What Causes a 30-year Crisis?

· September 7, 2018

“Don’t let life pass you by!” “When are you getting married?” “Are you planning on having kids?” “Someone your age should…” Anyone nearing thirty has probably heard things like this far too many times. It seems that people have more and more expectations the closer they get to their thirtieth birthday. And it’s easy to develop more doubts, fears, and concerns along with them, sometimes causing the so-called 30-year crisis.

Society paints the ideal life for people reaching thirty as having a house, a stable relationship, a stable and exciting job, Caribbean vacations, and children. This ideal, created from social preconceptions, is presented as if it were a checklist of a successful and happy life.

Clearly, 30-year crises have much more to do with societal and cultural pressure than with actually turning 30. Most of us don’t meet these expectations, which creates anguish and frustration over not doing what we “should” be doing, even if it’s not what we really want.

By now, I should have…

What a brief but dreadful sentence. All these “should” statements are a manifestation of social pressure. They portray common steps taken on the path of life as absolutely mandatory. Complete them, and you’re a successful or admirable person. Don’t, and you’re doomed to be thought of as weird or lost.

Most of these goals are related to achievement and success and are presented as if your self-esteem and reputation are dependent on reaching them. But the higher the societal demands, the more you tend to criticize and pressure yourself.

Young man experiencing a 30-year crisis.


As you journey through life taking advantage of opportunities, you also leave many options unexplored. Most of the time, they’re not given much thought and are quickly forgotten. But something happens when you turn thirty. For many people, every opportunity they once gave up on comes reeling back to their minds. If this happens, you tend to think that if you haven’t done all the “normal” things for thirty-years-olds, you have done nothing with your life.

Thus begins the 30-year crisis. This crisis is a state of confusion, disorientation, and uncertainty caused by the clash between social and personal expectations and reality.

Do you even need to be “normal”?

Life is a long line of decisions, but those decisions carry a huge amount of social pressure. No one wants to disappoint important people in their lives, such as parents, siblings, or friends. Because of that, it’s easy to become the person the people around you want you to be, without thinking deeply about what you really want in life. But meeting other people’s expectations doesn’t always lead to happiness.

Deviating from what your culture considers normal or standard doesn’t mean your life is a failure. In fact, it may mean you’re creating a life based on what you really want, not on what others want for you. Deviating from the norm, however, doesn’t mean giving up all socially normal goals. You can still have a stable relationship, a regular job, or buy a nice car. It simply means reordering your priorities to what is really important to you personally.

How social pressure can cause a 30-year crisis

Getting rid of all social pressure isn’t the solution. It’s impossible. Humans are social beings and no one lives in complete isolation. But if you’re experiencing a 30-year crisis, you do need to find a way to deal with it and get out of it. One effective method is asking yourself why you’re so unsatisfied with your life. Are you afraid you’ll never reach your goals or dreams? That you’ll never meet other’s expectations? Or are you simply reflecting on what you really want in life? It’s a matter of looking in the mirror and figuring out your own needs and wants and acting accordingly.

The key is to set apart our own thoughts, expectations, and values from what we hear from the media or other people. Otherwise, outside pressures can gradually erode your happiness.

If there’s one point to take away from this article, it’s that achieving a happy and fulfilling life is not the result of perfectly meeting societal expectations. Happiness comes from taking control of your life and remembering that sometimes even the best and brightest encounter roadblocks or lose their way.

We all can create the life we want, not what society expects of us.

Blaze your own trail

You’re the only one responsible for the decisions you decide to make. Social pressures will always be there, reminding you of all the things you “should” have done by now. However, the right attitude is key. Remember that it’s up to you if you want to take the conventional route or the road less traveled.

Happiness doesn’t come from doing what others expect of you, but in discovering what you really want in life and doing that. Don’t look to others to figure out what you want. Instead, take a look in the mirror.

Although a 30-year crisis might force you to look at all the dreams and goals you have yet to achieve, it’s also a reminder that there’s a lot of life left to live. And, if your priorities have changed, you might not even want to pursue those goals anymore. Life is a trail you blaze through personal decisions and everyone has the freedom to choose their own path.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

-John Lennon-