12 Signs You Are Having A Quarter-Life Crisis

Man watching the time

We have all heard of mid-life crisis that usually hits people when they are in their mid forties and can go on well into their 50s. Mid-life crisis is when a person looks back and takes stock of life and then feels that there was much to do and achieve that they couldn’t manage to and a feeling of inadequacy hits the person. Quarter-life crisis is somewhat similar but the difference is it starts in the mid 20s, quarter-life crisis age is 25 or typically at 26 people start experiencing this. This crisis can last for a year or more till the person finds a focus in life.

The quarter-life crisis psychology entails the feeling of being stuck, mostly in a job that brings no satisfaction. It could happen with a relationship also. There are constant mixed feelings about everything, mostly about the career path one has taken. There is a lot of self-doubt about career, self-esteem and relationships.

Life Coach Joie Bose says, “Quarter-life crisis strikes when you face reality and have to take on responsibility keeping afar the idealism of student life. A protected student life where finances are not an issue and the parents still take care of their children is far different from maintaining a lifestyle like that with the salary that a young professional gets. Hence the defense mechanism strikes and a low sense of self-worth which leads them to think life and their contributions in life are meaningless.” 

What Is Quarter-Life Crisis?

You might be thinking at 20s you are just out of college and living your dreams, flying high and making plans for the future, how does the word “crisis” feature here? But it does.

Quarter-life crisis is something many millennials go through thanks to the constant scrolling of social media, heightened aspirations and inability to meet one’s own expectations.

A quarter-life crisis begins when a person’s aspirations do not meet reality and he finds himself at a juncture where he isn’t able to handle a career and his life, well enough.

Social media has a huge rule to play in the quarter-life crisis psychology. If you are constantly seeing SM posts of people having a great life, it is inevitable you start questioning your own lifestyle, choices and achievements.

LinkedIn conducted an online survey in 2017 among 6014 respondents in UK, US, India and Australia and found out that 75% of people in the age group of 25 to 33 were having a quarter-life crisis. A large number of young people, 61% precisely, said that they were unable to find a job that they were passionate about, that paid them enough and that would help them reach their life goals.

Frustration started building up when they felt that they were stuck in a rut and couldn’t get out of the situation. As a result 36% changed their careers entirely and 23 per cent took a career break to re-evaluate their career options.

Issues related to the career might be the most important aspect of a quarter-life crisis but there are social and psychological ramifications of a quarter life crisis as well.

Quarter-life crisis vs mid-life crisis

The main difference between quarter-life crisis and mid-life crisis is that the first one happens when you are starting off your life and career. It’s the insecurities that come with finding the first job, living on your own, handling the expenses and also navigating relationships.

Some people find doing all this together overwhelming and start questioning their choices. That’s the quarter-life crisis psychology. In case of mid-life crisis it happens in mid 40s and even later because that’s the time people start looking back at their life.

Mid-life crisis hits one when they have achieved in their career and in their personal life. They have their finances in place, a retirement plan in place yet there is a sense of foreboding that nothing is going right.

Sometimes there is a feeling that they could have done better, sometimes a waning sex life makes them feel they have come to the end of their life and that’s when they start wanting to re-invent themselves. They start living life like there isn’t much time on their hands. An affair is a classic sign of a mid-life crisis.

Related Reading: Here’s What Midlife Crisis Taught Me

12 Signs You Are Having A Quarter-Life Crisis

When does one have a quarter-life crisis? Many people have it in their early 20s, some have it in their early 30s but the average age of quarter-life crisis is 27 as per the LinkedIn Survey. Being a 27-year-old in today’s world is a tough proposition we must admit.

While a millennial has more choice – like he or she is told while growing up that they can opt to be anything, from a NASA scientist to a successful investment banker, from a Michelin Chef to a dress designer – living up to that expectation of this choice is the hardest part.

Even two decades back success for a 26-year-old was a job, ability to buy a small apartment and a steady relationship. But thanks to social media and so many other things the expectations from the self are unending. You will know you are going through a quarter-life crisis if these signs are there.

1. “This is how it should be!”

A great job, big car, big house, holidays broad is build up as the ideal life. This is all the more reinforced by social social media. When millennials start building their own lives they start using this socially created reference as the ideal way of life. “This is how it should be,” they tell themselves.

The ideal life is to hang out at fine-dining restaurants, travel the world and have “happening” photos on Instagram and Facebook all the time. They constantly keep comparing themselves to other people and then they start falling short in their own eyes. That’s when a quarter-life crisis takes off.

2. “I hate my job”

As mentioned earlier most people suffering from a quarter-life crisis are unhappy with their careers. They feel, “I was supposed to do bigger things but this is what I am doing.”

Many people with college degrees feel that they would start their career from mid-level management and the idea that you have to climb up from the first step of the ladder of success do not figure in their rule-book.

So when they end up doing the menial jobs as trainees and junior personnel they end up hating the job. Many people prefer to drop their jobs and stay at home instead of slogging it out at the workplace.

3. “What do I want?”

You hate your job but what’s the alternative that would make you happy? You don’t know. You are very confused about what you want to do with your life and what kind of salary would be good enough. This confusion leads to low self-esteem and frustration and leads to quarter-life crisis.

This state of confusion is an absolute sign of quarter-life crisis psychology where you hate your life but you don’t know what will make you happy.

At this phase many people leave their jobs, sell their home and take up a backpacking life just to find themselves. Some lean towards spirituality and some find their focus.

Unhappy with the career
What do I want?

4. “Career advice will solve my problem”

You do not know what you want but you feel career advice from a professional could help you figure things out. But sometimes when you take career advice and they propel you in the completely opposite direction you are more confused.

Then you end up being constantly assaulted by the feeling that every single step you had taken so far was totally wrong. Maybe you should have studied something else, maybe instead of looking for a job you should have started the restaurant you always dreamed of.

The doubts keep mounting and you keep sinking further into a dark hole. In a situation like this you are rather sure you are going through a quarter-life crisis.

5. “My parents know nothing”

You don’t think your parents or anyone in the family are good enough to show you the way. They could be successful in their own fields and know the world well enough, but you believe that they belong to a different generation where having a job, a house and stable marriage was achievement enough.

You belong to a world of fancy cars and 5-bedroom villas and they wouldn’t know how to guide you to achieve that at 26. So even if you have moved back with them after quitting your job but every conversation at the dinner table ends up in the argument.

This is simply because you don’t believe they can show you the right way.

Related Reading: Aaj kal ke Ka aur Ki: Top 6 problems of millennial couples

6. “I feel so anxious”

Small things make you anxious because you very easily hang all your hopes on the smallest things. You believe that you should land a dream job after the very first interview. So you become anxious to do your best and often falter.

You become anxious in your relationship because you are always thinking if you are doing the right thing. Quarter-life crisis relationship anxiety is a common syndrome. You start thinking if your partner is judging you for your shortcomings.

Even if they aren’t, your self-doubt gets the better of you and you have frequent conflicts with your partner that result in you going into sulking mode, having mood swings and stonewalling.

Feeling anxious
Feeling stuck all the time

When you are shopping for grocery, you even get anxious thinking if you are picking up the healthiest options. Quarter-life crisis indeed is about feeling anxious about putting your best foot forward.

7. “I will be 30 and still struggling”

We all have career and relationship goals. You have yours too. But you had thought you would achieve much within 30 but you haven’t been able to tick off those markers yet.

You are approaching 30 and despite having a job, a nice rented accommodation and a great partner, you always feel like a loser because you haven’t been able to tick off the milestones on the chart that you made as a teenager and hung it in front of your study table.

This feeling eats you up. You feel you were meant for much greater things, you were supposed to be a super achiever but that goal still eludes you. You feel depressed and anxious and feel like a failure.

Related Reading: Here’s a movie that explores an Indian millennial’s journey of falling in love

8. “I need to do new things”

People, who hit quarter-life crisis, are usually from a privileged background with college and university education. They suddenly feel in their mid 20s whatever they have done so far hasn’t been the right decision.

They want to re-align their life. Learn new things, get a new degree and take up a different career path. That’s how many people leave their 9-5 jobs and go for freelancing.

The freelancing life is not about a lot of stability. You keep grappling in that too and keep doubting your fresh choices. You don’t want to go back to the full-time job regime, neither are you sure you could do it freelance.

9. “I should have been more social”

You are not religious you don’t visit church or the temple regularly. You meet your cousins once a year on Christmas and Diwali otherwise you hardly interact with your extended family.

You are not part of a book club or a cooking club or even a biking gang. You have no social life to bind you. Just a few friends maybe with whom you go clubbing but when you are down with the flu they wouldn’t appear at your door with groceries.

You feel you haven’t been able to achieve meaningful relationships neither with humans nor with God. You end up feeling that in a quest for a career and a life ahead you didn’t forge the bonds you should have had and feel quite lonely. You feel you are incapable of love.

10. “How will I pay my rent?”

While buying your own home is still a distant dream you keep worrying if you would have enough money to run the show – pay the rent on time and the rest. Since you cannot afford accommodation in the heart of the city much of your time is spent in travel. Your quarter-life crisis starts when you start feeling “life sucks”.

Many millennials choose to live with their parents. While for some it works out financially for many places like in India, it’s culturally more accepted. But then staying with parents means going by their way of life and that’s when the skirmishes start.

Millennials are also said to have less sex then their older counterparts and that is also a reason for the constant mood swings and feeling of hopelessness.

11. “I can’t believe my friend earns so much!”

Yes, that’s the most horrible feeling. A friend who went to school with you landed a job with a salary that pays much more and as the years go by you are sure the pay gap between the pals would widen. This thought keeps you awake at night.

At this stage of life it is inevitable that some people would earn more and some won’t. As you move in life things keep changing so do the pay packets of friends. But you do not realise that.

You stay in the moment. And your friend’s pay packet does make you depressed and you start questioning your own capabilities.

12. “My education is worthless”

Broken man
You keep questioning your self-worth

You are surely going through a quarter-life crisis if you have started questioning your MBA degree, whether you took the right decision to take up the first job you got and whether you should have asked your girlfriend to wait when she brought up marriage.

You just feel that your best years just slipped away and you did nothing to utilize the time and build a better foundation for your future.

Who is most likely experiencing a quarter-life crisis? Usually it’s the people with good college degrees, who have excelled in their studies all their life, who have lofty goals and expectations from themselves, plunge into quarter-life crisis.

To tell you the truth if you think that you would die of quarter-life crisis then you are wrong. In fact, it’s good to go through a crisis like this because it could be a wake-up call that you need to put things right, right now.

How To Cope With Quarter-Life Crisis?

It’s not at all hard to cope with quarter-life crisis. You just have to reboot your life like the way you do with your gadgets and see what works for you. You are in that stage in your life that you can take your own decisions.

If you had been pushed down the MBA path by your parents but feel that writing makes you happier re-align your goals and start afresh. Here are five things you can do to cope with quarter life crisis.

Related Reading: 15 Signs You Had Toxic Parents And You Never Knew It

1. Do things that make you happy

Ask yourself what makes you happy? Just plain and simple happy. Just go ahead and do that. Remember you don’t live for Instagram you live for yourself and if you are not there at all your 1000 followers won’t miss you. They always have other people to follow.

2. Stop pleasing others

Learn the power of “No”. If you are not comfortable doing something just say “no” and see how good it feels. We become people pleasers. From parents at home to the boss at work we want to make them smile. But it doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes grumpy is how they should look around you. Then you will know you are doing something right.

3. Do not procrastinate

People having a quarter-life crisis often put their plans on hold because they lack the self-esteem to go ahead and do it. Just remember every innovator did something for the first time.

4. Read achiever stories

You will then see every achiever went through self doubt and endless struggles. You will feel you are not alone. You will be inspired by their stories and can get into the fresh start that you have been aiming for.

5. Be resilient

We have a tendency to believe that our beliefs are the right ones. Not always. Be resilient and include other people’s view points. It could change the way you look at yourself and even how others look at you.

Quarter-life crisis could come with its own angst and sense of insecurity but you can always take it as a positive turning point in your life.

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