Quarter-life crisis affects young people between 20 and 35 and is characterized by stress, angst and depression. Those who succumb to it feel inadequate about their prospects in life and current achievements.
Usually the ambitious, intelligent and driven individuals are most vulnerable to suffering from it. They might feel like they have not accomplished much in their short lives and will end up questioning every life choice that led them to the current state.
If you are having a quarter-life crisis, first of all, accept it. It is a necessary stage for you to expand your horizons and find a true passion to pursue. However, do not get trapped in it, as years fly by, and you should not lose more time on self-evaluation than really necessary.
Signs of the Crisis
The most notable sign of the crisis is feeling old. You may still be in your early 20s, but you already think of your life as a jumble of various responsibilities, insecurities and useless dreams. It usually happens because in the hectic modern world young people have to grow up early, taking multiple loans and hunting for jobs in a tense competition.
You may also be one of those jacks of all trades who jump at every single opportunity and have not delineated their main priorities. Your life is a mess, and every new undertaking seems to be a waste of time and energy because you do not have a grand goal in mind that can guide you to a bright future.
Maybe, you simply feel bored at your job or in personal life. It is a frequent occurrence when recent graduates embark on the so-called job of their dream, but very quickly become disappointed and start feeling depressed as it looks like they have just spent 4 something years studying a career that does not suit them at all.
Quarter-life crisis can also be triggered by an Imposter syndrome, so common among over-achievers. Letting go of the old life of studies and grades can be stressful, and quite often people feel unprepared and not good enough to tackle this challenge. They would think that they do not stand a chance on the job market, unable to put themselves to send a resume or write a cover letter to secure employment.
Reasons of the Crisis
The most common reason is, of course, a contemporary fascination with social media. You see how your peers attain unbelievable goals and have a sublime quality of life, while you still live with your parents. Pictures of far-away travel, luxurious weddings and fun social gatherings have long proven to be a source of others’ misery and depression.
Perhaps, you are a perfectionist. You have your life figured out, and you work extra-hard every day to become a person you want to be. Nonetheless, you may lag behind in your artificial schedule of achievements, because life is not a video game, and you cannot play it like a Sims simulation.
It can be that you have a difficult relationship with your parents, who have not yet relinquished their control over your life. It is, unfortunately, common for parents to try and correct their own mistakes vicariously through their kids. It may not only make you feel like a loser, but can also blur your own vision of what’s important for you personally.
The last, but not least reason is definitely media. You would often hear crazy stories about people of your age who already have their own successful start-up company or work in a high-ranked position in a Fortune 500 company. Those reports are meant to be inspiring, but more often they would just make you feel like an under-achiever.
Ways out of the Crisis
First of all, accept your feelings. Do not blame yourself for the envy and bitterness, but rather try to redirect your attention towards fixing your life, rather than bemoaning it. A professor from the University of Greenwich Oliver Robinson outlined 4 stages of the crisis. The first one is a trap, while the second one is an exploration. Many people, however, would be caught in the first phase, without ever giving themselves a chance to explore their options.
If social networks contribute to your misery, you can do two things. The first one is to delete your profile. However, this option may be too drastic or simply unviable for you. Very often, you do not only have your friends and family connections there, but also some job contacts. In this case, you can simply unsubscribe from those people who prompt the most negative emotions. Do not see it as a sign of weakness. You are simply human, and it is natural for us to feel envy and to want more out of life.
Don’t close up. It is typical of people with quarter-life crisis to feel ashamed and afraid to express their feelings. However, if you just get out and talk to others, you are very likely to find out that you are not alone. According to researchers more than 80 % of Millennials experience this crisis at some point. Being surrounded by a support network will inspire you to take necessary steps towards breaking this vicious cycle and feel less incompetent when comparing yourself with others.
Do not lose hope! This crisis usually lasts not longer than 2 years. It does not mean, however, that you should just wait and do nothing about it. Your fresh degree will not automatically convert itself into a dream job and a truck of cash. No matter how smart or talented you are (even if you now question it, believe me, you are), you need to seek opportunities constantly and always upgrade your skills and deepen your knowledge. Only when you struggle will you be able to become successful in the end.
It is remarkable how the crisis that would usually impact those over 30 has now become so much younger. As a researcher Damian Barr told, young adults now feel the pressure comparable to that which was earlier habitual only for those over 40.
On the one hand, crises are not very pleasant. They prevent people from appreciating the mountains they have already climbed and the relationships they have fostered. However, only through a revolution of mind can a true growth be possible.
So, do not let your previous life define you. A quarter-life crisis is an opportunity to re-evaluate your priorities and set out on a path towards something new and exciting. It is a chance to explore and pick out an occupation in life that can allow you to make the most difference.