‘Cause I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a still verdictless life
Am I living it right?’
–Georgia, John Mayer
We’ve all experienced challenges, failures, and disappointments during the earlier stages of our life, but they don’t usually appear to be big problems until we’re at a certain age and it seems like our entire life is on the line. In fact, it’s so common that a term was coined after it–quarter life crisis. It’s a period in life when people in their twenties to thirties feel lost, confused, and frustrated with their lives due to the stress and pressure brought on by being an adult.
Our 20s, according to Meg Jay, Ph.D.–a psychologist who wrote a book on the importance of our 20s–is “the defining decade” of our lives. It’s the point in our life where we make the big decisions that will take our life in a certain direction. It’s so crucial for some people that they feel pressured to get things right on the first try, and when they don’t, they end up feeling lost, stuck, and doubtful about their lives. It doesn’t help that this period is also filled with potential losses such as breaking up with a long-time lover and losing jobs and friends. The 20s are indeed a time of uncertainty, as Jay says, and can leave people feeling powerless to change their lives.
Going through a tough phase in your 20s? Here are 7 ways you can overcome a quarter life crisis.
1. Stop panicking
It’s hard to think logically and clearly when it feels like the whole world is crumbling apart, and the occasional “Stop panicking” or “It’s going to be okay” advice might not magically make you calm, but for you to be able to do anything, they’re exactly what you need to do and realize. We feel stuck only because we let the fear paralyze us. We let the thought that we’ll never be able to rise up again fog our brains and keep us from taking action.
During these moments, it’s important that you realize you’re not the only person going through this. It’s normal to feel what you’re feeling right now and you’re not going to feel that way forever. It also helps to know that even successful people have gone through and overcame their own quarter life crises. J.K. Rowling had lost her mother, suffered a miscarriage, had a broken marriage, and became depressed in her 20s. And it wasn’t until she was 32 that she finally had her book–which was rejected loads of times by book publishers–published.
2. Get to the bottom of it
Think back on the time you started feeling this way. Where and how did it all go wrong? Maybe you feel stuck at your current job, you feel pressured to find someone because all of your friends are getting married and having babies, or you feel like you’re growing apart from your friends. Perform a root cause analysis of your problems and work on those that you can do anything about. You’re only going to be truly happy if you are able to identify and deal with what’s been holding you down all along.
3. Use this transition to know and work on yourself
During these moments, it might seem like a good idea to mope around in bed and binge-watch Netflix shows all day, but that isn’t exactly going to do anything but give you temporary gratification. Instead of letting it bring you down further, use this moment to know and work on yourself better. Take personality tests and get to know your strengths, weaknesses, and your attitude towards your career and relationships.
Be aware of how you feel and what you say when you’re in certain situations and when you interact with other people. Use this information to improve and change what you can to be a better person. If you know yourself well, you’ll be able to handle situations that stress you out better and you’ll doubt yourself less. Write your thoughts and feelings in a notebook or an online blog. This way, you can connect your ideas and analyze yourself better.
4. Focus on yourself
A University of Missouri study discussed how users tend to feel depressed when they check up on how their friends are doing and compared what they saw to their own lives. They further argue that users who view Facebook in this way often would often compare their accomplishment against others and end up envious that their own vacations, possessions, and relationships could not match up to what their friends posted.
Social media can both be a force for good or for evil, depending on how you use it. If you intentionally use it to stalk your friends’ profiles and compare your lives with theirs, you’re only setting yourself up for further frustration. So your friend finally got her dream job and is starting her own family–but that’s her life, and the success of others shouldn’t be a measure of your own.
Comparing won’t do anything but discourage you from doing anything about your life. You have your own path to follow, and you don’t necessarily have to be successful at the same time as everyone else your age.
5. Find what makes you happy
If you want to be truly happy, start focusing on what you want, not what would make others happy. After all, it’s your life. Live it on your own terms and stop letting other people make decisions for you.
Don’t let other people’s judgment and opinions discourage you from pursuing your passion. “People with passion are often misunderstood because they sometimes look crazy from the outside! Don’t let other people’s opinions or judgments sway you. If you know what you’re doing & you have a vision, you should follow it,” Gala Darling writes.
Visualize yourself five, ten, or twenty years later. What do you see yourself doing? There’s no point in continuing or staying what you’re doing now if you don’t see yourself doing it in the future.
Find what makes you excited. You can even make a list of what are you like doing the most. Not everyone has to have a big passion. Nothing wrong with having a tiny hobby, because you never know how it’s going to develop when you spend more time doing it.
It’s okay if you have to try a lot of things before you finally find it, just don’t allow yourself to be trapped in something just because you’re scared of what’s out there. Whether it be a career in arts or medicine, the only way you’ll be able to find what really makes you happy is if you put yourself out there.
6. Trust your pace
Life is not a race. Just because your friends are already living the life they’ve always dreamed of doesn’t mean it’s too late for you. And don’t get frustrated if you don’t reach your goal on the time you set. Simply the fact that you’re making an effort to discover what you really want and doing what you can to get there is a sign of progress. There’s no deadline for success. Keep doing your own thing and trust that everything will eventually fall into place.
7. Don’t go it alone
Don’t be ashamed of feeling the way you feel. Frustrations are a normal part of life. The people around you might be successful now, but they didn’t get where they are without encountering a few challenges. You don’t have to tell everyone how you feel, but at least find someone you can talk to about it. Sometimes, a conversation with a friend or family member is all you need to clear your head and allow you to release all the negative feelings that have been holding you back.
You don’t have to go through this alone. It may feel like it’s you against the world, but it’s not. You’d be surprised at the support you’ll get if you approach the people close to you. And aside from emotional support, who knows, they might have the networks and expertise that you might find useful. Finding it hard to share your feelings with someone? Check our articles about revealing your emotional side.
Our 20s are the defining decade of our lives. It’s the period where we begin our lives as adults and struggle as we navigate our way through, but it’s also a period of self-discovery and a period full of possibilities. You may be unsure of what you want while everyone around you seems to already have their life together right now, but you’ll get there someday. For the meantime, stop comparing your life with others’, focus on yourself, and find what makes you happy. Everything will just fall into pace eventually.