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Feeling Stuck in Life? Why it Happens and 10 Ways to Move Forward

feeling stuck in life

photo by Andrea PIacquadio for Pexels

by Andrea M. Darcy

Feeling stuck in life? Set resolutions that never work each year? Never in a career or relationship you like, and just can’t get ahead no matter how hard you try?

5 Reasons why being stuck happens

Why does it seem like everyone else can change and move forward but us? There can be several factors at play here.

1. We were taught to settle for less. 

Sometimes a life we feel stuck in comes from learning growing up we must do and be certain things and not others. We’ve mistakenly created a life that doesn’t even match who we are. That instead matches other people’s ideas of what we should be.

2. We are always feeling  stuck in life because we are highly self-critical.

Sometimes it’s not even true that we are that stuck. We just have such a harsh criteria for ourselves, we refuse to see the progress we make. Or have impostor syndrome and don’t believe we’ve done anything of value. Then some of us  are perfectionist, endlessly comparing ourselves to those with far more life experience or opportunity.

We only want to look at a big picture where we are hugely successful, instead of making time to see we have graduated from a course, have found our own apartment, a new job, etc.

3. We have mental health issues holding us back. 

It’s hard to get ahead if we are so depressed we have constant fatigue and brain fog. Or if we have such bad anxiety our mind is constantly troubleshooting everything, and we are sleeping badly. ADHD can mean we never finish things and spread ourselves too thin. Grief, too, can leave us struggling to cope.

A research study looking at the connection between depression and life satisfaction found that men in particular find it hard to feel good about their life when depressed. [1]

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4. We don’t have resources or a support system. 

Much as we might be independent and courageous, it’s hard to do life entirely alone. And it’s even harder if the people we do know don’t believe in us, or put us down.

always feeling stuck

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And if we are constantly struggling for necessary resources, like money to pay the rent, there isn’t time to get ahead.

5. We are quite simply afraid of change. 

Fear of change can be debilitating. It tends to come for a difficult childhood where change meant bad things, so that now your brain resists change in a misguided effort to keep you safe.

Or sometimes we are afraid to get unstuck and move forward as we aren’t sure others will love us if we are successful or different. Perhaps at some point in life we were rejected for being too smart or doing well. 

10 Ways to stop feeling stuck and make progress at last

So what to do when you feel stuck in life? How can you finally stop treading water and actually move forward? Sometimes it’s about getting practical. If we are in debt, we might need to seek debt counselling, and swallow our pride and go on benefits, for example.

But often getting unstuck in life involves some psychological work. 

1. Dig out limiting beliefs.

Think that you decide your life with your conscious thoughts? Think again.

Our conscious thoughts are driven by hidden unconscious beliefs. These are assumptions we make as children and decide are ‘facts’. They can sound like, ‘the world is a dangerous place’, ‘you can’t trust anyone’, ‘I am not worthy of good things’.

For example, if you deep down believe you are not worthy of good things how are you going to then choose a partner who is good to you? Or a  job you are not bored in?

To get unstuck in life we need to roll up our sleeves, dig deep, ask some helpful questions, and get honest about the negative limiting beliefs running the show. Then change them to ones that serve us instead of act as constant self-sabotage

2. Accept responsibility for the problem. 

The one thing that keeps us well and truly stuck in life? The victim mentality. When we think that all the problems in our life are because of other people and situations, we then put all the power outward

How can we change anything if we are constantly claiming we are powerless?

breakthrough being stuck

photo by Andrea Piacquadio for Pexels

When we take responsibility for what we can — when we accept that we, as adults, chose those experiences, relationships, jobs, situations? We untie our own hands and claim back power.

What about in the case of something like childhood trauma? This  of course wasn’t a choice, and is a terrible thing to live through. But it becomes about taking responsibility if we did not choose to seek help as an adult or didn’t stick out the healing journey. Or if we continue to abuse ourselves through our bad habits and by choosing abusive relationships.  These are all things we DO have power over.  

3. Identify values.

Have a life that is fine, but you always feel stuck in?  You might be living out the values of others instead of our own.

The classic example here would be a child who learned from their parents they must want stability and wealth. Deep down they value creativity and adventure. 

But it might equally be you trying to live up to your friend or partner’s values of a ‘cool, free’ life, when deep down you value stability and calm.

When we identify our personal values, we naturally find purpose and passion. And when we then follow our values, we meet people we have things in common with and can connect with.  We are inspired and in ‘flow’

4. Lower expectations.

When we have very high expectations we can end up never happy with what is. We miss the opportunity right in front of us. We don’t try new things if they don’t match our expectations, or turn away relationships with people who might have been great friends or partners.

No wonder you feel exhausted and like you are treading water. You are in a state of constant resistance instead of acceptance. And as famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung once said, “What you resist, persists”. 

And maybe, deep down, you are using high expectations to put your life on hold. To keep intimacy at bay. To keep up the idea that you are a failure and to stay feeling stuck in your comfort zone.

5. Create space.

No, we are not talking about decluttering your home (although that can’t do any harm).

We are talking about decluttering the things in your life that are no longer serving you. 

You can’t step forward if there is no space to step into. Remind yourself you are making room for what you DO want.

6. Get angry. Or sad. Or angry and sad. If emotions are stuck you will keep feeling stuck.

getting unstuck

photo by Ketut Subiyanto for Unsplash

Think of holding a beach ball under water. One wrong move and it pops up. It takes a lot of concentration.

That’s what repressing emotions can be like. It take so much energy there is none left for the big changes that move your life forward.

7. Grow your perspective. 

Imagine an elephant and people standing around it. Each person is going to have a very different idea of what the elephant is.

Many of us live our life refusing to change our perspective and see more of the elephant by taking a walk around it. We are ‘right’, we ‘know how it is’. 

What would your five year-old self have to say about your life? Your eighty year-old self? Your best friend from school? Luke Skywalker? Charlie Brown? See changing perspective as something fun. Get curious and reap the benefits.

8. Identify the patterns you are stuck in.

Life patterns are very powerful forces.They are what schema therapy, which specialises in pattern breaking, calls ‘themes’. Just like in a film, with a message that all scenes build to, we live our life playing out the same conflicts and behaviours. 

To get out of the pattern, you have to admit you are in it. It can feel embarrassing to admit that yes, all your relationships have the same problem. That yes, you fall into debt every time. But it helps.

9. Do things badly. 

Often in life we stay stuck in our comfort zone because we are sure we’ll be bad at things… the belief being we have to be good at things to try. Or that we aren’t allowed to fail. No wonder we are so stuck!

We need to free ourselves to realise that the point of life is to enjoy things and grow as a person. And that being messy is part of the process, and making mistakes better than not doing anything at all. 

So pick something you don’t care too much about and give it a good, messy go. If you have never painted in your life, get some art supplies and do a terrible painting on purpose. If you don’t dance, find some Youtube tutorials and do an awful job of the steps. Experience the freedom of imperfection.

10. Get help changing those patterns.

When we are stuck in patterns, we can’t ‘see the wood for the trees’. We can trick ourselves each time that ‘this time is different’. And we can spend our entire lives this way, unless we learn to ask for help and seek support

A coach, counsellor, or psychotherapist becomes an unbiased new perspective. They can help you see the pattern, as well as what inner resources you already have to try different ways of being. Therapy for getting unstuck can mean that finally you are free to stop playing the same scene and instead be your real self.

Stuck in life and don’t know what to do? Harley Therapy offers therapy to get unstuck with highly regarded talk therapists in central London offices. Not in the capital? Use our booking platform to find UK-wide registered therapists as well as online counsellors you can book from overseas. 


Andrea BlundellAndrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and writer who also runs a therapy consultancy, helping you choose the right therapist for you. Find her also on Instagram @am_darcy





[1]Gigantesco Antonella et. al. The Relationship Between Satisfaction With Life and Depression Symptoms by Gender. Frontiers in Psychiatry, Vol 10, 2019. DOI=10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00419.


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Blog Topics: Self Help

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