When I was 24, I finished graduate school and moved to Texas for a job I loved. I was feeling self-efficacious and accomplished. That lasted until about a year later when I started looking around social media and noticed my friends were taking dream vacations and living in swanky urban apartments while I was still renting a room in someone else’s house and struggling to even make it home for the holidays. And I started to think to myself, I’m not where I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. I should be successful by now.
What to do when your life doesn’t feel good enough
Over and over again, I hear women and men in their twenties and thirties tell me that they feel like they’re not where they should be at this point in their lives. But I bet if I got those people together in a group, they’d all find things about each other that mark success. Often the barrier to finding happiness is less about changing your circumstances and more about habits and mindset.
Take an inventory of your life
You believe your life isn’t what it should be. You feel inadequate and lost. But take a step back and look at what’s working and what could use improvement? Maybe your social life is thriving, but your job sucks. Maybe you’re killing it at work, but your romantic relationship (or lack thereof) leaves a lot to be desired. List out the areas of your life: work, friends, family, romantic partner, home, hobbies, etc. and really look at what’s working well and what could be better. You might find you’ve got more going for you than you thought. And it’ll help you figure out where to focus your energy.
Stop the endless scroll and break up with social media
Sure, sometimes you talk to people and you start to feel a bit envious of the life they’re describing. But more often, we’re getting information about the lavish trips people are taking, their work wins, and their adoring families from social media. But it’s important to remember, but what people post is a curated highlight reel of their life. Very few people are posting on Instagram about the impending layoffs that they’re worried about. That hurtful comment your high school friend’s fiance made the night before their wedding is nowhere to be found on a Facebook feed. The point is, you will be affected if you keep scrolling through Facebook, closing it, opening up Instagram to scroll some more all day and all night.
And the best thing you can do for yourself is this: If you find that someone else’s social media posts make you feel bad about yourself and/or your life, click unfollow. Click To Tweet
Take time to celebrate the wins
When you have a very rigid view of what “success” looks like and it depends upon many different things falling into place, the good things can get lost in the quest for the “perfect” life. But often times, getting to where we want to be, takes time and happens in a stepwise fashion. If you only allow yourself to celebrate when the whole thing is complete, it’s easy to get discouraged. Too often we accomplish one thing and immediately ask what’s next. Slowing down and allowing yourself to enjoy the small victories will lead to greater satisfaction throughout the process. You can learn more about how to make those feelings of accomplishment last longer here.
Looking back on that first year out of grad school, I now know I was doing more than fine. In fact, I was exactly where I needed to be. But that didn’t stop me from feeling anxious and inadequate when I thought about all the things I hadn’t done and didn’t have. Sometimes having a framework to think about successes and struggles is enough to make sense of things, but sometimes those feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and feeling like a fraud or failure can be hard to overcome alone. If you’re struggling with this, schedule a phone consultation.
Erika Ames is a Licenced Clinical Social Worker and owner of Texas online therapy practice, Tailwinds Counseling. Her specialties include anxiety, young adult issues, and coping with cancer as a patient or caregiver. To schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with her, click here or call (713) 936-4909.