There has been a lot of talk of life crises of late, specifically regarding how we could be going through them earlier these days.
For most of us, the term life crisis brings to mind the stereotypical image of a middle-aged man and his new red Porsche. A time of confusion that perhaps leads to extravagant purchases and impulsive decisions that are made to soothe the inner confusion that one is dealing with.Which ultimately doesn’t work because, well, these things never do.
The term life crisis is no longer relegated to unconsciously panicking middle agers but rather experienced by many of us, particularly at the end of each life transition. We live longer these days, so we get a chance to go through many of them (lucky us). In the past, with shorter life spans, we didn’t have enough time to ponder these life stages. It was what it was.
So is there such a thing as a life crisis, and are we going through them at younger ages these days?
Mid-life crises seem acceptable and anyone with a teenager is all too familiar with the adolescent life crisis, which involves a moody pilgrimage to find one’s identity. An end of life crises seems quite reasonable as well (did I do well and did I live well?). So what about the other purported life crises? For example, the first quarter of our life (late twenties), which is aptly referred to as the quarter-life crisis. Or for some, it might creep in near the big 4-0.
Usually crises are unconscious, meaning that for the most part, it might be just a feeling of dissatisfaction that we can’t pinpoint. There may or may not be a reason for the low mood, disappointment or panic that might set it in as we slide closer to the big next birthday. But the feeling is nevertheless there and can be somewhat confusing. Other feelings that may crop up during a life crises is insecurity regarding the future, feeling unsatisfied about we have accomplished thus far in our lives or even boredom. For some, it means the questioning of close relationships, realising that you are lonely or even experiencing a feeling of nostalgia for times gone that you might want to return to.
A life crisis is a time where we are unconsciously evaluating what we have done so far. For example, maybe you thought you would have achieved a, b and c by the time you were the age you are now. If you have accomplished it you tend to feel okay. If you haven’t, anxiety sets in, along with a nice cup of despair.
Often, we look around at others in our cohort and get hung up on what ‘should’ be happening by a particular life stage. The perfect career, marriage, kids, fancy house, money, flash car, holidays – all of which may have been given a deadline in our unconscious minds. If we haven’t ticked these things off by the prescribed age, then a feeling of uneasiness may creep in. But reality isn’t so ordered and we have lots of choice these days. We no longer have to live our life by the common default. So perhaps this is why we go through them earlier now. Some would argue that choice makes us more conflicted. Which is why it’s worth thinking more about our life, during a life crisis.
So given many of us will experience this patch of upheaval a few times in our lives, how could we do the next stage of our life a bit better. The beauty about life transitions / crises is that we have time to do life differently. We live longer these days so even in our twilight years we have a chance to change our ways if they are not working for us.
Firstly, we need to treat the angst we are feeling during this time as normal. We all go through transitions. Internally some of us are more conflicted than others, but the uneasiness before a life stage is normal.
Use it as a time to re-evaluate your life. Look at what has happened in our life thus far. What mistakes have we made that we can learn from? Take these learnings into the future. What is important? We need to think about what we want and elicit our own values. Steer yourselves in this direction. Am I doing what I want to do in life?
Most importantly, stop comparing yourself to others. Following the crowd or what others want is a recipe for unhappiness. We need to focus on becoming a better version of ourselves.
Lets do our next life crises well. There are ways to get through it relatively unscathed and without putting too many shiny things on credit.