How to deal with feeling behind in life
Last week I shared a post on Instagram about feeling like you’re behind in life. I got so many comments and DMs from people that I felt called to share more on the topic with you.
‘I feel like I’m behind’ is something I often hear from clients, regardless of their age, mostly around their career; But it can spill into every area of your life.
If your friends start getting married or start having kids while you’re still single… If your friends all have mortgages and you’re still living in a rented apartment with a roommate… If your college friends are advancing in their careers while you’re considering a career change… these are just a few examples for why people may be feeling like they're behind.
It actually makes sense why so many people are feeling this way. For the first 18ish years of our lives, we’re all pretty much on the same trajectory. Our paths are mostly laid out for us.
Then all of the sudden our collective linear path starts to branch out and split. And because we no longer have clear indicators to measure our progress, after 18 years of learning to validate ourselves externally (through grades for example), we start comparing ourselves based on those external markers. Which inevitably leaves us feeling ‘less than’.
I can state the obvious -- many of the people we see with all of the external things aren’t necessarily happy and content with their lives (even if their instagram looks like they are!) -- but you already know that and still, it doesn't stop you from comparing yourself, am I right?
So like with everything I stand for in my coaching practice and in my personal life, you may not be able to change the outside world (your circumstances) or turn back time (for those of you who feel like they've wasted time in the wrong places), but what you can change is your mindset; which is what we’ll be diving into in this email.
Truth is, I have experienced feeling behind at a few different points in my life. I spent the first 3 months after finishing my bachelor degree, at 28, crying on the sofa, feeling lost and behind. I felt like everyone had it all figured out and I didn’t know what I wanted from my life. I felt like I had no credentials or experience or even a sense of direction about my career path.
I thought the reason I felt this way was because something was wrong with me.
But that wasn’t the truth. My comparison had nothing to do with what had happened (or didn’t happen) in my life so far. It had everything to do with how I was feeling about my life at the time.
When I was unhappy with my life, my first instinct was to look around me and assume the reason for my unhappiness was because I lacked something that other people had.
Thing is, my path hasn’t been linear and I’ve learned to embrace and truly appreciate it. All the experiences I had and the decisions I made that were ‘out of the norm’ were a big part of what shaped me.
At this point in my life, I still haven’t figured out or hitted all of the life milestones I once thought I should hit by now (according to societal norms) but I no longer worry about being behind. That’s because I genuinely like the life I’ve built for myself because it aligns with what I most care about.
The reason I was unhappy before wasn’t because I was “behind”… My mind latched on this feeling of ‘behindness’ as a distraction from what was truly going on deep inside. At times it was because I wasn’t aligned with who I am, at times it was imposter syndrome and not feeling enough, not feeling worthy of my desires, and at times it was because I didn’t know how to measure my life according to the things that actually matter to me.
After all it’s easier to deal with feeling behind, it’s much more uncomfortable facing feelings of unworthiness.
If you’re feeling behind in your life right now (whether it’s with finances, relationships, career, family life, etc.) I’d encourage you to explore what is the ‘feeling behind the feeling’. What insecurities, incompetencies, feelings of unworthiness or fears is it covering up? What if you broke the cycle of avoidance and actually worked on those core feelings that are holding you back? What if you worked on restoring your confidence and self trust, instead?
If you were confident and full of trust would you even think that you’re ‘behind’? Truth is, if you had the conviction that you can achieve that which your heart desires, time wouldn’t be a factor.
Another helpful way to deal with ‘feeling behind’ is by adopting a new way of measuring your progress in life. One that’s true and is based on what deeply matters to you. Here’s how I approach this, feel free to edit this list based on what feels right for you:
How fulfilled do I feel on a regular basis? For me personally, this comes down to the kind of impact I’m having on the people in my life, my clients and my community (you <3). If something I said, shared or asked, was meaningful enough to inspire change in one's life, I feel like I’m on the right path.
How happy and content do I feel every day? This comes down to the small things I do on a daily basis to help me feel connected and aligned with my values and priorities. Do my rituals / daily habits help me create more freedom, ease, creativity, intuition and deep connection in my life?
What is the quality of my relationships? I don’t need to have hundreds of friends; for me it’s about having close friendships with people with whom I feel a 100% comfortable to be myself and vice versa.
How is my relationship with myself? On all levels - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. How do I speak to myself? How much do I truly listen to myself? How do I take care of myself? (there were times in my life where I ‘achieved’ a lot but didn’t take great care of myself, there was nothing fulfilling about it)
Am I growing, evolving and learning new things? One of the things that makes me most feel alive is growing - overcoming a limiting belief, working through a big fear, stretching my perceptions, and having new realizations & aha moments. So I make sure it’s an integral part of my life by continually exposing myself to the world of personal development and by keeping challenging myself. I’ve recently read this quote “If you’re not growing, you’re dying”, I feel its truth, deeply.
So you can see that none of these have anything to do with external milestones, but rather serve as an internal compass of how you’re feeling about your life from inside. And the beautiful thing about it is that it’s all available to you, regardless of your circumstances.
Like I’ve shared on the IG post - to be human sometimes means to ‘feel behind’ - it’s not about dismissing your experience, judging it or brushing it off. It’s about honouring your feelings with compassion, while shifting your focus towards beliefs that are more conducive to your growth.
When you focus on the internal metrics I’ve suggested above your focus shifts from ‘what I don’t have’ to ‘what I do’. Instead of focusing on ‘behindness’ (which only serves to hold you back) you focus on where you want to be and the steps you need to take to get there. What would you do if you didn’t believe you’re behind? Time isn’t running out. Love, Naama