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How to Forge Your Own Path When You Feel Left Behind

Life is a rollercoaster of emotions, and sometimes we may find ourselves feeling low and doubting our abilities and our journey. You may be hit by a random bout of “imposter syndrome” and feel like you haven’t achieved anything. Life may feel like it’s on a standstill, and all your academic, career and social achievements feel insufficient, sending you down a dark hole of depression and uncontrollable anxiety.

If you feel like you’re lagging, you’re not alone. At some point, many people across the globe go through similar emotions, especially young adults. The way our society is set up, there are milestones attached to various ages, and if you haven’t achieved certain things your “peers” have, then you’ll feel left behind. If this describes you, then read on to find out how to cope with the feeling stuck in whatever season of your life.

Appreciate Your Accomplishments And Experiences

We’re our biggest critics and often underestimate our abilities. Even when our hard work stares us in the face, what we usually see is how we could have done things differently. So it’s not just you; thousands of “accomplished” people out there react the same way; science says we’re wired to see the glass half empty.

Instead of celebrating the house you bought for yourself, what you focus on is how small it is, and how your high school friend has bought their third property already. Psychologists encourage you to watch out for such thoughts and to counter them with more positive thinking actively. Be kinder towards yourself, and celebrate all your victories, big or small.

You’re Only in Competition with Yourself

What most people don’t realize is that even with the celebrities or “role models,” they look up to, they’re just as human. The parts of their lives they share are filtered and curated to portray a specific image; it’s not real. Those people are just as flawed as you, so to compare yourself to them would be to hold yourself to an impossible standard that the people you’re emulating don’t live by.

Get the idea that you “should” be doing a particular thing out of your head. The people in your life, directly or not, are there running their own races; they have nothing to do with you. You shouldn’t inflict any pressure on yourself based on what they’re doing or achieving. Keep your eyes on the one-in-a-million blend of nature and nurture that you’ve been dished and work with that.

Reassess Your Goals

The power of the internet and social media has made it alarmingly easy to connect with people across the globe. As such, the expectations and goals to aspire to have been heightened, often influenced by other people, not what aligns with yourself. Remind yourself always that the measurement of success is only subjective. Someone else’s goal is to start a family, and the next person could be to graduate.

As such, your focus shouldn’t be on the achievements others have made. Celebrate their success and retweet them, but keep your personal goals in check to remind yourself what success looks like in your terms. Take inspiration from others’ achievements, but don’t let that pressure you into feeling insufficient. This isn’t to say you make up excuses for not being where you should be in life. Instead, it’s to evaluate what you want, not what you think someone like you should be doing. 

Embrace The Shame

Life isn’t linear. Some cloud-nine days may be followed by lows that leave you feeling defeated. No one would appreciate the sun if it weren’t for the cloudy days. The stagnant seasons are opportunities to grow and serve as character builders. They should be valued as highly as the big moments. Embrace them, learn from them, and await your “big break” to get to work when your time comes.

Mistakes are only teaching moments, meant to help you regroup and learn about where you’re coming from, where you are, and where you aspire to be.

Remember Life Has No Formula

Your friends, peers, and even siblings are all on a different race from you. Remember that so that you don’t try to “copy” someone else’s way of doing things because the truth is, life has no formula. We set goals for ourselves and worry when the time comes, and we haven’t achieved what we want. The reality is, there’s no order that life should go. 

Someone may have a child before they get a house and a degree, and that’s okay. We plan so we’re not structureless, but those things aren’t guaranteed to come when we want them. 

Conclusion

There’s no “right” way to do life. You’re not lost, and life is too short to spend grilling yourself for what you think you should have. In the words of Sven Goran Eriksson, “To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.” So go out and live on your lane and don’t let anyone else make you feel any less for the race you’re on; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

References:

https://www.prospecttherapy.com/blog/2020/2/20/how-to-forge-your-own-path-when-you-feel-left-behind-by-your-peers

https://tinybuddha.com/blog/youre-not-behind-youre-just-on-your-own-path/

https://www.marieforleo.com/2015/10/feeling-behind-in-life/

https://vickyflipfloptravels.com/feel-left-behind/

Citations:

Cherry, K. (2020, April 29). Why Our Brains Are Hardwired to Focus on the Negative. Retrieved September 02, 2020, from https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-bias-4589618

Deshpande, A., Harris-Hayes, M., & Schootman, M. (2008, November). Epidemiology of diabetes and diabetes-related complications. Retrieved August 29, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3870323/

Miller, A. (2017, November 21). How to Identify & Replace Negative Thinking Patterns. Retrieved September 02, 2020, from https://healthyliving.azcentral.com/identify-replace-negative-thinking-patterns-1421.html

Nalin, J., Ashley, Lopez, A., Lisebram January 9, Lisebram, Stephani, . . . Naveen. (n.d.). Social Media and Teen Depression: The Two Go Hand-In-Hand. Retrieved September 02, 2020, from https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/social-media-and-teen-depression-two-go-hand

Theoretical Perspectives. (n.d.). Retrieved September 02, 2020, from https://youngadulthoodg2.weebly.com/theoretical-perspectives.html

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