- Youngsters can be victim to a quarter life crisis
- Millennials discuss whether they have gone through such issues
- Ways can you combat it
As I scrolled through my social media feed, and ‘liked’ a post of someone getting married, a friend finishing a third graduate degree and an acquaintance buying herself a dog, I suddenly found myself with a lot of questions: Am I not doing enough? Have I not achieved my full potential? Am I falling behind?
Welcome to the quarter-life crisis. If you find yourself questioning your career choices, are confused, and can feel the weight of the world crushing your shoulders, then you’re in one. But don’t despair; most 20-something individuals are.
You’re not alone.
A quarter life crisis is a crisis that involves anxiety and uncertainty over the direction of one’s life. It usually occurs in your 20s, but for some young adults, it can start as young as 18 years.
As you venture out into the new world, full of endless possibilities and choices, most millennials and young adults change their outlook to life. They adopt a more realistic approach and start to feel as though they have not achieved the things they should have, at that time, and fear they never will.
According to employment-oriented service LinkedIn’s official blog, almost “75 per cent of 25 to 33-year-old individuals have experienced a quarter-life crisis.”
We spoke to UAE residents and five out of six said they felt like they were going through something similar. So what is the cause of this crisis? Let’s find out.
Based on Linkedin’s 2017 research, around 60 per cent of people are anxious about their careers or “what to do next.” Most young people starting out are “frustrated about their career options” and worried about “not earning enough”.
Rudhra Bala is a 28-year-old production chemist who is “dreading what the future holds. I am not settled in life and it is going to take some time for me to get there. Working a small job, with an average pay, and nearing 30… not having a relationship, and not travelling as much as my peers are things on my mind.”
However, the Sri Lankan national is not “unhappy” with his choices, he just feels “stuck” and “helpless” where he is.
He said: “We live in a day and age where everything is out in the open and everyone is sort of in a race with each other. We compare each other’s life and successes. You’re considered a failure if you aren’t settled in life by a certain age.”
Facing a similar dilemma is 29-year-old Mohammad Bilal Al Deen, who is at a crossroads as far as his career is concerned. His “inability” to take a decision is what is causing him stress.
He said: “I need to make a decision whether I should continue at my current job or join my family business. I have worked in different fields but it is not helping me reach my goal.”
The Bangladeshi national is planning to visit a psychologist soon. “I feel stuck in a transition phase, and I feel anxious especially since some big decisions I’ve taken didn’t work out.”
However, like Bala, Mohammad is not unhappy. “I am glad with the way some things panned out because I have become a better version of myself by going through these difficult phases.”
I am glad with the way some things panned out because I have become a better version of myself by going through these difficult phases
Passion versus career
Choosing between one’s passions at the expense of a job that might earn a better living can be challenging and 19-year-old Divya Wadhwa is already thinking about this.
“I am confused with the choices I’ve made and the ones I will have to make in the future. I always wonder whether my degree will actually help later on.”
I am confused with the choices I’ve made and the ones I will have to make in the future. I always wonder whether my degree will actually help later on
“I belong to a business family. They never pressured me to become a lawyer or doctor, which some Indian parents encourage their children to pursue. But now that I am following my passion, I keep wondering if I will be able to live a more comfortable and safe life in the future. I have spoken to my parents about this but the only advice I get is ‘you’ll figure it out’, which only makes me more anxious of the future.”
According to Linkedin, 23 per cent of individuals in this age bracket have taken a career break during this period of uncertainty, taking time off from work to re-evaluate what they want to do. More than half of those experiencing a life crisis are really just looking for proper career advice.
Twenty four-year-old Isra Alam was in a quarter life crisis in 2017, but feels more “settled” now.
The Pakistani national said: “I was unemployed for a while after graduating and I think in some ways that was a stressful point. Though, I would say that I do feel more settled now. My work does not stress me out, it’s actually quite the opposite.”
Alam does admit that post university life proved to be stressful for her as she felt “stuck” and unable to more forward from university.
“There was a certain level of uncertainty as to what I wanted to achieve and realising that there were a number of unprecedented obstacles that were preventing me from achieving those things.”
There was a certain level of uncertainty as to what I wanted to achieve and realising that there were a number of unprecedented obstacles that were preventing me from achieving those things.
The quarter life crisis is common in every young person starting their career and entering the “real world”. Why? Alam believes it is because of “competition”.
“I’ve been thinking about this particular topic for quite some time now. In this region, we’ve grown up with the assumption that if we work hard and get good grades, it would direct us towards success. However, that’s not the case.
“These days, everyone has the qualifications and we’re all fighting to have a seat at that table, but not everyone will get it.”
She said that millennials want to achieve a lot and when their goals aren’t being met, fast, they tend to get frustrated and unhappy, especially when others are achieving what they want.
Inability to stay focused
Echoing the same idea, Mohammad Bilal Al Deen thinks that people in their 20’s go through this crisis because they are “impatient and are unable to focus on one thing”.
People expect instant gratification and results which might not always be the case. Things take time.
Fresh graduate, 23-year-old Nishchay Oswal believes that everyone goes through a quarter life crisis but “decisions made during this period can have a strong impact on a person’s future”. Which is why it is a delicate time and should not be taken lightly.
Oswal is currently in a quarter life crisis and said: “It is not something to be stressed about or to feel repressed. It’s natural and all anyone can do during this time is be ambitious and trust your gut.”
It is not something to be stressed about or to feel repressed. It’s natural and all anyone can do during this time is be ambitious and trust your gut.
Procurement executive Nouran Saad is in a quarter life crisis because she is in a dilemma. She started three business herself but “they all ended”.
The 23-year-old said: “I have a job I am happy with, but this job consumes all my energy that I can’t work on my dreams. My dream is to own a successful dessert shop and teach young women how to be strong and successful.”
According to the Egyptian national, most millennials find themselves at crossroads because they are “brought up to think differently.
“We were taught not take no for an answer. We were taught to dream big and achieve these dreams and so when we deal with people who don’t share the same mentality, we seem strange to them.”
Divya Wadhwa said that the availability of different social media platforms and the amount of choice people have these days have deepened the problem and the confusion. She said: “Social media also contributes to this. I am so connected to everyone, I find myself comparing my life to the lives of others and feel like I am not doing enough.”
What can you do?
People are afraid of talking about this because they think they will be judged.
Wadhwa said: “I think everyone is portraying their lives so differently on social media, and I might be guilty of that too. The thought of telling someone else about how stuck you feel in life makes you feel embarrassed. Which is why I haven’t seen many people talk about going through a quarter life crisis.”
She advises people her age and those starting out to “not wait to start your career till your studies are over, as it’ll only be more difficult then”.
Isra Alam has realised that “letting go of expectations” is the key to being happy. “I think society has set this unspoken generalised timeline for significant life goals to be achieved. It’s a social construction that we have a direct contact with through social media.”
She advises young people to let go of “what everyone thinks” and grow according to their individual curve.
Mohammad advises young people to be “grateful, patient and focus on what is in your control. Every problem and solution started in my head before happening in real life”.
Nouran Saad has spoken to her friends about being anxious and confused about career choices and said that they have “always been supporting me and pushing me to do better”. She finds this a difficult conversation to have with her parents.
“The advice that I can give myself is to push hard and remember I can’t get a special result if I work just like everyone else!”
Youngsters in Dubai and the UAE are no strangers to the possibility of having a quarter life crisis.
Christina Burmeister is a clinical counsellor based in Dubai and through her extensive experience with millennials and youngsters she confirms that.
“I see it happening more with people now than let’s say, 10 years ago,” she said. She blames the use of social media for it.
“People post about their achievements and progress and others start comparing themselves to it. Youngsters especially post about what cars they are driving, what they are doing on the weekend or what jobs they have,” she said.
This can have an impact on a youngster’s self-worth when constantly exposed to such content professionals say.
“People need to understand that everyone is different and on their own pace,” Burmeister said.
One of the best ways to avoid feelings of hopelessness and diminishing self-image is “being kind to yourself”.
“People are increasingly being too hard on themselves. Comparing our lives to others’ is where the trouble comes,” she added.
People are increasingly being too hard on themselves. Comparing our lives to others’ is where the trouble comes
A large chunk of the UAE population comprises of youngsters, especially those from the expatriate community. A number of them arrive in the country for job opportunities as well as to climb the career ladder.
Burmeister explained that might be one of the reasons why they are prone to falling into a quarter-life crisis.
“Most of the people I deal with mention career based reasons for their quarter-life issues. They compare it with where they think they should be in their career even though they might have just started it,” she said.
Talking about the solution to such a dilemma, she said: “Finding happiness in yourself is important. Your life is individual to you and there’s no point in comparing it with what others might have seemed to achieve.”
Some expatriates also might be susceptible to having issues at a young age in the UAE because they might not be surrounded with older, more experienced family members, according to Burmeister.
“Older, more seasoned people can sometimes tell youngsters to relax and give them advice on how they will eventually find themselves,” the psychology professional said.
9 signs to look out for that might indicate you’re going through a quarter life crisis:
- You experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include feeling sadness, being low in energy or constantly worrrying for no solid reason.
- You ruminate about “where you should be”. You might be comparing yourself to others and being hard on yourself.
- You are constantly in pressure and set goals that are too high to be met.
- You find it difficult to sleep because of thinking too much.
- You notice your sense of self-worth is diminishing.
- You experience symptoms of imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome occurs when individuals doubt their accomplishments and feel like they are living a lie.
- You have noticed a pattern of changing jobs, your career path or relationships.
- You are stuck in a job that you thought was temporary but don’t make any changes to get out of it.
- You are terrified of failure.