Why it Sucks When Younger People are More Successful Than You

25/10/2012 14:45 BST | Updated 23/12/2012 10:12 GMT

There are many things that are bad. War; famine; moths. But the worst thing of all is realising that there are younger people who are more successful than you.

'16 years old', Wikipedia told me recently. 'Tavi Gevinson is only 16, and she's running her own magazine. When you were 16 you were still listening to Limp Bizkit and eating Hula Hoops off your fingers'. I couldn't have felt worse.

I know that achievement anxiety is human, and we all experience it; but I think it's particularly hard for my generation. Not only because success is so hard to come by in this recession (I'm really lucky to have a job now, but I spent over a year in unpaid internships, surviving on a diet of Shreddies and my own tears) - but also because of social media.

Social media has opened a whole value-sized can of self-doubt-shaped worms. If it's not Facebook reminding you that Priscilla has been snapped up for a job in New York, or pictures of Oswald entertaining on the balcony of his new flat (these are pseudonyms, my friends aren't octogenarians) then it's LinkedIn, the Yo! Sushi conveyor belt of other people's achievements, reminding you that you're not keeping up.

I put the suggestion that it's harder for us Gen Y-ers to my mum, who, being my mum, disagreed totally. She explained that her early twenties were characterised by an underlying suspicion that all the good parties were happening elsewhere (I think this was a metaphor, unless she literally spent her whole twenties rolling from disco to disco). She did agree that the recession definitely contributes to these feelings for people my age, but concluded that it's ultimately something we all go through.

Joanna Scanlan, Terri from The Thick of It, understands too. She shared her personal experience on 'Loose Ends' recently, emphasizing that those in their early twenties are 'incredibly vulnerable as they "hit" life and suddenly don't know what on earth to do'. Hence the constant comparison with what everyone else is doing.

Does this make me feel better? A little. It's reassuring to know that feeling the pressure is normal, and that it's not entirely a bad thing. I also understand that awareness of the achievements of your peers - and yes, even of those younger than you - is a positive reminder of what's possible in life. I'm inspired every day by the stories of the young people I interview as editor of Uni's not for me. Some of them set up their own businesses while they were still at school. They're really great.

Where are the Shreddies?