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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis and Live a Happy Life Again

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis and Live a Happy Life Again

As human beings, we are capable of extraordinary things. We have the power to endure extreme physical and mental lengths while welcoming life’s most unexpected challenges, hardships, and check-ins. Sometimes life gets the best of us and then begins the long journey to rise up again.

These huge and deep revolutionary life check-ins happens to every single living person – all 7.3 billion people on this planet, which most of us call an existential crisis.

In this article, I’ll explain what an existential crisis is and how to deal with an existential crisis to live happily again.

What Is an Existential Crisis?

An existential crisis is when you begin to question your life’s purpose or what the purpose of our existence as a whole. These moments tend to surface when we are feeling stacked up against the wall as the emotions of stress, defeat, and unfulfillment arises and the yearning to know life’s biggest answers continue to grow deep within us.

Other times, it’s the feeling of misplacement or when the thoughts of failure continue to dig into our minds, and the answers that we’ve been seeking for have not yet been found.

The thing is – the big answers to life are always subjective to a person, and that itself is perfectly okay.

There’s no right or wrong answer to go about this, but here are some ways in how to deal with an existential crisis and live a happy life again.

What Causes an Existential Crisis

There are different matters that provoke the heart that can then lead to emotional outbursts or distress.

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Always remember that people define having an existential crisis differently, and a variety of matters can trigger them. Here are some examples:

  • Feeling socially misplaced in an environment or peers
  • Domino effect of failures transcending at once
  • Over-exhaustion of mental energy
  • Losing a loved one
  • Not being “where you want” in life

One of the most common causes come from feeling invisible or unwelcome by a certain group or environment.

Part of life is being integrated within a community, and sometimes the feeling of our existence comes from the acceptance of outside forces. Our place in society is reinforced by the attention we receive from other people, and as a result, we being to question our successes, happiness, and even our purpose in the world. Little do we realize that those questions harden the compassion we have for ourselves because they are overruled by self-created pressure and stress. Stress is a response to threat in a situation, so ask yourself if the stress is self-inflicted.

Is Existential Crisis Takes Place Once in a Lifetime?

We do not only go through one, but multiple existential crisis in our lifetime.

By noticing that there may be an underlying pattern, you are able to take that control and lead a life fulfilled by happiness and ease. It just takes answering some internal questions and reexamining your trigger points that may help bring some answers to the surface.

Having an existential crisis weighs heavily on one’s mind and spirit. Although it can be subjective to a person, it’s safe to say that many people have come across this “check-in” not once but multiple times in their life whether it be because of a breakup, change in career, death of someone, and even in the midst of reaching milestones.

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis

1. Check-In with Your Ego

The ego has the power to navigate your mind

and your thought process only if you allow it. Of course, ego is a natural human element, and it comes down to how much and how loud that ego speaks.

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There’s a game that ego likes to play and that game is called the comparison game. It paints a picture in our thoughts into two things main things:

  • Where we should be and what we should be doing based on society’s standards.
  • Where we should be and what we should be doing based on our personal visions of success.

Understand that there is nothing wrong with setting goals and having high standards, but there is a difference between having an “ego-driven” vision versus a “value-driven” vision.

After spending some time thinking about what success means, ask yourself – are these successes aligned with my values or am I just running the rat race?

2. Surround Yourself with Positive People

They say misery likes company, but if you’re feeling down and defeated, it’s best to surround yourself with positive people with high vibrations.

This is not only to be exposed to high energy, but also to learn different coping mechanisms from others. Everyone deals with emotions differently and if something is not working in your favor, it never hurts to try to find an alternative route.

3. Dive into the 5 W’s

When dealing with an existential crisis, it’s best to tackle the root of it all. Try by asking yourself the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, and why we you feel like you’ve come to this point.

  • Who – Who were you prior to this existential crisis (were you working out regularly, were you involved in a community sport, etc.)? Who did you surround yourself with? Who do you go to for advice or encouragement, who makes you feel negative about yourself?
  • What – What were some events that led up to this point both professionally and personally? What environment were you in? What’s the energy like? What values stay true to you and what has changed over the years?
  • Where – Where do you want to go from here? Where do you picture yourself in your happiest state? Where do you put most of your time and energy throughout the day?
  • When – When do you have free time for yourself? When do you get ready for the day ahead? When did you feel you started having an existential crisis? When did major events occur in your life?
  • Why – Simply and compassionately ask “why” for everything. This article can help you dig deeper

The simplicity of the word “why” is to help you become self-aware and learn more about yourself. We spend more time getting to know others by having dinner with people, coffee, or hanging out, but how often do we do that with ourselves?

Get to know yourself as if getting to know another friend. Ask these questions with compassion and thought, and the root may be much easier to find.

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4. Measure Accordingly

Look at how you’re measuring your goals and successes. Are they time-sensitive?Are they achieved by a certain age? Or are they set by financial limitations?

Goal setting is important to achieve the things we want in life, but it’s always important to not only get attached to the time-frame, but stay focused on the goal itself.

Most times, people are pressured and attached to the idea of time that then translates to stress and unfulfillment.

5. Quiet the Chatter

Quieting the chatter goes beyond moving away from physical distractions and inner dialogue – it’s also about quieting the things that consume your energy.

If you find yourself emotionally drained from listening to gossip, then stray away from it. If you feel your energy is depleted when you find yourself working on projects that aren’t aligned with your values, then challenge yourself to find other projects that you find joy in doing.

Your time is valuable.

6. Give Yourself 10 Minutes

“If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life,” – Tony Robbins

Your personal time can get washed away in the long day-to-day listing of things, and 10 minutes can seem like a long amount of time.

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How often do we also spend 10 or even 30 minutes mindlessly scrolling on our phones or spending that time on tasks that are of less importance?

Prioritize your time and find a hobby that can be integrated into a daily routine and away from the screens. It can be meditating, journaling, drawing, listening to music, or gardening.

While we live in a world where information is constantly at our fingertips, we’re quick to indulge in a huge amount of information without letting our brain digest. Having at least 10 minutes to let ourselves breathe can ground us for the rest of the day ahead.

Final Thoughts

An existential crisis is something that happens to the best of us, but there’s always a way out of it. It’s a matter of taking some time for reflection and surrounding yourself with people who can bring you back up again.

Always remember that your time is valuable and that you should only be going through life at your pace and your pace only. It’s also a point in ourselves to reset and start fresh with a new perspective and a new brewing friendship with ourselves.

After all, one can’t be happy with others and external outcomes without first being happy with ourselves.

More Tips for Living a Fulfilling Life

Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com

More by this author

Akina Chargualaf

Akina Chargualaf is an entrepreneur, writer, and the content creator of travel and personal development blog Finding Fifth.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

How to Change Your Self-Perception and Untap Your Hidden Potential

How to Change Your Self-Perception and Untap Your Hidden Potential

If your current self-perception is not serving you in ways that allow you to be your best self and achieve the goals you’re aiming for, it’s time to transform it into a force for good using personality and social psychology.

Those harsh evaluations from your inner critic speaking sourly of unworthiness have had enough airplay. You no longer want to allow features of imposter syndrome to immobilize you nor deflate any balloon of excitement and hope you had toward achieving your goals.

Your self-perception is about the relationship you have with yourself. The great news is that because you hold this self-perception, you are the best and most powerful agent capable of transforming it.

Here are 7 tips on how to change your self-perception and unleash your potential.

1. Learn to Detach From Others’ Projections

Simply cutting ties with anyone who drops negative criticism that leaves you feeling you are a lesser human being would lead to an incredibly lonely existence. What can better serve you is recognizing when someone might actually be projecting their self-image upon you.

Projections are often an unconscious way we defend ourselves to feel better emotionally and mentally about those aspects of ourselves we consider to be flawed[1]. We attribute the things we don’t like about ourselves to someone else because the pain and discomfort of confessing our own inadequacies are just too great.

Think of the friend at dinner who dominates the conversation and commonly speaks over others yet tells you you’re rude when you interrupt them. Think of the associate who claims to be a perfectionist and always struggles to meet deadlines but says your work will never be as good because you prioritize meeting targets over doing better quality work.

When you are on the receiving end of sharp, unsavory criticism, there’s a high chance that another person may be projecting. They are unwittingly showing you how they see the world.

However, this does not mean their assertions are true or valid. If anything, it’s simply a matter of opinion.

2. Recognize How Others Have Shaped Your Self-Perception

During her earlier research, Carol Dweck discovered children’s motivation and performance was highly influenced by how parents and authority figures encouraged them.

Her research offers guidance that could also influence a child’s esteem, self-efficacy, and self-perception as they grow through adolescence and into adulthood[2].

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  • Teach children how their effort can influence outcomes and their performance as opposed to labeling them according to the results they might achieve (i.e. a good artist, a genius, gifted).
  • As opposed to telling children they were good or bad, loved or not loved depending upon their behavior and results of performance, praise their efforts despite the results.
  • Make space for children’s positive and negative emotions as opposed to only being loving, affectionate, and supportive when they are well-behaved or performing to a certain level.

Dweck’s research has shone a light on likely sources of many imprisoning self-perceptions we develop as adults. As adults, we can see how and why we came to think about ourselves in the ways we do[3].

Change your self-perception with a growth mindset.

    Now, this is not a green light to unleash all blame on your parents and teachers but rather to recognize that you might be carrying the full weight of unhelpful self-perceptions you aren’t fully accounted for. You can also recognize and choose to do something about those self-perceptions that don’t benefit you.

    Ask yourself:

    “Does how I see myself make me feel better or worse about myself?”

    “Does how I see myself create obstacles between where I am, what I am feeling, where I want to be, and how I want to feel?”

    Continue to practice your awareness of how you see yourself in the present, consider how this impacts you, and start exploring how to put yourself in the greatest position of power to change this.

    3. Learn How Even Negative Self-Perceptions Serve a Purpose

    World-renowned psychotherapist Richard Schwartz coined an incredible therapeutic framework called Internal Family Systems through hearing how clients would talk about inner “parts” of themselves[4].

    Similar to how different members of our families have different roles by birthright, different personality traits, and characteristics, Schwartz proposes that we all have an internal system consisting of sub-personas or “parts” within our psyche that help form our self-perception.

    Have you ever thought that you should decide one way but another voice inside you said to do the opposite? If so, this framework can help you not only tame the unhelpful voices and self-perceptions but also discover others that can help you untap your hidden potential.

    Schwartz coined three main types of sub-personas:

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    • Exiles are those who often hold the emotional pain from abandonment, rejection, being exploited, and negatively judged by other individuals or other parts within our internal system.
    • Managers are those who are directive and controlling to avoid situations and interactions which might further hurt the exile part/s. These parts of us are often highly intellectual and good at problem-solving but push emotions away.
    • Firefighters are those parts of us that spring into action in emergencies when we’re caught off guard. When the exile parts of us have been triggered, these firefighting parts can jump into soothing and placate their emotional expression. Emotional eating or splurging our savings on clothes to make ourselves feel better are examples of ways we look to put out the emotional fire that is blazing.

    Regardless of the different characteristics of these parts we have within us, they all serve a primary purpose but in different ways: to protect us and keep us safe.

    When we learn to see how and why they do this, we dissolve our need to fight our self-perceptions.

    We no longer have to fight against the negative voices in our heads. We can now guide and use them to our advantage to help us get to where we now want to go.

    4. Reframe Your Language to Practice Healthy Detachment

    You don’t need to undergo intensive therapy to benefit from some simple language reframing techniques. When you change a few words in your self-labeling narrative, you can drastically change the impact that narrative can have on you.

    When you look at the following four sentences, you have a sense of which one feels the most self-deprecating and which one feels the least:

    • “No one loves me. I’m simply not attractive.”
    • “Right now, I feel that no one loves me. At the moment, I don’t feel attractive.”

    Which statement feels the heaviest? Did you notice the changes in the sentences?

    Self-perceptions we make tend to be purely black and white. We also tend to inaccurately and blanketly apply them to cover all contexts and situations, particularly when our emotions are the most intense.

    Reframing your self-narrative is easier than trying to eliminate it in one fell swoop. Recognize that your self-perception is but a reflection of transient feelings you are feeling at particular moments in time, and you’ll become better at preserving your self-worth.

    5. Forget Positive Affirmations and Practice Truthful Self-Perceptions

    As a coach and a consultant, I have often had clients come to me wanting to instantly silence any negative self-talk they express toward themselves. It is true our subconscious develops healthier inner dialogue over time with the regular and frequent practice of feeding it better mental nutrition. However, no amount of positive self-talk can transform negative self-perceptions if we don’t believe they could be true.

    If you have a poor body image, you can tell yourself until you’re blue in the face that you have nothing to be concerned about when you look in the mirror. You’re still going to be free from the mental and emotional shackles that such self-perception holds.

    You’ll be pleased to know the answer isn’t in endless journaling or writing out positive affirmations hundreds of times a day. There’s a faster and more effective way!

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    Develop phrases which you actually believe that guide you to look in the direction of how you want to see yourself:

    I’m working towards improving how I see and/or feel about myself.”

    “I’m learning and practicing how to adjust this aspect of myself so it better serves me.”

    Notice how there is no mention of looking to improve or delete an aspect of your personality in either of these statements?

    Your subconscious will be more on board with you using the phraseology above because you’re emotionally more receptive to it. It feels safe, honest, and true.

    Practice more language and phrases like these above and you will grow incredible self-perception that will take you beyond what you originally felt you were worthy of aiming for.

    6. Combine a Growth Mindset and Imagery to Untap Your Potential

    The use of imagery is an incredibly powerful mental tool to help you develop more helpful self-perceptions that will serve you in moving toward your initial goals. Combine this with simple growth mindset questions, and you’ll be well on your way to unleashing your potential.

    Using an example, let’s say you don’t feel you don’t have what it takes to apply for a certain job.

    The first part of the exercise is to playfully develop the growth and expansive mindset questions and entertain the answers to them:

    1. What if I did have enough skill, expertise, knowledge, and confidence?
    2. How would I approach applying for the job?
    3. How would I be feeling as I applied for the job?
    4. How would I feel upon submitting my application or getting an interview?

    The second part now is to bring those potential answers to life. Breathe life into a mini-movie scene of these possibilities you create in your imagination. Imagine the environment you surround yourself in as you prepare your job application.

    When you engage your five physical senses during imagery, you can ignite physical and emotional responses that signal to your brain what you are focusing on is important. The more you practice the imagery in which you paint a healthier and helpful self-perception, the more your reticular activating system[5] will look for opportunities for this to come to fruition in reality.

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    You can learn more visualization techniques in this article.

    7. Deliberately Practice Healthier Self-Perceptions

    Our hidden potential remains untapped when we aren’t moving toward clearly defined goals.

    From recognizing our unhelpful self-perception, we can start to shape those which aren’t just healthier for us but also strategically helpful for us in moving toward what we want to experience, do, and have.

    When you next look at a particular goal, ask yourself the following questions:

    1. What qualities do I already have that could and would help to meet that goal?
    2. What do I already know that could help me meet this goal?
    3. How can I position myself to gain the skills and knowledge that would help me achieve this goal?
    4. What choice/s along the way would give me opportunities to experience satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment in ways that matter to me?
    5. Even if I don’t meet this goal, will I still feel good about myself throughout the efforts I make to do so?

    These questions are not only strengths-based. They also guide you to make choices and create opportunities that help you feel higher and healthier levels of fulfillment.

    Meeting the goal may or may not happen. Regardless, your self-perception is sure to undergo powerful, positive transformations on many levels.

    Final Thoughts

    These 7 tips will help you realize your potential and change your self-perception positively.

    Through learning how to practice acceptance and compassion toward yourself and how to have a better relationship with yourself, you can develop self-concepts that help you untap your hidden potential.

    You’ll be radiating a healthy glow that’s almost palpable with a powerful sense of self that will take you wherever you want to go!

    More Tips on Improving Your Self-Perception

    Featured photo credit: Vince Fleming via unsplash.com

    Reference

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