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Beating the Quarterlife Blues…Examining How “I’m Not Enough” Thinking Can Get in Your Way

The transition to adulthood today is a complex, prolonged process. Many of my 20 and 30-something clients feel a great deal of anxiety when faced with a wide range of opportunities, and find themselves unsure of how to choose between them. Scholars and sociologists note that this generation has grown up as the most affluent generation in American (or world) history, and have exceedingly high expecations for life.

After leaving college and securing their first real job, many young adults find that their mind is wandering.With the excuse of being a “recent graduate” no longer viable, the search for a more permanent career, relationship and place to live begins.  “What should I do? Where should I live? Is there anyone else who can relate? What is my passion?  Will I ever meet the one for me?”

Many 20 and 30-somethings strive to create a life plan, but experience great doubt and difficulty in executing their plans. Our modern culture gives us many clues about what we should want from life…to be happy, successful and to be loved by those around us. However, life does not come with an instruction manual showing us how to attain these things. The world at the present time is very different from that of our parents and grandparents. As our options have expanded, our contentment and sense of well being seems to, in many ways, have contracted.
The economy is a contributing factor.  Today’s 20 and 30-somethings will be the first who won’t do better than their parents.  A college education doesn’t deliver the same hope and opportunities that it once did, with a 53 percent increase in enrollment since 1970, the qualified competition for a job has surely intensified.
I work with my clients to help them learn how to make things work for them in a way that satisfies them, as opposed to feeling frustrated and misdirected.
Many of my clients feel that since they have not been an “instant success” right out of the gate, they are doomed. They frequently measure themselves against others and against their own expectations of where they think they should be. With the belief that enough never seems to really be enough, many of my clients constantly scrutinize every aspect of their lives, leading them to harshly judge themselves.
It is important to take a step back and decide if this type of toxic thinking is getting in your way. The following questions below are part of my “Beating the Quarterlife Blues”  group curriculum, aimed at helping participants move from awareness to action.
1. When you carefully look at your life in the present, do you often think of different ways in which you feel things could be better?
2. It is hard for you to let go of something when it does not live up to your prior expectations?
3. When you finish something at work, do you often immediately think you could have done it better?
4. Do you feel like a failure based on the fact that you have not yet achieved your goals at this time in your life?
If you answered “yes” to most of the questions above, take some time to think about your attitude and thought patterns…make a “room for improvement” list to draw your attention to the particular things in your life you might like to change…but don’t get caught up in harshly judging yourself. It can interfere with your peace of mind, your enjoyment of the simple things in life and your self-esteem/self-confidence.
Remember what Frank Sinatra once said…”The best is yet to come.”
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