Everyone talks about the fear of public speaking and the fear of death…but these days, given the very public lives we lead, I see another type of fear: the fear of falling behind in life… In my practice, I meet a lot of youngsters and this seems to be their predominant fear…even kids as young as 16 suffer from this…they worry that everyone else at their school knows what they’re going to do when they get older; they wonder whether what they’re doing is what they’re good at. They worry that they are not good enough for the friends. They worry that they not doing enough. Just in general. Not studying enough, not socializing enough. Not hard working enough. It seems to them that everyone has it all figured out. And the fact that this is the era of the super achievers seems to make it worse.
They feel like they are lagging behind while their friends are racing ahead in their careers and personal lives. They’ve been consumed by questions regarding the direction of their career, their relationship and overall life purpose lately. It seems to them that they are struggling to unleash their full potential and are falling behind.
What are you supposed to be achieving by the time you hit 20? By 30? 35? There isn’t a life manual that says you have to be this or do this at this age. Just because you are not where you wish to be right now (or think you should be right now), doesn’t mean that you are not on the right track.
This quote popped up on my timeline the other day. “Everyone is running in their own time. So, relax. We are not late, we are not early. We are very much on time in our time zone.”
How true is that: We are not falling behind, we are right on time in our own time zone. Everyone is on their own journey… This is your life and your story.
Focus on your own journey
I have realized that time seems to go really fast, and we sometimes do not have time to do everything we want to do. Having too much on our plate can make us feel like we are falling behind. That’s why we have to set priorities and focus only on what is most important to us. Which means we have to know our limits and not be afraid to say “no” when it all becomes too much. When you have less on your mind, you have less to worry about and therefore are not so easily overwhelmed.
If you want to overcome the fear of falling behind, setting priorities is a crucial step. Feeling left behind is future based. It strips this moment of its beauty and meaning. Like someone said, “The more attention you pay to today, the less you worry about tomorrow.” Bring your attention back to this moment. It’s the only one you’ve got. Focus on the present
And to help you focus on this moment and put things in perspective, here’s a simple tool from my toolbox
This is one of my favourite tools & helps me refocus when I am hit by this crippling fear of being left behind. I like to call this my Present Ease.
Most of the time we allow uncomfortable feelings to run rampant, unchecked for a very long time. Then we feel there is something wrong with us and we can’t change.
This tool is not easy, but it’s simple. So here’s what you do; every time you feel the fear taking grip of you, you answer these 5 questions:
- What’s wrong with where I am today?
- What is the worst that can happen right now?
- If I am not happy with where I am right now, where would I rather be?
- How will I feel when I get there?
- What’s stopping me from feeling this way right now?
If you answer these questions honestly, you’ll realize how much your mind plays tricks on you to reinforce old patterns. You’ll also become more aware of some of the baseless thoughts and possibly change them when it comes to feeling left behind.
Okay a word of caution: While falling behind is a real fear, falling apart is even worse. Holding everything inside of you is maybe one of the worst feelings you’ll ever experience. It can be very hard to admit that you’re not fine. There are so many problems that you deal with- stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and more. And this can lead to addictions- smoking, drinking, doing drugs, porn – all in the hope of getting rid of this pain and fear.
If you feel like you are falling apart, talk to someone. It can be anyone. A friend, a parent, a family member, a therapist. Everyone needs a little help. It’s better to fall behind than it is to fall apart. And this I know all too well.
If you are struggling, don’t struggle alone. Try to find things that make you happy and things that keep you grounded no matter what your situation – a person, your music, your books, your games, your movies or whatever…
The fear of falling behind is scary and can be paralyzing. But falling apart is worse. Take healthy, baby steps to make yourself feel better.
You need to learn how to ignore what everyone else is doing and focus on yourself. Your life is about breaking your own limits and not comparing it with others. Just because you’re taking time does not mean that you are failing. Just keep repeating : it’s my life and my timeline! The rest is just noise.
Share this with your family and friends, you never know who may need to hear this today. Falling behind isn’t a permanent thing, no matter what you tell yourself. Sometimes you just need a little outside perspective or help.
If you need more help, write to my personal email email@example.com or call on +91 9866 577 339
(Photo courtesy: Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash)