5 signs you’re secretly unsatisfied with life, according to psychology

In a 2016 essay for TIME Magazine, American actor Kristen Bell (The Good Place; Veronica Mars) wrote:

“I felt plagued with a negative attitude and a sense that I was permanently in the shade. I’m normally such a bubbly, positive person, and all of a sudden I stopped feeling like myself.”

Bell was writing of the depression she first experienced in college, but people from any walk of life can feel unsatisfied with their life at times.

How do you know if you’re low key not liking the way your life is going?

Here are five signs that you’re secretly unsatisfied with your life, psychologically speaking.

1) You are sick and tired of the same old, same old

Many people are beyond bored with their lives.

Sherrie Hurd, from Learning Mind, says she knows someone who is living an unfulfilled life.

“I can tell because she is always bored. The week could be hectic and crammed full of priorities and events, but she will still want to find something else to do on the weekend, every weekend. She buys clothes, while her closet overflows already with a huge wardrobe. If she sits for one moment, she says, ‘I am so bored,’ and then goes to sleep.”

If you find yourself feeling bored quite a lot, it’s possible that you’re living an unfulfilled life, Hurd says.

“Why is this? Well, if you can’t see the meaning and purpose in your life, you will constantly try to occupy every moment to fill that confusion.”

It could be because you don’t want to face up to the distinct possibility that you don’t know what you’re doing with your life or maybe you don’t know what you want out of life.

2) You can’t remember the last time you did something for the sheer joy of it

Years ago, I remember taking horseback riding lessons and feeling this wave of contentment just envelope me as I was trotting along one particular lesson. I stopped paying attention to if I was holding the reins correctly or if my form was correct or whatever else.

At some point, I let go, got out of my head, and just allowed myself to be in the moment.

I became so engrossed in the moment that everything else just melted away—stress, worries, whatever.

I also remember this same feeling one time when I was meditating years ago. It was like a blanket of serenity just came over me.

I have to admit that I haven’t done both these things in years…and years.

Even as adults, we are entitled to play and do things for the sheer fun of it. Healthy choices, of course, but something that makes you feel alive.

I think the best thing for me has to be dancing. I love dancing to my culture’s Bhangra music with a passion. Who says you have to be at a party to dance? Play some music while you’re cleaning and have the time of your life.

Life isn’t meant to be taken seriously all the time.

3) You’re pretty pessimistic

Speaking of being serious, pessimism happens when you don’t find fulfillment anywhere, so you start thinking about the worst in everything.

Nothing promotes unhappiness like pessimism, says Rachel Pace from Marriage.com.

Sometimes, being pessimistic becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Once you enter the cycle of expecting bad things to happen to you, they become more likely to occur. If you are in the habit of thinking negatively, you’ll always find yourself caught in the mire of unhappiness.”

The thing about pessimism is that it sees negatively as “realistic” or “logical”.

“Look at the facts and don’t over-analyze them,” says Pace, “and you might start to see the silver lining.”

4) You feel like everyone else is having a lot more fun in their lives

Missing out on fun 5 signs you’re secretly unsatisfied with life, according to psychology

So many of us hold the pessimistic view that the people around us—especially those who are connected to us on social media—have superior social lives, research indicates, says Matt Huston from Psychology Today.

“The ease with which social butterflies capture our attention could feed this assumption.”

A series of studies asked participants to consider both their own social lives as well as those of people they knew.

“The participants guessed, on average, that others had a greater number of friends than they did, attended more parties, and were closer to the ‘inner circle’ of their own social groups.” 

You might have something called “selective social imagination,” says Chicago psychologist Ed O’Brien.

When we think of the popular and gifted, we’re not focusing on what it’s like to be them on a random Tuesday afternoon away from the spotlight, he says.

“Since we never see those everyday moments in somebody else’s life, we forget to account for them when we imagine the person’s life as a whole.”

Forget about the rest of the world, if you’re unsatisfied with your social life, then do something about it.

Invite a friend—or even an acquaintance—out for a coffee or drink. The worst they can do is say no. At least you took control of your dissatisfaction and decided to do something about it—that’s still a win.

Join a yoga class or something else that takes your fancy—painting, Zumba, the possibilities are endless.

The point is to get out of your own way and get the ball rolling.

5) Financial stress might have something to do with it

Constant financial stress can no doubt be a killer.

Financial stress affects more than just your finances—it can adversely affect your health, relationships, and your overall experience of living, Dr. Dell Millers, PhD., who is the author of the book Energize Your Life.

Financial stress can be anything from mounting debt, job loss, medical bills, student loans, and the like, says Millers. Sometimes an unexpected financial obligation, such as paying the funeral expenses of a loved one, for example, can send a person into financial duress.

“Obviously it’s very challenging to live a fulfilling life if you’re experiencing severe financial stress everyday.”

First of all you have to acknowledge and accept that you have a problem. Then you have to create a plan to solve the issue.

“Get professional help if you need it,” adds Miller.

But also get hustling and start saving. A financial counselor can help you create a budget and cut expenses. Get in the habit of saving for the next emergency no matter what your financial situation is.

“To make more money you can find a job that pays more, start a part-time home-based business, get a second job, or change careers,” says Miller.

The idea and the point is to have options, so create a plan and have the courage to take consistent action.

Ask yourself: are you living your life by design or simply going through the motions?

You might be feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled in your life for a number of reasons, says Millers.

For one thing, you might not be living your life by design, he says. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your Big Vision for your life?
  • Why do you do the things that you do?
  • How do you want to spend your time on a daily basis?

Millers says that most people never bother to ask themselves any of these questions.

“But unless you do, it’s not possible to live intentionally,” he emphasizes. “Until you decide what’s most important to you and how you’re going to spend your time, you’re not in control of your life, your circumstances are.”

Engage in your life to feel energized about it instead of letting your circumstances control your life.

Picture of Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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