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Dear Louanne: ‘My friends have their perfect lives all sorted... and I feel I’m lagging behind’

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It can be difficult to see your friends reach milestones that you have not as yet

It can be difficult to see your friends reach milestones that you have not as yet

Getty Images/Tetra images RF

It can be difficult to see your friends reach milestones that you have not as yet

Dear Louanne

I can’t help but feel jealous about my friends who seem to have everything sorted in life. They’re married, most have children, and seem to have the perfect lives — or at least, more perfect than me. I know not everything looks the same as you think, but I’m envious of how they have a family unit, and I don’t. My friends say someone will come along if I’m open to meeting them, but I don’t know how to open up! I haven’t been in a relationship for a long time, but I do want to meet someone now and have that togetherness that my friends have.

Alison, Co Antrim

Hello Alison,

I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling out of sync with your friendship group. They all seem to be at a similar life stage, in couple relationships, creating families together and this has not yet happened for you.

For many people the desire to be in love is very powerful. Love comes in different forms and romantic love is often a very meaningful experience. Many people have an innate longing to be part of a couple relationship or series of relationships. While this need for connection with another seems instinctive and intuitive the capacity for forming a relationship is learned. We learn how to form strong, healthy and helpful relationships in our infancy – hopefully learning that our needs will be met for food, warmth, comfort, safety.

Finding someone to love and share your life with is an adventure. It can be a hopeful, exciting, challenging experience that requires careful navigation through unchartered territory every time.

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What attracts us to someone? Well usually it’s something about the other person that reminds us of….us. Even the people who date often and are open to new relationships and new people may not find ‘everlasting’ love that easily. Taking the romance out of the experience completely research indicates that couples who share the same friendship and social groups, who have similar interests have increased possibility of ‘success’.

Someone who encourages you to try new experiences and to widen your horizons can become a partner that brings a freshness to a long-term relationship.

As your friends are all invested in couple and family relationships it’s understandable that you feel a bit separate from them and a bit different. A desire to fit in with your friends, share the experiences of getting married, having children and so on may seem very appealing. However, your friends might be looking at you and envious of your life, your freedom from significant responsibilities, your independence to make decisions about your life.

While you hope to find a person to build a life with it might be helpful to start that special relationship with yourself. Whatever life holds for you the relationship with yourself is one of the most, and possibly the most, important relationship you will have.

As you take care of yourself, get to really know yourself, what you like, what you would like to do, you become increasingly self-aware. Be curious about yourself and take good care of yourself, eating well, sleeping enough, making time to play and have fun. With your friends in committed relationships I wonder do you have as much opportunity to have play? Now might be a time to start new experiences, getting out into nature, helping out in your community, speak kindly to yourself noticing what is helpful and positive in your life. Living your life will support you in being able to ‘open up’ to experiences and opportunities.

‘I can’t shake the feeling of not being good enough at my job’

Hi Louanne

I started a new job six months ago and to everyone looking in, everything is going well. I have a great team; everyone has been very encouraging, and I feel part of the company. But under the surface I feel overwrought the whole time. I am doing a good job but feel like an impostor, as though the company is going to catch me out for not being good enough. I’ve spoken with friends and family about it, and they’ve all assured me that I’m good at what I’m doing. But I can’t convince myself. I haven’t been given any indication that my work is unhappy, but I can’t shake the feeling of being unsatisfactory.

Gemma, Co Down

Hello Gemma,

Congratulations on your new job. You’ve started a new role at a very interesting and stressful time. Even if this was the easiest of times, which it isn’t, adjusting to a new role in a new company with new people is a demanding experience. You’ve put in the hard work in securing the role, spent six months getting to know your team, integrating into the company receiving positive feedback and validation but instead of feeling like it’s time to enjoy your success you feel like an imposter about to be exposed as a fraud.

Your use of the word ‘imposter’ in your letter is interesting. This is a real experience, a pattern of feelings that are known as ‘imposter syndrome’ (even though it is not a ‘syndrome’ as such and has no clinical diagnosis — it is itself an imposter). You might recognise some of the characteristics of the imposter syndrome, possibly believing that you don’t deserve the achievements you have gained or are not worthy of the high respect in which you are held or are not as capable as people think and that you live on the verge of being ‘found out’.

You mentioned talking with friends and family about the feelings you have and interestingly their attempts to reassure you, to support you in your success can add to the sense of being a ‘fraud’. You are caught in a difficult position of hoping to do well but fearing the responsibility that doing well brings – having to continue to succeed, the fear of making a mistake, the fear of uncertainty.

Experiences that may contribute to feelings of being an ‘imposter’ include being in a competitive environment, pressure to ‘achieve’ academically, the desire for elusive (impossible) ‘perfectionism’.

Research into ‘imposter’ syndrome documented the phenomenon in high achieving women more often, though not exclusively, than men.

To support you feeling happier and healthier in your life both personally and professionally it would be helpful to take a step back and start to look at yourself with some kindness and compassion. You have been recruited to your role because you are able to do it. It would be illogical for an organisation to employ someone unable to do the job. You earned your place.

Take the time to acknowledge what you do, in your own right — irrespective of others’ achievements. Stop continually comparing yourself unhelpfully to others. It’s possible that you put a lot of pressure on yourself to achieve every task perfectly, without ever making a mistake. This is unrealistic, you probably wouldn’t expect it from another, but you demand it from yourself. Never making a mistake stifles creativity and spontaneity. Be ‘enough’ — not perfect. Be nourished by what you do — not diminished. 


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