Stop Feeling like You’re behind in Life

In short:

  • FOMO can easily crank up self-worth insecurities
  • tunnel vision rids you of necessary context 
  • your brain’s job is not to keep you happy, but alive
Broken chair on a sea shore.
Photo by analogicus

Maybe worldwide stay at home orders have managed to make everyone forget about FOMO (fear of missing out) for the time being. Or, as it is most likely with humans, part of us might as well have simply mutated that fear into another, arguably deeper, certainly more in tune with the times one – falling behind in life. 

If at any time, this would be understandable presently, while most activities are paused and it can very well look like you’re living the same day every day. But even before the world was experiencing the kind of restrictions that severely limit how our everyday life looks, individuals everywhere have been worrying about not being where they believe they are supposed to be in life. 

Everybody has FOMO

Perhaps it only took opening up about how disappointed you are at the pace at which you’re moving in your life to find that most, if not all your peers, genuinely related to that. And if your buddies, whom you dearly love have been stoically dealing with the fear of feeling behind in life on their own, then it’s reasonable to believe that such sentiment permeates other groups entirely unrelated to you. 

In other words, this is something that happens on a larger scale. 

Maybe some of us can’t exactly place the feeling in a definite category, or others might find it difficult to put it into words but it is most likely that everyone has had to confront this self-defeating line of thinking at some point in their life. It’s that concern about having to catch up. To what, however, you never quite know.  

But no matter how bad things sometimes get, if they make you shift gears and rethink certain parts of yourself, then you would have gained something from dealing with the trouble. However small, a win is still a win, and its true value can only be shaped in time, depending on the directions you choose to follow at various points in your life.

When FOMO becomes crippling

If this idea of feeling like you’re behind in life in a general sense is something that persists with you instead of being just a set of thoughts bothering you once in a while, chances are you’ve been trying to figure out what triggers it, where does it come from, so that you can prepare yourself and have an appropriate response for when it strikes again. 

Unsurprisingly, it all comes down to the fact that we’re all built so differently. Some of us are more competitive than others, for instance, and that can be the drive for many good things, such as tackling projects with an unshakeable determination, or getting creative with ways to stay ahead of the game. 

Paired with a slowly creeping tunnel vision, however, it can make you lose sight of many aspects, just as valuable. Like fun. Most of us tend to dismiss fun in the moment as we’re crossing off task after task. You put it off today. Then you do it again tomorrow just until you complete that last mile of that challenging assignment. And you keep at it the next week, and the following one and a few months in you find yourself doubting the value this project brings to you on the grounds that you’re not having fun with it anymore. No kidding? That’s on you. 

Then you scroll on Instagram and fabulate entire life stories using just a few snapshots you see of others. If the tunnel vision has helped you maintain focus initially, it’s trimming out context now. And it’s when you lack a full story that comparing what you’re doing to what others are doing becomes out of touch with reality. With so many unknown variables, comparing where you are at with where someone else is at tumbles to the ground as a silly non-issue. 

What’s the norm anyway?

Lastly, you have to take into account whose measurements you are using, whose exact standards you are to rise to when you assess your situation. 

Thinking of yourself as being behind in life involves an implication that life is predictable, but as much as the principle of cause and effect is a thing, so is non-linearity. So while the desired effect you’ve been waiting to see manifest might happen at some point, it could take a while, and when it occurs it might take an entirely different form than you’ve imagined it would. 

That being said, only give a limited amount of your time to the Where do you see yourself in x years? question the bored HR representative asked while lazily tasting that smoke break already. Serious things need your attention.

Your brain has not been designed to make you happy, but to keep you alive, so put on these lenses when you’re looking at whatever internal conflict you have going on. It’s not happening as a form of punishment or to intentionally bring you misery. You’re being called out to listen to what your gut instincts are telling you about living the life that benefits you as an organism the most. As irony has it, biologically speaking, it is your primal drive to root for yourself that gives you the blues once in a while.

Stream of consciousness

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