It comes in waves, right? The highs and the lows. The moments you replay in your head like a broken record.
I’ve found myself feeling particularly stuck for a few months now. It started when I looked myself in the eye and realized the life I had made for myself didn’t feel fulfilling anymore. It felt selfish to say that, because I do acknowledge that the best things in life take work and I am humbled and grateful to have had the opportunities in my life.
I look back, and I think about how three years ago, I would have dreamt to be in my shoes. But here I am, and I feel empty. And I don’t know why, but what I do know is that I feel selfish for these feelings.
I’m lucky to be a part of Literally, Darling’s extremely welcoming staff. In times of trouble, I can turn to these women and look for hope through their perspectives. Today for this article, we are accomplishing just that.
Three of our writers share what “feeling stuck” means to them.
I feel “stuck” in pretty regular intervals. It’s particularly common that I feel stuck in fall, perhaps because I’m used to change at that time of year from so many school years. When I “feel stuck” it is an overwhelming feeling that’s a combination of discontentment, anxiety, and fear of missing out. As if there is something major and important I should be doing, but I’m not. I don’t express those feelings very often, because when I try it sounds like I don’t appreciate or love the people and things in my life.
It’s particularly difficult to deal with in this season of my life: motherhood. There is so much I want that leads to this “stuck” feeling: travel, career, spontaneity. However, none of it is as important or fulfilling to me as raising my son. Social media never helps the “stuck” feeling. It becomes combined with “the grass is always greener” which is a spiral of restlessness and discontent.
The only things that help are time and grounding myself in the moment. I think of all the things I have to enjoy and try to just let the moments wash over me.
During times of transition, I become vulnerable to self-doubt. I know this. I’ve moved six times in the past five years, covered three cities and two states, left three jobs, gotten married, bought a house, entered military life, then grad school life, then domestic life. I’ve made friends, said goodbye to friends, then made new friends again, only to have to say goodbye. During each shift in city/job/lifestyle, I think I am prepared, battle arsenal ready, but everytime, I seem to get caught unaware, blindsided by the strength and power of my own insecurities. Inevitably, these doubts meld with my own fears and form a dangerous alchemy of emotions, all of which end in the dreaded words, usually uttered in between sobs: “I feel stuck.”
An endless litany of questions inevitably follow:
What do I want? Where do I want to be? How can I get there? Why haven’t I done anything? Where do I start? Why don’t I feel motivated? Is there something wrong with me? Am I a failure? How do others see me? Is my partner proud of me? Am I a disappointment? Why does everything feel so hard? Why did I give up so quickly? If only I had done _______. If only I hadn’t done ________. Will I ever find fulfillment? Why can’t I be more like _______? Why can’t I be better/do more?
Ultimately, I know that these concerns are of my own making. They stem from my feelings of inadequacy and are often unrelated to the reality in front of me. Over the years, I have gotten better at focusing on that reality and letting the doubts wash over me as best I can, putting faith in my own ability to find my own way, my own path forward. It just takes time.
I think I, like so many of us, often get so caught up in the “should” that I forget to be fully present in what is. Lately, I’ve been working on acceptance: the art of embracing who I am, rather than who I think I should be, and embracing where I am, rather than where I think I should be going.
Acceptance is NOT the same as resignation. We can accept our situation, and ourselves, while still mapping out and pursuing goals. The frustratingly dangerous thing about feeling stuck is that it can often feel paralyzing. We become so consumed with guilt, shame, and frustration that we are unable to make even the smallest of steps in any direction. By truly accepting who and where we are NOW, we free ourselves from the negativity and the never ending “shoulds.” And in that freedom, there is so much more room to move ahead, at whatever pace and in whatever direction we so choose.
For me, the “stuck” feeling always comes when I know I’m not achieving any new goals in my life. It’s the feeling of time passing with no discernible change. This year will mark four years since I graduated from college and three since I’ve been at my current office job. My life is good. I have friends, family, coworkers I like, and money to pay the rent. Yet, I still go through stuck phases where I wonder what the next stage of my life will be and how soon that next stage will arrive.
I always complain that not having anything to be anxious over makes me more anxious. As soon as everything in my life is going well, I grow concerned that there must be something missing that I should be working on. There must be some way I should be stretching myself to grow mentally or emotionally that my stagnant life isn’t currently giving me.
To combat this, I try to continuously find new ways to push myself outside my comfort zone. I do things like take a class, travel to a new place, or embrace social situations that makes my introverted nature feel uncomfortable. As I do these new things, I try to embrace not just the experiences themselves, but an appreciation that life has gifted me with this chapter of my 20s to work on myself.
I fully believe that someday a new adventure will come my way unexpectedly. When it does I don’t want to look back and realize I wasted the previous stage of my life being unhappy just because I wasn’t sure what the future would bring. A lot of life can happen in the “stuck” phases.
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