There I was tearfully watching confetti explode all around me on graduation day, angry—not glad, as Dr. Seuss had advised—that college was over, and terrified, as we lined up and filtered back into the outside world. We had reached the last hurdle of the rat race.
All that was left to do now was live out “the rest of our lives.” I began to doubt whether I made the right decisions in life. For the first time I began to consider whether I had what it takes to make it as a responsible adult. I began to question whether I would manage to balance relationships, family, and meaningful work.
That was strike three: negotiating with your insecurities is already a sign of defeat.
I admitted I was in free fall. Without the same sense of direction I had when I could take life one weekend at a time, I felt lost.
It was only after realizing I was my only rival, that things began to change for the better.
I think this fixation is what’s at the heart of any quarter-life crisis—adjusting from finding yourself to actually being yourself.
Overcoming this period of self-doubt is a leap of faith. And that’s really what it takes—faith—to believe in who you are and who you want to be.
If you feel like you’re caught in a quarter-life crisis,
here’s some advice on how to get through it:
1. Lean into failure
Let me first clarify this by saying that you shouldn’t expect failure. The only thing worse than that is not even trying to begin with. What I do mean is that every mistake and blunder is an opportunity for a lesson.
You may not learn something as groundbreaking as the theory of gravity but even missteps can lead you in the right direction. So take risks, fail greatly and fail upward.
Untangle yourself from the embarrassment of not being perfect, because there still is and always will be time to be something better than “perfect”—yourself.
2. Harness the power of imagination
Author and social psychologist Amy Cuddy led a TedTalk titled “Fake It Till You Make It” in 2012, where she discussed the ways we can alter our reality by believing in something that hasn’t quite happened yet.
We see what we want to believe and make it happen. As Cuddy explains, when you pretend to be powerful you are more likely to actually feel and act powerfully.
It’s something we’re doing all the time without even realizing it, because behind every risk we take is the belief that, despite the odds, it’s doable.
That same power of imagination which can picture how everything could go wrong can also be used to envision your dreams coming true. It takes being able to imagine pulling yourself up by the bootstraps before it can be done.
If you aren’t happy with your life now, use that same power of imagination to think of a better one and play it by ear from there.
3. Be yourself, everyone else is already taken
Playwright Oscar Wilde hit the nail on the head when he first penned this motto, “be yourself, everyone else is taken”.
Sure we might be envious of other people’s lives, but the world is so much greater than anyone’s newsfeed or status update. When we stop trying to outshine another person’s highlight reel we free up time and space to focus on being the best version of ourselves.
Remember, there will always be someone who has or appears to have more than you, who might be or appears to be more successful or happy, but there will never be anybody better than you.
It doesn’t matter if this is your quarter-life crisis, midlife crisis, or if you feel that life has dealt you one too many bad hands. What is important is seeing these moments of self-doubt as what they are: opportunities. Opportunities to grow, be, and learn, and practice loving yourself for you who are instead of who you aren’t.
Originally published at okclarity.com