People think that being in your mid-20’s is all fun and games and the best time of your life, but it can also be a time of confusion, disappointment, and disillusionment. A quarter-life crisis is a feeling of uncertainty and dissatisfaction with how your life has turned out so far. It may happen after college when reality sets in, you are truly on your own and begin working your first serious job. Perhaps you begin to doubt that this field is for you, or the job it isn’t what it was cracked up to be in the beginning. A quarter-life crisis may also be brought on by feelings of loneliness due to a big breakup, or seeing all of your friends getting engaged and you are not.

Here are five signs that you may be heading towards a quarter-life crisis:

  1. You feel unfulfilled in some way. Maybe you thought that becoming an “adult” would feel a certain way, and you’re not getting that feeling. Perhaps you thought it would make you feel accomplished, important and confident, but instead you feel the opposite. Whether it is working at a job you dislike, finding yourself in a relationship you realize is going nowhere, or lamenting the loneliness of being single or the difficulties of making friends as an adult, you do not feel as happy as you thought you would feel in your mid-20’s.
  2. You are unsure of what you want. You know that you want to change up what you’re doing and have a million ideas of how to do that, but have made no actual moves. After all, these are hard decisions. Maybe you want to travel, go back to school, change careers, move to another city- you are chasing something that it feels like is missing in your life.
  3. You are feeling an unusual amount of nostalgia. You’re probably wishing that you were back in high school when your parents paid for everything and the biggest worry you had was what to wear to the first day of school. Those high school and college days may have seemed tough at the time but you’d give anything to go back to that now. In your mid-20’s you’re worried about what to wear to an interview that could determine if you will be able to pay your bills next month, which is way less fun.
  4. You compare your life to that of others. Trolling Facebook can be quite depressing in your mid-20’s, when it seems like everyone you know is posting engagement photos and picture of their babies, talking about their latest promotion or how they just got their dream job. Looking at all of this can make you feel inadequate if you aren’t in that stage of your life yet.
  5. You feel like a failure. When you thought about how your life should be in your mid-20’s, this wasn’t what you imagined or hoped for yourself. Maybe you did not meet the goals you set for yourself, or had to compromise them so many times along the way that they became unrecognizable.

Tips for getting back on the horse and turning that quarter-life crisis into a quarter-life victory:

  1. Gauge your priorities. When you sit down and really think about it, what do you want out of life? What is truly important to you, and what is your passion? For some it is to help people, bring new technology to the world, or simply making people smile. Sometimes we get so caught up in the rat race of trying to make ends meet that we forget our meaning in life and need a refresher.
  2. Set goals and stick to them. Find practical ways that you can follow your dreams and passions. If you realize that your true passion is to make others laugh, but you have tried to make it as a comedian and were not as successful as hoped, what are other ways to make this dream come true? Any obstacle can be overcome or circumvented with dedication and critical thinking. It helps to focus on just a few concrete goals- write them down and look at them each day to give yourself direction.
  3. Recognize that this is just a transition. Change is hard. Leaving the comfortable environment of school and being thrown into the “grown-up” world can be jarring. However, remember that everyone goes through it and though others may look like they know what they are doing, they are all just as afraid and uncertain as you.
  4. Practice positive self-talk. Instead of comparing yourself to the people around you who seem so happy and fulfilled in their lives, appreciate yourself for the accomplishments and blessings that you possess. Many people feel like they need to put on a façade and portray their life as perfect to the outside world, but you don’t know what is really going on behind the scenes and they could be struggling just as much as you. Make a list of things you can be proud of and happy about, and whenever you start feeling down on yourself get out the list and read it over.
  5. Change your expectations rather than lowering them. Maybe you thought you would be rich by now, the VP of a great company, or a famous actor. Not upholding these lofty expectations might make you feel like a failure in life. However, if you change your expectations to ones that are more attainable and put the utmost effort into them, you will likely feel much more accomplished.
  6. In addition to these tips it may be helpful to seek therapy or life coaching to get through a quarter-life crisis. Our therapists at Symmetry Counseling are here to help.

    Author: Grace Norberg, AMFT