The Fear of Falling Behind


Have you ever felt that you are falling behind in life? This feeling might convince you that maybe if you just tried harder, you could propel yourself into a life experience that will bring success and happiness. This feeling might prompt you to search Pinterest for motivation quotes, purchase self-help books and bullet journals, or create vision boards of your ideal life. 

The feeling that we’re not “doing our best” can also trigger shame. When we assume that we have ultimate control over our lives, any inability to manipulate or change our circumstances leads to self-loathing. From this perspective, the root of the unhappiness is not necessarily about the way things currently are, but rather from the belief that things could and should be different. 

Here is what you need to remember: while taking responsibility for self-growth can be empowering and productive, you also need to give yourself permission to let whatever happens, happen. Give yourself permission to forth your best effort and to not be so personally tied to outcomes. Give yourself permission to stop listening and comparing yourself to people who are in different life circumstances and life stages. Ask yourself honestly: is the problem due to a lack motivation toward reaching your goal? Or is the discontentment a result of the shame you are carrying around while trying to reach it? If it is the latter, try to accept these feelings instead of resisting or avoiding them. Participating in a tug of war with your emotions only leads to more needless struggle. 

So once you have identified and accepted these feelings, then what? It is still important to envision what you want out of life and take small steps toward reaching that goal. But keep in mind that you are still just a human being—some days you will have motivation and some days you might not because you are going through something. You may need to experience struggles in order to learn lessons that will enrich your future endeavors. Remember: “you are what you are until you’re not”. In the meantime, give yourself permission to be human. And give yourself permission to trust that. 

Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

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