Beware The Anti Climax: The Unexpected Low That Comes After Big Life Goals
How to avoid the lull after a lifetime high.
Reaching a milestone in your life is a pretty big deal. You work hard towards something for what feels like forever. Whether it be something personal to you, like graduating from college, getting married, buying your very own home or even adopting a dog or it may be something professional, like being promoted, starting your own company, launching a product or even quitting a job that brought you nothing but rage. You’ve thought about the milestone basically non-stop, you’ve worked hard, you’ve achieved it. But now what?
Maybe you thought it would be dramatically life-changing, that it was all you needed. But now that it’s done, it doesn’t exactly feel like such a big accomplishment. It all feels a bit, well, meh. Anticlimax is defined as “a disappointing end to an exciting or impressive series of events.” But really, it feels a lot more than that, and the truth is that it is a lot more than just a disappointing end. It is a mixture of a hyped-up explosion, possible failure, and some confusion thrown in there for good measure. What was all the excitement about? Why was it so built up and dramatised? Has it really changed anything at all? These feelings of the dreaded anticlimax are pretty damn unfair.
The emotional comedown after a pretty big life event can often feel like a punch in the gut. It’s a big fat ‘what now?’ following you around, that no matter how many times Taylor sings it, you simply can not just ‘Shake It Off ’.
Even if it’s on the smaller scale. Like booking a holiday to Vegas. You’ve saved your arse off, researched every little thing about Sin City, took one million and one photos while you were there. But now that you’re home, it almost feels like it didn’t happen, and you’re already thinking of the next thing.
But then when it’s on a larger scale, like getting married. You’ve done all the planning, had many debates over what flowers to choose (Peonies or Freesia, who knows?) and enjoyed the best day of your life. But then once it’s all over, everything goes back to normal far too quickly. Sure, there are some things that we know will be an anticlimax. Like going back to work after three months of travelling (what’s an alarm clock again?). But these cases don’t come with a free side of restless disappointment because we pretty much know it’s coming. We’re not expecting our postholiday mood to be filled with joy and accomplishment.
But when you do succeed at something you thought would change your life, that anticlimax can make you feel like your accomplishment wasn’t that much of a big deal in the end. It was so hyped up, but once it happens, it just happens. The world moves on pretty quickly.
Joanna, 32, knows all about it. “A couple of years ago, I set myself a big goal at work. I wanted to win an award that was really difficult to get, actually kind of impossible, and I wanted to do it before I was 35. It involved a lot of extra work outside the company, and when I didn’t get it after year one, I was gutted. It was looking like I wasn’t going to win it after year two as well, when then, out of the blue, I did.”
While Joanna was obviously pleased to have achieved the milestone, the shine very quickly wore off. “At first, it took ages to hit me. Like I kept thinking, this hasn’t really occurred to me yet. And then it did, and it felt good, I was proud. But after a couple of weeks, I just felt kind of ‘whatever’ about it all. Like it didn’t really change anything and I felt like it was all for nothing. And then that I had to keep on winning it every year. I’ve kind of got over that now, and I’m trying to just keep on building on the momentum and living in the moment!”
Joanna might seem a tad ungrateful, but often, that’s just what happens when the anticlimax hits. You actually start feeling a bit sorry for yourself, like nobody else is on the same wavelength as you about your achievement, and that it didn’t really matter. But that’s just the devil on your shoulder, and it’s simply not true. It’s just that your own personal accomplishments will always mean more to you than anyone else.
We’ve known of anticlimaxes for quite some time, but it seems the phenomenon of it has blown up along with Instagram. The two go together, like rama lama lama, ka dinga da dinga dong. You know the saying, comparison is the thief of joy. Well, those feelings of anticlimax are what comparison leaves at the crime scene. You end up comparing your profound joy and success to the next person you see on social media, and their joy and success.
Do people care more about Jane down the road’s achievements? Or is it just that she’s a better self-publicist? Instagram has become the lens of constant comparison.
But really, you don’t know what goes on behind the Stories, and you probably never will. But what you can do, is learn how to deal with those anticlimax feelings, or at least recognising them for what they are.
There’s no point trying to avoid an anticlimax, but because it usually comes after a proud moment, or what should be a proud moment, you can be prepared for it just like that post-holiday mood.
The key is to expect it, normalise it, and think twice before letting your thoughts run through the never-ending wheel of social media comparison.
It’s going to come either way, so you may as well make some room for it within your life-changing plans. At least if it’s expected, it won’t come as a sudden shock. Do literally whatever it is that makes you happy, like spending time with your kids, organising a Pinot Grigio night with the gals, or sitting in your pyjamas all day watching reruns of Sex & the City.
The next step is to normalise it. Unfortunately, it happens to each and every one of us at some point in our lives. When you’re scrolling through Instagram and catch yourself weighing up your big moments against someone else’s, just stop. Stop what you’re doing and think for a second. Remember what you’re doing, and that comparison will not do you any good. Take the time to reflect on your milestone. It’s a pretty big deal after all, even if it doesn’t feel as life-changing as you thought it would.
Reflect on it, think of all the little steps and the colossal hurdles you got through to get there. And if you don’t suffer from an insane anticlimax after a pretty big event? Well then, take all the time you can to sit back and enjoy the celebrations before the next big thing happens. Because to quote Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast, and it won’t be long before another milestone comes along.
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