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There’s No Such Thing As Being Behind

I’ve never been part of any group of people doing anything where there wasn’t at least one person who felt behind.

They hadn’t completed all the reading.

They hadn’t yet gotten their period.

They hadn’t been kissed. Or asked out. Or asked to dance.

They hadn’t watched all the videos or completed all of the lessons. They hadn’t even started any of the lessons, for God’s sakes.

They hadn’t…

bought a house

had a baby

gotten married

landed their dream job

been to Paris

read War and Peace

learned how to cook

paid off their debt

started their business

hit six figures

lost the weight

healed the pattern

forgiven their mother

taken up the guitar

made their first million


I have yet to meet anybody who doesn’t feel like, at least in one area of their life, they should be further ahead.

Some days I feel behind in business. Some days I feel behind in motherhood. Some days I feel behind in my spiritual life. (Like I haven’t meditated in months, possibly years, for example, and I have so many friends who swear by it. Daily. So there’s that.)

But, let’s ask ourselves, shall we?

Behind what?

Behind where?

Behind whom?

Where are we supposed to be, anyway, if not where we are?

Here’s the deal:

It’s impossible to feel behind if you’re not comparing yourself

Feeling behind inevitably comes from having some idealized picture of what our lives should look like based on our age, experience, gender, position, or any other category we’ve put ourselves in and then finding that our actual life falls short.

I think we can all agree that there’s no “right” way to do life. So, therefore, there’s no place we should be other than where we are.

There’s no such thing as an ideal life. There’s just the life you live.

Could we have made different choices that would have landed us further “ahead” of where we are now? I guess, but I think it would be more accurate to say we could have made different choices that would have landed us in a different place than where we are now. Not ahead or behind. Just different.

And back-tracking to consider what would have happened had we not chosen what we chose is a unique form of self-torture that I don’t think is particularly fruitful – unless you’re using it to make a new decision in the present moment.

We will never stop aspiring to expansion. Our hunger will not cease.

There’s nothing wrong with some healthy dissatisfaction and a desire to change some things up in your life.

But we can choose, moment by moment, to stop beating ourselves up for being behind.

Being behind is impossible if we are living according to a set of rules that we’ve defined (and given ourselves permission to update as needed).

If there’s no ideal way to do anything, there’s no way to be ahead or behind.

You can only be where you are. And the best way to be there is to be there. Fully. And not leak any more of your precious life force into feeling behind.

You’re not behind. You’re where you are. And that’s the only place you can be. So be there.


Where do you feel behind in your life? How could you look at it differently? Tell me in the comments!



  • Wendy

    Wow Kate this really spoke to me. Thank you!

  • I set myself the goal of doing my accounts weeklyfdom Aug 1st after clearing 2 years backlog in 6 months. But it’s taken longer to recover than I anticipated. I am 2 weeks behind on current month + 4 months from April-July. But I am where I am. In bed n learning to be ill gracefully you & gratefully as I learn more about my spiritual life!

  • Stacey Becklund

    I love my life, my herstory…
    My experiences have made me who I am, well traveled and educated; however, I was widowed at 46 ( not in my life plan). This put me in debt (after having paid off my student loans), and has me living as a single Mom, who now wants a house, further education, and works 3 jobs for not enough time and money.

  • Amanda

    Thank you so much for this blog – your posts have been lined up with exactly where I am lately and I am so thankful.
    Yep, I had just written an email to my closest girlfriends about feeling behind in my career. . . and life in general. I’m 38, divorced, no kids, about to finish a PhD but still not clear on where that’s leading. . . but I have a deep knowing, I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Thank you for this validation – and connection. . . from Maine to me, in Oklahoma. :)

    • Kate Northrup

      I’m so glad this was helpful! And I love that you know you’re in the perfect place deep down, because ultimately there’s no other place we can be!

  • Sara

    I have felt behind in a lot of ways. One way that has been especially poignant recently is feeling behind in dealing with old trauma. I’m 45. In the last 6.5 years I have begun the active and honest process of healing. But this means old stuff has to come up, be revealed to be healed. Sometimes it has been messy and I can think “I’m 45 and should not be feeling this way or dealing with it with tears and wanting to run or needing help. If I’m a “grown up” why do I feel like a child? I’m learning that wherever i am at any given moment needs to be honored in order to move forward. I can’t compare myself to others and their outsides especially, because it’s not relevant or accurate. My measure of relevance is my own truth and story and experience in the moment. THe courage to become aware and to see it and then to address it is the key to my healing and growth no matter what biological age I am or how old the trauma or hurt is.

  • Lisa Camhi

    Oh my! This was so helpful to read. Although I know all of this intellectually and this is what I would say to a friend if he or she were feeling “behind”, especially in comparison to anyone else’s life, I can trip into this area of comparison and “shoulds” so easily. I have been self employed for years and love what I do for many reasons, however, I have not been able to save well for retirement…. buy a house….. etc. Also – I can come across someone who is a very high achiever in any area of money, education, career, etc… and feel “less than”. Day in and day out I am happy with the life I’ve intentionally cultivated, but when I compare to others I can feel so very less than. I have to remind myself that I made choices that reflect who I am. And….. it’s great to strive for more, but being OK with the current me and the current now is key. Thanks for this post. I think I will print and read it as necessary. <3

  • I feel behind on so.many.things. My career life has been a disaster since I tried to re-enter the work force after 1.5 years between jobs. I’m failing to find anything that pays enough to cover childcare and bring in a bit extra. I’ve started my own business that hasn’t come together in nearly 2 years, I can’t seem to get a writing career going, not for freelance or for my childrens novel. Sometimes I wonder if I should try anymore at all or give up and accpet failure on all career fronts.

  • marcia

    WOW! This just hit me right in my amygdala like a powerful Essential Oil! Thank you, Kate. I needed this. Namaste’

  • I am 64…a mother, nurse, health coach, Bach Flower Practitioner…I am a friend, sister, and was a daughter to 2 loving parents. I have spent the last 4 decades learning and teaching others about wellness and self care.
    My behind:
    Wow…I also never said it quite like that before. It is still an important goal.
    I grew up on the east coast…my family had a 16 bedroom summer Rooming House a few homes from the ocean in NJ. A beautiful spot. I always wanted to turn that House into a Healing Center…a Holisitic B&B if you will. Didn’t happen.
    So my behind is the present. I recently moved back to Cali where I lived in the 70’s, am moving towards creating a Health Coaching practice…and my dream for a home looks more like a healing cottage.
    Thanks Kate…for all you do. Have been following your mom’s work since you were a little girl~xo

  • I have felt “behind” for most of my life. In high school, my friends had boyfriends and I never did (in fact, at 31, I’ve still only had one short relationship of consequence, and he crushed me). In my 20s, I was still single, but also in debt and struggled to find meaningful employment in my field. Now in my 30s, I’m still “behind” on paying off student loans (I’m still years away from paying them off while many of my classmates have celebrated writing that last check!) because I’m still underearning and still single (so I have no partner to share financial burden/cost of living with).

    Part of this feeling of being behind stems from myself and the plans I had for my life, part of it stems from societal expectations (who am I, if not a wife/mother or just a rich single girl who lives a lavish life? I’m neither). Most of it stems from the fact that there are things I currently want for myself in my life. I want to be in a happy and loving relationship, and feel the void of not having a person to share my life with. I want financial freedom, and feel the entrapment of high debts and low income. I want children, but do not want them without a partner. I do a lot to work on things that ARE within my control, and that helps, but it doesn’t necessarily make me feel less “behind”.

    • I had to reply to you cos this sounds so much like me! I am 29 now and it feels great knowing you have successfully walk thru that path, and I could too.

  • Bridget

    A million thanks for this one, Kate. In addition to all the relavent comments offered above, i think this feeling of “being behind” speaks to my reoccurring limiting belief about “being too old” to build a really cool career, love relationship, life, etc. I’ve read about Louise Hay, Grandma Moses, and scores of other ladies who have changed their lives later in the game, but not until i read this post did it make so much sense that my story is mine, and if that means I light it all up later than many, than that’s the story I’m writing!

  • Starts the *slow clap*…

  • Tara

    Thank you so much for this post. Ironically, in just these past few months I have really worked at setting my fears aside as to where I think I am supposed to be in this life (it’s still a constant struggle). I am 36 and it’s hard to me to say my age when people ask because I automatically think they are going to judge me. Quite honestly, 95% of the things you listed above, I haven’t done… and that’s ok because there are a TON of things not on that list that have. I have to remind myself several times a day that there is a plan for everyone. I do believe there is a reason everyone is exactly where they are supposed to be in life, and the goal is to make the best of every moment. My theme song is Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time”. For anyone feeling like a pick me up, feel free to use this to rock out and feel OK about being where you are!! You are not alone!!!

  • I really needed this read this morning. Thanks

  • YES to all of this. I probably felt behind on 99% of the things you listed at one point in my life. It makes me wonder if I was actually behind statistically or if we as humans overestimate what everyone else has already experienced and achieved, thinking we’re behind when we’re not. Great post.

  • It’s such a simple concept but one I often forget, to just be here in the moment and not worry so much. I’m a big judgement person which means I’m a big self-judgement person. I’m always measuring myself against people and it’s gotten exhausting. Thanks for the wisdom Kate!

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