What to remember when you don't have it all figured out
What do you want to be when you grow up? We’ve all been asked that question when we were kids. And as we were growing up, we could see how the world deifies those with youth and success on their side: oh, the bright young things, the “25 best [name the category] under 25” or some iteration of an “it” list of young go-getters. We’re in awe of how young they are and how they’ve got it all figured out.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with cheering on people who’ve made their dreams happen early on and succeeded. They can be a source of inspiration for us to go after our own dreams and goals. We likely put timelines on our dreams like those who’ve been heralded for their early success. And if we’re to believe everything on our social media feed, everyone else seems to have an unobstructed path to achieving their dreams (may it be world domination, your own successful business, TikTok fame—anything). But it’s all a lie.
We all have our struggles. Nobody’s road to success is free from mistakes and failures. But our struggles look different from each other. Some carry it ‘better’ than others, but it’s there. Being bombarded by images and narratives of having it all figured out and finding success before a quarter-life crisis even occurs, can put unwarranted pressure on you.
When you find yourself in a slump, when you question your abilities or talent because you haven’t reached the success you’ve envisioned for yourself before you hit a certain age, you need to change your mindset. You need to change your focus. Put it more toward the steps you need to take to reach your goal and less on how others are doing with theirs.
1. Everyone’s journey is different.
We all have different gifts, different realities, and our take on success may even be different, so why do we expect our journeys to be the same?
“Know that you’re an individual person,” says Elly Ang of Danger in Design. “No matter how much you wanna be someone else, you’re never gonna be someone else, because there’s nobody like them and nobody’s like you.”
Comparing yourself to others doesn’t in any way help you. It can either leave you feeling insecure or having an inflated ego—both of which don’t help you. Focus on your own journey.
Take the advice of visual artist Jill Arteche. In our YouTube interview with her, when it comes to pursuing a career in art and illustration, “You do you,” she says. “Especially when you’re starting out, you get to compare yourself to other artists out there… the ones you look up to, you think, if I copy her style people will notice me and I will be successful.” As Jill shows us in her work, staying true to who you are and your style is a better take-off point in any journey. “Use that to create original and honest work. When you commit to doing that, everything else will follow.”
2. Life is not about strictly ticking off milestones on a list.
Okay, lists are not all that bad. It helps us with our to-dos for the day. At the start of the year, there are those of us who list down their resolutions (which we’ve found can be limiting as opposed to setting intentions to manifest our goals). Some of us may even have a 30-things-I-want-to-achieve-before-I-turn-30 type of list.
But lists with a rigid timeline can do more harm than good. What if it leaves you depleted and disregarding other aspects of your life in order to meet a timeline? What if you don’t tick off the milestones you want to reach, will that mean you’re falling behind? As we look to the future, it’s important to also be mindful of the present.
Artist and maker Jodee Aguillon of Glorious Dias reveals in a previous Common Room interview that he used to just constantly chase goals that he’d set for himself. For him, we’ve been conditioned to think after reaching a milestone, to look for the next one. “Instead, when you’ve reached that milestone, sit with it, appreciate it until you’re ready for the next one. I didn’t give myself enough time to appreciate some of the things that I was doing. As I’m getting older, I’m just like, I really should’ve enjoyed that.”
3. You're not alone.
Everyone is struggling, everyone has their doubts. But not everyone is willing to be vulnerable about it, so we think we’re the only one among our peers dealing with impostor syndrome, insecurities, and the like.
While social media can help us stay connected and improve a sense of belonging, according to the same study, it can also “lead to tremendous stress, pressure to compare oneself to others, and increased sadness and isolation.”
What’s important is to have a community. For Marvz Conti of Studio Habil having a community means you have a support system. “You can ask them questions, [get] feedback, and you can even mentor. You can have the do’s and don’ts in the business and can also help out those who are starting out in their creative journey.”
For Jodee, who also sees the significance of having a community of other makers and creatives, if you can’t find the community that you want to contribute to, then create one around you. “Your friends, your immediate circle of creatives and other artists that inspire and support you. That can kind of be your ecosystem while you take the next step, and the next step, and the next.”
4. Focus on what you have and take the next step.
If we keep thinking we need to have everything figured out, it can get overwhelming. It fosters fear and then you find yourself quitting or not even starting.
When Common Room founders Roma and Maan started Popjunklove almost 16 years ago, they didn’t have a lot of things to build a business. They didn’t have enough capital, they didn’t have any background in design or business. “But what we did, we focused on things that we did have and what we could do with the things we had at the time,” says Roma in the Popjunklove interview. They had only P5,000 for capital, they knew how to sew, and they had scrap materials and old toys they could repurpose. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we didn’t stop.”
Roma adds, “You don’t need to have a 10-year, 5, or even 1-year plan. You don’t need to figure it all out. Do whatever you can with what you have and just take the next step.”
5. Finally, look how far you've come!
Even if it’s a couple of steps—a few new pieces you’ve made in a few months, a short course to hone a skill, attend more pop-ups than last year. All those little baby steps you’re taking will lead you somewhere. You can be a little closer to your dream or it could have morphed into something different, something that gives you more joy.
“You have to remember that it will take time and it’s not going to be an overnight success,” says Roma. She and Maan spent many nights and days making patterns and sewing, then selling in countless bazaars and pop-ups during weekends before they could even dream of having Common Room.
“You might be at a point where [you think], ‘Nothing’s progressing with me… why am I still doing it? Maybe because I don’t have it in me or maybe because I’m a failure,”” observes Roma. “You take it so personally, because of course it’s your passion. If it doesn’t work out, it feels like it’s because of you, but it really just takes time.”
So give yourself time to figure things out. Where’s the fun in knowing everything, anyway?