Growing up is inevitable, whether or not we want to accept it. The feeling of not knowing whether or not we’re doing life right is an all too familiar feeling that I know most of us have experienced or are currently experiencing. Post high school or college, the cohort safety net that’s usually been our barometer of success is stripped from under us as we’re thrown out into the real world with little to no experience. As we journey through the years, we get hit with reality checks that seemed so distant when we were younger. “Foreign” milestones have now become our reality, whether it be getting married, buying a house, having kids, the list goes on. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve stood in front of a mirror asking myself if I’m really an adult, if I know what I’m doing, and if I’m falling behind in life.
If you haven’t asked yourself these questions, then this article is completely irrelevant to you, and I applaud and admire you for having your life so put together. But to all of those who relate to me on a deeper level: Hi, I totally understand how you’re feeling. Know that we’re in this together. I go through existential crises quite often for someone my age, so much to a point where I’ve started to realize the deeper truths about life that helped me analyze the situation at hand, allowing myself to get back out there and make the most of my life.
So if you find yourself feeling like you’re falling behind in life, this is what you need to tell yourself to get yourself back on track:
1. What do YOU want to do with your life?
Self-confidence is something I’ve struggled with my entire life. Being reassured that we are loved and valued by those that are closest to us can do wonders to our self-esteem. There is no better feeling than to know that we are unique, appreciated, and meant to leave our mark in this world.
A vital part to moving forward with your life is understanding, accepting, and embracing that you are on your own path. It is human nature to tend to focus on what you lack or what others seem to have that you don’t; instead of allowing your mind to dwell on those negatives, switch gears and think about what’s unique to your brand that others aren’t able to take advantage of. This isn’t to say that you should be feeling inferior or superior to your peers, rather it is to observe how you and your life can unfold in a way that helps you hone in on your skills and specialize in a certain field or interest of your liking. Your life doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s but your own, so craft it in a way that is perfect for you and embodies everything that you are.
2. What or who are you comparing yourself to?
It’s easy to generalize your problems by thinking the whole world has their life figured out but you, when realistically, there’s probably only a couple people in your life that are the true triggers behind your feelings of unproductivity.
Analyze your life by starting with those you immediately interact with on a daily basis. For most of us, that is our friend group, our healthiest source of identity and happiness. Do you feel behind because most of your friends are in serious relationships, have jobs or internships, or are excelling in all their academic endeavors? Is it because of this that you’ve started to feel excluded or unwanted? Addressing these subtle fears with your friends and having them reassure you that it’s not true will rid you of all and any anxiety you may have at your certain stage in life. When we are fully confident that those that are closest to us will continue to support us, regardless of being at different milestones and stages in life, we are able to nestle ourselves back into our lives that we were meant to lead. You have to understand that everyone moves at a different pace in life. You are meant to be where you are, don’t question it. Let life happen, and it will all fall into place.
However, if you’re comparing yourself to outsiders or people beyond your immediate social scene, know that everything truly is not what it seems. It is so easy to marinate in self-hatred, shame, or non-acceptance when all that’s presented to us are glorified images and videos of those we have no direct relation to. Don’t crucify yourself for not having a life that mirrors that of your favorite blogger, actress, or acquaintance that you are vaguely familiar with via social media. Cut yourself some slack; there is an innumerable amount of variables present for that to be an adequate assessment of where you are in life.
3. Where are you in life?
Understanding the truth takes us far in life; as we grow up, we sometimes forget to introspect and face what we wish we could avoid. Grasping this skill is paramount in accepting exactly who we are, otherwise it is incredibly easy to fall into the trap of sidestepping our struggles and leaving when things get difficult or uncomfortable.
What in life are your biggest obstacles? Is there an underlying insecurity or fear that is preventing you from the vulnerability of committing to a relationship or pursuing a career? Is it because of this that you are actually behind, whether or not you want to accept it?
There is a common misconception in the world that there is only one way to move forward in life, that there is only one way to “adult.” There isn’t; we all lead different lives under different circumstances, so “falling behind in life” is really a very subjective phrase. When I talk about feeling behind, I mean behind in the sense that you haven’t conquered a challenge or surpassed a milestone that is deemed essential in shaping or maturing your life. How do you combat this feeling of defeat and hopelessness? Constantly re-evaluate where you are in life and your motivations behind why you do what you do; this will allow you to move forward while understanding where exactly you are on your journey. Being raw, honest, and real with yourself allows for your growth through challenges and increased ability to identify and take advantage of the skills and interests that are unique to just you. You’re living your life and progressing through the timeline that was crafted for you and only you; keep going because it’s just the beginning.
Enjoy your life. You’re the only one who can.