In college, I was on track to be super successful super early…or so I thought. I piled classes on top of classes and took winter session courses even though I didn’t really need to.

I thought, “I’ll graduate early!! I’ll beat everyone in my class to getting an amazing full time job! I’m going to move out before all my friends!”

So, I graduated a semester early, and honestly, it didn’t get me anywhere. I applied to dozens of jobs, and didn’t even get any interviews. I ended up living at home with my parents, doing absolutely nothing but wallowing in my depression for a couple months, then got a minimum wage retail job that made me even more miserable. I moved out and my whole paycheck went towards rent. What had I been running and rushing towards all this time? I was jealous of my friends who were still having fun in college while I was helping rude customers try on shoes.

After that, I had a few short stints at corporate jobs — I didn’t like any of them, I quit, I got laid off — the pattern repeated. I kept asking myself, “What am I doing with my life? What was the point of all that rushing?” Clearly, it didn’t get me anywhere that made me happy.

In retrospect, I realize that I was so hung up on everyone’s (uh, society’s) pressure to succeed and achieve great things…ASAP. To me, not getting a great high paying job right out of college felt like a failure.

My thinking was so warped! Life isn’t a race — at least, it doesn’t have to be.

How Late Bloomers Can Let Go of Preconceptions

Turns out, I’m a little bit of a late bloomer. By many people’s standards, I’m “late” to a stable career. I’m “late” to a stable relationship. I’m “late” to having kids. I’m “late” to moving out of my parents’ house. And you know what? That’s okay.

How would you feel if I told you this: We late bloomers aren’t really late — we’re just doing things on our own timeline. How the heck would we all be on the same timeline, anyway, and why do we all need to be on the same timeline in the first place?

Society might glorify prodigies and people who succeed at their “thing” right out the gate — but you know what? You are not any less worthy of a person because you are taking longer to accomplish your goals.

Here are 7 tips for late bloomers on finding acceptance and living life on their own terms.

1. Let go of expectations

One of the most important tips for late bloomers is to shed expectations, whether they’re your own, your families, your community’s, or society’s. You should also note that the expectations you’ve placed on yourself are probably a result of all the standards that everyone has been pushing on you from a young age. Think about what you want, deep down. If it doesn’t align with society’s expectations, who cares? This is your life. Create a brand new set of expectations for yourself.

2. Stop comparing

When it comes down to any aspect of life, whether or not you’re a late bloomer, it is never a good idea to compare yourself to others. It’s easy to look at other peoples’ lives (especially on social media) and think, “Oh my god, I am so BEHIND!” Comparing yourself to others is a surefire way to make you feel insecure, so try your best to not do it. With practice, this gets easier.

3. Pause and reevaluate

Get real with yourself. Are you on the right path to achieving what you want to achieve? Are you happy in your job, relationship, or living situation — or are you miserable? If you feel unhappy due to the circumstances you’re in, it’s time to reevaluate and make changes. If that means your timeline is going to become a little longer, that’s okay. You don’t want to be stuck in a situation that isn’t good for your well-being.

4. Remember: times are changing

Back in the day, it was very traditional to get married and have children right after you finished (or during) school. While this does remain common in some cultures, and in different parts of the country — trends are showing that overall, people are reaching these life milestones later, if at all. If you think you might be late to getting married and/or having kids, you might not be as late as you thought. In fact, research has shown that the median age for a first marriage is at an all time high right now.

5. Own your own timelines

It’s time to stop feeling ashamed or embarrassed about being a late bloomer — no two people are the same. Everybody’s timeline for marriage, kids, are careers are different. Each and every one of us has our own set of unique challenges that affect our timeline. Everything that you’ve gone through in your life has made you who you are today. Own who you are, own your own timeline, and live life your own way.

6. Connect with other late bloomers

In a world where it seems like everyone is obsessed with early achievement, find yourself at least one other late bloomer to confide in. It’ll make you feel better to be able to relate to someone who’s in similar shoes as you. If you can’t find anyone in your in-real-life circle of friends, try some internet forums such as Reddit, where you can find and connect with others dealing with similar struggles. There are even some Facebook groups you can join, such as The Late Bloomers Club for women or this Late Bloomer group specifically for folks over 40.

7. Savor your successes

When you do meet your goals or make your successes, reward yourself! Acknowledge it! Celebrate it! Who cares if it took you longer than it took some of your peers? You still accomplished something, and that’s what matters. Plus, that success will probably taste even sweeter for you since you had to wait for it.

So remember, being a late bloomer isn’t a bad thing. Everybody is different, following their own path. If your path has a few more detours or a slower speed than others’ paths, no worries. You’ll get “there” when the time is right.

Originally published on Talkspace.

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