By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW
This article was originally published on The Huffington Post Blog.
In my last post, I laid out the concept of what a quarter-life crisis is and how it affected me personally. Today, I’m going to tell you all of the lessons I learned and how they helped me accomplish my goals.
Don't judge yourself too harshly
It can be easy to put yourself down instead of being your own cheerleader. Try to feel without judgment. If you feel disappointed that you didn't get that perfect job, embrace that feeling! It is completely normal and understandable. What we usually do is add lots of judgements and negative self talk: stop feeling disappointed, you're weak, you’re stupid, etc. But remember, we all deserve a little compassion in hard times, and especially from ourselves.
Timing isn't everything
The universe doesn't deliver things when and where we want it with a nice little bow tied on top. Stop focusing so much on when something will happen and instead figure out what you can do to make your goal happen. Maybe that involves some long-term networking or applying to grad school. Just because it isn't happening right now doesn't mean it will never happen.
I find that this comes up a lot as friends start getting engaged, having children, going back to grad school or getting promotions. It can be easy to feel jealous and wonder why it isn’t happening to you. Here's why comparing won't get you anywhere: behind every facade of success lies different circumstances, backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses. Being jealous or trying to compete is a zero sum game. There’s enough room in the world to relish your friends' accomplishments without diminishing your own.
Accept your strengths and weaknesses
Accepting oneself, with all the good, the bad and the ugly can be quite scary. However, it’s essential to getting over a quarter-life crisis and being happy and content. I can’t think of anyone who is good at everything. Even if you look at virtuosos like Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, there are certainly things they aren’t good at. For example, I don’t think you would want an engineer as your therapist! And pretending to be perfect is exhausting. Allowing others to see you for what you are can actually deepen relationships. People want to be friends with those who are authentic, not perfect.
Failure is a great opportunity
We need to redefine what failure means. According to the leadership at Google, failure is an opportunity for learning and growth. The difference is whether you take advantage of the opportunity or wallow in the disappointment. I am a perfect example. When I was 23 I lost my job in a massive corporate lay off. I liked my company and was very sad, but my heart wasn't in my industry. I'd always had a passion for psychology but never would have pursued it if I hadn't lost my cushy job. Two years and a master’s degree later, a therapist was born.
Successfully navigating a quarter-life crisis doesn’t mean we have everything all figured out. A well-lived, purposeful life involves constantly reevaluating everything and resetting goals. By following the tips above, you are making the choice to deal with uncertainty and change gracefully, as opposed to making it into an anxiety-ridden crisis. Embrace the change and enjoy the ride.
Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW is a therapist in private practice in NYC with office locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. If you are looking for support, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn how therapy might be able to help.