If You’re Feeling Behind

Why you’re feeling behind

We live in a world that forces us to play “catch up.” No matter who you become or what you get or where you go, there’s always more and newer and better. It’s a never-ending loop that leads to one thing: the constant feeling of never enough.

Do you ever catch yourself thinking:

“You should be so much further ahead by now.”
“I wish I could have what they have.”
“When will my time ever come?”
“What is wrong with me? Why can’t I achieve X?”
“We’re almost at the same age, but they are so far ahead of me.”

If you ever find yourself thinking and feeling this way, it means that the advertisement of the catch-up game is working. And it works because of three reasons:

1. You keep comparing yourself.

First with others. You’re happy with your job until you see someone with a better job. You’re grateful for your promotion until you see a friend who starts their own business and makes it. You buy a toy, tech, or thing that excites you until you see others with something newer and better.

Aside from comparing yourself with others, you compare yourself with a flawless, non-existent version of yourself. That’s why you feel disappointed about where you are right now. It only makes you feel the heaviness of too much pressure that you forget to be grateful for what you have right now.

Having an idea of who you want to be is great. But just because you’re not there (yet) doesn’t mean you’re behind. It just means it’ll take time. Probably more than you anticipated. Yet faster than you would think you deserved.

Now, there are things that make you prone to comparing yourself. For one, we are given unrestrained access to the Instagram-worthy, Facebook-fancy lives of other people. And whether you believe it or not, it affects the heck out of you.

It used to be that the only people we compare our lives to are our friends, neighbors, and colleagues. But because of the unrestricted access we have via the internet, the itch to compare ourselves became magnified.

Here’s the thing: I’m not suggesting you get out of Facebook or never use Instagram again. Nor am I saying that you stop using Social Media altogether. But you gotta remember that people are posting the highlights of their life – not the behind-the-scenes. And even the things we think are behind-the-scenes are carefully selected.

The house your friend bought? You don’t know their struggle of paying for the monthly mortgage for decades and decades. Your friend just got a new car? You have no idea how their personal relationships are right now.

Comparison is only useful when it gives you inspiration and motivation.* If others can do it, so can you. But when it sucks the life out of you, when it ends up using you, the effectiveness of comparison flips. The gift becomes poison.

We’ll talk more about how to stop comparing yourself with others in the next part of this short book.

2. We’re conditioned to follow social norms.

The indoctrination starts from when you and I were kids. Come to school on a schedule, leave school on a schedule. Finish grade school by a certain age. Finish college in your early 20s. Get a nice-paying job. Get married by 25. Have kids by 28. Buy a house at 30. Work until you’re dead. The script differs from person to person, but the idea remains the same.

Now, it’s okay to have these milestones on your mind. After all, we accomplish great things by setting great goals, right? YET these milestones have to be crystal clear. To do that, you must reflect on two things:

  • The milestones you set are YOUR OWN DREAMS and not some dreams other people (your parents, friends, colleagues) put in your mind. Too often, you and I follow the dreams, paths, and wishes of others – what we think will make them happy. Rarely do you think of yourself and IF what you’re working for is your own dream.
  • What your own milestones should look like. And that means it’s okay to go to college and take a course you like even when you’re 33. Starting a business at 29 instead of 22 is okay. Starting an emergency fund at 35 when you’ve been taking care of your family doesn’t mean you’re irresponsible financially. (Side note: I like calling it “Safety Fund” or “Peace of Mind Fund” instead of “Emergency Fund.” But of course, to each their own.)

A lot of people still feel behind in life (even when they’re doing well) because they use a “stick” created by others. But what if there’s a different, more useful way to measure your life? Something most people miss because they’re more concerned about short-term pleasures over what’s important. We’ll talk more about that later but here’s a hint: It’s NOT about your happiness.

3. You haven’t accepted yourself fully.

But it’s not about self-acceptance for the sake of staying the same. On the contrary, it’s about embracing and nurturing yourself so you can grow and be a better person.

I know people who don’t want to better themselves because it requires changing how they act or think. And they believe that they lose “themselves” once they change. This isn’t about self-care and being firm in who you are. Rather, it’s about deadly pride and stubbornness which becomes a root of unhappiness.

Now, accepting yourself fully not only includes your physical appearance and attributes. It also includes:

  • Forgiving yourself for the mistakes you’ve done in the past;
  • Having personal responsibility;
  • Letting go of things that make you feel heavy;
  • Embracing where you are now; and
  • Planning your life forward

Contrary to what most people believe, accepting yourself doesn’t mean being satisfied with who you are now. You shouldn’t do it to “bask in all your glory.” Instead, do it with a mindset of growth.

How To Stop Feeling Behind

There are lots of tricks and hacks you can do to “immediately” erase the feeling that you’re behind. But all of them are nothing but band-aid solutions. For a moment, they work. Yet after a while, you go back to your old ways – unconsciously and automatically. Why? Because we often only change the surface. We look at our actions and think of ways to change them.

The best way to finally stop feeling like you’re behind (or at least not get affected by it too much) is to change deeper. Instead of being aware of your actions, you look at patterns – thinking patterns, emotional triggers, and so on. Maybe in the future, I’ll create contents that will expound on this. For now, you can beat the heck out of feeling behind by doing and reminding yourself of these three things daily.

Love Comparing? Do This Instead!

Comparison is in our DNA – it’s one of the things we do naturally. And believe it or not, it serves a useful purpose. We are social beings and comparing ourselves with others helps us know what our level of “status” is. When we know where we stand, we can figure out how to act in a way that’s acceptable to society.

But here’s the twist you already know in your gut: comparison only leads you to focus on what you lack in your life. As Mark Twain once said, “Comparison is the death of joy.” And with the rise of social media and our interactions with it, the effect only gets multiplied.

So, what to do instead? Compare yourself with who you were before and not in the way you think. What we usually think when we’re told to compare ourselves with our past is to focus on how far we’ve come. To “count your blessings” and see what you have now that you didn’t have then.

The problem with this is that you do it once then you forget about it and go about your day. Second, no one really tells you HOW to “stop comparing yourself with others.” No matter how sound the principle is, doing it once won’t make a difference in the grand scheme of your life. Instead, you and I must mix it into our daily habits. And we can do that by making three simple things.

One, make a daily decision.

It’s easiest to do when you wake up. Today, decide that you will focus on your growth rather than comparing yourself with others. Then do it again tomorrow. Then the next day. And so on. When we think about a decision, we often visualize long periods of time like years or decades. But we fail to see that every day, we have to renew that commitment. We need to remind ourselves of our decisions. After all, out of sight is out of mind.

Two, commit to daily action.

The most overlooked thing in stopping comparison and actually moving forward is focusing on the daily grind. It doesn’t matter how small your progress is, progress is still progress. And I’m not talking about watching another motivational video on YouTube or listening to a “feel-good podcast” and calling it a day. I’m talking about doing something that will move your life forward instead of just consuming something. That means:

  • Confront a fear
  • Write something. Record something. Sing something. Paint something.
  • Learn a new skill.
  • Discover yourself a little bit more.
  • Set some concrete goals.
  • Put yourself out there.
  • Suggest more.
  • Share your ideas.
  • Create something useful.

You don’t have to do everything in one day. You just have to decide that today is day one.

Side note: One of the best daily actions you can commit to is journaling. It allows you to unload things you can’t share with others.

Now, there are a multitude of journaling systems out there and if that works for you, go ahead. But for me, the simpler, the better. So, I created a super simple system that specializes in one thing: help you take back your peace of mind.

Third, stop sticking your nose in other people’s lives.

It’s easier to “live” someone else’s life than ours – their actions are more interesting, their issues are more entertaining. That’s why there’s a whole industry of “spilling teas” about celebrities, influencers, politicians, and many more.

And that’s exactly the culprit that steals away your attention from your personal growth. As Marcus Aurelius once said, “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”

Instead of being nosy about other people’s lives, it will benefit you more to focus on yours. Not in a selfish way; but in an “I-don’t-have-to-have-an-opinion-on-their-life-so-I’ll-mind-my-own-business” kind of way. Aside from keeping your peace, you develop a kind of trait that helps you ignore the opinions of insignificant others.

“You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Stop “Chasing” Success

When you “chase” success, by definition, you will always be behind. It’s easy to think that when you set goals, the only way to achieve them is to chase after them. So you work hard, invest time, money, and effort to get your dream.

Sure, with enough hard work, persistence, and luck, you usually get the things you want. But more often than not, you’ll end up more tired than you ought to be. Burned out. Frustrated. And overall, discontented.

There’s a better way to meet your dreams – one that took me years to understand. It’s time that I wish to save you. Anyway, to give some context, when I first heard it, I thought I understood it. It was logical and as someone who wants to always be “logical”, I heard it yet kept it at the back of my mind. Only after a few years did I realize I never “got it.” After all, we really only understand something not when we know it with our heads, but when we believe it with our hearts. When we show it with our lives.

So… what’s a better way to be successful? Instead of chasing your dreams, attract them. My mentor once said, “Success is not something we pursue. Success is something we attract by the person we become.” 

It may sound woo-woo, metaphysical, law of attraction B.S. (Belief System). It isn’t. I’ll tell you more about it and I’m sure it will open your mind to possibilities. But first, do a little thought experiment with me.

First, I want you to think about the most successful people you know. It’s better if you know them personally – you know their origin, their story, and what they enjoy now. Do you have someone in mind? Cool.

Next, imagine the level of their success right now. What’s their income level? What car they drive, where they live, how people treat them, etc. Think about the things they have that you subconsciously wish you have too. Do you have that picture in your mind? Great!

Now, imagine what they went through to get to where they are now. What did they do? What businesses did they start? How did they get promoted? But more importantly, what failures did they have to go through to achieve what they enjoy now?

Let me ask you something. Can you go through the same failures they went through to achieve your dreams? Here’s a better question: If you know you’re going to fail, will you still work on your dreams?

Here’s something most people don’t understand. The people we look up to and the success they enjoy… they didn’t get it solely because of hard work. Because there’s only so much hard work in you. So, how did they get to that level?

Instead of working hard on their job or their business or their relationships…

…they worked harder on themselves.

They worked hard to shape their thinking. Honing their characters and trying to be better than they were yesterday. Instead of being weak-willed, they resolved to be more patient, more persistent, and more resilient. Failures and stepbacks don’t hinder them as it hinders us.

They were really careful with their mindset and the thoughts running between their ears. Instead of listening to self-deprecating thoughts like, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not worthy,” they reassure themselves. They choose to believe in themselves rather than the negative opinion of others or the nagging thoughts in their mind.

Now, this isn’t an overnight process. There is no magic pill that you can take to be that kind of a person. I wish there were. But it’s a process you and I and everyone you know need to take to stop feeling behind.

Before you go, I just want to clarify something. You can make a case that other successful people are toxic, downright awful, or sad. And I agree. You can be successful by kicking people down, taking advantage of people, or exploiting others. But that’s no fun. Sure… they can be happy for a while – enjoying the many great things they have. Yet living a fulfilling life? I doubt it.

Besides, success is arbitrary. It’s not just about material things or money (although that’s important). That’s why the last thing you need to do to stop feeling behind is… 

Create Your Own Stick

You are not here to be happy. Society over glorifies the role of happiness in our lives. You see it everywhere – from advertisements to movies to viral posts online. This is why most people believe that the purpose of life is for us to be happy. To do things that make us feel good. Things that will make us enjoy life.

You only live once, they say.

But I believe that’s shortsighted. Harmful, even. After all, we can choose to do things that will make us happy now but can scar us for a lifetime.

If you don’t want to feel behind, you need a different measuring stick. Something that takes into consideration the role of pain. Of heartaches. Of knowing that no matter how hard life can be, it will be worth it.

That stick isn’t happiness; it’s fulfillment. 

Happiness is fleeting from moment to moment. Fulfillment gets you through any moment. Happiness is getting everything you can within the day. Fulfillment is knowing you gave everything you can today. Happiness is doing something you enjoy. Fulfillment is doing something that matters.

As Viktor Frankl put it, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”

You are not here to be happy. You are here to fulfill something. And unless you’re willing to trade your happiness with fulfillment, you’ll always feel behind.

One last thing… 

You can summarize this short book into one simple thought:

The only way to stop feeling behind is to play a different game. To dance to a different tune. To pick a different ruler. The only way to do that is to become a growth-seeker.

I hope this short book helped you:

  • Keep things into perspective;
  • Gain a more useful point of view; and
  • Be encouraged to keep seeking growth

But not the vague, aimless growth that most people and most self-help gurus shove into our throats. It’s not about growth for the sake of growth. Your development in anything has to be intentional for it to be meaningful. When we speak about growth, it’s anchored in who you are and where you want to go. After all, each person you’ll meet is on a journey of their own. We may cross paths and even journey for a while. But somewhere along the way, we’ll diverge to focus on our own journey.

I hope you learn and enjoy this short book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Keep growing,

Jeric Timbang

P.S. I still feel behind sometimes. I wrote this not because I’m perfect (I’m not) and not because I have it all figured out (I don’t). It’s not about eliminating “feeling behind” because everybody feels this way no matter what age they’re at.

Instead, it’s about learning how to bounce back from it. To learn how to manage your emotions and do something about your situation. And that’s something you and I can get better at.