Photo by Alexander Ramsey from Unsplash
All our life, we were trained to achieve a certain milestone at every phase in life. Before we learned how to read, we were expected to utter our first words. Before we got to play outside with the other children in the neighborhood, we were taught to walk in small steps, at slow paces. Before we learned to walk, we were taught how to crawl.
Since we were kids, we had to learn everything from scratch. We had to try, fail, fall, get back up, and do it all over again. To sum it up, our entire life is a long, tedious process of endless learning.
When we were in school, we started the same way. The same standard of difficulties in tests was given to us, as well as the rubrics that measure our intelligence objectively. The same projects were laid out to us, as well as the challenges that come with accomplishing the tasks. Back then, we’d get so anxious about who was ahead of us on the honor list. It was always about competition and being the best in every subject.
For many years, we derived our confidence from academic ranking and praises from teachers and classmates. The plan was always to get a higher average than the biggest competitor in the class. It was easier for us to compare notes and see who among the students was the best in the room. After all, we all had the same metrics to measure the figures and academic excellence.
It makes sense why after we get out of school, we think we are all entitled to the same troubles and challenges as our peers. Little do we know, we all have different lives, stories, and backgrounds. Navigating through our life is complicated and unpredictable enough, what more when other people’s trajectories get mixed up with ours? Pretty soon, we no longer know which way to go. Thinking we’re falling behind in life because others got to their destinations quicker than us is just crazy.
As we get older, we realize people go through milestones in life at different paces. Some get to them earlier than most while some go through hurdles in life and walk out of them with everything gone. The moment we get out of school, what were once clear indicators of success slowly disappear and the lines that once resembled the end of the race get blurry—and soon vanish.
When you feel like you’re falling behind from the rest, it only goes down to two things: that what you’re feeling is merely a feeling or you really are falling behind. And by falling behind, what I mean is not in comparison to others but to yourself. The feeling of barely moving at all in your life can be portrayed and manifested in many ways. It can be caused by a myriad of reasons, mostly by lack of self-recognition and self-loathing criticism, but generally, the effects can be very crippling.
You may be falling behind the progress ladder because your current habits are sort of pulling you backward. Your priorities are all tangled and you have no clear goals about how you want to spend the day. Your insecurities are eating you up alive and every little action just keeps you more overwhelmed. Pretty soon, you’re going to hit rock bottom.
God’s delays are not denials.
Just because your plan didn’t work yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t work at all. Trust in God’s timing because His promises never fail. When all you see is struggle after struggle, it is difficult to see your growth. It’s hard to accept you’re progressing because for many years, you’ve programmed your mind into believing every step you take must render results. Otherwise, that ‘progress’ you’re talking about is nothing but an illusion or non-existent. But trust me when I say, that is simply not the case.
God knows the course of your life. If you only see what God sees, the last thing you’d want to do is worry. He knows everything you have experienced and will continue to experience. There’s a reason you are in that messy situation, and whatever that reason may be, take it as an advantage to help you become stronger. Steadfast, unwavering faith takes believing in God’s plans even without seeing the full picture. It requires fully surrendering to God’s faithfulness and timing. There is true power in believing even if the world gives you all the reasons you shouldn’t.
Give yourself time to think about your plans.
Feeling behind in life can be a sign that you feel lost in your direction. You are either confused or distracted by which way to go, because of the obstacles that persuade you to lose your way. Remember why you started, why you made this choice in the first place. Remember the reasons that were once more important and more powerful than your fears.
It’s important to understand life is not a race or a competition of any sort. Amidst all the confusion and stress, there is a silver lining in the feeling of falling behind in life. What they don’t tell you is you are actually propelling much faster in life in your speed contrary to what you think others perceive about your life. When you start to feel uneasy and uncomfortable about your situation right now, the urge to change your life is more than powerful. This sense of conviction not only has the strength to pull you out from your episodes of analysis paralysis but also to pave a new way of direction.
WHAT TO DO WHEN FEELING BEHIND IN LIFE:
EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Never deny yourself the opportunity to grow. Amidst seasons of doubt, have room for learning new things and piquing your curiosity. You may feel behind in some aspects of life such as finding your soul mate or being promoted to a higher rank at work, but there will always be other facets in your life where you’re flourishing. Regardless, it is always beneficial to expand your horizons and develop your skills in various fields. Just because it didn’t work out in this line of work, it doesn’t mean you’re not good enough to try another. Don’t shy away from opportunities only because of a few failed attempts. Soon enough, you will find that one thing you’re very good at and fall in love with it.
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Finding your self-worth on social media is the last thing you want to do to feel ‘less’ behind in life. You can’t make someone’s Instagram feed a basis for your happiness or success. You don’t know the other side of their picture-perfect photos nor know a single thing about what they’ve gone through. If anything, mindlessly scrolling through social media will only push you further down the rabbit hole. You’re only feeding your mind assumptions of other people’s lives and purposely painting yourself as the loser in their story.
REEVALUATE YOUR HABITS
Success starts with good thoughts, then these thoughts become good habits. If you’re feeling behind, you’re probably stuck in a routine full of bad habits. It’s time to take control of your situation by knowing which habits are hampering your momentum. Make active efforts to boost your self-esteem instead of letting your thoughts defeat you.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF WHILE GETTING BACK UP
Most people make the mistake of pushing people away when they are not successful yet (in fear of feeling inadequate or judged) or isolating themselves from the ones they love to avoid being distracted or frankly because being with them only fuels bitterness and jealousy. There’s no point in burning yourself out every time you think you are falling behind in life. Racing against time will only cost you more and leave you feeling stressed without putting out tangible results.
Don’t forget to be kind to yourself while you’re still healing and figuring things out. In the end, what matters is you continue to find the essence in everything you do even when you’re still climbing up the ladder. One way to absorb genuine happiness in your life is to invest in the quality of your relationships. Treasure the bond you have with your dearest loved ones before, during, and after achieving your goals.
My Personal Thoughts:
As for me, I’ve never been like most people who equate material wealth and high-paying status to a successful life. I always believed life is more than what satisfies your ego and what brings you a sense of worldly pride. Life, to me, is a fulfilled one when I am consistent in showing gratitude for what I have and eager in making the lives of those around me better. Now that I’m older, my priorities become smaller and more specific. There is still pretty much a lot on my list, but mainly it involves my health, relationships, contribution to society, and overall disposition in life.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am no stranger to submitting to society’s criteria for a successful and fulfilled life. I am also a victim of my and others’ expectations of me and how I desperately try to change myself to please them. I also desire to be in a position where people adore my work and respect me as someone who dreams of big things and achieved them. I also want to experience the finer things in life— like going on a vacation far from home with my family and friends and going on a shopping spree once in a while.
But I don’t consider any of these external indicators of success more important than my own criteria of fulfillment. Think of this way: let’s say you are way ahead in life. Let’s say you have already accomplished so much than what most people could at your age, what good does it do if they don’t fulfill you? What does it matter if the only reason you’re working this hard is to please everyone but yourself?
Stop determining how behind you are in life by these external factors. Regardless of your progress or life circumstances, choose to lean towards ticking off the checklist of your internal metrics. Even if you are yet to find a high-paying stable job or yet to start building your dream house, be sure to acknowledge how far you’ve come and how much you’ve changed in a couple of months. Acknowledge your progress. Be proud of your growth.
When you feel behind in life, it goes to show you are only looking at your progress from everyone else’s point of view but yours. Your insecurities are eating you up after constant comparisons of your journey to other people whose lives you think are appropriate standards to rise to. Once you understand that your speed in going after what you want is not the most important thing, you stop criticizing your place in this so-called race. You don’t have to put so much importance on how ahead or behind you are in life. What truly matters is the fact that you never stopped, and that despite the most terrible of circumstances, YOU ARE MOVING.
The next time you feel behind where you should be at your age, know that you can always start over. You are the one who’s in control of your life and you can always change up the way you’re handling things. It’s important to constantly question your choices, but not in a way that intentionally destroys your self-esteem. You need to seriously ask yourself why you want to achieve your desires and what fuels you to chase them. If you have the right reasons in place, I don’t see why success isn’t bound to follow.
“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”Arianna Huffington
One thought on “What to Do When You Feel Behind in Life”
Well said, Monique. This is a beautiful post and very relatable. We all go through moments when we feel like we’re falling behind, esp when we allow other people’s expectations to influence how we see our lives.