A quarter-life crisis is something 18 to 30 year olds are becoming increasingly familiar with.
And I think it effects most of us, sooner or later.
After graduating, I began to question everything I’d just achieved. Was that degree right for me? Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? And, like many other graduates, I struggled to get a job doing something I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do.
Fast forward three years. I’d landed the dream job in fashion, with a decent enough salary, and more free shoes than I could house. And those familiar waves of uncertainty, fear, and confusion crashed down on me again.
Was this what I wanted on a soul level?
Was I playing it safe, and convincing myself that my job was great, because everyone else thought so?
And what if I was making a huge mistake, and would end up retiring at 60 with a bucket-full of regrets?
To begin with, I did what a lot of people do: I drank a lot of wine and tried to drown out the voices in my head. It wasn’t long before I realised I needed a better plan.
I’m 30 now. I don’t own my own car or house (not even close), I’m not married, and I still feel incredibly unprepared to have kids. To be honest, I’m still not completely sure whether I even want kids. I’ve spent the past four years swapping careers, and building my own business from the ground, up. But most people on the outside looking in, would think I don’t have much to show for it.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
If you’re feeling a little lost, or behind; or stressed because you’re not where you expected to be by this age, and you still don’t know where that even is, you’re not alone. You’re having a quarter-life crisis, and this is actually a beautiful thing.
It’s beautiful because it means you’re not okay with settling for a mediocre life. It means you care enough about your life to want to figure out what it is you’re meant to be doing with it. And, it means you’re far more likely to find your way to wherever it is you’re meant to be; all in good time.
Here’s how to get through a quarter-life crisis, and find your path.
1. Walk away from the comparison game
One of the biggest challenges today is looking at your friends, peers, and even strangers you don’t know, and falling into the comparison trap.
Social media magnifies other people’s successes, adventures, and milestones; and convinces you that everybody else has their shit together. But this is a lie. Nobody has it all figured out.
There’s more pressure than ever before for women (in particular) to create this perfect life for themselves as soon as they leave school. We need to have the thriving career and climb the ladder, we need to have a perfect body and eat right, we need to have the relationship which eventually leads to the perfect wedding and kids; and on top of that, we need to be funny and smart and pretty.
Do you know a woman like this? Because I don’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t exist.
As cheesy as it sounds, the only competition you should ever be in is with yourself. Do what you can today to be better than you were yesterday.
But forget what everybody else is doing. It’s none of your business. Everyone is on their own journey here.
2. Question everything you think you should have/be/do right now
The reason so many of us wind up feeling anxious, stressed, or unhappy in our twenties, is because of the things we think we should have achieved by now.
I should have met the man of my dreams by now.
All my friends who are my age own their own house already.
My mum was married with three kids at this age.
I should be further along in my career at this point.
Everyone else seems to know exactly what they want to do with their life.
When you think or say these things to yourself, you’re telling yourself you have failed to meet these expectations that society has laid out for you. But you never chose those expectations for yourself. You might not even want some of those things on that list. And if you do, who says they need to be checked off by a certain age?
Do you really believe you’ve failed at life because you’re not married yet, or you haven’t landed your dream job?
I’m here to tell you that you haven’t failed. Not even close. The day you fail is the day you allow other people’s expectations to influence your life.
3. Accept where you are today
Have you ever thought to yourself, as soon as I get that promotion, I’ll be happy? Or as soon as I own my own house, I’ll be happy? Or, I just need to find that perfect relationship, and then everything will be rosy?
We’ve been trained since we were little to keep looking forward to the next thing, and the next. It’s this insatiable need to achieve, and feel like we’re moving forward. And moving forward is a great thing, but there are many ways to do this that don’t involve getting something.
The sad reality is, we almost always get the thing we really wanted, live on cloud nine for a short while, then return right back to how we felt before. And then we’re looking for the next thing.
Some of us think the remedy to our quarter-life crisis is achieving one more thing, but chances are it’s not.
So I invite you to slow down, and just enjoy this moment, right here. Focus on being happy now, wherever you find yourself. Enjoy the journey of getting to wherever it is you want to go.
Be present in the moment, because the moment is all we ever have.
4. Remember: Your degree does not define you
Most of us are not ready to choose a degree and decide what we want to do with the rest of our life at 17.
So, we pick something we’re vaguely interested in, spend three or four years studying it, and think we have to follow that path for the next 40 years.
But you don’t have to. It’s okay to change your mind.
I studied fashion design at university, thinking that was definitely what I wanted to do in my future. But after three years working in the industry as a designer and buyer, I realised it just wasn’t for me.
I wanted to be a writer, and that scared me. Because it was worlds apart from everything I knew. And it felt like I would essentially be throwing my degree in the trash. What a waste of time and money, right?
Wrong. You have a skill you can always go back to if you need to, or want to. And you chose what was best for you at that time. That experience shaped you into who you are today.
You might decide you want to go back to school and study something else now. Or you might learn a new skill through an online course in your evenings and weekends. Maybe even take some local classes that you’re interested in.
Your degree does not define you. And it’s okay to choose a new path.
5. Let go of anything that no longer serves you
Your twenties are often a huge period of growth.
You grow up, you discover you want different things, and you evolve. This is natural. And there’s probably not a decade where you’ll change as much as you will during this one.
Maybe you feel like you no longer have much in common with your friends. Maybe a relationship begins to feel stagnant. Or maybe you realise you’re in the wrong job.
And you’re likely to feel some inner conflict when this happens. You want to let go of whatever is holding you back; but at the same time, it’s comfortable, and you fear that you might be failing if you no longer have that thing in your life. There’s also the realisation that you may hurt someone else in the process.
But this is part of growing up. The only way to navigate your way out of a quarter-life crisis is to trust your intuition, and follow through on where you’re being guided.
Give yourself permission to let go of anything that no longer serves you, because this will create space for the new.
6. How to get through a quarter-life crisis: Experiment
Before I realised I wanted make a living as a writer, all I knew was that I used to enjoy writing when I was younger. So I spent some time writing, just for fun, in my spare time.
If you’re unsure about what you want to do with your life, then the best thing to do is experiment. Try lots of things; some of them old and some of them new. Make a list of all the things you loved as a child, and re-visit some of those.
Keep going until you stumble on things that bring you joy. You’ll know you love something from that tingly feeling you get in your heart when you’re doing it. Time flies by, and you’re fully in the moment without even trying to be.
Challenge yourself to do things you’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but have postponed, or convinced yourself aren’t for you. Because how do you know what is and isn’t for you until you’ve fully tried it?
Enjoy playing like a child again. It’s really fun!
7. What kind of person do you want to be?
Your relationships, career, and finances are all external things. And any goals or intentions you create in these areas should be based on internal factors—your beliefs, values, and passions.
Have you ever stopped to think about the kind of person you want to be? What your core beliefs are? Or what you want the message of your life to be?
The answers to these questions will help you make informed choices when it comes to those external parts of your life. Choices that align with you on a soul level, and are not influenced by anyone else’s ideas or expectations.
It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers figured out in a day, a month, or even a year. But dedicate time to figuring them out; instead of burying your head in the sand and hoping your quarter-life crisis will magically resolve itself.
Trust me, that never works. You already know it doesn’t.
8. What does success look like to you?
Success to you might be rising to the top of a company, getting married, and raising a family; in that order. But many of us have adopted this as what success looks and feels like, regardless of whether it’s actually what we want.
Do you want that? If so, great.
And if you don’t? What does success look and feel like to you?
A few years ago, I asked myself these questions, and journaled on them.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that success to me meant running my own business and being in complete control of my destiny. It also meant having the freedom to work remotely, or at home, and set my own schedule. And, it meant doing something that helped empower and inspire women. I wanted enough money flowing in from doing the work I love, to be able to support me, but also extra to invest in more learning and growth.
I realised that if I had all those things, I would feel content, and happy; regardless of what else I did or didn’t have.
9. Practice self-care
One of the best things you can do for yourself while going through a quarter-life crisis is to focus on creating positive daily habits that make you feel good.
When I was struggling in my 9-5, knowing that it wasn’t where I was meant to be, I started swimming regularly a couple mornings each week before work. This helped calm me, release any built up stress, and allowed me to stop thinking about all my worries.
What can you do to take better care of yourself each day?
Here are some ideas:
- Move your body in ways that feel good for you
- Eat a balanced diet
- Drink less alcohol
- Stay hydrated
- Take a bath to relax
- Get enough sleep each night (8 hours at least if possible)
- Try meditating
- Spend time with kind, positive, uplifting people
- Make time to do fun things
10. Start a side hustle
As soon as I realised I wanted to try and make a living as a writer, I began writing every moment I got; while still working my full-time job in fashion.
I would wake up at 5AM most days, and write before work. Then I’d rush home, and carry on writing. I found different platforms to get my work published online, started looking for freelance writing gigs, and set up my own website and company email address.
I said no to things like after-work drinks and weekends away with friends, so that I could focus on creating an exit strategy for myself.
My goal was to save as much money as I could in those final 6 months, to keep me going once I got out. And to have a solid foundation to build on.
It eventually got to the point where I needed to quit my job so that I could devote all my time and energy to making it as a writer. Four years later, I haven’t looked back.
You might already know what you really want to do. Start a blog, launch a clothing line, or sell handmade goods on Esty. Whatever it is, I encourage you to start today.
11. Talk to someone
Going through a quarter-life crisis on your own can be really lonely, confusing, and even more challenging. So don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Lean on your friends and family. Share how you’re feeling, even when you’re afraid to be vulnerable. And if you need a fresh perspective from someone who isn’t so close to you, consider talking to a therapist, or even hiring a personal coach.
You don’t need to suffer in silence. There are people out there to help guide and support you through your times of need. Please don’t think you’re weak for asking for help; this actually makes you incredibly brave.
Remember, this is your life—you have to live it for you
Forget what everybody else is doing. Focus on your path, and what you came here in this lifetime to do, be, and experience. Because I promise you, nothing else matters.
And when you stop comparing your life to someone else’s, and let go of expectations placed on your shoulders, you’ll feel free.
The quarter-life crisis that you once saw as a blip or a setback, will become an opportunity to grow and live your life with more purpose and joy than you ever imagined.
Praise for Bloom by Shani Jay
“I read Bloom in one night. I started feeling hopeless and pushed down. Shani picked me up, dusted me off, and guided me to self-love in a few short hours with only print. Truly inspiring” – Rebecca Barnoff