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As a kid, I would often picture my future (as most kids do, when did we all of a sudden become philosophical) and it would look something like this:

  1. Boyfriend by 16 (ha, gaaaayyyyy)
  2. Go to uni at 18 (achieved)
  3. House by 21 (pfft)
  4. Engaged by 23 (sure, I was born in Carlisle)
  5. Married by 25 (but I was made in the Royal Navy)
  6. Child no. 1 by 26 (that was a reference only Brits would get)
  7. Child no. 2 by 30 (birthing left, right and centre)
Photo Credit 📷: Siarhei Plashchynski

Now, I’m not saying that all this couldn’t happen to me now (except the boyfriend, the house, the free sperm for my unfortunate ginger babies), but that was what the world told me was a normal life. Obviously, as we grow up we realise that the world isn’t smooth sailing. Our perception of this golden standard for a good life, shows itself to be a load of shit, and for most of us, life will not turn out that way. However, societal norms still float around us – adding pressure to make sure we still try to conform to this list, or else, we are deemed weird. We must mould our bodies and faces a certain way, or we will not attract the stud boyfriend (the idea of attracting a boy for his babies makes me want to vom). If we do not get A*s in all our GCSE’s and A-Levels, we cannot go to the “best” universities to get the “best” degrees to help us get the “best” jobs. Living with your parents after you graduate is what lonely, smelly virgins do (I mean some are, but ya gal ain’t). Our boyfriends (ew, boys) must have a good job, otherwise you won’t get the most beautiful engagement ring – and if it isn’t the most expensive, then surely he doesn’t love you enough. Not married? Then you must be a spinster, there has to be something wrong with you. No children? How selfish of you to not push whiny, crying blob out of your fanny!

Photo Credit 📷: Matthew Henry

Not only does the world put all this pressure upon our shoulders, but even when we choose not to listen, it can still plague our thoughts. At 16 years old, I was at the beginning of questioning my sexuality, and my school was rife with the grand old tradition of trying to lose your virginity as fast as you can. I can look back on that time now and laugh (lol you liked boys, moron), but poor teenage me felt the pressure to conform. So far at each stage, I have felt some kind of trepidation over what I must do to be successful. Even though I know that a lot of what life throws at me is out of my control, there is still so worry that I cannot shake off. There are still times where I analyse my appearance for imperfections – looking for something to change just to impress someone else. It is then, where I must remember that I am the only I need to impress (Lizzo would be proud).

Photo Credit 📷: Massimo Rinaldi

Trying to develop a sense of self-love and appreciation is a difficult task to do, and through my journey of minimalism, self care and talking about these problems with people I trust, I have been able to become more reflective. A part of having a mental illness like GAD, is having a voice inside your head that tells you that you’re not good enough for other people. I honestly believe that voice may never go away, but I hope to make it quieter. So I ate a few Jaffa cakes when I said I’d eat healthily (didn’t look like a few to me), big deal. I’m definitely not living in my own place at 21, but this is the best decision for me right now (swings and roundabouts). I don’t know if I want to be engaged at 23, or even have children ever, but that’s okay, that’s my decision. Going back to the start, doesn’t always mean you’ve taken a step back; it means you’re stepping forward in a new direction.

Photo Credit 📷: Josiah Gardner

Featured Image Credit 📷: Frak Lopez

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