11 Things to Keep in Mind If You’re Feeling Behind in LifeNo one knows WTF they’re doing anyway.
Open your Instagram on any given day and you’re bound to find about 50 people doing cool shit or reaching life milestones you haven’t even thought about yet. Big jobs, cool vacations, mortgages, kids, it’s all there. So, yeah, it makes sense if you’re feeling lost.
No matter how much you’ve achieved or where you find yourself, “if you compare, you despair—it’s just a fact,” says psychotherapist John Tsilimparis, MFT. This is yet another thing you can blame on ~society~. Between the 30 Under 30 lists and the social media comparison trap, it can feel like we’ve turned life into a competition, says licensed clinical psychologist Nina Polyné, PsyD.
So how do you deal? First, experts want you to know that these feelings are fairly universal. “Many clients describe it as a ‘hamster wheel’ effect,” says clinical psychologist Jenny Wang, PhD. You’re working hard but feel like you’re getting nowhere.
Then, try to set that arbitrary timeline to the side, suggests licensed clinical psychologist Thomas Vance, PhD. “There were moments when I felt like I had gone down the wrong path; I hadn't ‘started life’ yet, and I needed to catch up,” he says. “Over time, I realized that ‘fast is not always good’ and that ‘life is a journey, not a destination,’ meaning that we are all on our path and that there is no time clock for one's growth.”
That’s solid advice, but obviously it’s all easier said than done when you’re in the thick of a what-was-I-made-for type of mood. So we asked these experts and people who’ve been there for some helpful reminders that anyone feeling lost or behind in life needs to hear. It might not cure your existential or mid-life crisis, but it’s a solid start.
1. Failure is just part of the process.
“A common misconception is that success is a linear, failure-free journey, which is not true. When we’re trying to achieve our life goals, we will come across setbacks, and overcoming adversity is necessary for growth and building mental and emotional resilience. If you are trying to succeed in life, it's important to be open to obstacles. When they come up, remember you can do hard things.” —Minaa B., LSW, mental health educator, and author of Owning Our Struggles.
2. Let your interests guide you.
“When we compare our progress in life to others, we can sometimes bypass ourselves, our interests, desires, goals, and dreams to stay on the well-marked path. But if this path is not aligned with who you are, it becomes routine and mundane and we begin to resent it. If we work toward goals that allow us to feel a connection between our talents and overall purpose in this world, we will feel fulfilled even with the bumps along the way.” —Dr. Wang
3. Do something nice for yourself.
“When I’m feeling existential about my goals and how far I am in life, I do something that makes me feel good and less stressed out. Instead of being paralyzed or overwhelmed by the fear of being left behind, I use it as an opportunity to alleviate that angst.” —Paige W., 45
4. Lend a hand to someone else.
“I know it seems counterintuitive to give up time when I feel like life is passing me by, but there’s nothing quite like helping my friends or a stranger to remind me of my skills and talents.” —Erica S. 28
5. Normalize comparison, and then forget it.
“It's natural to compare ourselves to others, but it can make us feel inadequate and prevent us from growing. Instead of focusing on how far along others are, concentrate on setting personal goals based on your values and aspirations (not anyone else’s). Then, try to find some gratitude for your journey and accomplishments.” —Dr. Vance
6. Surround yourself with people who inspire you.
“Take note of how you feel in your body when you see posts from individuals you know personally or individuals you follow on social media who navigate life in a way that excites you. Ditto if you meet them in person. If you feel expanded and energetic, that might be a sign that you can or want to accomplish goals similar to theirs in the future. Spending time with them or with their content may help encourage you.” —Dr. Polyné
7. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
“There are so many successful people in my industry who are the same age or younger than me making bank, publishing books, or running entire brands. That can be a real mind fuck. But before I can spiral too far, I remember that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. And who’s to say I won’t be just as successful as those people in the future?” —Ashley O., 33
8. Just existing is impressive.
“It’s great that activists and entrepreneurs exist and are all about chasing their passions, but my life isn’t any less important or valid because I’m content prioritizing values like safety! financial security! And, like, realizing stuff! IMO, that’s a way more reliable and less intimidating way to exist than a vague guiding light.” —Anonymous
9. Throw a damn party for paying your rent on time
“When you’re only focused on what you have yet to accomplish, it impacts your self-worth. So by focusing on what you’ve already done, no matter how big or small, you’re honoring your resilience. That’s why celebrating yourself is key!” —Dr. Polyné
10. Focusing on results sucks.
“A lot of us adhere to a results-oriented outlook on life. That’s when you feel like you have to have the right answers all of the time, those answers have to come quickly, and they must be diligently followed. When you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, you can become unforgiving of yourself, controlling, and perfectionistic. You can also rely on others for approval rather than yourself. Instead of subscribing to that unsustainable lifestyle, remember that good things come via growth. You don’t always have to have the answer.” —Tsilimparis
11. Being happy is enough.
“When I’m happy and enjoying where I’m at, that’s great! I just continue to enjoy it. If not, I look for opportunities to find happiness and set goals that will get me there.” —Kelly L., 31
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.