Boredom. Frustration. Jealousy.
Any of this feel familiar to you?
When combined, these three emotions can signify an underlying cause: feeling stuck.
How Jealousy Holds You Down
When I was younger, I would get jealous anytime someone I knew was embarking on a new and exciting journey. Whether or not I wanted to go on that particular journey never mattered. All that mattered was that person was doing something while I was sitting around…dreaming, not doing.
Finally embarking on my own journey, I fulfilled my dream of moving to New York at 25. I felt behind, but a bigger part of me felt better late than never. I took the first job that would pay my bills and give me health insurance. I was finally on my way: to Debt payoff. To financially supporting a life in Manhattan. To a job that allowed me plenty of free time to write, write, and write some more.
It was a survival job, meant to be temporary. But then…I stayed. And stayed. And stayed. Three years passed and I was still at my first New York job. Yes, I was spending all of my free time writing, but I had done nothing to actually try to get paid to write instead.
The Downward Spiral of Boredom
As a few months bled into a few years, I spent my days in utter boredom. The job was a good one, but didn’t really require my full brain. Thus, I counted the hours each and every single day. The hours until lunchtime. The hours until snack time. The hours until second coffee time. The hours until go home time.
The hours until go out and do something with yourself time.
Boredom was always on my mind during the day. The nights and weekends were better, filled with writing. But the lack of intellectual stimulation mixed with the very obvious ceiling (there was no way to move up in that particular job) settled a feeling of boredom deep into my bones.
That boredom left me to pursue relationships that were not good. To get involved in girl drama that I wanted no part of. To doubt my own intelligence, abilities, and self-worth. The results of the boredom akin to riding on a downhill track. The more bored I got, the less self-worth I felt, the less I believed I could move on or that I was capable of a more challenging job.
Frustration Prevents Focus
If boredom was my low, frustration was my high (and I don’t mean that in a good way). Just like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, trying to fit into this mold I cast through indecision was grating on me.
Every. Single. Thing. Annoyed Me. All. The. Time.
When something frustrating would happen at work, I let it get to me more than a fulfilled person would do. When drama happened with my friends, I obsessed over it and let my anger take over. When I let an ex-boyfriend jerk my emotions around, it felt like the end of the world.
I was angry, frustrated, sad, hurt, annoyed – all at once.
Things that I now understand don’t matter at all took over my life. And I had no understanding that it didn’t have to be that way. It didn’t occur to me to look for more positive relationships – I just thought that was the way it was with friend groups.
It didn’t occur to me that I would be happier by cutting the ex off until I finally just did it (one year later than I should have). It did occur to me that I should find another job, but I was too scared of the consequences should my bosses find out I was looking. All I could imagine was a one-way ticket back to Ohio if they found out and fired me as a result.
Even though I had the guts to get as far as I did, I plateaued. The confidence I needed to make the original changes didn’t last long enough to carry me through life. It was a burst of air and then a dissipation. I hadn’t yet learned how to stoke the fire so it could last.
Choosing a New Direction
I was stuck. Hitting that plateau, I looked around all edges and could only see down. Therefore, I felt like I had to stay put.
When you’re on a plateau like this, it doesn’t occur to you that “up” is an option. How do you get up? It’s not like a mountain that has a clear, albeit difficult path to the top.
Rather, it’s a place you somehow got yourself in (looking down, you’re not even sure how you got up there in the first place) and you certainly can’t see a way out or up. All you can see is down: falling. Failure.
How can you tell if you’re stuck? Chances are you know it. And if you’re not sure and you find yourself head-nodding while reading this, that’s your clear sign.
So, let’s talk about how to get unstuck.
Why Do You Feel Stuck?
The most important step you can take in getting unstuck is finding out why you feel stuck in the first place (or how you got there).
I was stuck because I took steps to follow my dreams, but let the fear of losing what I achieved take over my life. I couldn’t move off the plateau because I was so much happier being on it than being on the flat ground. But the plateau, though higher than flat ground, still had me stuck. I simply couldn’t find a way up.
I was stuck because of fear.
Fear Keeps You Feeling Trapped
Fear kept me trapped.
Knowing why you have fear is the first step in getting unstuck. But how do you eliminate or deal with fear? You face it. HEAD ON. That’s the only way. You can’t get up or around fear, you have to go right through it.
I eventually got unstuck by seeking new opportunities. For me, that led to another move (to San Francisco), the job of my dreams, and then a move back to New York and the real job of my dreams.
Spoiler: I got stuck a few more times in there and had to keep battling fear head on. Fear is a foe that you always think you’ve killed for good, but somehow it always finds its way back in. It’s a lifelong battle – and it’s a battle for your life.
If you’re stuck, evaluate why. How did you get to this place? What’s preventing you from getting out of it? What are you afraid of?