Fear of being an adult

This is a random post but something that struck me the other day.

When I was at school I was confident and self-assured. I knew what I was good at and I focused on those areas (who needs science anyway, right…?). I loved English Literature and English Language, I loved drama (I even did a Speech and Drama course outside of school which involved competitions and exams in reading prose, poetry and general acting) and loads of sports. I won’t lie, I was a proper boffin and proud of it.School

Wow, found this photo of me probably aged 15

I didn’t care if I wasn’t in the ‘popular’ groups or if the cool guys didn’t fancy me. I was never more happy than getting good marks which I worked hard for. It didn’t come naturally but I enjoyed putting the work in to get the good stuff out.

I got good grades through school, applied for a good university and then, BAM, hit an ocean full of similar hard-working high achievers. All my self-confidence disappeared as I was no longer the top in anything anymore. In fact, I was pretty average at best. Despite that, I did achieve a good degree and applied left, right and centre for all the graduate jobs. Then when I had no luck there, all other good but non-graduate jobs. Then ANYTHING. 2009 was a rubbish time to come out of university with a Psychology degree that didn’t really qualify you for anything specific. My confidence was royally destroyed.

My first job was in a call centre for an insurance company reading a script about 150 times a day. I lasted two months before getting the hell out of there and into a basic admin job. To save you the boring details, a year and half later I finally hit gold with the job I’m in at the moment. I enjoy it and it pays well. OK it has nothing to do with my degree and it wasn’t what I always dreamed of doing when I was younger, but it’s a career I’m happy to continue with and progress.

But something happened to me after finishing school. I lost all my self-confidence in my intelligence and my abilities. I literally spend every single day convinced that someone will turn around and say to me, “Err, Anna, why are you here?”. I’m convinced they’ll realise I’m no good and fire me. I’m not saying I don’t do a good job or that I shirk work… It’s just I don’t have the same confidence I had when I was at school when I knew exactly where I was in the world.

I see everybody else around me as more competent and more worthy to be where they are. I think they look at me and wonder how I’m still here. I work hard, don’t get me wrong, but I sometimes feel out of my depth and lost. I’m often asking lots of questions and feeling stupid.

And it’s not just work. Despite being a fairly experienced runner, being generally quite fit and healthy and knowing pretty much what I’m doing, I still think that everyone else at the gym or at races are far more experienced than me. At the gym I think people look at me doing my squats and judge me on my form, my depth and the weight I’m using. Or they look at me in the race line-up and wonder why I’m not further back. I’m pretty sure no one cares but the irrational part of my brain truly believes that everyone thinks I’m clueless. This is despite the fact that I’ve been going to that gym and running for over three years now.

To be honest, it’s a general feeling of “am I really an adult?”. Leaving the bubble of academia and entering the Big Wide World is scary. Dealing with bills, moving house, thinking about divorce… it feels like I shouldn’t be dealing with this. I thought at some point a switch would be flicked on and I’d be an Adult. I’m still 15 in my head, wishing for someone else to show me what to do.

Will I ever feel like I’ve “got this” and I’m in the driver’s seat knowing exactly where I’m going and what I’ll find along the way? I don’t know. Maybe everyone feels this way but we’re all so good at faking it and acting confident when really we’re just all 15 year olds playing at life…

Do you feel like you’re an adult?

What’s the most scary ‘adult-like’ thing you’ve had to do?

Do you feel confident in the different areas of your life?

20 Replies to “Fear of being an adult”

  1. This has a name: Imposter Syndrome. And women who were high achieving at school, and who continue to be high achievers, are very prone to it. The problem with the world outside academia is that the targets are constantly moving. It’s a bit more settled for the first 20 years of our life. And then it gets disconcerting….

    2009 was a really tough time to graduate (2002 wasn’t stellar, but I did get to approximately the job I wanted to do, and I’m following the career path I imagined when I was about 21. And I still wonder how I managed that!).

    To a degree, we’re all faking it ’til we make it. We look at our parents, and think they’ve got it so sussed and had it totally worked out when we were kids, and, now (I’m 37 this year!), I look at my friends and realise: we are all making it up as we go along. Frantically paddling under the surface. We’re more aware of it, because we can see it happening. As kids, we were all pretty self-involved, and didn’t notice so much of what was going on.

    I don’t feel grown up. I suspect I never shall. Perhaps the definition of being an adult is being aware of what you don’t know?

    1. It’s funny, isn’t it? How on earth are we this age and not feeling like we have everything sorted?? It’s like when I was at school I always thought that I would feel so much different by year 11 as all the year 11s looked SO much bigger and more mature. But year 11 happened and I felt exactly the same…
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…No parkrun and no raceMy Profile

  2. When I got my first job I was 19 and I was the youngest employee, who was doing incredibly good. Time passed, I’m at my 3rd job but I still consider myself that young girl everyone was seeing as an alien. I’m 28, experienced in my job, but now exploring other career paths. I feel like I’m back to square 1 and sometimes I really wish I could have just 1 single day of being 16 again – back in Mom’s house, with her cooking and doing chores and taking care of me. Being an adult is hard :).
    Andreea recently posted…Going back in time once more. The story of how we quit smoking.My Profile

    1. Yes it’s REALLY hard. I remember my first job and I honestly don’t know how I wasn’t fired. I was sooo quiet, scared and just wide-eyed. Now I feel a bit more confident and like I can actually talk to people (haha!) but I still feel scared most of the time!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…No parkrun and no raceMy Profile

  3. I feel like this too! In some ways I think that I was so much more confident and self-assured at 20 than I am now which is ridiculous. In some ways things have moved so fast – I have a sensible job and a mortgage but while some of my friends are having babies I’ve never even been in a relationship – definitely feel like I’m just pretending at being a grown-up! x
    LilyLipstick recently posted…London: Matcha Walking Tour & DirectoryMy Profile

  4. I feel the same way too! I went for a promotion nearly 2 years ago, and got it, but still I feel like I am a fraud somehow and at some point everyone will wonder how I got here in the first place. I saw a graphic that showed this- what you think everyone knows (a big circle) and what everyone else actually knows (lots of little overlapping circles). Anyway, I hope it’s normal!
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Lessons from bootcampMy Profile

  5. Everyone else who’s commented is right – we’re all just winging it! But the good thing is that it’s ok – you don’t have to know exactly where you are going, life is full of plot twists so I think winging it means we’re just really flexible and adaptable 🙂

    As for confidence, it’ll come (back). I have always been sort of average in everything I do but I’m about to turn 40 and I realise that some things I’m really darn good at and the stuff that I’m still doing ‘just ok’ is all actually good enough. With old age comes definitely a certain inner calmness about comparison and just not giving a f*ck about what randoms who are not affected by my actions/abilities/etc. think.

    So – onwards and upwards!
    MrsB @ Mind over Matter recently posted…Just startMy Profile

  6. I am 100% with you on this! I genuinely think that sometimes I am a fraud. On the outside, it all looks good (the “standards” that I aspired to when I was younger have been achieved), and yet I still wonder if someone is going to “find out” one day that really, I don’t know what I’m on about and actually have no place being out on my own in the big wide world.

    Definitely the hardest thing I’ve had to adult over was the house. The second is probably politics (as in the politics of relationships) – I’m not brilliant at that.
    Steph recently posted…Whole 30 Days 10 to 14: Going strongMy Profile

  7. I feel like this all the time. In a strange way, it’s only now I’m starting to feel grown up and that’s because we’ve got the house which is like a proper grown up house. I find it so odd that getting married, having a baby and running a biz didn’t do it, but having this house has. I guess it’s about what we feel is adult to us. I still don’t feel like a 33 year old though, but not the same person I was at 18. It’s all very strange, but one thing I know is that so many of us wonder how in the hell we got to be where we are!

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