What are these milestones we think that we need to reach to feel good about ourselves?
House, money or marriage, what milestone do you want to cross?
Everyone’s stressed out about a different milestone to cross. Rolling in money, finally buying a house, or marrying, settling down and having children, you name it.
For 32-year-old Shazia Youssef, a Jordanian expat from Dubai, it’s to finally be her own boss and not work for anyone anymore. It stresses her out that people her age are already managers and she isn’t.
On the other hand, 30-year-old Nakul Mehta, an Indian IT communications consultant from Dubai, wants to buy a house. However, Dubai-based British expat Maria Cohen “has it all” as she says, and is still rather restless with life. “I have a flourishing business and family, and yet I feel there are more milestones to cross when it comes to work. It gives me sleepless nights,” she says.
So, milestones mean different things to different people, explains Nusrat Khan, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist. Milestones are meant to signify progress; moving from one phase of life to another, and this could be personal or societal. It’s a turning point. However, as wellness experts explain, we make the mistake of slotting it into strict terms like, promotions, salaries, marriage or having children at a certain age. It could be something just like overcoming certain triggers or a trauma that has haunted you for your life.
The truth is, we could be doing just fine, as the experts say. “First of all, we need to acknowledge that there’s no such thing as being left behind,” explains Claire Hallett, a UK-based wellness coach. “There’s no timeline for life’s milestones,"she says. Khan says that we harbour such beliefs, as they are a part of our conditioning. "We have been raised in a certain manner, and we start thinking in a particular way owing to these beliefs. So we think that graduation should be at a certain age, job at one, and marriage at another," she says.
“This is what creates anxiety in people. Just because we aren’t on the path that fits the mould, it doesn’t mean we are on the wrong path,” says Hallett.
Why we could be doing better than we think we are
Milestones vary from person to person, and it is as per your mental makeup and mindset, says Khan. So how can you redefine your milestones? It's all about reframing the narrative, she says. Focus on what you have achieved, and observe your own personal growth. "Own your story. That's what I always say," says Khan.
Here are four things that you could be doing right.
We need to reframe the narrative and own our story. Milestones vary from person to person, according to their mental makeup and mindset. You need to focus on what you have achieved, rather than on what you haven't. Focus on your personal growth...
1) Yes we know, financial stability is the thought that’s on everyone’s minds. It worries all of us. However, as Dubai-based psychiatrist Sriram Raghavendran asks, think of yourself, five years ago. How different is it from where you are now? Are you still at an old job and same pay? However, if you are no longer spending your days waiting for your next paycheck, then that’s another milestone that you have crossed. “If you have been able to pay your bills and can still breathe a sigh of relief for the remaining part of the month, then you have done well for yourself,” explains Hallett.
2) However, milestones aren’t just in financial terms. If we talk in ‘milestones’, it also comes down to improving yourself and moving on from mistakes, says Khan. For instance, failing, and making mistakes. If you haven’t let it define you, and have been able to move past it, then that’s a milestone that you have crossed. It means you took a risk, learned from it, and moved on.
3) Hallett also explains that you need to see how you handle adversity, as compared to before. “For example, earlier people in power terrified you and you feared any sort of public humiliation. You hated being in the spotlight. But today, you are able to look your managers in the eye without anxiety, and can firmly assert yourself without feeling that old fear,” she says.
4) If you’ve been able to stand your ground, let go of negative, toxic relationships that were clouding your judgment earlier, that’s another win too, according to the experts. It could be something like learning how to just stop being a doormat for people, she says. “Can you say no to people, compared to how you could not several years ago?” asks Hallett.
A lot of these changes come down to your own self-image and worth, explains Raghavendran. It is the determination to work on yourself and build authentic friendships and relationships, which bring meaning to your life. “An important milestone should be breaking out of cycles of negativity and harmful thought processes,” he says. How have you changed as a person, is what you need to see. Once you do learn to do so, you finally celebrate the small wins, and that helps to pave the way for a healthier mindset.
An important milestone should be breaking out of cycles of negativity and harmful thought processes. How have you changed as a person, is what you need to see. Once you do learn to do so, you finally celebrate the small wins, and that helps to pave the way for a healthier mindset
Why don’t we see our success?
Why don’t we see our own success? Well, self-doubt for one. Raghavendran says, “It’s a common factor that prevents others from seeing their own success, and doesn’t let them celebrate their own wins.” he says. “You should be able to identify your triggers and challenge your own negative thoughts, that allow you to see what you have achieved.” Don’t quantify your wins as ‘small’ or ‘big’; celebrate each one.
The standard of success and crossing milestones is different for everyone, says Khan. Comparing ourselves to others induce more anxiety, especially in the age of social media. “We are always in the race for comparisons. There's constant comparision and this gives rise to more fear," she says. People worry that they are not living according to societal expectations, which is a misconception. So, they tend to make these sweeping statements like, ‘Everyone’s doing better than me’ or ‘Everyone’s getting married’.
“We need to have our own measure and standard of success,” adds Hallett. “We can only feel that if we cultivate a sense of resilience in ourselves, and not get carried away with negativity around us,” she says. “Set goals for yourself that suit you, and not what suits others. For instance, go into a profession that you like, not what your parents choose,” she says.
“It’s an error to believe everyone has the same goal. It’s about what fits you. There’s no guarantee that checking off all these supposed goals will make you happy. You’re probably doing more than enough. Others can probably see it. The point is, you should too,” she says.