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Surviving a Quarter Life Crisis

2009-09-cover-puzzle_tcm7-84442The first years of adulthood or “real life” is often a time of excitement and thrill. We are trying to become established and individuated. We are making big life decisions. We are out on our own for the first time. These are supposedly the best years of our lives, but what often gets overlooked is just how difficult this period of time can be for a lot of people. Alongside the thrill and excitement are often feelings of inadequacy, confusion, and anxiety as we move through the transitory phase. Rest assured, if you feel this way you are not alone. Many twenty and thirty-somethings will face this quarter-life crisis where there is a seeming disconnect between what is happening in our lives and what we want to be happening in our lives. Here are some tips to help survive this transitory phase:

Create Your Own Path and Stop Comparing Your Life to Other People

We develop ideas about the type of relationships we have, the stage of our career we should be in, and the commitments we should make based on societal pressure and norms that have been developed in our family and social circles. It may seem that everyone around you is excelling in their career, falling in love, and utterly satisfied with their lives but that doesn’t mean you need to be in the same place. If these are goals that you have then by all means strive for them, but try not to let the accomplishments of others be injurious to your own self-esteem. Life is not a competition. It’s okay to feel unsettled and unclear on what you want. Clarify your own hopes, dreams, and needs. Decide what will make YOU happy, and go for it.

Set Goals and Make and Action Plan

Set goals for yourself relating to all areas of your life (career, personal, relationships, etc.) and break them down into specific ambitions for short, medium, and long term (think – 1, 5, 10 years from now). Ask yourself what specific actions need to be taken in order to reach each goal. By making small sub-goals you can make things manageable and stop you from feeling overwhelmed. Creating an action plan will make you feel proactive in control, and accomplished. BUT…

Don’t Get TOO Caught up On a Timeline

We face a lot of pressure to accomplish things in our lives within a certain time frame and when we miss that “deadline” we are left feeling like we have somehow failed. We need to make plans for the future in order to stay motivated and excited about our lives but it’s important not to get too focused on time. You may have decided that you want to be set in your career, own a home, and be married by the time you’re 30, but if you’re too rigid in that timeline you’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t work out that way. Or worse, you may make decisions that are consistent with the timeline but not necessarily consistent with what truly makes you happy in life. Draft a personal and reasonable timeline for the goals that you have but be flexible if you encounter bumps it the road. You don’t need to have your whole life figured out by the time you’re 30 (and in all honesty, you probably won’t). Things will happen as they are meant to happen.

Talk it Out

It’s common to feel alone during this transition phase of your life so make use of the connections you have to other people. Opening up to friends, family, or a mentor about your struggles and you may find they’ve experienced similar crises in their lives.  It’s okay to have doubts or be dissatisfied with this period of your life. But it’s important to figure out what isn’t working for you in order to make positive changes in your life. Sharing your problems with others may lead to a wealth of advice and support in a time where guidance can be paramount to success. If you’re feeling really lost, it may be helpful to speak to a therapist to help you establish what you want out of life.

Define Success in Your Own Terms

Many of us have come to equate success with status and money. Instead of letting that be the sole definer of success, think about all the ways you can measure your own success. Perhaps it’s the feedback you receive from peers and colleagues, the difference you make in the lives of others, or the fact that you live a well-balanced life. Your definition of success should be reflective of all of your values rather than just financial gains. Acknowledge all of your achievements, past and present, to remember you have a number of things to be proud of.

By: Catherine Kamel

counsellor, psychologist, psychotherapy

About Catherine Kamel

Catherine is an empathetic and open-minded therapist dedicated to helping others live happy and healthier lives. She is a Canadian Certified Counsellor and Psychotherapist. She holds a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology from McGill University. Catherine has experience working with diverse clientele experiencing a number of personal, academic, and career concerns. Her areas of practice include: depression, anxiety, stress management, communication skills, family and relational concerns, self-esteem, trauma, disability and illness-related concerns, and life transitions. Catherine has a passion for helping others identify and pursue their life paths in meaningful ways. She works collaboratively with clients to improve their self-awareness and identify their strengths, while developing strong, respectful relationships based on mutual trust. Catherine is committed to an integrative and empowering approach that honours the unique story of each client. She incorporates elements of psychodynamic theory, cognitive behavioral therapy, existentialism, interpersonal processing theory, and emotion focused therapy, into her therapeutic framework.


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