A friend of mine had a quarter-life crisis recently that started with, “I read about all my classmates getting promotions, and buying houses, and I can’t help but compare myself with them and feel like a total loser. How can I stop comparing myself with others?”
Do you relate to her? Is the Fear of Missing Out turning you into a brain-eating zombie that’s sending you down endless spirals of dismay and despair? How do you deal with the feelings of inadequacy that come as a result of seeing all those adults adulting properly while you’re still living in your parents’ house, jumping from one job to another?
My initial answer was not too useful. “You just do.”
But then I realized I had that sort of crisis a couple of years ago and it took a long time to get where I am right now, so I’ll try to break it down here hoping others would benefit from it.
First, let’s start with ideas from Adam Smiley’s “Quarter-life Breakthrough,” that dedicates a chapter on the topic;
(a) Express gratitude. You can find the 5 ways to express gratitude here; http://ahscribbles.com/gratitude/
All you have to do is switch on the news and you’ll recognize that there are so many people who are in worse situations than you are. Sometimes we act like we’ve got blinders on and we’re only capable of seeing the problems in our own personal lives, but if you take those blinders off, step back and take a look at the big picture, your situation is probably not that bad.
Yes, it could be better, but it’s not that bad at all.
So I told my friend to make a list of her personal achievements so far. It’s easy to take many things for granted, especially when we compare ourselves to American kids our age, but I’m from Kenya, and my friend is from one of the South Asians country. There are so many girls in our societies who grow up without ever knowing what’s it like to make their own choices in life. They grow up not knowing they can use their voices to speak up. They don’t go to school. They get married early. They get abused. They get divorced.
“Just the fact that you’ve been blessed with better opportunities is something to be grateful for,” I reminded her. “You’re college-educated, you’re multi-lingual…”
How could she not see any of that?
Then there’s the universal truth that everybody’s got problems in their lives, even those people who just got promoted (again!) and had just bought houses. It’s just that they don’t put their problems on social media because that’s not what it’s for. Social media is for highlighting all the good news, not the bad news. But the bad news do exist. These people have bad days. They argue with their wives/husbands. They have bad days at work. They have days when they start questioning every decision that lead them to that point in life. It’s just that we don’t see any of that and so we assume it doesn’t exist. I personally deactivated from Facebook a couple of years ago and I never reactivated again.
The last message is simply said but hard to live by; be true to who you are. Know your personal values. Know what takes you tick. Recognize you’re a different person than your colleagues, one with different goals and ambitions in life, and that’s okay. Silence the collective sound of society by turning your inner voice’s volume up, and the main way to do that is to isolate yourself, be quiet and listen. It’s quite unfortunate that we go around claiming that we know, love and care about other people when we’re not even familiar with our own selves.
As a final note, a lot of articles talk about “How to be like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?” but don’t work to be like Bill Gates or Elon Musk. Only Bill Gates can be Bill Gates. Only Elon Musk can be Elon Musk, and most importantly, only you can be you.
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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.