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What’s your problem?

Hi friends. It’s summer and I’m hitting the skies again. Back to my favorite city to see some of my favorite people and enjoy the birthdays of my two favorite nations. The fleeting evenings this workweek will be spent on next week’s article (I know I already told some of you what it’s about) so today I just have a question for you.

Whenever I ask the audience something, even if I’m just asking what’s happening, I’m moved by the response. Behind each of the names in the comment section is a vast, actively unfolding life and we all get to see so little of it, normally. The anecdotes are always so colorful and compelling, so much more interesting than fiction.

I also love how the commenters start talking to each other and helping each other. I love that a large contingent of the (mostly) like-minded gather here regularly.

I want to know:

What has been the hardest part for you?

Of life, that is. I don’t mean the roughest period of time in your life, I mean the recurring theme that has always given you grief, particularly if you feel like most people don’t have a problem with it.

Your answers and stories are always so helpful to me, and other readers too. I constantly find myself forgetting how complex everyone’s story is, and whenever I do my problems appear to me as the world’s great drama. And that’s not good for anyone. When other people open up, it gives us perspective about each of our own bags of hammers.

Venting is totally welcome, but that’s not really what this is about. I specifically want to see people articulate what area (or specific issue) hangs them up the most. Throughout my life, I’ve let certain problems fester, for years even. Recently I’ve made huge progress on certain lifelong issues, and the amount of action it took to see a change was staggeringly small.

All it really took to start changing things was to finally articulate the issue to someone else, in words. There’s something magical in that. I’m asking you to do that, here, even if you don’t normally comment.

Tell us. What’s your problem?


Photo by David Cain

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Spiderlgs July 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm

The one thing that keeps me from everything is constantly wondering why people do what they do and then taking the majority of my answers and blaming them on myself. I struggle when people don’t respond to me in the same way I respond to them. This can be short term interactions with new people, longer term friendships/relationships where I feel like I am always giving the best of my self and wondering why I don’t get the same treatment in return. Then that makes me question the genuineness of people, or my own judgment about life and about people and then it just ends with me looking at the glass half empty or completely empty. My relationships are very important to me and I’ve always wondered why they are not reciprocal and what I am doing so that they never seem to be that way.

Yazoo July 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm


I feel the same way sometimes. You’re not doing anything wrong at all, nothing that you’re doing is “causing it”, it’s just that a lot of people aren’t self-aware, or haven’t been taught about the impact of what they say or how they act can have on other people.

Don’t take it personally! You’re just more people-oriented than most.

If you can learn to rein it in a bit, only give yourself to those people that will reciprocate!

For the rest of the population, most people seem to be attracted to you if you are generally nice, but act like you don’t need friends.

Strange how that works, but there you go. :)

Huge suffocating Cloud July 16, 2012 at 12:02 am

I’ve been on self-help websites and books for years, I’m 26 now and I still have not feel good about myself. I’ve been in and out of my relationships, mostly because they eventually find me to be needy and desperate, they just throw any reasons just to get out.

When everything is turned off (t.v., computer, music, even the lights) it’s suffocating for me just to face myself, I don’t like myself very much obviously, so I think that’s the reason they all want out.

When someone happens to like me and we get into a relationship, I put all the pressure of making me feel good on them, and I suffocate them and I lose them. It hurts so much to see someone you love so deeply go.

Luckily my exbf is still talking to me, letting me off easy I guess, the lines of communications is open so I can still talk to him, I am trying my best to take time and stop talking to him for a while, but just today and yesterday I talked to him and dragged it on. When I just regained his interest in talking to me again just yesterday. I’m back to the bad place.

Life hasn’t been easy for me, I’m gay and I’ve tried to convince myself for 25 years, finally last year I just decided this is really me, it is what I am made of.

Having low self-esteem really, destroys everything nice that comes to you. I love him so deeply, I just wished he’d see me again, I have been dumped before and got over them kind of, but right now, what I want is him. And I can feel there is still a tiny window of hope for me.

I am currently trying to get my ex back and to no success yet. I had little progress yesterday, but I got desperate so lost all of it. I’m picking myself up and I dont know, I want to feel good again, and be independent like really be happy with myself, but it’s not that easy.

Reading your article up top, I hope someone knows how to deal with this in just a few words. I have read that instead of trying to focus on yourself, try helping others and that would be a good place to start feeling great about yourself, that is what I have now, I am applying it to everyone and even to my bf, giving him space and all.

I would appreciate any kind of help. Thank you so much. I love you all

Booboo July 26, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Hi there!

There was an article on Raptitude before that was GREAT that was about self-love, when you’re feeling down. Not love in the “feed yourself ice-cream” and “let yourself lie-in” kind of love, but if you had a child, you’d kick him in the butt to make him/her do stuff to improve their life. What would you say to yourself right now to make yourself feel better, from a parent-to-child perspective?

Right now you’re focused on your ex-boyfriend, the first step is realising that what drove him apart was you relying on him to make you happy! Well done! Most people never recognise this so they keep making the same mistakes.

Do you have a basic “framework” in your life?
If you had a job, a boyfriend, education, volunteering, a social life and a hobby, for example, you would be deriving joy and fun experiences from all aspects of your life. Your boyfriend would still be important but not the be-all and end-all as regards your quality of life! He would just be one part of this framework…

I read that idea in a book called “opening our hearts to men” by Susan Jeffers. Like all “self-help” books it has its questionable parts but the message of the book is directed towards those in relationships with men who, as soon as they get into a relationship, start finding faults in men, being unhappy, basing their happiness on them, and pushing them away!

I had to read it 2 or 3 times over the course of a few years (and over the course a few relationships ) before it finally sunk in!

It gave me a different view on my life, and how I approached and viewed men and relationships.
It might not work for you, but I do see that you’re struggling with this. I was the exact same and I still get the same way too!

Basically, you’re not alone! I’d say more but I feel I’d just be regurgitating the contents of that book I mentioned above! Again, this is just one person’s advice. You don’t have to take it!

I hope you’re a little feeling better since you’ve posted that comment… Time is a good healer, and gives good perspective.

Sorry I can’t be more help

Berenice July 17, 2012 at 11:04 am

My “big” problem, all along my life, well, since I have conscience, is that I
don´t like myself, I don´t appreciate myself. I also have heard that instead of trying to focus on yourself, try helping others, but I don´t if that is real, if it really helps.

C. July 18, 2012 at 6:36 am

I’m 39 and I went bankrupt last year. Moved in with my mother. Had a bit of an emotional breakdown. Don’t have a job, am too conceited to get one. Or maybe I just couldn’t handle the rejections anymore. Have a girlfriend that I don’t love but use for sex.

Shell July 19, 2012 at 7:03 am

I supppose my biggest problems would be the fact that though I have a pretty good live, I just feel so sad all the time. To the point where I don’t really want to continue living. I get overly attatched to friends, to people, and when those relationships die, I get devastated and I feel even worse. I spend too much time obsessing over the people closest to me in my life, making my other relationships suffer, and when the friendship or romantic relationship dies, I’m left alone, which adds to the sadness. I know I do this. I’ve known for a long time. And I’ve tried to change it. To be close to several people, or not be close to anyone at all. But it doesn’t work. There is always one person I will fall into sync with. That one person who makes me happy. Then they go and all the lonliness and such comes back.
I don’t view myself as a good person, I see myself as a selfish person. Even though I’ve been told many times I’m not. When something goes wrong I blame myself. I lose friends because I just want a strong friendship, that the other person doesn’t want. My love life is going okay at the moment but there was a recent threat of a breakup and I comletely fell apart, because the guy is such a huge part of my life. I rely on other people’s relationships with me for me to stay happy. And they fall apart so easily that I just end up hating myself again.

Nick July 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm

My problem is that I always feel interrupted, and then that leads to anger, frustration, anxiety and stress. Interrupted is the only word that really comes to mind when I put thought into what causes those feelings. Further I feel that I have to allow myself to be interrupted at that time – usually either it is my family and I feel that I should give them my attention, or it is work and you can’t really say “leave me alone I’m busy thinking”. I think that is what I am usually doing when I feel interrupted. I am thinking about something that is holding my interest at that time. Life is so full of interruptions and I always seem to be thinking about something. I wish it would all slow down, or else that I could speed up. The times that I feel content is when there is finally nothing that “has to be done”, which is seldom.

Michael Calkins July 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I’d have to say a combination of sort of a resentful poverty minded jealousy that holds me back from opening my mind.

A.L July 26, 2012 at 9:44 pm

I often feel sad or distraught but have no connection as to why. I’ll be driving in the car looking out the window and suddenly this sadness overcomes me I even start to tear. I’m not thinking of anything sad or upset over something, it just happens. My mood changes and I can’t understand why.
When I’m asked “What’s wrong?” I’m not even sure how to answer. It doesn’t happen often but if I figure out why this happens I’ll be able to understand myself much better.

Natalie July 28, 2012 at 7:36 pm

What a great question to ask! I think for me it is really two things and I am sure they are related to each other in some way but I haven’t quite figured out how yet. The first thing is the fear of failure and the ever looming feeling of just not being good enough which can become so paralyzing at times that I just want to hide under my duvet instead of even trying. I am working hard on that one though and lots of positive, encouraging self-talk instead of the normally rather harsh and critical one going on in my head is helping a great deal I think. The other one is a fear of rejection and abandonment which can be quite a problem when interacting with other people in any way as I have the tendency to view (seemingly) negative behaviour of them towards me as automatically having to do with me and them not liking me/rejecting me – it can lead to a lot of insecurity and misunderstandings but again I am working on it and feel that I am improving. The presupposition in NLP stating that “behind every behaviour lies a positive intention (for one self)” is helping me a lot as well because it highlights how most behaviours of other people aren’t about me at all… I might just be “collateral damage”. So when I feel hurt or rejected I just ask myself what the positive intention for the person might be (most often I find that they are trying to protect themselves in some way or feel a need to be in control etc) and that makes it a lot easier to not take things to heart as much and dwell on them like I used to! Still work in progress though but I think these two things are definitely my biggest issues holding me back in my life!

jahi August 9, 2012 at 1:37 am

The hardest part of life for me has been sleeping with the lights off.

Anonymous January 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

Hi! I just discovered your blog while doing some research on minimalism and simple living – the lyfestile i´m currently trying to live and i´ve been reading non-stop! This post grabbed my atention and i feel i must answer this one!

My problem is that i am an only child and was raised having a close relationship with my parents. Not many friends os family, just my parents. I don´t know most of my family and growing up i´ve always felt alone and resposible for my parentes (they kept telling me i was their only child and that i would some day have to take care of them). I grew up longing for close friends and a romantic relationship. All i ever wanted was not to be alone and my greateste fear has been to witness the death of everyone i love and have no one left. Sounds crazy but that´s been my reality since day one. I love being alone, i have fun by myself, i don´t have the need to do everything with other people and sometimes when my partner travels and i have the house only to myself i enjoy moments of silence, solitary readings and gettings things done and it´s really peacefull. My fear of being alone has a lot to do with having no one alive that loves me or that i can trust but doesn´t make me unable to find joy and calm in the moments i am alone and know people i love are fine wherever they are. So it´s not a fear os spending time alone, it´s a fear of loosing people permanently.

The fear or being alone many has lead me many times to be condescendent with other people or to neglect myself. I sometimes make a big deal out of simple remarks people do when they talk to me and will get ofended with no need whatsoever. I get defensive whenever i feel someone doesn´t aprove of what i´m doing and have a hard time dealing with criticism. I´ve been trying to learn with life in order to accept that nothing will ever make me feel safe and that i must deal with my fear of loneliness in a more positive way.

courtney king January 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

My problem is that I need to delay self gratification so I can finish college in California- but the person I love lives really far away in my hometown. So I have to be okay with not being happy- just so I can be proud of myself when I finish, because if I don’t I fear I would resent him later in life.

Tony February 8, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Wow. . .a lot of pretentious posturing nonsense here in the comment section. People are on the defensive because wherever someone tries to create something that is in some way evaluating the human psyche/motivation etc., it is perceived as pretentious–especially when it is done well as is the case with the writing on this blog.

That said. . .it is pretentious to write. . .it is pretentious to pretty much take part in any form of self-expression where you want to be heard–because you are assuming you have something other people want to hear (and when you charge a fee for counselling in the “contact” section you are assuming that even more directly).

I am not hating. . .Readers read. . .writers write. . .people. . .read this blog and take away from it what you will. . .look for the use and you will find the meaning. And remember. . .if you don’t like what the guy says you are welcomed to take his advice for what you paid for it–NOTHING!

KungFuFighter April 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I constantly have paranoias about the people around me. And, because of that, I find very hard to make friends, or even interacting with people in the most basic levels. It happens mostly with the people I care about, the ones whose presence makes me grow up and feel better.
And although I find it’d be very useful to speak these thoughts out, to actually talk to people, I have a huge problem to communicate and always end up not doing it, no matter how much I try to. And the amount of messed up feelings I end up having is very uncomfortable, and it makes me close myself to the world even more.
I truly believe meeting new people is gonna be a good thing for me, but I’m often too afraid to get to know them. And even more afraid to try to change anything, in a way that things may get even worse than they are now.

Alejandro June 25, 2013 at 11:32 am

It’s been a couple of months but I hope this article is still active. Cool blog David, I go here regularly when I procrastinate from work.

My biggest problem, is self-pity that leads to the “victim” mentality. For most of my life I tried to escape my problems, and blame others for why things weren’t going right. Pretty much blaming everyone but myself.

First, I was watching vast number of hours of porn. Then when I had my first girlfriend, I let my ex’s life consume mine. When our not so healthy relationship finally ended, I went on a rampage to blame my family, subconsciously at first until I realized that even though they may have something to do it, the one who really needs to get his act together is me.
Shortly after I went on a quest for productivity lists, “The 10 things productive people do” “5 things you should do when you wake up” etc. After I stopped liking lists I somehow got to this blog haha.

So basically my biggest problem now is the remnants of the “victim mentality” that I helped and fed for so many years. And it’s tough. As soon as new challenges emerge, a reality check is presented, I revert.

Kitty Soze July 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I realize I am a bit late to this exercise in introspection, but I wanted to jump on board, because as you’ve said, just telling someone about the problem tends to lead to solutions coming to light.

My issue has been not feeling good enough, or feeling like a fake. I have, by all external/societal measures, done well for myself by getting an advanced degree and being fairly good at my job. But I feel like it’s just not enough, and recently, rather than push myself to do better, I have begun to feel like no matter what I do, I will never be good enough. That I am not deserving of the title I hold and that I am not as good or as smart as people tell me I am.

I’m working on it, and I am blessed to have a great husband, family, and friends who disagree with my assessment – pointers welcome!

Suchi January 6, 2014 at 11:46 am

I was once part of a survey of high performing women (in terms of academics /career) and they found that close to half of the women feel the same way as you do! That’s when I started reading about it.
They called this feeling the “impostor syndrome”. Granted that giving it a name doesn’t quite help you directly, but I thought you might be able to look it up and find out causes or how to deal with it.

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