If someone displays these 5 behaviors, they secretly wish they had a different life

Many people find themselves living a life they had never planned. Or worse yet, they find themselves living a life they had planned but now realize it’s not for them. 

But often, they don’t make it known. We live in a society that focuses on telling us that we should be grateful for what we have, a society where ‘safety’ is more often the goal than satisfaction so they keep their dreams and ambitions under wraps. 

I know this firsthand. 

More than a decade ago, I found myself longing for something more, something different. I had done what I was supposed to. I had kept my head down and studied hard. I had found myself a stable job in finance in a fancy city center office. 

To many, I was living the dream or at least building towards the life many dreamt of, but I wasn’t ‘happy.’ I started asking myself, “Is this it?” or perhaps, more accurately, “This can’t be it?” I was dreaming of a different life. 

It’s a feeling many people experience but rarely talk about. But there are signs that someone desires a different life than the one they are currently living. 

Today, we explore five of them. 

Let’s get into it. 

1) Overindulging in escapism

In my early twenties, I found myself increasingly turning to various forms of escapism – be it binge-watching TV shows, losing myself in video games for hours, or endlessly scrolling through social media.

Initially, these activities seemed like harmless ways to unwind. However, over time, they became more than just leisure; they turned into a means to detach from reality. This wasn’t about enjoying a hobby or relaxing after a long day. It was about creating a buffer between myself and the life I was actually living.

This pattern of behavior is a telltale sign of dissatisfaction. Research suggests that people often use the internet as a means of escape from worry. Worse yet, compulsive internet use has been linked to depression and anxiety. 

When someone spends a considerable amount of time in virtual worlds or is absorbed in other people’s lives online, it’s often because these alternate realities offer something their real life simply doesn’t. It’s a temporary escape from a life that, deep down, you wish was different.

Excessive escapism can be a way to avoid dealing with feelings of restlessness and the gnawing thought that we aren’t where we want to be in life. It might sound crazy, but, it’s often easier to lose oneself in fictional worlds than to confront the fact that we are longing for a change.

2) Frequent nostalgia

This may seem counterintuitive as research most often paints a pleasant picture of nostalgia. 

But it can be a sign of dissatisfaction with the present. As noted by Medical News Today, “If a person perceives their past as happier than their pre is sent, they may feel emotional distress”

I didn’t know at the time, but this was the case for me. Dissatisfied with my day-to-day, I found myself frequently reminiscing about the past, idealizing periods of my life that seemed simpler or more fulfilling.

Nostalgia sometimes isn’t just about enjoying memories; it’s about a longing for what those memories represent. When someone spends a significant amount of time looking back, it often indicates a desire to escape their current reality. It’s as though the past holds a charm that the present lacks. 

Do you have a friend or loved one who is always reminiscing and seems to avoid discussing the present? 

It could suggest they are secretly unhappy with their current life, especially if this behavior is accompanied by some of the others on this list. 

pic2011 If someone displays these 5 behaviors, they secretly wish they had a different life

3) Excessive self-criticism

Another often-overlooked behavior that may indicate a secret desire for a different life is excessive self-criticism. 

When I was feeling lost, I was constantly critiquing my actions, choices, and even my own thoughts. This wasn’t about striving for self-improvement; it was a relentless, harsh inner dialogue. I was blaming myself for getting into the position I found myself in, and this mindset began to spill over into all areas of my life, from my work to my relationships. 

Self-criticism, when it goes beyond healthy self-reflection, can be a sign of deeper dissatisfaction. It often stems from a feeling of not living up to one’s own expectations or desires. 

This pattern can be subtle. It often disguises itself as a pursuit of perfection or a strong work ethic. However, if you notice someone frequently focusing on their shortcomings without acknowledging strengths and achievements, it may point to a deeper issue.

4) Constant comparison with others

Have you ever found yourself comparing yourself or your life to others? 

We all have. And as widely noted, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this. However, when it becomes constant and almost obsessive, it’s a big problem. 

For me, scrolling through social media, observing peers’ accomplishments, or even hearing about friends’ life milestones often triggered a sense of lack in my own life. I’d imagine how my life might be if I lived there, or if had this or that. 

Of course, it sounds silly now. The only person we should seriously compare ourselves to is our past selves. I didn’t know this back then. 

I also didn’t know that this constant comparison was a sign of my inner longing for a different path. It wasn’t just about wanting the success or happiness of others; it was about feeling disconnected from my own journey and yearning for a life that resonated more deeply with my personal values and aspirations.

Pay attention to that someone in your life. Ask yourself: Are their comparisons lighthearted and infrequent, or are they a bit deeper and more constant than that?

5) Compulsive shopping

So this one, looking back, is a bit embarrassing, but it’s important, so it would be amiss not to mention it. 

 Reflecting on my behavior in my early twenties, I now recognize that compulsive purchasing was a way of filling a void, a substitute for the fulfillment I was missing in my life.

I’d buy a shirt or two on the way home from work. I’d get a bigger TV even though the one I had was just fine. I could convince myself to buy anything.

But the items I woud buy aren’t what’s important here; what is is how much significance I attached to them. Subconsciously, I thought that these things would make me happier, that they would get me closer to a life that I could be content with. 

Spoiler alert: they didn’t.

It was only later that I learned that compulsive shopping often serves as a distraction, a temporary fix to a deeper issue. In fact, as noted by Science Direct, it’s also linked to clinical depression and other mood disorders. 

Anyway, does this kind of behavior ring a bell?

It can be a subtle sign of longing for a different life. 

The bottom line 

There you have it, friends. 

I hope my getting a little personal in this post has provided you with some value or at least some food for thought. 

For those of you who may be wondering what changed, I eventually worked up the courage to forge a life that I wanted to live. I moved abroad. I tried many things and failed many times before eventually becoming the writer that I am now. 

Am I content now? Yes. 

 However, it took more than a change of circumstances. As you probably know, contentment is a continuous journey that requires a mindset shift rather than simply a change of environment. I didn’t know this back then, either, and I still have a lot to learn. 

But that’s a post for another day. 

Until next time. 




Mal James

Mal James

Mal James Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business. As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys. In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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