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’m 18, about to begin with my college and is able to relate with each symptom . I feel really perplexed and overwhelmed as to what’s happening and how to tackle it. It feels like all my friendships are vanishing gradually ,At times I feel anxious about my academics and career .I try listening to prayers ,I feel relaxed but it makes me panic again later on
My Husband of 14 years was going through this. He he told me we don’t work because he doesn’t see that he is going through this. All he can think about is how depressed I made him. He doesn’t see anything else. He had a hard time finding a job. So to be a Father and a Husband. He to make the choice to let go. So he let me go and found a new person to love.
I guess I cannot blame him or get mad now..
I am 60
But yes.listen up youngsters. When i went through this when 40 something told me as i was driving home
STOP. So i did.on the on ramp to the feeway…i could not.did not want to move.Silence…when i felt like moving again…quite a few minutes later…car behind me GENTLY honked and i drove on…changed…dont wait till you are 40 to slooooow down and listen to the inner voice of your AUTHENTIC Self
Hello again, Well to get things straight, I don’t feel like all meaning is lost, or the important significance of my life is gone, and now live with out Ego identity. As a Loner Wolf with Artistic past you quickly learn to survive, as the Ego moves on to greener pastures so to speak. Real quick! From following the significant traces and options found in the Quarter life Crises test Test, The optional answers reveal:- I am feeling a little trapped by circumstance, I may have grown up too fast. I may have been introduced to reality too quickly. I may or may not be mourning over lost times of care free childhood. I may also be feeling that time is running out. Or just being envious of others, jealous of their success, while I remain older, without an activated Career or Business. Feeling isolated, lonely confused and lost. With this frame of reference in mind, I feel this needs to be re named as the Three Quarter Life Crises Test. As at 66years old, three quarter of my life has gone, Only good, bad and indifferent thoughts remain. So I do not think I fully fit the standard profile… Read more »
Have you any advice for those of us facing a three-quarter life crisis? I feel I’ve run out of time!
Thank you so so much for this one. I have never related to anything so wholeheartedly except from my Enneagram type and the story of Elsa from Frozen (know it sounds silly, but there’s so much wisdom in it). I’m now 17 and I often feel like I can’t face my life anymore. I have to push myself twice as hard as I once did to complete normal tasks due to an overwhelming fatigue. I feel panicky about my future (and the future of this planet overall) and I frequently dream about living by the ocean and having space to authentically explore who I am and what truly matters in life. Deep down, I sense that I have somewhat intuitive abilities (as we all have, I believe), but, honestly, I’m still quite scared of exploring the nature of my inner voice (due to the reasonable ecxpectations of my superego) although I consciously know it is the best thing I can do. However, reading your website, investigating soul-related topics and reading books from writers like T. Moore, V. Frankl and C. G. Jung have made me realize there’s maybe nothing wrong with me. The main issue I currently struggle with is… Read more »
thank you so much. can i use your test about quarterlife crisis for my research?
Can’t express how delighted I am that I read this. Scored 8-9/10 transitional periods. I almost thought already, that I’m alone in this and there’s something seriously wrong with me. To the vicious circle described in the very beginning of the article I’d add a chapter – going to school, studying something you don’t like and trying to graduate ASAP, so you can go to work and do that thing you don’t like for next xyz years, ASAP. When I 1st looked at my bachelor’s diploma, I was like: “WOW! I made it!” When I looked 2nd time I was like: “Kay. I made it. What now?!” When I didn’t truly like my field after 1st year, I was like: “Nah, it’s just too general now, it’ll become more interesting later.” 2nd year I realized, that it probably wasn’t a good choice, but I told to myself: “I’ve already made it here, I’ll finish & then things are gonna be better.” Meanwhile I was getting to realize, that I was only too afraid to do differ from what every other promising young adult was doing – studying uni (that they didn’t really like and were on survival mode to “just… Read more »
Hi Maeto, Im 24 this year. Right after graduated with an Archi degree, I worked right away. Initially, I plan to pursue my Masters like everyone else, unfortunately I unable to due to financial issues. I worked hard after 3 years (2 years at overseas) but I started to lose my passion and joy in work. I feel like something is missing. Dont get me wrong, I have passion for my line but I dont enjoy the working culture, long working hours, my work lack of interest of people or fun and definitely dislike the idea slowly turning into my boss. Its eating me from inside everyday. I dont know how to change and also afraid of the consequences of making wrong decision. I decided to quit my job next year and taking a year break to travel and to join architecture community work which is something Ive been wanting to do. After that I plan to find a proper job that suits me. The thought of I’m abandoning everything here and to start somewhere else scare me. I’m taking my first step but I had so much fear, especially Im all alone. My peers think that Im taking risk,… Read more »
As I’ve read through the article, as well as many of the comments, I realize I have been long overdue for a quarter life crisis. As I read I wondered why at 42 I am finally hitting a quarter life crisis. You talked about it being in your 20’s. I flew into my twenties and married, had children, divorced, remarried by my late 30’s and remarried before I was 40 and divorced for over a year now. My children, although not grown, are very independent kids (I raised them that way purposefully, as I hadn’t been), need very little in the terms of my care any longer. I had been a stay at home mom for 14 years, having come straight from my parents home into my marriage. I have floundered and looked to cling to others to define myself and care for someone. This last Summer, on my birthday in August in fact, I became shut off from others. Somewhat by my own choice and somewhat because of circumstance. It has been one of the best things for me. It was very difficult at first, as I am a very social person and require physical contact, but I made… Read more »