whose life is it anyway

Your twenties. A time of hedonistic abandon? Of forging a solid career? Of settling down with Mr Right and 2.4 children? Or for exploring the world? All of the above, and more.

Your twenties are both a wonderful and terrifying time, when the safety and magic of childhood opens up to a whole world of adult possibility, opportunity – and risk and uncertainty.

In this entertaining and educational book, Dr Linda Papadapoulas, one of the UK’s most respected and well known psychologists, addresses the challenges young people face through the lens of today’s society, where education, social media, body image, and affluence have us bombarded with more opportunity and consequently more worry than ever before.

In fact, a Young Minds survey has suggested that there is a “mental health timebomb” among this young demographic, as women constantly strive to redefine themselves and reach unrealistic standards of perfection.

Too much choice has left us overwhelmed. When you can be or do anything, what should that be? How should you live your life? This book aims to provide a way to both understand the circumstances in which we live, the issues it creates, and find ways to challenge this.

Dr Papadopoulas argues that whereas once we would have formed our own identities relating to personal experiences and those around us, we have shifted the mode identify construction from being internally driven to externally driven. 

We are now saturated with images and scripts from the world, of air brushed lifestyles and digital versions, and stylized accounts of unrealities. We see ourselves from the point of view of others or through a premeditated script, whether that’s a selfie on Facebook or a work place appraisal.

Constant comparison isn’t doing anyone a favor – and as we all know, there is no word as dangerous as ‘should.’ Resulting in manufactured portraits of an image we choose to present, this idealized self often bears no relation to who we actually are, leaving an ever growing feeling of frustration and detachment from life.

Perfection is a fallacy, she reminds us. Ditching the “I’ll be happy when” mentality is one of the most liberating choices you can make.

Full of good advice and snappy insights this is a helpful, educational and informative book that doesn’t veer into the cliché of self-help. One of the successes of the book is the clarity with which it presents ideas. “Why would you want it all,” she asks, “Just focus on what you do want.” That’s a fair point. Rather than seeing ourselves as constantly ongoing self improvement projects it is crucial to recognise our own values, at this time and place (as they may change), and work to responding to those.

It’s logically written but remains full of feeling. Chapters are headed with quotes from various twenty-somethings who succinctly describe the thoughts that are everyman yet isolate us. “It’s a strange feeling – being young, yet somehow running out of time,” says one. But there is no rush.

And besides, the good news is that experiencing a quarter-life crisis makes us less likely to succumb to one later on in life, and at least we are young enough to get things wrong and change our minds. Life takes time to explore and discover, there is no right way or wrong way, but there is your way.

“Write your own script,” Dr Papadopoulas says – and be the director, actor, and stagehand in it.

Buy Whose Life Is it Anyway? Living Through 20s on Your Own Terms on Amazon

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Francesca Baker is a freelance journalist passionate about the world around her and the interesting things within it. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, culture, London, and other general musings, and organizes events that contain at least one of the above. Connect with her on Twitter @andsoshethinks.

 

 


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