getting dressed every morning in clothes that you buy for work, to drive through traffic in a car that you’re still paying off, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes/car, and the house you leave empty all day so you can afford to live in it … feel meaningless?
If so, you might be experiencing a Quarter Life Crisis.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is an increasingly common problem. And it’s due to a mixture of societal pressure, early-onset existential crisis, and the desire to live a truly meaningful life.
There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re experiencing this.
In fact, you are arguable saner than the rest of people.
I mean, what’s more insane than following the “norm” that millions of people conform to and wind up feeling empty and miserable due to at the end of the day?
Thankfully, there is a reason why you’re experiencing a quarter life crisis: it’s an invitation to learn how to find yourself and walk your true path.
Table of contents
What is a Quarter Life Crisis?
A quarter life crisis is a period of confusion, anxiety, demotivation, and depression experienced by people between the ages of 18-30 (and in some cases even younger). In this liminal stage of life, where one is neither fully unattached (as in adolescence) nor fully established (as in later adulthood), there can be tremendous psychological and emotional pressure. Questions such as “What do I want to do with my life?” “What’s the meaning of life?” and “Who am I?” often come to the surface.
What makes the 18-30 age period so stressful is that we are told that our opportunities are endless, that we need to study, to work, to earn the best possible money, to raise the best possible family, and make the right decisions that will affect the rest of our lives.
For anyone, particularly highly sensitive people, this can be an intensely overwhelming period that can lead to feelings of isolation, shame and self-loathing, chronic anxiety, and low-level persistent depression.
Why Do We Experience the Quarter Life Crisis?
We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.– Fight Club
My spirit animal was a cat running across 4 lanes of traffic. That’s how I once felt facing the world.
We’ve often heard of people suffering Midlife Crisis‘, but most of us have heard very little about the Quarter Life Crisis. And no wonder – it’s a fairly new affliction affecting our modern generations.
We are the generation of hyper-stimulated, eternally distracted technology addicts after all.
But it’s not only that.
Unlike previous generations, we have an unprecedented amount of choices flooding us left, right, and center. Certainly, this can be immensely valuable, but it’s also a great source of stress. There are so many decisions we have to make that will shape our entire future. We’ve gone from a care-free childhood full of comfort and stimulation to a critical point in our lives where everything is solely our responsibility and fate to decide.
It’s no wonder then that experts describe having a Quarter-Life Crisis as a sense of panic and impending doom that your life (career, relationships, etc.) isn’t where you’d like it to be. And it’s no wonder that this experience is often the precursor to experiences such as the spiritual awakening process where we start searching for something more fulfilling.
19 Quarter Life Crisis Signs
The moment you finish college your diploma feels a little like a trophy and a lot like a receipt. It’s pretty unsurprising, then, that the need to give up every dream to pay off the large sums of debt usually induces a crisis.
Occurring between the ages of 18 to the late 20’s, people experiencing quarter life crisis’ can also find themselves hitting a rut even before college, when they have to pick their future field of employment, amongst a million other weighty life choices.
Perhaps one of the most troubling things about facing a quarter life crisis is that important decisions must be made too quickly, and societal expectations must be met constantly.
Your life feels like it’s going too fast and is filled with too much pressure. Suddenly you’re thrown out of school and into stress and problems without having received a chance to learn about yourself or discover what you really want from life. In essence, you’re stuck.
Experiencing a quarter life crisis can also make you feel immensely lonely among other people.
Summarized, here are some key signs you’re going through a quarter life crisis:
- You struggle with feeling empty
- The future feels overwhelming and bleak
- You start questioning what your life purpose is
- You struggle with loneliness and disconnection from others (i.e., social interactions usually bore or stress you out)
- You feel chronically bored and demotivated
- You can’t sleep properly (or alternatively over-sleep)
- You sometimes feel an inexplicable sense of impending doom
- When you look at other’s lives, you feel demoralized
- You’ve gone through a spiritual awakening that makes you feel totally lost
- Physical and mental fatigue constantly plagues you
- You’re terrified to make the wrong decisions
- Social media makes you feel anxious and depressed (aka. everyone seems to be doing better than you)
- Low self-worth and constant insecurity haunt you
- You struggle with addictive and escapist tendencies
- You’re worried that you might never have your sh*t together
- You hate your job, but need the money
- You have bouts of existential depression
- You feel trapped and like you struggle to move forward
- Often, you feel like crawling into a small, dark hole and hibernating
How many of the above quarter life crisis signs can you relate to? Don’t be shy to share your insights in the comments. You might help someone else in a similar place feel like they’re not alone!
Is There a Bright Side to the Quarter Life Crisis?
In short, YES. Let me explain.
The first symptoms of the quarter life crisis come in the form of insecurities about your life. You begin to wonder if you’ve done anything substantially important with your life so far and you tend to feel unworthy. While this might feel painful, it’s actually a powerful opportunity to figure out what is truly important to you.
Looking around, you might feel like everyone is moving forward and is making something important out of their lives except you. Suddenly your friends are getting married, finding good jobs, finishing degrees, or moving away. Change becomes your enemy as you try to cling to the past, but you eventually realize your attempts are futile. Life is leaving you behind.
Again, change is an opportunity for you to learn the power of letting go and stepping into your power.
Here are some other benefits of the quarter life crisis that I’ve personally experienced:
- you start to learn what is truly meaningful (and what isn’t worth the time/energy)
- you become a person of deeper substance (aka. you begin to grow and evolve, even if that’s at a painfully slow rate at first)
- you start asking the deep questions that lead to deep realizations (like “why was I born?” “what is my destiny?” “what do I want to contribute to this world?”)
- you embrace becoming a lone wolf and walking your own path (the other options are just too painful)
- your crisis can drive you to go soul searching and figuring out what is emotionally and spiritually important to you
- you realize that undergoing a quarter life crisis is a sign of sanity and intelligence (and you become more self-accepting)
- you start re-evaluating your desires and goals (aligning them with your needs), and therefore you become a more authentic person
So as you can see, it’s not all doom and gloom. Breakdown precedes breakthrough. Your crisis is actually an opportunity and doorway of immense self-discovery and self-growth. It’s a powerful vehicle of self-awareness.
Read: Self-Awareness: 11 Ways to Increase It in an Unconscious World »
3 Ways to Survive the Quarter Life Crisis
Here are some helpful tips:
1. Go soul searching
Begin exploring what brings you a sense of joy, excitement, and/or fulfillment. If you want to live a meaningful life and wake up each day with a sense of gratitude, you need to put in the work. One simple way to begin is with a daily practice of journaling about your thoughts, feelings, and discoveries. What insights have you had today? What feelings are bubbling up to the surface? What are your goals and dreams? Write ’em all down. Learn more about how to journal.
Read: Soul Searching: 7 Ways to Uncover Your True Path »
2. Take a break from social media
Let’s face it, 99% of the time for most of us, social media is a colossal waste of time and energy. It tends to reinforce patterns of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression by promoting toxic comparison and a culture of fakeness. My advice? Take a break from it. Set a goal (there are many programs out there that can help) to be a technology minimalist for at least 30 days. You can start off small if that feels more comfortable, ditching social media for a couple of days and seeing what happens.
Most importantly, notice how you feel. Notice the impulse to scroll mindlessly, and notice what happens when you don’t. After a period of time, you will likely feel refreshed, more optimistic, more motivated, and more self-accepting of where you are in life right now.
3. Explore who you are as a person
Self-knowledge is a powerful path that can liberate you from the clutches of the quarter life crisis. Once you know your strengths, weaknesses, desires, and what your personality is like, you’re equipped with insight that can drive you forward on the right path.
There are many ways of gaining more self-knowledge. Probably one of the most fun ways is via personality tests that open a doorway into your mind. We’ve created a bunch of free and illuminating quizzes which you can find on our free tests page.
Quarter Life Crisis Test
Need more help discovering whether you might be going through a quarter life crisis or not? I’ve created a free test you can take below:
What did you get? Feel free to share below in the comments!
Personally, I can tell you from experience that facing a Quarter Life Crisis doesn’t last forever.
With time, patience, and experience it slowly fades away, and depending on what you do with it, it can be a powerful doorway to deeper understanding and purpose. On the other hand, facing a quarter life crisis can also cripple your life if you end up following the crowd, comparing yourself to other people, and living up to your peer’s and parent’s expectations.
In short: be a free spirit. Dare to walk your own path. This is YOUR life after all.
I want to hear from you now. What has your experience been like with the quarter life crisis. What have you learned so far? Feel free to share below!
Finally, please share this article with someone if you think it might benefit them. You never know what kind of positive impact you might have with this simple gesture!
I could relate so much this Sol,thank you.
Great article, it’s so informative! I’m so going through a QLC right now and this gave me a lot of insight.
Great article. I’m starting to feel like my quarter life crisis has become a permanent lifestyle. Matter of fact, I have a novel coming out August 5th that’s actually titled Quarter Life Crisis. Pretty much deals with all of these issues in a fictional comedy setting, and I’m pretty sure I wrote it initially (it was my thesis in graduate school) to get through my own crisis back when I was 26. Yet here I am at 30 and all this stuff is still relevant. I’m just taking heart in the fact that me and my friends have got SOME sort of plan for the future. Whether or not any of us will figure it out is another story, but we’re trying at least.
Such a good article. While I’ve been dragged through this experience to the fullest, this is the first time I saw it presented as something that: a. isn’t our fault and b. could possibly be prevented if society was structured differently?
I guess some people just never go through this and have some of the best years during their 20’s, but for those who do experience it, it really changes you.
Its like a punch in the gut with no explanation :D
I feel like I am in the middle of one atm. I went to work straight after my degree and realised after a year it wasn’t entirely what I wanted to do. I’ve started to take the time to discover more about myself and my personality. I am deeply introverted which I think is putting pressure on my relationship, now that I am living with my bf and he likes to go out 3 or so times a week with a loud bunch of new friends he has made (I feel completely detached from the group and feel unable to get along with any of them). I hate the fact by 17-19 years old you feel pressure to decide on the future of your entire life – the career, the relationship. To think I made these solid decisions by 17, now I am 23 and getting to know myself better I am starting to re think things. This and the lack of career atm has made me start to excessively daydream and fantasise of another life. I went on a trip by myself for 2 weeks, whilst away these daydreams stopped but now I am back at home and looking… Read more »
this is me!!!
Hmm.. I scored an 81 even though I should be in my “1/8th” life crisis. Explains why I disagree with some.
Nice article, Sol. I’d never thought about there being a quarter life crisis’. I can see this happening for some young folk. I think I may have been too busy raising three children to have noticed mine. In fact, I find I don’t remember much at all from those times, nowadays!
Other’s my age sometimes say they experience the same.
I do think none of us escape the mid-life crisis,though. It usually leaves a huge impact on us. Not only because it’s natural to re-examine one’s life every so many years, but also along with that at mid-life we begin to feel, and see tangible results of the aging process with its change in hormones, slowing down of the body, and its processes, and the probable shift in one’s views on life. Also at mid-life one begins to realize that death is a very real possibility at any time. Before this, it seemed to be a sort of far away concept… if thought about at all.
I just got out of my 1/8th life crisis, and now this!
I can’t believe just how accurate this is to me. I’ve wondered why I feel this way for the past year and a half, and now I know.