Let’s face it: millennials are the generation that popularized the term quarter-life crisis. But it’s not all our fault, is it? Let’s take a look at the core reasons why we are going through such a hard time.
Increased Pressure To Succeed – And As Soon As Possible
According to a LinkedIn survey conducted among 6014 respondents from the US, UK, India, and Australia, career is the number one cause of our angst. Reportedly, “75% of 25-33 year olds have experienced a quarter-life crisis, often related to feeling like they are at a crossroad in their career.”
Pretty understandable. Growing up, we saw numerous young people like Mark Zuckerberg become rich and famous – all by pursuing their passion. And the success stories keep coming in. I recently read about a seven-year-old YouTuber who makes millions per year merely by reviewing toys. In case you are interested in looking him up, his channel is ‘RyanToysReview’. The parents have been blamed for promoting consumerism and living off of their kid, but still, the kid makes millions!
While I am glad my childhood wasn’t this way, sometimes people like Ryan make me question why I haven’t made it big yet.
This thought always takes me by surprise because to me, money is a means to an end and fame is more trouble than it is worth. But I digress.
Entrepreneurial aspirations in India are the highest around the world – it is finally becoming cool to follow your dreams. Plus, owing to the power of the internet, anyone with a smartphone can launch their own online business. While technology has made it easier to succeed, it has also made failure doubly distasteful. Because it raises the question: if so and so could make it on a shoestring budget, what’s wrong with me that I cannot do the same?
Success is no longer defined by merely having a job and making good money.
We want careers that drive us, and work that is meaningful is our top-most priority. Flexible hours, work-life balance, and company culture are all important to us. If we don’t get this trifecta, we are not satisfied and that dissatisfaction is enough to push us to look for another job or switch over to the gig economy. This is in sharp contrast with—and therefore unfathomable to—our parents, who worked at the same company for years.
Plus, the digital world has given us so many choices and possibilities that if we don’t know what to do or set out to explore too many of them, they can become debilitating instead of empowering. We don’t just want to succeed – we want to succeed on our own terms and still make enough to pay the bills. For those who aren’t interested in entrepreneurship, where are the jobs?
Social Media Overuse And Subsequent Comparison
The second most common reason is being overly active on social media. Not only is it a giant time-suck, but it also causes a disease called social media comparisonitis. In the survey, 48% of the respondents said they felt anxious when they compared themselves to successful friends. Comparing others’ highlights with our entire life is neither smart nor logical, but we all do it anyway. It is a basic human tendency, after all. Social psychologists Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer talk about this at length in their book Friend and Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both. They claim that comparison plays a huge role in determining how happy we are.
While earlier generations have also struggled with this problem, social media has exacerbated it.
In the online world, people curate their profiles so that their lives seem riveting enough to inspire envy. Seeing umpteen holiday photos, work wins, #RelationshipGoals, and TMI, in general, make us wonder why all that isn’t happening to us as well. Instead of being logical, we question our aspirations and life choices instead. The more “social” one is, the more quickly this feeling of inadequacy can (and often does) spiral into a full-blown existential crisis.
Dating In Secret And The Pressure Of Marriage
Relationships are one of our major problem areas in life. Unlike our parents, we are in no rush to get married. We have embraced dating for fun instead, and use apps like Tinder and Woo to meet new partners. If we do end up in a serious relationship, we generally wait for some years and even live together to check out compatibility before actually getting hitched. For some of us, being single is the way to go.
Sadly, our parents, family, and society remain as conservative as ever.
They do not approve of premarital liaisons and still prioritize marriage at the “right age” over love and career. So while we are busy building our careers and looking for a partner/dating someone to see where it goes, most of us also have to deal with excessive parental and societal pressure to tie the knot with a stranger. Let’s not forget hard it is to keep a relationship secret when everyone is all up in your business.
Even if we try to shake it off à la Taylor Swift (not a fan, the song’s super annoying yet catchy), the pressure does get to us. Scrolling through social media and seeing another friend succumbing to the pressure or actually finding love (whichever is the case – not that anyone can tell just by looking at a photo or video) is upsetting as well. Thus, we are caught in the battle between personal choice and conformity in the name of culture.
But It Isn’t All Doom and gloom
Now that we know why we are having a quarter-life crisis, we can take measures to make the best of it.
1. Recognize that everyone is at a different stage in their professional journey.
Instead of resorting to pointless comparisons with friends and random strangers, we need to find our own path. A surefire beginning is to define what success means to you, then chart goals and work towards achieving them.
2. Understand that perfection is a myth and perfectionism is a problem.
Thanks to social media, we want to flaunt how perfect our lives are – and this causes stress, anxiety, and depression. The cure? Follow only people who keep it real on social media, not those who (humble)brag or overshare. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media in general. Doing so will save oodles of your time and help fight depression. Also, make sure you don’t let societal standards of perfectionism get to you because researchers say that “socially prescribed perfectionism” is far more harmful than self-imposed perfectionism.
3. See relationships and marriage with a fresh perspective
Get this straight to stave off the pressure of marriage: marriage and childbirth have been a mere rite of passage for previous generations. We have seen how incompatibility robs a couple of the sparkle in their eyes. We have witnessed our parents–particularly our mothers–lose their identity only so that they stay married. That’s not going to be our life story. We are not going to settle. There’s nothing wrong with our decision to wait before we commit, if at all.
4. And finally, we need to go easy on ourselves
We are doing everything differently from our parents. They basically did as they were told. Their lives were all planned out for them: find a job, get married, have kids, and retire. On the other hand, we are charting our own paths by making our own life decisions. It’s exhilarating and exhausting, and having parental support would make it so much easier. While it seems impossible that they will ever get you, give them a shot and explain your side of the story. If talking doesn’t help, forge on and do what you think is best for you anyway. Do what you can and stop taking yourself so seriously. Although having a quarter-life crisis sucks, talk about it to someone you trust and you will know that you are definitely not alone.
Reach out to people you look up to AND want to be like for direction. If you do your homework and ask the right questions, it isn’t all that hard to find a great mentor or life coach. This phase can make you feel helpless and trapped, but if you keep calm and stay true to yourself, it will be a catalyst to a much better life ahead.
TL;DR A quarter-life crisis is basically inevitable when you are a millennial. To figure out your life’s purpose, stop binging on social media, listen to your inner voice, and find a mentor.