternately, if you’re really feeling left out, reach out to those friends and ask to be included in any plans or make a date to catch up in person so that you can hear about all the things they aren’t putting on Facebook. Mara Hyman, a marketing professional who graduated from the University of Southern California in 2014, says that it helps to “realize that your friends aren't significantly more successful than you, but rather on their own paths that have their own twists and turns.” They might even be feeling as at sea as you are!
Change your outlook or change your job
Sometimes, though, you don’t have to see something on Facebook to start making comparisons. You’re probably keeping up with what your friends are doing these days, particularly when it comes to employment. And when those friends are starting to find careers in their dream field while you’re still stuck in a boring job that simply pays the bills, it’s easy to get jealous.
The first thing to consider is whether or not you’re truly unhappy in your job or if you’re just letting those comparisons get the best of you. “Instead of focusing on what you lack, or how far you are behind, you need to cultivate your own goals and be thankful for what you already have,” Hopkins recommends. Quite often, the choices we make for ourselves are the right ones, even if they don’t necessarily line up with the ones our friends are making for themselves. It could be that the source of your unhappiness isn’t your job at all, but rather the way you keep trying to compare it to your friends’.
Maybe, though, this is a wakeup call. “You have the power to change aspects of your career, whether that means finding a new job or staying put and finding ways to add value to your role,” Mara says. It’s not always easy to just pick up and quit your job but it might be possible to grow where you are. Can you take on a new role or push yourself harder? And if not, it really might be time to look elsewhere. Darlene Johnson, Director of External Relations at the Career Center at Hofstra University, says, "Boredom and unhappiness are two sure signs that it might be time for a change. It may be that a person just needs a change of employer, and not a total change of career. So, it’s important to figure out what aspects of your career you are truly unhappy about." Take some time to consider what you really want to be doing. What do you like or dislike about your current job? Once you've sorted that out, Johnson suggests that people should "come up with a list of possible careers and then talk to people who are in those careers. LinkedIn is a great source for that, as well as your college career center and alumni office."
It may also be worth it to think about pursuing a graduate degree if you’re looking to get ahead in a particular field. Grad school can be a great way to delve into a specific interest while also giving your resume some extra oomph. If you’re feeling bored with your job, going back to school might also give your brain more to do so that you don’t feel like you’re wasting time. True, it can feel a little like you’re standing still while all your friends are climbing the career ladder, but that master’s degree might just be the extra push you need to do the same.
Don’t force yourself to find The One right now
We all have that friend that graduated with a long-time S.O. or got engaged three seconds after tossing their cap. And once you’ve been out of school for a few years, some of your other friends might be settling down as well. (Not to mention having babies.) If you’re single, especially if you’ve been that way for a while, seeing all those happy couples on Facebook or at social events can get old really quickly.
The first thing to consider is whether you actually want a relationship or if you’re just feeling like you’re missing out again. If now isn’t the right time for you to go out and fight The One, don’t push yourself! Then again, maybe being single is getting a little old. Hopkins has several suggestions for people looking to ease into dating. “Look at it like a game, or something that you don't put too much pressure on yourself about,” she advises. “If you're too attached to any one person or anyone relationship status, you're only going to be unhappy when things don't go exactly the way you want them to. Find a way to make it pressure-less, and focus on having fun.”
Setting small goals can make taking big steps feel manageable. “If you're nervous about trying a dating app, tell yourself that you'll download it but you're not gonna make yourself use it,” Hopkins says. “Or if you're nervous about messaging someone first try it once and then don't feel obligated to go any further.” You’re probably not going to meet your perfect match on the first swipe, so make sure not to put too much pressure on any one interaction!
In the end, Hopkins says, “Any kind of ‘trying to keep up’ mentality comes from the negative thinking pattern of comparison. No two people are the same, no two journeys are the same, and no two sets of circumstances are the same.”
We’re all living life at our own pace - especially in our twenties! There’s nothing wrong with that. Your friends aren’t going to judge you if you’re not in love with your job or if you don’t have a date to bring to their wedding. But if you want to make changes, make sure you’re doing that because you want them, not because you feel like you need to make those changes to keep up with your Facebook friends. Take your time, make good choices, and everything will turn out just fine.