Being 24 is sort of embarrassing. I mean, it's cool to be young. But it's also very scary. Most days, I feel like I got thrown into a pool with my clothes on. And the pool is full of sting rays.
I'm always nervous that I'm making huge mistakes that will ruin everything and I can't stop comparing myself to everyone around me and I'm usually so crippled by self-doubt that I end up doing next to nothing for weeks on end, and then the nothingness only gives me more anxiety. Life has never felt bigger, I have never felt smaller. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
When I get into those periods of terrible self-doubt, frustration and confusion, there are a few things I turn to again and again to help keep my head above water. First, I call my parents. Just hearing their voices helps me feel grounded again. If that doesn't work, I plan a trip somewhere. Even just getting out of town for one weekend can help me get out of my head a little bit.
When those things don't work, and I need a good kick in the pants, I turn to self-helpish, motivating, helpful non-fiction type books. I actually don't think most of these books qualify as "self-help" but they HELP me, and they might help you too. If you need help. And who doesn't need help?
1. "The Defining Decade" by Dr. Meg Jay
If you're in your 20s (or close), read this. Dr. Meg Jay basically rejects the idea that "30 is the new 20," claiming too many 20somethings use it as an excuse to waste their twenties, which are crazy important years as far as personal development. As a psychologist, she works with lots of confused, lost young people (hi) and helps them recognize their own potential.
To get the basic gist of the book, you can watch her killer TED talk here.
Jay tells readers to "Stop having an identity crisis and get some identity capital." It's easy to spend most of your 20s wondering what you should do instead of actually doing anything, but it's worth it to make decisions and GO FOR IT, even if it's the wrong thing. I've learned just as much from my mistakes as I have from my successes. Fear of failure is a bad reason not to try.
Identity capital is made up of the things you invest in yourself, which means experiences, education, and other things that contribute to making yourself a valuable part of society.
The book is divided up into sections that deal with various parts of life, like career, social life, relationships, and personal life. (Oh, and fertility, but that part gave me a panic attack so I never reread that section.) I reread the book, or individual sections, whenever I start to feel like maybe I should just give up on everything because nothing matters. My 20s DO matter, and I want to make the most of them.
2. "#GIRLBOSS" by Sophia Amoruso
I've been a fan of Nasty Gal for years, and I've always been aware that Sophia Amoruso is a badass as far as fashion, business and entrepreneurialism. When I heard she was coming out with a book about her career and success, I knew immediately that I would love it. And I did.
In #GIRLBOSS, Sophia writes about her unusual path to success and fills the book with tons of hilarious personal anecdotes as well as valuable bits of advice about how to be the boss of your own life. The book also features short essays from other successful women, like Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and Christine Barberich of Refinery 29.
Sophia writes about her failures as well as her successes. It was really helpful for me to hear about her struggles in school, and how she figured out that traditional school wasn't a fit for her. School was really, really hard for me. I think part of the reason I had so many confidence issues when I was younger was because I wasn't great at school, but everyone made me feel like that was the only thing that mattered. I felt like a total failure almost all the time.
Once I got into the working world, I started kicking ass and my confidence shot up. I'm great at working. Sophia talks about that a lot, and I think it's valuable advice. Not everyone needs to follow the same path, but everyone can find success if they work hard enough.
There's also a chapter in the book where Sophia talks about how important it is to save money, rather than spending it. In a world of bloggers and consumerism, women don't often get told NOT to spend but it's probably the most important lesson I've learned in my short 24 years. Sophia was super frugal, and had a million dollars in the bank already when she took Nasty Gal from a modest eBay store in her apartment to a full-fledged, badass company. That's impressive.
I highly suggest giving #GIRLBOSS a read.
3. "Thank You and You're Welcome" by Kanye West
Did you really think I was gonna write an article about getting inspired and NOT mention Yeezus?
I've been a huge Kanye fan for years and years, and my love/admiration only grows stronger every day. His music has helped me through some really hard times, and I've always respected him and his artistic choices. I strive every day to love myself the way Kanye loves himself. I mean that. More self love could do most of us a world of good.
So when Ye teamed up with author J. Sakiya Sandifer to create this book in 2009, I obviously got my hands on it. Actually, I'm pretty sure my sister bought it and I've been "borrowing" it for the past five years. The book is full of quotes, platitudes, advice, quips, and general "Kanye-isms." According to Yeezy himself, "Thank You and You're Welcome" is a guide to "creating and then celebrating your moment."
It makes for a great coffee table book, and it's a fun read to flip through on days when you're not feeling like the star you were born to be. With lines like "Believe in your flyness...Conquer your shyness" and "You can learn more from a critique than from a compliment," Kanye's book is full of important lessons and motivation.
Or you could just listen to this. (Yes, it's 34 minutes long. Yes, I've listen to this multiple times.)
These are just a couple of my favorite motivational books. What do you read, watch or listen to when you need a lil' somethin' somethin' to keep you going? Or we could just turn the comment section into a discussion of your favorite Kanye lyrics. Y'all decide.