When You Feel Pressured and Overwhelmed by Possibilities

Stressed Man

“Ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.’ Spirit says, ‘Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.’” ~Marianne Williamson

I have exhausted myself with my own expectations. The pressure I have put on myself to be a certain person is consuming my thoughts and eating away at my soul.

I imagine a point in my life when I’ll have it all together, and I feel a sting in my chest that this has not happened yet.

I think about the milestones that might get me there and the things that have led me astray. I think about degrees, jobs, relationships—the things that I have been conditioned to believe will guarantee my happiness—and wonder why it hasn’t turned out that way.

There are so many ways to live, and I feel overwhelmed by all of them, confounded by the endless possibilities.

Do I want to take this path or that one? Job? Travel? Another degree? Buy a car? Settle down?

I feel like I’m trying to decorate myself with achievements and using stuff that indicates, somewhat frantically, to the world “Don’t worry, I’m alright! Look at what I’m doing!”

People tell me what I should be doing, predetermining the best path to a life that is full and whole. It’s like there are certain checkpoints I need to pass to ‘get there,’ presumably to be at peace and content.

If I take this career path or have this relationship, I’m told, everything will be okay. I take these on and feel like I’m reading someone else’s lines, no longer in my own story, and I can’t hear myself think.

There was a nagging voice telling me I needed to get out of my comfort zone and have an adventure. I needed to explore the impractical and indulgent part of myself that wanted to write, meet new people, and gain new insights.

I’m learning to filter out the white noise and listen to myself. So I decided to fulfill my fantasy of living in France, and to later intern in Italy. Now, away from the familiarity of people I know and their ever-consistent opinions (however well meaning), I’m forced to confront the aspects of myself that are uncomfortable.

On the other side of the world, in a place where no one will tell me what is right or what I should do, I have let all my insecurities surface.

I’m filtering out what the world has been telling me and deciphering and reconstructing the elements that constitute the sort of life that I—not others—want to live.

I chastised myself for deviating from ‘the plan’—more study that would currently be just for the sake of studying—even though I felt it was the right thing for me to do.

Now, I am aware that I compare myself to others who are on their own journey, and instead of berating myself unproductively, I accept my own experience and remind myself there is no such thing as the “right” way.

How can one route possibly be suitable for everyone? How can I compare myself to others, with different hopes, dreams, experiences, talents, and instincts? I can’t. There is no right way, there is just this way—now—which I can amend or shift if or when I need to.

If you’re going through something similar, feeling pressured and overwhelmed by possibilities:

Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel.

We spend a lot of time fighting our emotions instead of sitting with them and recognizing them for what they are.

The world is now blissfully quiet, and I allow myself to feel the doubt, confusion, and other uncomfortable feelings that are perhaps residual effects of such a big change. Only then do the feelings settle.

Stop focusing on what could or should happen.

I’m re-training my brain to relinquish control over what might happen or what could be a future possibility, and instead focus on what is currently happening in my life.

I notice that if I focus on current experiences, on being more accepting of myself and the moment, my entire mentality and experience shifts.

Remember that self-worth starts with you.

We often rely on external things to fuel our self-worth; we use material goods, careers, or relationships to feel good about ourselves.

What we don’t always realize is that nothing will fulfill us if we don’t first develop self-love. When we look to ourselves with compassion, understanding, and kindness, we see our experiences in a whole new light.

As a wise person once reminded me: “If I took away everything—your house, your job, the people you know—all you’re left with is you.” 

Let go.

Once we relinquish control over the future and stop believing we will be happy if or when something occurs, we allow ourselves to enjoy the present without frantically grasping at external things to validate our self-worth—be they relationships, career achievements, or other milestones we have set for ourselves.

The shift is enjoying these should they occur (if that is what you, not others, truly desire), without being dependent on them for happiness.

If we remember that there is no rulebook for living our life and accept that we are on our own journey, we will be liberated.

Stressed man image via Shutterstock

About M. J. Ross

M. J. has a background in psychology and a keen interest in mindfulness therapy. She finds comfort in the universal familiarity of interesting conversation, Earl Grey tea, and good playlists. A strong believer in a well-rounded approach to well-being, she also develops platonic crushes on inspiring people and enjoys exploring new places in the world.

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