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At the end of each year, who doesn’t reflect on the things they’ve learnt, how they’ve grown, changed and what more they have to offer the world now that the 12 months is up? I’m the first to try and work out how I’ve made a year ‘count’ and I’m even more guilty of quantifying this by what I’ve learnt, both in work and my personal life. But as this year comes to a close, I’ve found that rather than thinking about the things I’ve learnt, I’ve found myself focusing more on the things I’ve had to ‘unlearn’ this year. As we grow up, often without even realising it, we become a product of the environment around us and in doing so, we learn certain ‘life’ lessons that we carry on through to our twenties. Some which are beneficial and some which aren’t. Well in looking back on this year, I’ve realised that some of these lessons needed unlearning. Either because they were just not true, or because they weren’t adding anything to my life or wellbeing anymore. Unfortunately, while learning comes easily, unlearning is much harder. So as I think about what’s happened this year, these are the lessons I hope I’ve been able to unlearn, in 2014.

 

That you need to have it all worked out by the time you reach 25 or you’ll die

Okay I obviously know that I won’t die, but that doesn’t stop the irrational fear creeping up at me in the middle of the night saying who even are you and what are you doing with your life? It’s so easy to get to 25 and panic about the things you haven’t achieved yet, rather than the things that you have. And I know from a few whispered conversations I’ve had with friends and other girls my age that we’re all out there worrying that we’re failing at life. Even when we so clearly aren’t. In learning that it takes years of your Twenties to work out who you are and what you want, I’ve had to unlearn that there’s an invisible clock ticking, which uses my age as a marker for all the things I’m meant to have achieved. So instead I’m just appreciating that it’s taken me until 25 to work out what I want to do with my life and in doing so, I’m bloody grateful that I’ve still got years left to actually go and do it.

 

That the friends you’ve always had will stay with you for life

As I’ve written in earlier posts, no one prepares you for falling out with friends. We’re all expectant that relationships will end and family feuds will go on, but at no point does someone turn round and say that actually, some of your friends will be the first to go. This is something I’ve had to unlearn this year and as hard as it has been at times, I’m grateful for it. For by clearing out the friends who weren’t really friends at all, it’s opened my eyes and made me a little less naive than I may have been before. I’ve realised that as much as you can try to ‘fix’ people and desperately try to find a way to keep them in your life, often it’s better just to let them go, to forgo all the future drama and instead open up more space for the people who add to your life, rather than just drain it. It’s easy for us to make excuses for bad behaviour when it comes from people we love, but actually, if you wouldn’t put up with that behaviour from yourself why would you put up with it from someone else?

 

That you have to push yourself to the limit if you want to succeed 

Every year up until now I’ve found myself a victim of the Christmas flu. It goes a little something like this: all year you work ridiculously hard, you break your back with late nights, little sleep, caffeine crutches and as much work as you cram into a 12 or 14 hour working day. Then when Christmas comes you shut down the laptop and before you’ve even turned off your emails on your iPhone, you’re plagued with the most soul-destroying and dehabilitating flu. Basically, you stop for a second and every bug and illness you’ve repressed throughout the year hits you all at once. So actually this year, I’ve had to unlearn that it takes all I’ve got plus a little bit more, just to succeed. I’ve had to start listening to my body more, working incredibly hard while I’m at work but then taking the time when I’m not, to relax, spend time with the people I love, exercise and eat well. And in by doing so, I’m pretty sure (and I’ll have to confirm this in January) that I’ve protected my body, and my mind much better. And I’m not sure it’s affected my performance at all. Pushing yourself to the limit, 20 hours a day isn’t the way to go anymore and I think this is a lesson many of us have unlearned this year.

 

That you should always be out doing what ‘twenty-somethings’ are meant to do

In the same way that I hate repeatedly being asked when I’m going to have kids, I also hate the expectation that as a 25 year old, I should be out getting drunk and partying crazily, 5 nights a week. It’s unsustainable. And I get really bad hangovers okay. Don’t get me wrong, I love going out and I love Prosecco more than life itself, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend every Saturday crawling to the bathroom on my knees with that headache you get from too many bubbles. And up until now, I’ve always felt this pressure to still be going crazy on girls holidays, to say yes to every invitation and give up sleep in favour or yet another night out. But this year, I hope that I’ve managed to unlearn that I have to go out in order to ‘appreciate’ my twenties and instead learn, that it’s up to me how I spend it. If fun means staying in watching Love Actually and writing a new post, then that’s fine. If I want to spend more time with my family than randoms I meet in the girls toilet on a night out, than that’s okay too. There’s nothing that us twenty-somethings ‘should’ be doing right now, unless it’s something we’ve chosen to do.

 

That you’re an impostor, minutes away from being found out

When I’ve tried to explain to people who don’t have ‘it’ what Imposter syndrome is, I often get a few odd looks as they imagine me sneaking around in a moustache and top hat while on the run from the police. Yet for those of us who do experience it on a daily basis, the struggle is real. This definition describes it much better than I probably can, but it’s basically a feeling that you’re pretty inadequate at what you’re doing and despite any evidence to the contrary, you have managed to trick everyone into thinking that you’re as good as they think you are, and that at some point you’ll be ‘found out’ and live the rest of your life in misery, knowing that you were never as good as anyone thought. So this year, I’ve had to work very hard at unlearning these, sometimes mental, thoughts. I’ve had to try to take praise, despite all my best instincts, with a simple ‘thank you’ rather than an extended description of how I got lucky and/or had help /didn’t do as well as they think I did. It’s hard, but I hope that next year, I’ll be much better at believing in myself and appreciating what I have achieved, rather than undermining it and pretending that I haven’t.

 

What lessons have you decided to ‘unlearn’ this year? Please comment and share them below – I’d love to know if anyone else is doing the same….

Beth Gladstone

Beth is a Writer and Digital Marketer who founded The Full Agenda as a place to talk about the things that kept her and her friends up at night. Currently working as a Marketing consultant to various SMEs she is a big fan of the startup market and loves technology, apps and anything social media related. When not obsessively checking Google Analytics, she can be found reading, writing or relaxing with a glass of Prosecco.

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4 Comments

  1. John / December 18, 2014 at 4:39 pm /Reply

    Very interesting view actually and I’ve never really thought of it like that. I’ve got (let’s just say several) more miles on the clock than you and it might be different for women but as much as I’d love to be in my 20’s still – my 30’s have really kicked off much better since I realised some things similar to the above.

    The letting people go is a HUGE part people should not be apologetic about. I have realised that with two family members – distancing myself from them has refreshed my life and stopped them draining me. I swear it’s no coincidence that I’ve really started to turn a corner now and it feels amazing.

    Keep up the good work – keep learning and un-learning and you’ll continue to do great things!

    • Beth Gladstone / December 23, 2014 at 5:07 pm /Reply

      Thanks for commenting John, it’s refreshing to hear that I’m not the only one purposely making these changes! It’s so hard to distance yourself from people you love (probably even more so when it’s family!) but you’re so right, it really does open the way for more people and things that are positive rather than negative! Hope you have a great 2015!

  2. Sarah / March 3, 2015 at 8:11 am /Reply

    This is a great article Beth and I could definitely relate to a few of the points you raised.

    I too had to let go of some friends and it really wasn’t easy but like you said it makes space for more positivity!

    Take good care of yourself and keep up the great work :)

    • Beth Gladstone / March 4, 2015 at 7:22 pm /Reply

      Thanks for commenting Sarah, it’s such a difficult topic so it makes me feel a little better when I know I’m not the only one :-) positive vibes only right! Hope you’re having a great week xx

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