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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

kitschculture June 25, 2012 at 1:48 am

You have one of the best blogs on the net, and one of the few that I bother reading regularly. Still, some of these entries really bother me. Specifically the ones where you ask for reader responses. In addition, the responses to the comments also seem to be rather defensive in nature. (I know this is a negative comment in a culture where negativity is supposed to be subdued, and it might just seem like I’m nitpicking on you to make myself feel better. However, if you can put that aside for a minute, I want to draw your attention to what to me seems like a lack of genuineness on your part in the reader questions and comments department of your blog).

My gut feeling is that you put a lot of genuine thought into your entries and they’re brilliantly well written when you have a goal. However, when you lack a goal – you seem to get kitsch (like this post) or defensive (like your replies to comments disagreeing with you).

My question is – what do you get out of it? Perhaps you should write with that in mind? It seems like vague ideas of benefits aren’t good enough for you. When something’s not concrete – you lose your edge and create uninspired writing. Unlike me, you’re a good writer and should be able to get that across in a post – you just need to stop being cliche. What do you want to communicate or receive through communication? If you can tell me, maybe I’ll be able to give you a proper response.

Tony Draxler June 25, 2012 at 4:26 am

Allow me to get defensive on David’s behalf. I believe his goal is to create introspection and self-reflection in his readers, particularly with this post. People often think about what is wrong with others, as you are clearly illustrating here. It’s interesting to me that on the one post where David asks us to open up about shortcomings we see in ourselves in an attempt to realize them with the hopes of bettering ourselves, this was the time you chose to try and point out the shortcomings of someone else. I’m sure David appreciates your observations, gut-feelings, and analysis of his personality and writing style, but it strays from the point of this post. So tell us kitsch… What is it that you struggle with?

Max June 25, 2012 at 5:52 am

I think you are being harsh on Dave. You can do better than this.

Ingrid June 28, 2012 at 9:33 am

Nah, he can handle it.

David June 25, 2012 at 6:49 am

This comment is really bizarre to me. I love these “ask the audience” posts. They have always gotten a great response and always elicit an outpouring of sharing and personality.

There are a lot of reasons I do them. First of all, I don’t like that communication here is mostly one-way. I don’t always want to feel like some kind of preacher. I love when people communicate back, in comments and emails and in social media, especially when the communication reveals a bit about who my readers are. Otherwise it’s like talking into a black hole.

This blog is about learning to steer a human life more effectively, and the most helpful thing I have ever done for myself is to ask and answer questions like, “What is my problem with this?” “Where is my sticking point?” Nearly all my posts are related to this kind of self-examination, and this post is a direct request to do that (if you like) and share it with other people.

Also, I am a very busy person, I write these articles for free, and when I don’t have time to finish a planned article, I would rather post a short question than nothing at all, so a discussion can still take place. All my ask the audience posts (I think there have been three in three years) have been really rewarding to me, and by the looks of it, the readers too.

It is also always valuable for me to know what is on my reader’s minds, so I know what topics they might want to read articles about later.

Anyway, I’ve been doing this for a while. I’ve learned that certain readers have certain pet peeves about what I do here, and often they present them as if they are problems for everyone. One reader recently emailed me, gushing about everything on this blog, but could not bear the use of the phrase “street-level” in the sidebar description. He thought it was pretentious and somehow undermined my whole blog. I told him that I liked it and that he would have to come to terms with his pet peeve.

kitschculture June 25, 2012 at 7:28 pm

This may not be a proper response, but what’s interesting to me is the difference between these two types of entries. I guess it just seems outside of your character – at least what I’ve come to perceive it to be after reading this blog for the last 6 months. In one type of post, you deeply analyze a thought that has crossed your mind. In the other type, you ask a cliche question.

You say that you get interesting responses but I guess I just don’t see it. A question without direction or substance gets an answer without direction or substance. Presentation matters, and I guess that just might be my problem with it.

I will add that it’s just my personal opinion and Dave and the rest of his readers are well within their rights to disagree.

I guess what I’m saying is this: I check this blog daily and always get excited when there’s a new post. When I see that it’s a question for the readers, I get disappointed. But maybe that’s my problem for having unreasonable expectations. You’re not here to please me, so obviously keep doing what you’re doing so long as it makes you happy. I was just expressing myself. After all, I doubt you get these kinds of blunt replies too often. You can choose to do with them as you will.


David June 26, 2012 at 7:08 am

All I can say is that there are over 250 other free articles in the archives for you to enjoy if you don’t like this one. I’ll be blunt too: I’m very glad that it is not typical for people to explain how disappointed they are every time they find a page of content on the internet that doesn’t interest them. If it were, the web would become a really depressing place.

Dar June 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm

IF I had a pet peeve…it might be when other people act is if their pet peeves are someone else’s problem. That being said, what David said reminds me of the fact that ‘you are not your mind’. You’re not your likes and dislikes either. If people like it, there’s a reason, whether or not you feel the same way. It’s pretty obvious that his audience like these posts. What else is there to say? Remember when you go to argue your opinion…that’s it’s just your opinion. Good for you. We all have them. Opinions like beliefs aren’t worth as much as we think they are.

Tiva Joy June 25, 2012 at 7:35 am

Looks like this persons answer to the question would be that they don’t like answering personal questions to strangers.

Gab June 25, 2012 at 8:56 am

I have been reading this blog for a while, and I do agree with you that the quality of David’s articles vary, which is absolutely normal… and there I am being defensive… it must be my mother instinct, hehehe.

What I believe you are missing here, is that David’s blog has transformed itself into a small community. David creates, from time to time, open spaces for people to participate. Did you ever had in school moments when the teacher, instead of giving you a pre chewed subject, just said that you could paint whatever you wanted?

One of my issues is, for example, expecting too much from myself and others… which has prevented me, at times, to enjoy the moment and forgive my short comings.

What about you?

Arielle June 25, 2012 at 1:54 am

Self doubt. For most of my life I’ve always felt as if I was having an identity crisis. Certain characteristics that weren’t so appealing to the world iv’e tried to change, yet conving myself it’s ok to be imperfect. Never living up to my own standards has been a big bruise to the ego. I have yet to reach a place of contentment and acceptance of myself. I yearn for that place but it’s been an ongoing battle. I want to break away from the rules of society that tend to shape my life. What society wants is not what it needs. I know I have a purpose in this life and I am just starting to figure out what it is. I want to leave this world knowing my purpose has been fulfilled because what I have to offer is good. I want the world to experience it. I want to make a difference in the world. Staying true to myself is a key element. It’s just a matter of being consistent.

Alex June 25, 2012 at 5:32 pm

You are not alone! (I would like to use the slogan of the British football club Liverpool) “You will never walk alone!”. That just says it all imo.
I know a lot of lost people in their own world, myself included. Dreaming of a life where one can put his foot down and not fall apart the next moment, where he can go into a job/university interview and be confident in the work he is showing and portraying. This day will come for us, but it will be a slow victory and most important it will be at the right time! When you most need it.
You know this feeling because, like me, you are figuring out your purpose just now. And I believe it will come with time, at the right time.

Arielle June 25, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Thank you, Alex! I really appreciate the insight. It helps! Good luck to you as well :).

Vladimir February 13, 2013 at 3:42 pm

This is exactly how i feel as well. The battle is tough, but im glad im not alone out there fighting it! (Lets) stay strong!

Oshen June 25, 2012 at 2:47 am

A recurring theme?
A lack of love. Never in my life have a woman paid attention to me, and i’m 26 already. I fell in love once, but without response.

People keep telling me how good-looking i am, and so on (but what else can they be telling me?), but why then, not even by a pure statistics of a coincidence have someone loved me? Only if there is something wrong with me.
It might be a low self-esteem or something, but that does not explain the absoluteness either.

It might just be a pull of social pressure – everyone is “supposed” to have a family by late 20s.
It’s not a show-stopping problem – i am rather successful in many other things, got a stable income, have a scientific recognition, travelled the world, and generally have fun.

But that lack of a companion is something that is constantly nagging, like a phantom pain from a pulled tooth. I often find myself idly weaving theories to explain it away or define what is wrong, one more fantastic than the other.

A recurring theme with no way out of it, whether it is who i am or what i do.

Vilx- June 25, 2012 at 3:12 am

In the vein of “help thy neighbour, even though you have no idea yourself” – have you tried asking someone else (preferably a close friend; even more preferably multiple friends) what they think your problem might be? And impress on them that you want full honesty and will accept whatever they say. Pressure them to reveal everything. Most of the time, we cannot see our own flaws. Yours might be something that you’ve never even suspected. Even if it is just bad luck (yes, that can happen too). Just remember – what they say might be unpleasant, even offensive. You must be ready for this.

LunaJune June 25, 2012 at 8:18 am

I am now 50 and have no significant other… but I learned many years ago to hold the real truth that I am surrounded by love in many forms, just not the one my inner core yearns for…it is the only thing that can comfort me in those moments when I play the ‘what the hell it wrong with me?’ game…. what I believe now is that I know it is because I will not settle, I’ve now watched alot of friends split up for reasons that they knew at the beginning of their relationship.
The love you seek , seeks you… one day the windows of both your worlds will open at the same time and you will see each other :~)

Marie June 25, 2012 at 11:46 am


Do you date? If so, how do you date and where do you look for companionship?

kitschculture June 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm


Women can smell a lack of confidence from a mile away and will begin to wonder what you know about yourself that they don’t. The more you question what’s wrong with you, the more they will too (and probably find it because that’s how it works). Just be yourself! I know it’s cliche, but the truth is that you want the content of your character drive them away and not incorrectly guessing what they may or may not want.

Unless you’re the type of person who is unable to form close friendships, you’re someone who will eventually find a woman who will appreciate you for who you are. And you’re right about it just being a statistics of coincidence. However, I’d like to add to that that some people have a broad base of matches while others have a pretty narrow base of matches. Maybe you’re just one of the latter. Eventually – the statistics will turn in your favor. You might not believe it, but at 26 – you’ve become your own man only very recently. Give it time. It’ll happen eventually.

Ren Clare February 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I know this may seem nit-picky and very late in the game (forgive me, I just came upon this post), but I find it very interesting that you gave advice to Oshen that you describe as cliche, and only a few hours later you lambasted David for asking a “cliche” question (I put it in quotations because what is or isn’t cliche is really a matter of personal opinion). Any thoughts on that? It just seems a bit hypocritical to me.

Ulkem Yilmaz June 26, 2012 at 7:15 am

Hello Oshen,
Just like Vilx has predicted, i think i have an idea about what might be the problem is but you’re definitely not going to like it. :) Depends on how flexible you are though. If you’re ready to confront with yourself, even if you’re not doesn’t matter just read and give yourself some time to evaluate it. And please trust that the things i’ll say to you are coming from a very compassionate place. I think it’s all about you, i mean the reason is you and it’s because of your expectations and the point of view are coming from a wrong place. I’ll explain why.

First of all let’s examine the first sentence you made:
“People keep telling me how good-looking i am but why then, not even by a pure statistics of a coincidence have someone loved me?” So do you really think that it takes to be good looking enough to be loved. The first error in your thinking pattern is this one. If you want to be really loved than you should understand that it’s got nothing to do with the physical attraction. Actually they’re quite opposite; you may or may not love a person you’re attracted to but you’ll definitely feel very much attracted to the person you love. You might even forget that other people exist on the planet. :)

Second; “i am rather successful in many other things, got a stable income, have a scientific recognition, travelled the world, and generally have fun.”
Again from what i understood success is very important for…who? I don’t believe it’s you, i believe that’s what they told you. And they told you wrong. Having a stable income, a recognition of any kind are far away from being successful, this is just having accomplished your mission that the society gave you and having done what’s been expected from you, or even that “they” might actually be yourself. Did you have any insights lately, a very small one would count, that made you understand seemingly the most important issue for you had actually the simplest solution. (Just giving an example because it usually does.) Have you taken that one small step towards courage to shut all the unnecessary voices around and do the thing that only you believe is right, trusting your guts? These would be considered as successful attempts in the world of non-capitalist ideologies which is our true essence. But the most tragic part for me was that you counted having travelled the world and being a person who “generally has fun” to be a criteria for a successful person. These are all what others expect you to have or to be in order to be considered as a “normal” or successful citizen. Just forget about those things for a second, forget about what’s need to be done or especially what’s supposed to be done in this world, if you can never use those words again in your life because nothing’s need to be done really, you just be yourself and do or explore the things that makes you feel yourself the most and don’t worry about the rest. But this of course takes courage and time to build up that courage-sometimes-which is a very natural process. Also by saying “i’m rather successful in many other things” i assume that you think the only element getting your way to be totally “awesome” or a hundred percent successful person is to have a companion which is an unacceptable expectation actually. Can you see what’s wrong in here? You perceive those things you count above like a material possession.
And the fatal error is that you’re expecting from someone else to come and love you. Which subconsciously shows that you actually don’t want to move a finger in order to create an environment both within and without yourself to be able to perceive love in your life.I don’t even know what you mean by love. People use this word very freely in every situation, it kinda lost its meaning now. Can you understand what i mean? This is your responsibility, to love and to have love in yourself all the times whether you have a love a particular person or not. Only then the person who’s right for you, one that will resonate with you will appear in your life. But you’ve got to make a space for it. You’ve got to love yourself which means paying attention for your mental and emotional needs, trusting the GPS system within yourself.
This issue will haunt you until you make the decision to open up, take the responsibility and track down yourself.

Hope it made sense a bit. And i wish you good luck, hoping for the best for you! :))

Oshen June 28, 2012 at 5:17 am

Ulkem Yilmaz,
Feels like there is something true in that – i got an urge to be defensive and pick on things that are wrongly guessed about me. Or just an urge to clarify.

I find it hard to imagine just liking a really ugly woman, she’ll have to be very lovable in something else.
Mirror that, and good looks matter, whether necessary or not.

About success is where the interesting part begins.
Do you speak about it from your own understanding, or passing over something you got somewhere else, i.e. from David here?

On one line you consider having fun being tragic, but just a few lines later you say to be yourself and explore what you like. How is that contradiction resolved?

I do agree about definitions of success being pressed from outside, but it also makes sense – in civilized world your capabilities are proportional to either income or acquaintances.
The more you moved around the world, the more you’ve seen. The more you’ve seen and witnessed, the more you can understand. The more you understand, the more powerful you are. Would you drift with low income, or sail ahead with high? I like the latter.

I mentioned “success in other things” along with good looks as an attractive thing – “women love successful men” factoid. But what you said is also somewhat true – i do expect to be loved.

I’ve been in love once, i wanted to be with her, in both meanings. I didn’t care about her drawbacks and quirks. So i was around, keeping her comfortable, anticipating her needs. But in the end, i told her i loved her, and she replied that there is nothing she can help me with about it.

And that’s the part that makes the recurring theme – love is always unilateral, i never was loved back.

At first i thought being nice mattered.
It’s kind of assumed in our culture, that being nice is valuable. That if you be a nice kid and do “good” things, like help an elderly woman with a weakness stroke get home, then there is a reward implied. And it hurt that the reward does not materialize.
Truth is, there is no reward, no top-100 of nicest people, no karmic pay-off, and so on.

Then i thought success mattered.
Society sets values on the kind of success you described. And once again, there is an anticipation of a karmic reward for getting over the hurdles of the way to that success. And the explicit reward never arrives.
Money is like energy – the more you have, the more direct a course you can take.
But the course is not laid in automatically.

Now i think understanding matter.
The more you understand, the more you are capable of, in so many ways and meanings.
Not just the knowledge, but actual understanding on how to apply the knowledge, and how it is being applied around the world.

But still, no one loves me back.

Thanks for trying to help, however. Maybe that bigger impression could help you sharpen your advice?

A P July 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Wow, Oshen, so much to say. I’ll try to be brief though.

I didn’t find love until this year (age 28). I’m also told I’m good looking, and was extremely successful academically and in my career.

Why, exactly, it took this long is hard to say. But I will say this: it is beyond clear to me that if I could take back all those years of obsessive worrying about whether I was attractive to women, or could be loved, it would be the best gift I could give myself.

Besides that, your worry about being loved may be a big obstacle to being loved, as others have pointed out. Don’t think this means “try to hold off on that worry for a day, and then worry more the next day because it didn’t work on the first day.” I mean suspend it permanently. It will reduce your anxiety, and help your chances of finding someone, but more important than either of these is that it’s simply the best course of action. To paraphrase David, anxiety is never anything more than a dysfunctional relationship between you and what you experience.

Finally, I think you have this “being nice” thing totally backward. Women *do* love nice men. Expecting a reward for helping an old lady cross the street is not “nice.” It’s dickish. Women — no, people — respect others who do nice things for no reason other than they want to be of benefit in this world. Try setting your sights on that goal. Maybe love will follow.

thedr9wningman June 30, 2012 at 11:07 am

@Oshen: Apologising for who you are is one of the biggest traps I see people get into. Society supposedly doesn’t accept you for who you are: you must conform! But conformists are fakes and no one likes them!

When you meet people who you are interested, do you try to conform to what you think that they want out of you? There is a lesson in there… summed up in Coming to America. (see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMAftJisvIA)

I’ve observed that I have tried submitting to the wills of those who I’m involved with. Once I gave up on that, I found my wife. I hope this may strike a chord or otherwise help.

And, by the way, there is no ‘supposed to’. That’s all crap levied on you by those who wish to control you.

cynthia July 9, 2012 at 2:49 am

hi oshen (cool name, is it real?) Anyways, i relate to you in many ways (rejection, unrequieted love) so i kind of get what you are saying. I’m 22 and never been in a relationship, ive only gone so far as holding hands with a guy so you can just imagine my inexperience in dating. It started to get to me when i hit my late teens and it wasnt until i hit my twenties that it REALLY bothered me. Like you, i started wondering what was wrong with me. Am i Ugly? Am i cursed? And so on so forth. I even started asking my closest friends and like you, they swore that nothing was wrong with me. One of them even swears that im beautiful. So what then? Well, i continued on. I thought long and HARD looking at things from far back. And lo and behold i made some discoveries. Here goes, maybe some of these ring true for you also? who knows.

1) I self-sabotage….ALOT!!! It seemed to be the common thread among all the missed opportunities that i’ve had. I mean, i went so far as acting disinterested whenever i was around a guy i liked. How was that supposed to help me nab the guy? There were plenty of more self sabotaging things ive done and the scary thing is that i did them EVERY SINGLE TIME i had an opportunity.

2) This goes with the first one. I HAD opportunities! i’m pretty sure if you think long and hard, alternating your perspective even, you will realize that there were a few opportunities here and there and for one reason or another, it didnt work out (in my case, self sabotaging) but in yours who knows, bad timing? idk. only you can answer that. Realizing that i had opportunities gave me hope. Made me feel like i had another chance around the corner. I challenge you to think back to every romatic interest you’ve ever had and try to figure out what the common thread was that ruined these opportunities. And i know that you are knee deep in self depracation that your first instinct is to probably say that you never have opportunities but im willing to bet money that there were. THINK oshen. You need to figure out what the common thread to each and every lost opportunity was because then you will be conscious of it and being conscious of it will allow you to catch yourself next time when you are about to make the same mistake.
3) This is the most crucial part for me. As i looked back into the past, i realised how much i wasnt ready for a relationship. The times when i seemed to really yearn and long for someone were times when i was at my lowest emotionally and even psychologically. I suffered from low self-esteem, especially in my teens and i remember wanting someone to basically come rescue me. That finding someone, a boyfriend, was the missing link towards happiness. It wasn’t and still isnt (i have to keep reminding myself that). I realised that it was probably best that i never got into a relationship all of those years because i was in such an unhealthy place in my life, that the probability of getting into an unhealthy and toxic relationship at that time was very high. Its like the universe was kind of looking out for me. It was giving me time to recognize that i need to fix myself first and love myself first before trying to take on someone else. Basically oshen, you have to work on your self esteem. Its not easy, im still trying to figure out how to gain some self confidence, but you really really have to start working on your self esteem. Stop looking to find happiness from external places and start working on making YOURSELF happy. start working on loving yourself first.
Sigh. Im having a really hard time articulating myself so i can only pray that some of this is making sense. I was too lazy to comment but i felt compelled to just in your case. I don’t claim to have all the answers and i’m still figuring things out myself as i go along. If anything i just hope you get the whole concept that the universe is looking out for you even when it doesnt seem like it. When i got that concept it made it easier to loosen the grip on wanting a relationship so bad and to try to focus on bettering myself and trusting that when im ready, it will all come.
So once again, change the perspective of how you’ve been thinking, recognize your patterns/habits, work on your personal demons and hopefully you will be close towards your dream.
Also, stop asking God to send you someone, ask God to send you someone WHEN YOU ARE READY. God is sneaky sometimes. You gotta specify what you want.
Best wishes.

ERF February 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Dear Oshen,
Love yourself first.
If you loved yourself, then you wouldn’t need to ask this question. How can a companion love you if YOU don’t love yourself? Be the change.

Jeff June 25, 2012 at 4:14 am

The main limiting factor in my life has been none other than myself. I don’t take chances, not because other people tell me I’m not good enough, but because I tell myself I’m not good enough. Not opening up to others for fear of judgment and rejection, yet knowing that this distancing also hurts my ability to connect with people. In every area of my life, the biggest resistance I find is not from the world, but from myself. I’m trying to work though these issues, but it’s not always easy.

Morgan Le Quesne June 25, 2012 at 4:16 am

A recurring theme-lack of self discipline..at aged 65 years old, I find I have never been able to follow the inclinations I have. Small talents for drawing, writing, singing and languages.. none pursued passed the rudimentary stage. I only thing I do consistently is read fiction fantasy, dragons, magic and good verses evil.I console myself with the delusion that I deserve indulging myself after a lifetime of working at occupations I could of excelled at, but, alas, my lack of self-discipline prevented me from scaling heights.

Will June 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Thanks for sharing Morgan.

Recovering Entrepreneur June 25, 2012 at 4:30 am

I would have to say (like others have said) that I lack self confidence. It seems strange as it is a relatively recent thing, maybe the last 5-6 years or so. I had a pretty bad upbringing (although only realised as an adult), I was abandoned by both my Father and Mother at different times, and abused in different ways but for some reason when I was a kid I just seemed to get on with it and never doubted my abilities at all. Then when I hit maybe 22-25 things really changed, my confidence in myself seemed to drop through the floor. These years included having children with my Wife and starting my company after working for several start-ups. I sold my company a few moths ago and I am now working on my next whilst doing consultancy and managing a department for another internet company.

I was at my Wing Chun class on Saturday and met an inventor, he seemed fearful of putting his product ideas out in to the market, I told him to “just do it” and “it’s just fear holding you back”. It sounded like the teenage me talking, and I left thinking I hope I can take my own advice.

A story that always sticks with me is from an interview with Ian Wright (famous UK football player for Arsenal FC). He says “when I was playing on the pitch I always had a thought in my mind that at any point someone would walk on to the pitch and say stop the game, this blokes Ian Wright the Welder, he can’t play football). I often share this, I was in a meeting with a couple of VC’s the other week in London, and for 20 mins I was waiting for them to say “you haven’t got a clue”. But they wrote an email to the company I was representing and advised they thought I was a great addition to the management team and were very impressed with my knowledge of the industry and my deep technical understanding. Half way through the meeting they shared a new device with me from china and said this is the next big thing in this industry, I smiled as I had been playing with them for over 2 years and they are the basis of my next business.

A lack of confidence then seems to be my overall problem, gone are the days when I would say of course I can do it. I do hope they come again.

David June 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm

>A story that always sticks with me is from an interview with Ian Wright (famous UK football player for Arsenal FC). He says “when I was playing on the pitch I always had a thought in my mind that at any point someone would walk on to the pitch and say stop the game, this blokes Ian Wright the Welder, he can’t play football

I know that feeling, and I think it’s a huge factor in how we live. Steve Pavlina has talked about that phenomenon a lot. He says that the greatest obstacle to making a dramatic change in life is the change of identity that must result. If a person always thinks of himself as the “out of shape guy” he will find that everything he does to get into shape is much harder than it would be for anyone else, because all the necessary actions are in defiance of who he believes he is. I’ve seen this happen in my own life but I bet it happens way more than I’m aware of.

Pat December 12, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I know I’m a year and a half late to the party but I love the Ian Wright quote and am wondering if there’s a link to the interview somewhere? I did the requisite Googling and couldn’t find it so any clues as to where / when it took place would be great (print? tv? year?). It’s a feeling I empathize with and just wanted a little more background.


northernchimp June 25, 2012 at 4:36 am

I think my biggest problem has been relationships, and my inability to feel content when I’m in them, I’m always looking around at other women, wondering who they are, and what a relationship would be like with them. Committing to one woman just seems to be getting harder, not easier. I’ve been in love several times, which is what makes my sense of guilt even worse. Is it just my biology doing the talking? Women are the most beautiful things in the world as far as I’m concerned, so I just can’t stop wanting them, it does my head in.

Gab June 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

I married my husband when he was 54 years old… and until then, he had not been faithful in any relationship for more than a couple of month… he loved women and women loved him. He was in love with love… and that is great!

We have been now 9 years together and the only reason why we do so is because we want to… it comes naturally… and if it does not come naturally for you yet or ever, why force it? Commitment is not a pre requisition of happiness…

thedr9wningman June 30, 2012 at 11:13 am

Did you read the Why we Fuck post? @Northernchimp: I have grass-is-greener syndrome. But your post gives me pause because it has the underlying assumption that monogamy is the way to be and is the only template for a relationship.

It is not.

Abandon it if it doesn’t work for you.

Similarly, I recognised long ago that factory-made shirts and pants don’t fit me. So I got a tailor. Now I design my clothes and I am more comfortable and look better than ever.

Tailor your relationships to you. Don’t take a factory-made relationship. You’ll get factory-made results (divorce, boredom, passive aggressive crap…).

It sounds like you need to find a polyamorous bisexual girl…

And yes, ‘love’ is usually biological. Real love is complete acceptance. And if someone completely accepts that you’re always ‘shopping’… that may actually short-circuit your own desire to shop!

Tony Draxler June 25, 2012 at 4:53 am

My biggest problem is lack of discipline. It effects every aspect of my life. Even with introspection and self-realization I’ve been unable to make the changes in my life I know I need. I’m fully aware of the changes I need to make in my life, I understand how to be happier, but I can’t seem to DO it. I’ve fallen into a 20 year pattern of bad habits and I can’t understand why I can’t make myself do anything about it. If I’m cold and I want to be warmer, I know what to do; I put on a coat. If I’m unhappy because I ache all day because I’m out of shape, I know what to do, I should exercise, but I can’t. I know that I CAN, but I haven’t, and I don’t. Even when I’m SURE that I want to and KNOW it’s something that I have to do, I still don’t do it. I was blessed/cursed with “Intellectual Giftedness” which wikipedia describes as “an intellectual ability significantly higher than average. It is different from a skill, in that skills are learned or acquired behaviors. Like a talent, intellectual giftedness is usually believed to be an innate, personal aptitude for intellectual activities that cannot be acquired through personal effort.”. I never had to put forth any personal effort and never “learned” that hard work is necessary. It’s extremely difficult (nearly impossible it seems) for me to make a conscious decision to do something I don’t want to do right now, instead of something I want to do, for greater returns in the future. I have to teach myself discipline, like a new habit, but I have to have discipline to do that. It’s a cycle I don’t know how to break and it’s ruining my life.

Karen J June 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Like you, Tony, I never learned the ‘How To’s of Difficult Work’ – If I can get in a groove or ‘the Zone’, I can work on some things for hours at a stretch, but something that I have to struggle with, or ‘slog through?’ That’s most likely to quickly get back-burnered, buried or “Oooops! I forgot”-ed.

Thanks for asking, David…

Tiva Joy June 25, 2012 at 5:31 am

The hardest thing has been my dad, who I was close to, taking his own life and not wanting to continue his life for anyone, even me.

Nate June 29, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I’m so sorry about your dad. Some say that suicide is selfish, because it is the loved ones left behind that must live with the guilt and hurt over the decision. As a dad, I refuse to assume he was selfish. It was probably an impulsive decision brought on by pain that temporarily blinded him to the greater reasons to stick it out. It’s a tragedy that it resulted in something irreversible and I’m sure he’d pick a different path if he had for one second considered that you’d ever have the thought ‘he didn’t want to be around for me’. That’s probably the single worst feeling I can imagine as a dad…that my kids felt I gave up on them.

I dated a woman who lost her dad to suicide when she was 17. We started dating in our early 30’s for four years and she STILL was not over the event and still had severe trust, blame, and victim issues. I loved her dearly (still do) but we just couldn’t make it work. I’m convinced a big reason is that she never really dealt with the pain from losing him and that kept manifesting itself in unhealthy ways.

Maybe none of this even remotely applies to your situation, just taking a stab in the dark and hoping a tiny bit helps. If not, I am sorry. I can’t begin to really understand what you have went through but I’ve been real close to it for a long time.

Vardo June 25, 2012 at 5:32 am


I have about £17,000 in college debt. Its just hit me that I have to pay this back. Its common that the thought of paying back money makes me feel grumpy. I feel like i’ve already lost out on something. I dont feel free. I feel like a slave to the system. They caught me out so early. But then again, i do have a degree. Just I dont want to work for a corporate machine. I want to travel the world whilst im still free to do so. But the longer I wait to pay this money back, the more interest will mean more i have to pay back.

My point is, sometimes i go about life without a care for money, and other times its hits me so hard, my mood is controlled by it, stopping me from seeing the positive and trusting in the future and my financial well being.

How am I going to pay it back, i dont know.

Benedict June 25, 2012 at 5:37 am

The recurring theme for me has to be a feeling of isolation and alienation from the people around me. I don’t have time to elaborate much right now, but it’s always felt like I’m an outsider. I think this feeling has resulted in me holding back in social situations, not wanting to commit myself to interacting with other people, in case my feelings are reinforced by rejection and further outcastness.

I’ve just moved to a foreign country on my own and I haven’t slept for 27 hours, so that may be influencing my answer, but this is definitely the hardest part of life for me. Always feeling different from other people, not being able to ‘fit in’.

C June 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Me too: feeling like I don’t belong here, like when I enter a room I bring a coldness with me, an alien presence that quiets people and makes them self-conscious like I am.

It’s really difficult to explain. The feeling is ubiquitous throughout my life, though. I think it might stem, in the deepest darkest part of me, from a desire to be different from other people. Like if I never belong, that only reinforces my individuality, and I can tell myself all sorts of stories about how unique and intelligent I am. Thousands of times I’ve held my thoughts from others because “They wouldn’t be interested,” or “They wouldn’t understand.” I think it’s a form of elitism. I tell myself very few people are on my level, which I know, from the times I shared my thoughts which I considered “weird” or “difficult,” isn’t true.

I’ve been climbing a ladder of realization these past years, coming to understand how similar I am. It’s all in the expression. I think my alienation will continue to subside as I learn to further embrace my “sameness.” Of course there will be things that make me unique, but they’re not worth obsessing over.

I just want to be able to melt into a room of friends, and become an effortless part of the group, and have people smile when they see me and really mean it, and have confidence in myself that I am my own person, but I’m also part of a warm collective, and that’s equally important. Maybe that’s the most important thing of all.

Nate June 29, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Wow, I could have written both of these comments about not wanting or being able to fit in. It’s a strange thing to notice that I purposely avoid being like everyone else at the same time knowing that I’m missing out. It’s pretty rare that I am really ‘me’ with other people, especially in a group. I vividly remember a comment by one of my coworkers when we were dining out while on the road for business. The three of us had been talking sports for a while and one told me ‘you always are talking about sports, is that all you do in your spare time?’. I tried to answer no and listed a few other interests, but it was really hard to come up with any at all. Which was odd because ‘sports’ isn’t even in my top 20 subjects that my brain is usually paying attention to. That little exchange really stunned me.

I thought about it hard afterwards and realized that the answer was I either didn’t want them to know the rest of me or just knew they didn’t care or wouldn’t understand. So my default has been to just portray a very different image to ‘fit in’ the same fake way they do because we all really didn’t have that much in common.

The really strange part is it got me wondering if it was me pretending to be like them or all of us pretending to be like what we thought each other would be the most accepting of. I’m pretty sure it’s the former, and I’m just that much more eccentric…but that’s also the mindset that has caused me to subconsciously choose the intellectual path less traveled specifically to claim difference from the ‘average person’ for my whole life.

I wished I would have said something like ‘no, I pay attention to sports enough to know what’s going on and can therefore have a tiny bit in common with people such as yourself but I can also talk to you about the latest findings in quantum physics, discuss the last 18 podcasts/blogs I listened to about a way unrelated set of subjects, or I can show you my personal research notes on life, the universe and everything based on the last dozen books I read along those lines…. but since I doubt you’ve given science a second thought since high school, probably don’t know what podcasts are, and probably don’t read books for fun or expanding your knowledge of the world then maybe we should just stick to how good the Vikings are going to be next year since that is something we can all have meaningless but somewhat equally valid opinions to share about?’

Sorry about the rant, felt good to get it off my chest though!

Jane June 25, 2012 at 6:20 am

Oh too easy -me. In the best way possible. I’m constantly learning to get out of my own way; to not be my biggest stumbling block and to just be me. I’m not entirely sure I’d describe hard, it used to be, now it’s period of growth, often uncomfortably so, and then periods of stillness while I get my breath back. I think it’s just called life and it’s a privilege to do it.

Shelly June 25, 2012 at 6:55 am

There have been many challenges, and the above mentioned of discipline and money are very consistent throughout my life. But right now it is that I am clearly on a solo mission in this life – unmarried, uncoupled, un-partnered, etc. I firmly believe that is the correct path for me, but living in a society where pairs are the norm can at times be a challenge. Everyone I associate with on a regular basis is either paired or if not, trying really hard to be paired. I’m the only single person I know who is actually trying to stay that way! I feel at times as though I must be doing something wrong, or must have the wrong perspective or something. I have had many relationships in my life, and I know that I feel happier and far more content when I’m not in one. I guess I would just like to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way!

Alex June 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

There’s a blog on Psychology Today all about choosing to remain single, including the kinds of discrimination (singlism) that you can face and what not. While not single myself, it’s helped open my eyes to the fact that many people choose to be single, and to break some of the stereotypes about them. You might find some of its articles interesting. :)

Alex June 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm

And like a moron, I forget to include the link. Sorry!


Jason June 25, 2012 at 6:58 am

Taking on the responsibility and ultimately power that I know I’m capable of- this has been the hardest thing. I am somewhat stuck in my young 20s. I’m only 27, but I still like to smoke weed or drink beer about 3 times a week. I feel that this limits my time to spend on productive activities, however, my mind seems to love the break at the moment. The following day I am less productive. I’m not an alcoholic as I don’t tend to get wasted and hardly ever drink hard liquor, but I can’t seem to get over the hump of being content with never “warping” my brain.

How did you get past this “college” lifestyle?

likeminded August 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm

lemme know when you find out!

AS Spouse June 25, 2012 at 7:13 am

Two things – one long term, one short term.
The thing I’ve battled my entire life is shame. For me its that feeling that I’m not quite good enough. That I don’t measure up. That I’m somehow ‘less than’. Growing up I was never good enough for my parents and I’ve never been able to shake that feeling.

As I look back, (I’m 47) I see that at every point in my life shame is literally dripping from me. This has led me down some destructive paths – porn addiction, food addiction, judgementalism, resentments, bitterness… All futile attempts to make me feel better about myself. My faith has helped me tremendously, but it’s still a daily struggle to believe that I’m worth more than a dung hill.

The short term issue for me has been accepting my wife’s Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Over the past 3 years I’ve really been forced to deal with it and start accepting it even though she is in total denial. She (like many AS folks) is not able to connect at an emotional level. She cannot truly feel empathy. Prior to 3 years ago, I just thought it was me (as she so often told me) which only fed my shame all the more. But I’m learning to let go of the person I thought she was and embrace the person she is. And I know now that it’s not all me even if she doesn’t believe it.

Steph in Berkeley June 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Very powerful. Deep-reaching. Thank you for sharing this.

Kate June 25, 2012 at 7:28 am

For me the hardest this is the constant conflict between how and what I feel I “should be” and how and what I feel I am. This comes in the form of how I feel about my body, my career, my level of education, my home, my finances, my relationships and own family (or lack thereof)… Every aspect of my life! Even down to what I like to watch on TV (soap operas) and what I think I “should” be watching (intellectual documentaries). I really give myself a rough time all of the time! I wish I could just ease up!

Cara June 25, 2012 at 7:44 am

Good one, Kate. I’m with you on that. We’re so tough on ourselves, and social conditioning often leads us to feel like we’re making poor or wrong choices – especially if we’re not confident about ourselves or our choices already.

Listen to your gut and learn to trust it. It’s never, ever wrong.

Cara June 25, 2012 at 7:41 am

Loneliness. It only struck me in the last couple of weeks that loneliness is not just something that’s “happened” to me or that I’ve invited consciously into my life over the years. I know there has to be more to it, and I’ve set out on a mission to finally try to unearth what it might be.

Emily White’s book “Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude” is a fascinating, comforting yet also nerve-hitting exploration of this no-prescription-for-it condition, and while I’m but a mere 50 or so pages into the book, I’m devastated and elated to read what she’s laid out in black and white – most importantly (so far), that loneliness and depression are NOT one and the same. I’m not depressed! I’m just lonely.

I had an idyllic childhood, up to the age of 9 when dad died (then things got shitty for a decade or two); I’ve had a successful career; been brave (quit that career to backpack around the world solo at the age of 39); I’ve had a best friend for almost 30 years; I eat healthy and train hard; I volunteer. Others think my life is fascinating and dynamic and interesting. But to me, it’s always lonely.

CB June 30, 2012 at 11:12 am

Cara, thank you for the book recommendation. I got it from the library and I’m about halfway through. So much of what she writes about is spot on and describes how I’ve felt for a very long time. I think I’m one of those unfortunate people who has suffered from varying degrees of loneliness almost my entire life. For the longest time I thought the problem was just me, but turns out its loneliness.

Stefan June 25, 2012 at 7:42 am

To me its always been a struggle to know what I really want in life. What do I want to do with my time. How to earn money in a way that I enjoy the time I spend at work and its not just a boring job as I do at the moment.

I know what I enjoy in my leisure time but Its hard to see a way to do that as my profession.

Arielle June 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm

From personal experience the challenge to this really staying true to yourself. Yielding to the things that you’re really passionate about. The problem is it may not produce EVERYTHING else we want. For some our true passions may mean we may not make as much money as we want, it may mean a lot traveling that make relationships difficult, or require us to sacrifice things we’re already fond of. It’s these things that get in the way. But when were ready to truly sacrifice for something, that’s when we know where our hearts lie. I recently discovered my passion is activism and am preparing myself to folow my dream. i told myself I can’t have my cake and eat it to. It may not include things I’m already attached to but this what makes me happy and my gifts are tailored for this. It might help to remind yourself of what your gifts are. it might also help to ask what makes you passionate and your heat race without fail? I was in my 3rd year of pre-pharmacy when i discovered I am not meant to be a doctor. As I withdrew from my chemsitry class, the profressor bestowed his wisdom upon me( I never even went to his class) . but he told me a carreer is a job you sacrifice EVERYTHING for. in hindsight it seems obvious but it wasn’t until then that I could relate. I then asked myself what am i willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING for? Civil servitude. And I’m going for it. I hope this helps. Good luck.

Arielle June 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Please pardon the typos. I’m aware there are many. I should’ve edited it before posting.

Mariana June 25, 2012 at 8:02 am

The recurrent problem I’ve been having is procrastination and laziness. It’s not that I don’t do things, it’s just that I keep postponing them until the last moment. And even when I get around something, and I start doing what I have to do, I pause in the middle of it to do some other trivial thing. If I look though at all that I’ve done until now, and by that I’m referring to academic stuff mostly (I’m in college), you might say that I’m well above average. But I can’t shake the feeling that I could’ve done better if I had focused a little bit more. And when I finish something, I am usually unhappy of how it turned out, and maybe this dissatisfaction amplifies the laziness: why should I do that, if it’s not gonna be great anyway?
Moreover, what annoys me most, is that I’ve read all sorts of things and methods to get things done, but they simply didn’t stick. It’s been three years since I fell in this slump, and even though I am thinking daily that I should get up and do what I want, I still don’t do that.

Will June 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm

One way to look at things is that although there is pain to get up and do what you want to do and it seems easier not to…. there is much more long term pain from not doing what you know you should. Good luck.

Rose June 26, 2012 at 5:34 am

I know how you feel, and everything you said I experienced. I’ll soon graduate, probably with honors, and I haven’t put in the effort to deserve this grade. It makes me feel like a fraud.
I once kept a feeling diary about it. I realize that working makes me all sorts of anxious and I’ll do trivial thing to avoid feeling that. I don’t know where the anxiety comes from though.
Sometimes I manage to work, usually when I feel in control of my life. Otherwise, when it’s something I feel I “have” to do, forget it.

Alex June 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Agreed, especially about the feeling like a fraud. Even though I know things like this exist:

I still find myself thinking “if this seemingly half-assed effort is all it takes (for a diploma or recognition or work or whatever), what’s wrong with the world?”

Perhaps we’re not taking into account the fact that most people have similar struggles (as evidenced by these comments for sure!), so maybe even getting ourselves to put in /some/ effort and to accomplish /something/ even if we’re not 100% satisfied with it is actually worth something. If we could all put 100% effort into everything we did, the world may be a really different place…but we shouldn’t feel bad if we can’t always do that because we’re only human, right?

Chelsea June 25, 2012 at 8:11 am

Apathy and inaction. I have long been an introspective, creative person and easily get riled up and excited about many things and yet unless I am making several small goals (and sometime irregardless of these goals) I often leave projects unfinished or will squash down impulses that I am compelled toward. I do not lack for passion, but the motivation to see things through has been a big theme in my life. I see it everywhere around me also. Procrastination…fuelled either by fear or laziness, but let’s say that the latter is just an incarnation of the former, this is perhaps just a byproduct of a restless feeling of futility which creates a kind of cycle. It has improved over the span of my adult life (i’m turning 30 this year) but I find myself consistently readdressing these feelings. Our culture has encouraged inaction in many ways, certainly with readily available distractions, but I am noticing a change in the community at large. People are getting vocal and more involved and I feel as though we could all make a huge shift in the near future. For me, I’ll start by following through on the little things and go from there.

David June 26, 2012 at 7:10 am

>Procrastination…fuelled either by fear or laziness, but let’s say that the latter is just an incarnation of the former, this is perhaps just a byproduct of a restless feeling of futility which creates a kind of cycle.

Sounds scarily familiar

Sheldon June 25, 2012 at 8:21 am

Alienation. Becoming a cynic. I am a teacher… and I love having a job in which I serve others (or perhaps I am just in love with the idea of service). When I first started teaching I was going to change the world. Now I am happy if I can just reach out to one or two kids and enrich their lives. Here’s the thing though, the longer I live the more I realize how unmotivated, what slackers so many are. What ever happened to the pursuit of excellence? I know I shouldn’t focus on those students… the only thing I have control over is myself… but it is so damn annoying sometimes hearing the kid calculating what mark they need to get on their final to pass the class. Really? That is where you are setting the bar? Is it pride? Am I being too controlling? Too cynical?

David June 26, 2012 at 7:20 am

>but it is so damn annoying sometimes hearing the kid calculating what mark they need to get on their final to pass the class. Really? That is where you are setting the bar? Is it pride? Am I being too controlling? Too cynical?

This would frustrate me too. I wonder if the problem isn’t the character of the students but the system of evaluation. I remember being really hung up on marks, like the number on my test really was a measure of my most important qualities. I was pursuing good marks and the approval that went with them, but I know school never gave me the incentives to pursue excellence for its own sake. School was imposed on us, we had little choice in how or what we learned, none of us wanted to be there. It was an adversary. Anyway, sorry for the public education rant, I just think the problem with student motivation may be systematic.

In any case, there were a few teachers out there who really had a lasting effect on my character and my values, and who continue to influence my life and my decisions. If you can even just make that connection to one or two kids, be assured you are providing an incredible service, and not just to them.

Sheldon June 26, 2012 at 8:10 am

Yeah… good points. Come to think of it there were times when I was in school just for the sake of hanging with my friends as well. I guess I need to remember that. I like what you say about school being an adversary. So true… especially high school when teenagers are forming their own values and starting to forge their own paths. Hell sometimes I am the one telling them “Don’t trust anyone over 30” as I am a bit of a hippy. Thanks David… I really needed that. 3 and half more days until summer vacation (but who’s counting?… hahaha).

Alex June 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Don’t blame yourself, I think a big part of it is the system, like David said. Especially in High School, with workload going up just at the point when people are craving more autonomy and forging their own identity. If each student had only your class and was getting their autonomy needs met outside school, I’m sure they’d respond better to your teaching. My partner’s little sister is in H.S. now, and I would not be exaggerating to say she gets more work in 1 day than I do — and I’m getting paid to do it!

Not sure what the best solution would be, since our system isn’t set up with different curricula for people with different interests and persuasions, but hopefully as you continue on in your career you’ll be able to help more students. <3 In my opinion, teachers are one of the most important jobs on our planet!

LunaJune June 25, 2012 at 8:33 am

I have struggled with fitting in all of my life……never felt alone when I was alone , but in groups and gatherings I feel completely alone unless I have one person I know. My job running the Vet Clinic for the last 30 years has helped me greatly in that it forced me to talk to complete strangers, to ask them to trust me, to give my trust back….but still outside of that world, face to face, voice to voice I’m still tongue tied, and most people don’t believe me. The racing heart beat, the butterflies…oh my. In print, with words no fears flow.
Trying more and more to put myself out there with voice with the hope that one day I’ll find it fully :~)
now if the procrastination will go away I might get to it today LOL

Thanks David these questions really ask us to share, to participate, to open

Alex June 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I’m not sure if this would help, but I found that participating in a club kind-of helped. I took Japanese in High School, and later in University I joined a Japanese Meet-up Group in my city. They met twice weekly at a coffee shop, and very few people knew each other.

It helped too that the Japanese have a tradition of “Jiko-shoukai” (self-introduction) which is a fairly formal way of introducing yourself. Meet-ups often brought out new people, and few knew each other at the start, so it didn’t have the same feeling as trying to join a group who already all know one another. Every meet-up would start by going around the table giving brief self-introductions, and then you’d all chat over coffee about the common interest.

It may sound silly, but I did find that helped a lot. I got much more accustomed to introducing myself, listening to others, asking open-ended questions to get people to open up more…I feel it’s probably the biggest boost in confidence I had in University.

Sheila June 25, 2012 at 8:41 am

Hi David! Thanks for asking. My biggest problem is to communicate with other people. When I’m alone I can handle almost every situation that doesn’t involve people and find the right words to express myself but when I’m out there, no matter what, I collapse, I feel extremely uncomfortable with everybody (included myself) and people misunderstand me, then I don’t want to be seen… That interferes my everyday life, some days are better than others but this feeling of dread is always present. That’s it! Again thanks for asking and writing this amazing blog. Hope you have a nice week!

GoodGravyBoat June 25, 2012 at 8:54 am

The recurring obstacle in my life has been my self imposed limitations that almost always are created through procrastinated perfectionism. When I really put my heart into something, it usually works out ok (not always, but usually)…but it takes so much work in talking myself onto the ledge to get things started. I am not afraid of failing (that’s not so bad, actually), I just don’t want, for all my efforts, to be mediocre.

Gab June 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

My biggest issue right now is making money with what I like to do most.

For many years I have been helping others be better persons, making money, taking care of their kids, controlling crisis, improve self esteem, repair stuff, cooking, marketing, design, contracts, learn whatever, you name it… I have always been a multitasking person moving from place to place fixing things or people but somehow this nomad life has transformed me into a shapeshifter… I do everything but nothing… when I look myself in the mirror I don’t recognize who “me” is…

I have used my superpowers in every job I’ve had… so, for example, I would help someone, during negotiations, to sign a contract by working on their personal profile more than the subject of the contract itself, and that just being a PA. I also remember when during college I work on a bar, becoming a personal adviser, what a cliché…smile. I have even develop a couple of master thesis for friends…

All my life I have had jobs that gave me enough money… waiting for the day I would get “my” job… the one I really want… After a huge existential crisis, I decided that I would go back to study again and become a therapist or coach, so I would earn money doing what I like most…

But, for some reason I have a big issue now asking for money in a job where the work itself is so close to hot air instead of something more measurable…

Gab June 25, 2012 at 10:19 am

Reading myself again, I realized that my recurring issue was not so clear… so here it goes… I have always used meaningless jobs to masked my real skills so at the end I would end up being special. And now I feel vulnerable and uncomfortable asking for money just being me.

Karen J June 26, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Whow, Gab! That’s a really profound insight: “I have always used meaningless jobs to masked my real skills so at the end I would end up being special.”

It’s rather painful to see that in print, too, because you’ve peeled back several more layers of ‘me’ that I didn’t realize were there ~ Thanks, I guess ;) More pondering in my immediate future, I see!
As for your “I feel vulnerable and uncomfortable asking for money just [for] being me” part, you may find some tender and respectfully helpful support at Mark Silver’s Heart of Business site…

Bright Blessings ~

janet June 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

well, i can see by these wonderfully honest & revealing comments, that i am not alone ! :) recurring themes seem to be lonliness, procrastination, feelings of isolation & questions about our self worth -not being sure what to do, how do do it, or should we do it at all ? i guess i can’t pick just one…as i seem to suffer from them all ! I am a 55yr “young” female, & I wasn’t always like this. i have that “innate intelligence”, but no motivation..i think i know what i would like – peace of mind. i’m in my head too much..thinking,wondering, ruminating, and so, i actually ruin my own peace of mind ! as i said, i wasn’t always like this..i remember being confident, outgoing, knowing what i wanted and actually following thru-most of the time. what happened is multiple deaths of the people i love the most. within 9 years i lost my brother( to suicide), father, mother, uncle & husband of 16 yrs- the love of my life! these losses have shaken me to the core- literally. so,- i dont know what i want, feel lonliness in spite of a few very good friends, and in spite of a general optimisim which i was apparently born with..i cant seem to get “unstuck”. i am mostly a good & extremely compassionate person without direction at this juncture. i guess feeling lost is a way to describe it..i told my therapist that i feel ..like the astronaut floating out in space on a tether…or trying to outrun that damn black cloud ! i dont know my purpose- and i think that is the main issue..something that makes myself & others happy !! when i find
out what that is, & actually DO it, perhaps life will be happier, more grounded and i will finally get that peace of mind !! i wish this for all of you, as well…

AS Spouse June 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I often get caught up in ‘life as a destination’ rather than ‘life as a journey’. When I live life as a destination – always looking for something on the horizon that’ll make things better – I end up angry and depressed. I’ve been learning lately to live life as a journey. Each day is a unique adventure that I get to participate in!

I don’t know my life purpose either, but for me that becomes less and less important. I believe that if I live each day to the fullest I can and really appreciate everything that comes my way that my purpose will be revealed to me. The universe is unfolding exactly how it should and how it needs to. The same is true for me (and I believe for you and everyone).

K June 25, 2012 at 10:55 am

The desire to avoid hurting others emotionally at the expense of self wellness. I avoid telling people how I really feel in my relationships with others if I know it’s going to cause them pain. But protecting others from pain completely is impossible. I am now suffering from anxiety and am suicidal, not to mention I have no idea who I am or what I want in life anymore.

Marie June 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm

First off, if you feel suicidal, the first thing you should do is to take the time to tell someone in your life how you feel.

You don’t need to know who you are or what you want out of life. That is as ever changing as life is and no one has it all figured out. Even if you think they do, they are probably keeping in the same kinds of feelings as you. A great friend once told me, life isn’t easy, but it’s good. It will get better for you. Much love.

Steph in Berkeley June 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm

If you come to feel actively suicidal and there’s no one in your life you can tell or talk to, reach out to a hotline or your doctor, or call or go to a psych hospital.

Almost always when someone is suicidal–a part of them is suicidal, but other parts are NOT and want to live. Listening to the suicidal or depressive thoughts alienates you from these other parts of yourself. Don’t act on what one part of you wants, an unhealthy part at that. You’re worth getting past this period of darkness.

kitschculture June 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm

K – I guess the question is whether that’s what you want. Is it important for you to be the person who the other person wants you to be? If you answered yes, you have your work cut out for you. It’s nearly impossible to know what another person really wants because we don’t live in a world of perfect knowledge.
Another possibility is that want to be who you really are and just haven’t found a way to express it yet. In this case, it’s as easy as asking yourself as many questions as possible and using the answers to give yourself direction. Once you have direction, life becomes easier. You just really need to think about those things instead of what you don’t have.

As far as being suicidal – I think we’re all concerned but I don’t want to give you a cliche answer. One thing that’s always reverberated with me whenever I’ve begun to approach the idea of ending it is thinking about the positive things I can do with my life. I don’t think I could kill myself knowing that instead I could be helping someone who lives in my city or simply dropping everything I have here and working to improve the lives of people in remote parts of the third world. There is so much to do, it’s hard to justify ending your life when you can use it for good.

K June 26, 2012 at 9:46 am

I feel so touched that complete strangers are concerned for my well-being. Thank you for the advice-I’m doing better than I was a couple days ago. The bad thing about suicide is it creeps up on you when you least expect it, and you can attempt to reason it away logically all you want, but you can’t stop yourself from feeling worthless. I am seeing a therapist and have been for several months, he’s keeping an eye on it.

kitschculture June 27, 2012 at 2:45 am

Maybe you’re right K. Although I’ve pondered about suicide, I’m not sure it’s something that I’ve seriously considered. I’m glad you’re seeing someone who’s helping you take steps towards managing it.

If you ever need someone to beat you over the head with logic however, I’ll gladly be there for you.

Chantelle June 25, 2012 at 10:58 am

Insecurity. It plagues most aspects of my life. It’s amazing how one issue like that can have such a spider-web effect on your life. But I am aware of it. And I believe that is the first step.

Marie June 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm

It is.

Joy June 25, 2012 at 11:42 am

I love what you share, I love that you love NY, and I love the answers above…so much love *grin*
My recurring challenge is that I consistently embrace new and different–which is awesome and wonderful, *and* also means I am usually in the land of unknown. It sometimes requires faith and trust in the process of awareness and presence, larger than what I have. And it means it is essential for me to be surrounded by people who explore and expand in similar ways, which I tend to compromise on because I am fascinated with differences and larger than life personalities.

Gustavo | Frugal Science June 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Hard to answer that one, Dave, after your last post (the one with the meme included); it makes me say that I don’t have a problem. My life is very good; not great but I can’t complain.

Doing my best in trying to answer your question, I have to ask myself: Why not great?
And I would answer: too many options.
Having too many options is supposed to be great but makes me feel like I should be doing better. Makes sense?

Kai Davis June 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm

• Being okay with letting go.
• Understanding that this is all there is. There isn’t a magic place, person, location, or habit that ‘clicks’ and brings fulfillment. There’s no where to move that resonates perfectly. It is a struggle and that is joyus.
• Love has to come from within.

Marie June 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm

My problem is thinking that I can think my way out of things. I am entirely in my head and like to reason everything away (and am quite good at spinning stories for myself and others).

I am unhappy at work because….
I am unhappy in love because….
I have feelings of doubt because….

Thing is, I don’t have to always have an answer, as there are many answers to those questions. Someone above mentioned that having one problem has a spider-web-like effect on the rest of your life, and it’s true. Being human, we all have many problems. I’ve found that trying to find ‘the answer’ has brought me the most amount of distress. While introspection is healthy, too much of it can drive me to the point of being neurotic.

Many times, my expedition into explaining ‘what is wrong’, with the situation or with me is a journey into justifying what it is I know I already want to do. Sometimes the reasoning is fair, sometimes it is rather bogus. Keeping a journal of my thoughts has helped me to look back on this and realize just that.

I have realized that I cannot think-away my problems. Things never turn out as you plan in life and you will never figure out an answer until you have the results from doing. This is not to say that you should make decisions on a whim without any thought. Give them a little thought and then when you begin thinking yourself in circles, DO something different.

You’re post on “It’s not who you are, it’s what you do” articulated very well what I have been feeling. https://www.raptitude.com/2012/05/its-not-who-you-are-its-what-you-do/ “Breakthroughs tend to come in the form of forehead slapping moments where you realize that you’ve been creating a problem for yourself your whole life, and you realize you don’t have to any more. Often it’s a simple insight you read or hear someone say.” – you said it for me David, so thank you.

The only way you’ll figure out the job you want, the person you want to be with and who you are – is by trying new things and figuring it out. Thinking about it will lead you to a starting point, then you have to dive in. It’s scary and uncomfortable and I am on the ledge right now, but I know that if I don’t dive in, I’ll find a reason to explain it all away again.

So after re-reading what I just wrote, my problem is finding the courage to let go of the life I have and dive into something different, and if I fail, to have the wherewithal to know that if it’s not what I want, then I can do it again; to not have regrets about the life I left because I didn’t realize that what I had then was better than what I have now until I jumped in. That is growth and I hope to always grow.

Thank you all for your comments, they give me courage to know I’m not alone. Much love.

Dylan June 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm

The hardest part of life for me… has always been life itself.
More specifically, having a desire to live.

Some how I always end up back in the rut where I /know/ things are good in my life. I have people I love, I have things I enjoy, I am not in general duress…
But then the only thing I want is to not be alive.

Mental health is a weird, twisted, thing, and it has fucked with my life for as long as I can remember…and probably will continue to for many years to come.

You just deal with it as best you can :)

mrs. M June 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Dylan, I agree with you that
Mental Health is very twisted.
I also struggle with the lack of desire to be alive.
My life is good and has blessings of God’s love and grace. My mind is the curse! With medications I can keep it from taking my life. I also see a therapist as I have shut myself off from the world, outside of my family (husband and kids) 2 years ago when I had a severe anxiety attack while fighting of my suicidal tendencies. I am getting better but just like physical recovery, it takes time to recover.
*Please look in to getting help for managing your mental health just like you would your physical health. You are not weaker than Others but in fact extremely strong as you battle everyday to live to see tomorrow. STAY STRONG

Dylan July 4, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Hey Mrs. M :)
I have had many therapists and many medications.
I’ve been fighting this battle for the last six to eight years (almost half my life!) and I have no intention of losing any time soon.

Things are looking up, but I know that I can’t let my guard down. So I take my meds, I look for options, and I keep the knives locked up.

People don’t cry because they are weak, they cry because they have been strong too long.
I wish you luck on your journey!

mrs. M July 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Are you even in your Twenties yet? lol
I am feeling really old right now. :O

Keep doing what you have too and I will also.
<3 Mrs. M

April June 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm

The hardest part is accepting.
Accepting that my children are growing up.
Accepting that I can’t change the past.
Accepting that my mother’s choices had nothing to do with me.
Accepting the pain that goes with acknowledging that.
Accepting that everything I have done has led me to right now.
Accepting that all the agony in the world is leading to something.
Accepting that no matter how much I worry, the outcome will be the same.
Accepting every bit of happiness because I deserve it.
Accepting that there will never be enough money.
Accepting that I really don’t know.
Accepting that it’s his life and his decision no matter how it affects the rest of us (& loving him anyway.)
Accepting is the hardest part – without exception.

Christian Swenson June 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm

The hardest part is accepting the cosmic institution of “separateness”. By that I mean whatever separates me from entities beyond the boundaries of my skin. It has the implication that I will never see the world through the eyes of another. It also results in a chronic frustration of never being able to experience the “fullness” of any object or thing. But more than that, it means that at my deepest level, in the corridors of my mind, I will always be alone.

fin June 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I’ve decided just to tell people what they want to hear. Also, I dream of the day that the conversations I have in day-to-day life actually are conversations concerning interest in others and not conversations about themselves.

Steph in Berkeley June 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm

This is a depressing question, and the responses make that all the more apparent, but I’m jumping in.

Like many of the readers I have issues with disclipline, self-regulation, mood, social and general anxieties–but I would describe the core for me as the feeling of being defective.

Being defective means you do more wrong than right. You’re not as good as others. You fear social situations where others will be able to see this. You marvel at others abilities and successes. You obsess over your own quirks, inadequacies, failures, mis-steps. You expect failure. In my case, I often also expect unhappiness, uncertainty and spiritual isolation.

Of course, I have triumphs and occasionally I do things remarkably well. Just not consistently. And the successes are overshadowed by the inadequacies. I take some solace in my sensitive nature, though, and realize that this sense of defectiveness in part has its own sweetness. I am more kind, giving, considerate, thoughtful, and deeply searching than most folks I meet. And I like this about me. I like myself in a lot of ways, if not others. So there are two sides even to my worst problem…as it seems to contain some of my best traits, as well.

kitschculture June 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Can I ask a few more questions?

Are you judging your ‘failures’ in context of what you hope to achieve or in the context of what you see other people achieving?

Is failure even really a bad thing? What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you as a result of your failure?

Also, can you define success for me?

cj9639 June 25, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Having faith. I have had many moments in my life where I have had proof there is something bigger than myself. However, when I am scared (not enough money, separated, I am not a good enough parent etc) I forget to ask for help. A wise person once said when you are in trouble look up not sideways (peers often are not able to give us the advice we need). I don’t need to have confindence in myself if I have faith that I will get though something tough.

Paris June 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Do I have to pick just one trend that drags me down? Because I have a few…

1. Self-doubt that is perhaps made worse by my desire to please others. I don’t go around life working to make other people happy, but I worry about being disappointing ALL THE TIME.

2. Negative self-image. My entire life revolves around my body not looking good enough–ever. This sounds so shallow. Please understand that it is much deeper than that. The distress this causes in my life is significant and all-encompassing.

3. Lack of discipline. I’m only disciplined in things like working out. That’s fun, though, so does that count? I’m not financially disciplined. I’m not disciplined with my education, either. Nor am I with my career.

4. Unwillingness to realize potential. I feel like I COULD be good at many things. I could accomplish things. So why don’t I? Why do I let the thought occur to me and choose to watch tv or read a book or talk on the phone instead? Ugh.

5. Existential issues. Enough said?

Regan June 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Feeling like I am doing everything slightly *wrong*, as if there was some instruction manual out there for life that I missed. This leads to feeling like I am just pretending to know what I am doing and worrying that at some point someone will run up and say, “Excuse me, but we’ve all noticed you’re doing life wrong, you big fraud.”
Which then trickles down into specific situations where I feel like a fraud (e.g. studying to be a singer, being a good friend, even just walking down the road without feeling like an idiot. )
Then I read other people’s comments and I remember everyone is struggling with their own lives and complexities. It helps to think that maybe everyone is really a bit messed up on the inside.

Regan June 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Even to the point where writing this comment I was thinking, ‘No one wants to hear that! It’s not insightful enough! DOING IT WRONG!’

Karen J June 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm

It may also help to tell yourself “There is NO WRONG – just different than…”
It’s Okay, and You’re Okay, too. :)

Regan June 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Thanks Karen, different is a useful word to remember!

Alex June 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm

David for one asked you! So he cares. Every commenter here reads and cares because that is the community here.

If you want to be singer just do it! Go do gigs and sing your heart out every time. For inspiration in life I listen to Jessie J – Who’s Laughing now?. For me this is the song I smile like a complete idiot to ;)

Regan June 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Very true! thanks Alex for taking the time to reply! :)
Sometimes I need the outside affirmation of someone saying, “It’s OK to do this!” even though I probably shouldn’t.
Jessie J songs are great fun to belt along to! And anything that makes you smile like a complete idiot must be a good thing I think!

Maia June 25, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Just one problem – I have loads :-)
Well probably the one that I have is always feeling that I should have achieved more with my life so far and that some of my peers have somehow managed to get ahead of me, and not being sure of what my calling is and if I should have one. Also the feeling that I should be more positive, stop worrying in liver more in the now – basically listen to my own advice :-)

Arielle June 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I know exactly how you feel. If you scroll up a bit to Stefan’s post you can read the response I left addressing a similar concern. Hope it helps. Good luck.

Martin June 25, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Asking for forgiveness ; but I guess more specifically , forgiving myself. I have a lot of pent-up guilt , even for things I know some people have forgiven me for. I think for years I imagined if you bury the ‘s**t’ in your head, the transgressions you have done against others will go away. But I know good and well it ain’t so. And I know some of the ‘steps’ are in forgiving yourself, and asking then asking others for forgiveness. Could it be that I don’t think I deserve forgiveness?

Arielle June 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Not at all! We do a deservice to OURSELVES

Arielle June 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm

…when we don’t forgive. That includes forgiveness of ourselves. And we can’t successfully forgive other people if we can’t forgive our own wrong doings. We are prone to making mistakes and unfortunately that includes hurting people. But we learn from that. We all deserve and need forgiveness. Easier said than done we need to learn to start letting go. Have compassion on yourself as you would other people otherwise it’s hypocrisy. Don’t be scared to ask for forgiveness. Whats done is done. The shame comes naturally. You will be surprised how merciful people (even the most stubborn humans) are. Don’t underestimate the power of mercy. God bless. It will be ok.

Arielle June 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm


Mikey June 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I’ve recently awoken to awareness of how special my subjective consciousness is and how the world, heck the universe, is a single consciousness and I am just a perspective of it. The problem I am having with this is, despite this new found awareness I still struggle with compassion for others and I struggle with opening up conversation with strangers. I feel like I am lacking the will to communicate with other. We are each so special and uniquely different, I want to talk to people, I want to learn and form new relationships, but I can not get my feet off the ground. I fear saying Hi. I want to meet people but I don’t do anything about it.

Arielle June 25, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Have you tried starting in a place where you know people share your interests? Like clubs, local forums… etc?

Alex June 25, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I fell dizzy now :/
I have skimmed through these comments and realized “My God I am not alone!”

I fell a lack of confidence, a lack of communication skills and a lack of commitment. I can’t say much more than everyone else has already said. I replied to some comments, not sure why though. I thought it could help them in some way, maybe….not.

David you’re the best! :)

Rose June 25, 2012 at 6:01 pm

For me it has been overcoming the setup my parents gave me. I realise my mother has shown me by example and in what she said that I should look out for men who are somehow defective and either fix or control them. That’s my main problem in relationships.
Regarding myself, I need to grab and hold on to the idea that I’m an actor in my life, that it’s up to me and not circumstances, BUT combined with compassion towards myself. I tend to be paralysed by inaction and beat and hate myself over my inability to do something about it. But I never learnt how to keep pushing forward. I never had an example of this growing up, I just saw martyrs and workaholics around me as a kid.

Colleen June 25, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Man’s inhumanity to man. Always been humanity’s biggest problem, always will be. I’m a spread the love, be positive kind of person and find it appalling how some folks treat others.

Laura June 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm

My recurring issue is my habit of pushing people away, because deep down I believe that no one could ever possibly give a damn about me, so I leave them before they can leave me. Staying is the hardest thing, and I don’t mean romantically, necessarily.

Keith June 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I don’t know what I want. I will be graduating college soon and am having doubts of where I want to be. According to society, I should be starting a career, finding a partner and settling down. I am finding any reason possible to not do that, and I don’t know why. It’s not a bad path, but I am not ready for it.

David June 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm

As usual I’m so moved by all the stories here. All the time I fall prey to the myth that “other people” more or less have things figured out, and I’m the only one with gaping holes in my sense of competence and security. Also as usual, there are some really consistent themes here.

Cara June 29, 2012 at 8:35 am

Hey David – You totally grabbed me with what you just said here.

Please – what IS this phenomenon, that we constantly fall prey to thinking everyone else’s life is perfect, that they’ve got it all figured out, that they’ve made the “right” choices and we’ve made the “wrong” ones, or whatever any person’s version of the myth is. I exasperate myself with my apparent inability to step beyond that trap. I’m guessing you’ve probably tackled just that subject somewhere here in all your posts, and if so, please let me know where.

James June 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm

My problem is that I have a really difficult time making decisions that involve money. I pain over them, and then regret whatever I decided to do. House, car, belt, shoes, all of them. I know damn well that regret is a pretty freaking useless emotion too. I reason myself out of regret all the time, but it slips back in there every once in a while and I find myself looking at kijiji ads for a Mazda5 and thinking about what could’ve been if I didn’t buy that Matrix (we have two kids and one on the way, but I just can’t buy a minivan, three car seats fit in a Matrix, and it was cheaper and more reliable… or was it? There is that sweating gasket and the battery needs to be changed and…) See what I mean?

Terri Lynn June 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm

My children fighting. They don’t just snicker and whine. They hurt each other, emotionally and physically. I know that I need to let them sort it out but it is so painful to watch and always triggers me.

mrs. M June 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Would you allow your children to talk/treat strangers OR friends the same way they are treating each other?
If you don’t set the rules in the house of how to treat each other then your enabling the children to continue the behavior that you are saying here, you don’t like.
I have Two teenagers that were told to not treat friends better than you treat your family. I set this guideline and I also live by it as an example. I’m Not saying that stresses don’t happen but that you as the Mother need to show them how to handle the conflicts.
Motherhood is like living under a microscope. Your children see everything you do right or wrong. If you don’t live what you preach then they will see someone they can’t believe.
If you do something wrong then admit you were wrong and move on.
Terri is short for terrific, so don’t forget that.

Terri Lynn July 1, 2012 at 9:44 am

Thank you Mrs M :)
Yes, I am very clear about how to treat each other, regardless of what we may be believing about them at the time. And when I notice that I am stressed and not walking my talk, I apologize, forgive and move on.
They are twins, polar opposites and are trying to create their own space, yet still identifying with their ‘twin’ identity.
Hmm, kindness to myself, how do I fight with myself. That is what they are showing me.
Thank you. mrs. M must be for amazing. :)

mrs. M July 8, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Terrific Terri,
Motherhood is the Hardest job on God’s Earth. I am glad that you are checking yourself and guiding the Children through the Beginning of the rest of their lives.
Do forget to keep touch with who you were before parenthood as I have lost myself in the process. <3 Mrs. M for missing in action.

mrs. M July 8, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I forgot to put the NOT in the DO NOT Forget. in my reply. :O

S June 25, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Letting go of obsessing as to how I am perceived by others. I want to not care. I want to relax in my everyday interactions and not have the constant internal dialogue questioning as to “why i just said that” or praising me When I’ve presented myself well. I want the internal dialogue to say “Who cares! Life is too short to worry about how you come across and you’re worrying about such trivial matters, loooong after others are busy getting on with their lives! What a needless waste of time”… (and to really believe it)

Cameron June 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm

For me, I believe the problem-theme is perfectionism. Doing enough vs. being enough. If I look back, and look hard enough, that problem is manifesting itself in one form or another.

I do believe you’ve hit the nail on the head when you talk about the magical that happens when you articulate your problems. I’ve heard it called “owning your story”, and that is a pretty powerful thing to do.

Thanks for writing your blog, David. It’s awesome.

Kylie June 25, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Recurring theme I think – confidence and in particular the confidence to know that I am enough. I have spent the majority of my life not getting closer to people because in the back of my mind I have this thought that I’m not “____” enough for them to like me. It means that I have lost so many wonderful people because I don’t put myself out there and let them know that I cherish their friendship.
This has also led to many missed opportunities as I have talked myself out of joining in, applying for jobs, trying new things. I suffer a lot from imposter syndrome (I’m continually sure I will be found out) and I’m always sure I haven’t done enough, or it isn’t good enough.
This has improved over the last couple of years, and particularly over the last 8 months as I’m learning so much about myself and others in my Year of TED project. But it continues to be the biggest struggle, that I am enough and that I am worthy of success, love, friends etc.

Regan June 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I did not realise imposter syndrome was a *thing* but I am amazed and reminded again that my problems are not unique!
What is your year of TED project if you don’t mind me asking? :)

Kate June 27, 2012 at 8:03 am

Hello all! I’m loving reading everyone thoughts – THANK YOU!
Kylie, may I attempt to answer on your behalf? I think Kylie’s Year of TEN may be a year of listening and learning to the talks on this website: http://www.ted.com

Don June 25, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I would say that I judge too much. I am always aware of what others are doing and where I fit in relative to others. I am always cognizant of who is strong and who is weak. I have an inferiority/superiority dual complex. It is difficult for me to be happy for other people’s accomplishments as their success means I am comparatively less successful. I want to be happy for others, I put on a smiley face, but it does not come natural to me. I do not care enough for other peoples feelings and thus sometimes it can be difficult to connect with people. My competitive nature can be good because it drives me to do better, but at the same time it weakens me as I am always feeling the pressure of being judged as well. It is the judging duality – the more you judge others, you sense that same level of judgment coming back on you. I’ve recently started a mindful awareness meditation practice to try and change things.

Brian July 7, 2012 at 11:02 am

The great MMA coach Greg Jackson said recently: “You cooperate. And you compete. You can’t go too far in either direction, or you don’t improve.” I think this is relevant not just with the purpose of improving at your given trade, but interpersonally as well.

bdar June 26, 2012 at 12:10 am

I know that I can’t hurt enough to make another person whole. It still hurts to see another destroyed based on my actions. I say out loud the words of self forgiveness, but can’t quite get there.
I’m so tired of carrying this burden. It’s been years. It’s time to let go… But as long as there is pain in their eyes, the pain stays in me. I’m exhausted from my efforts to fix it. So, I pretend to forgive myself until another reminder crops up and I am told again, what I did.
It’s my greatest heartache and my biggest catalyst for growth, but I feel stuck in the mud just inches from dry ground.

Nathan Buss June 26, 2012 at 1:12 am

Well David I love this question and really feel like it is going to be therapeutic to answer that question. My biggest hang up in life thus far at 24 is still being stuck on a girl that I was with for 2 years that ended damn near over 4 years ago now. I have never fully gotten over her even once I fell in love with another women and was with her for 2 years also since then and one main reason we broke up was because of my hang up with my first love. I have tried for years now to dissect what it is about this person that I was so in love with that I cant fully move on to someone new and as shitty as it sounds she had a unique gift of making me feel inferior to her but not like she was trying to or anything just that I probably was inferior and she was still so in Love with me and it made me feel so good about myself. So the problem…well I guess it is relying on a woman that I perceive as superior to me to help me feel good about myself. Yeah this is certainly a cycle and a lifestyle choice that bleeds into a lot of areas of life. It blocks me from taking chances, from making connections with women that I certainly would have a chance with but don’t have the confidence to try anything with them for FEAR of losing someone again that I really cherish. Instead I place myself with women that are far below in virtue and looks knowing full well that I will be able to hold on to those women. Moral of the story…A. Do not let women any woman control the destiny of your life especially after she has been out of it for so long. B. Do not let one amazing relationship be the last one. Open your mind to the possibility that there is still someone out there that can offer you an amazing relationship as well. C. Do not become complacent and docile in your attempts to find love again after one has left you. This is a hugely erroneous decision and one that will lead you on a path to loneliness and despair. There is someone else out there for you! Do not let yourself go! You would only be selling yourself short and life is to short to sell yourself short.

Anthony June 26, 2012 at 6:37 am

Which as you’ve previously enlightenned me David, is procrastination. You know that thing people do when they say the the diet starts tomorrow and then they let themselves off and binge eat for the rest of the day to get it out of their system? Well I do that, but instead of just a diet it’s my life that will start tomorrow. If I don’t feel like working or going to the gym I’ve got a decision to make I can set a start date for my new life tomorrow or later on today. I’ll even mark it on my calendar so I can know when my new life started. That way I can surf the internet or avoid the gym or go with the easiest decision now because I know later on my life will change and I will miraculously become this new person. When I do this I have to set any fitness plans etc get set back to the start so no progress gets made. Don’t get me wrong, my life isn’t a disaster, far from it, but I always just end up doing the minimum at the last minute. For example I scraped through my degree after failing one year and resitting exams every year after. I’ve been in my job 12 years without being promoted while I’ve watched all my peers go on to bigger and better things. I got married and had kids in a 3.5 year blitz just before I turned 40. Even though I’d been with my wife 11 years and always intended to do this. You get the picture? I feel that procratination is making me underachieve, but I also use this restarting as an excuse for my failings. It means I can relax and not face up to them, because the future me will address them and be happy and successful. If I don’t feel like it set a start time , then between then and now it doesn’t count. But I don’t have to prove that until tomorrow.

Cherie June 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

After reading the comments of other readers, I realized that my problem is a typical one. I need to thank Dave for writing this article and asking everyone to write about their problems because I feel less alone and more sympathized.

My problem is that I always feel that I am not good enough, together with the contradiction that I believe one does not have to conform with what society believes is “good”. I wasn’t born to be confident and outgoing, and has always been unhappy about the way I look. This has been a constant problem since I was a teenager, and it hasn’t really left me despite that I am in my mid-20s. Living in a competitive and superficial society, people are judged by how confident, outgoing and good-looking you are, and I always feel that I am not good enough in these aspects. It saddens me that one’s self-worth has to be determined by these factors, because to me it is the love and care for people around you that matters (however cheesy that sounds). But I figured one cannot escape from society and its norms, so I, like many other people, conform, and have been striving to improve and luckily getting better.

Still, a part of me is sad with how society has evolved and wish that I could just be myself.

To those who struggle with low self-esteem and being an introvert – from my experience, it will only get better when you put your heart to work on it, and be courageous in your everyday life in interacting with people. I’ve gotten a lot better compared to my teenage years and am so much happier now. So have faith in yourself and it’ll only get better!!!

Anon June 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

You know – you ask questions in such an interesting way; I find myself reflecting on what a real reocurring problem in my life has been. Looking past my current-moment challenges and focusing on what has caused me the most real distress in my life.

The reality is that I have never been able to balance my sexual desire, my fear of lonliness, and my desire to always be doing something socially.

I am a serial monogamist by practice. What this means in my life is that I am either Single and finding, or 100% committed and married to a woman. I have only actually been married twice; but I have been in a 100% committed monogamous relationship with no less than 8 different women in my life. I have a strong longing for a live-in best friend; the type of person who gets what I want, wants similar things, and enables me to do the things that I want to do by volunteering to do them with me. It feels at times to me almost co-dependant; I dont enjoy solo activities as a rule. I always would rather be doing something with someone. The person who I need in my life 24×7 is someone who wants the same things I want so that we can compliment each other with motivation. Motivation is such a problem because I will sit and do nothing without it. I can idle away my time as good as anyone. What I get out of that besides the ego satisfaction is a sense of reward when I can be the motivator. Meaning sometimes I do get motivated; and when I do this person in my life values that I am keeping them doing things that they value and staying away from the idleness.

Sexually my mind wanders constantly. I desire many women, and I fantasize about sexual encounters with many different people in many different ways and I am fascinated by group sex encounters.

I have never executed on any of that desire; my conscious is a strict ruler over me and since I spend almost all of my time in some sort of committed relationship I have never been single long enough to learn how to become involved with groups of people where that is acceptable.

As a result I have made some considerable mistakes in my life that have affected negatively one or both of these aspects. I am always either sexually dissatisfied by my partner (for a problem that she is usually unwilling to fix) and/or frustrated that I am not doing the things I want to do – acutely aware that my motivation is being sapped into other things I do not want. Commonly its both…

Crystal June 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm

A recurring theme…That would be my inability/blatant refusal to move forward on those things which are for my highest good. In part it’s fear of failure. It’s also horror at the thought of hurting anyone around me. There’s a level of feeling undeserving of happiness. And there’s an enormous amount of emotional fatigue. At it’s root I suspect is an overly developed survival instinct which comes from growing up in a highly dysfunctional home where poverty i.e. lack of food, no heat in winter, etc. – was a constant. It’s like being trapped in an intricate knot of my own making, that’s been dipped in hot glue and rolled around in wallpaper paste.

Cara June 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm

The biggest recurring theme for me is a daily struggle for freedom – financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, creatively, spiritually… The only thing that truly motivates me is this deep desire to be free. My problem is I’m just not sure its achievable in this life…

Eveline June 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Just a quick remark before I answer your question David: I think it is important that you ask these questions. In my eyes there is no such thing as a cliche question. How often do we really, and I mean really, sit down and ask a friend, companion or stranger a question like this with the intent to listen, nothing else. Not often enough in my experience.

Add to that the fact that I love to go to work with my own self-reflection, dissection and challenges makes it that I appreciate your questions very much.

My biggest problem- not seeing myself. And I don’t mean this literally.

For numerous psycho-analytically explanatory reasons I have learned to be an externally oriented person. Always focussing on the other(s) and forgetting or brushing myself away in the process. Invariably I hit lulls in which I have no energy or willpower left for anyone or anything at all. And that’s when the anger sets in. Initially, the anger or hurt towards others for not “seeing me”. Quickly I realize that in fact it is not others who do not see me, but I who do not see myself.

I always preach to others that the only real way to love and give is once you are able to love and give to yourself. It sounds like Im one of many (up above) who should listen to her own advice. My daily practice of Vipassana and Mindfulness Meditation has definitely seen great steps in the right direction ever since I started practicing 3 years ago.

KP June 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm

It is both heartening and saddening to realize just how many people struggle with the same or similar issues. Heartening, because I am always grateful when I can connect with someone on that level. And saddening, because I would much rather people feel comfortable in their own skin, rather than contending with issues of “less than.”

I’ll be 40 this year. I’m attractive, smart, and funny; I have an amazing family and big circle of friends. I’m being given the opportunity to pay off debt and hit the big restart button, job-wise, financially, and in every other way imaginable. I’m grateful for this.

But my issue is one I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. I’ve been making bad dating choices from the get-go. I am concerned that I’m “doomed” (destined?) to be single for the rest of my life, and that it’s because there is something wrong with me that everyone else is aware of but me. That it’s something all the viable men pick up on, something that causes them to run the other way. And I have no idea what it is. For someone who’s pretty introspective and self-aware (with a tendency to overthink the hell out of EVERYTHING), this feeling is maddening. I alternate between thinking there’s something wrong with me, something built in, or thinking that I’ve just taken so many wrong turns and made so many poorly-informed choices that it’s just who I’ve become. This woman who has a ton of “funny” stories, but just can’t seem to settle down with someone decent.

A year ago, I dated my last “bad decision.” I have had enough, and refuse to let anyone like that in my life again. I’d rather be single. But I still find myself looking around, and when I am looking at potential partners, my thoughts immediately go to whether or not they’ll pick ME. I’m putting myself at their mercy, waiting to be chosen. This is not to say I don’t do some choosing, too, but as evidenced by the last 20 years, my picker could probably use some fine-tuning. And I am pretty sure that I’ve been settling for less than stellar partners as a result of my own lack of self-worth. Figuring that if I pick someone shitty, they’d HAVE to stay with me, right? But even that wouldn’t last, usually because I’d wake up and figure out that they weren’t good for me and I wanted no part of it.

How can I know that I’m a good person, worthy of love, and yet still have no sense of self-worth?

I’ve started attempting to make peace with the idea that I may just not be cut out for relationships. That perhaps it’s as hard as it is because it’s not meant to happen. That everyone has their broken parts, and this is mine. I have a great time with friends, family, and on my own. I travel alone, and am not afraid to take on what life has to offer me – on my own. So I wonder, is it a nature or nurture thing? Was I born this way, or did events that happened throughout my life (and relationship modeling that took place throughout my childhood) cause me to become someone that can’t figure the whole relationship thing out?

My friends – my close, true, tell-you-anything friends, are as baffled by it as I am. One of them says that it’s just going to take someone extra special, and maybe he’s just not ready yet, but when he’s ready, and assuming I’ve done my work too, it’ll happen. Other people tell me “Stop looking! It’ll happen when you stop looking.” In all honesty, this advice pisses me off, and it’s not helpful. Relationships happen whether you’re looking or not. Telling me to stop looking is like telling me “You’re doing it wrong.” But what about all those years I intentionally stayed single? I’m pretty sure I’d have recognized an opportunity, had one appeared.

Anyway. I’ve already made peace with never giving birth/being a mom; that was a tough one, but I waited too long, and I’m actually pretty okay with that choice. Now I would just like to get over the feeling that there is something inherently wrong with me, preventing me from having a(nother, since I have had a few!) healthy, loving relationship with someone. And I’d like to get over feeling as though I’m at the mercy of the universe and its whims, at the mercy of single men and whether or not they’ll find me appealing and attractive, so that I can derive a sense of worth from that. Bleh.

I don’t doubt that perhaps it’s all of this… crap, roiling about inside my head, that causes me to present as someone who isn’t ready for a relationship. The irony is not lost. And so I continue to work on myself, and focus less on the notion that I want someone else to share my life and myself with, and trust it’ll all work out in a way from which I can wrest some satisfaction.

Cara June 29, 2012 at 8:41 am

Oh my God, KP – I think you are my soul sister on some other part of the planet. I swear I could have written this exact post word for word, except that I’m 43. Absolutely everything else is the same, right down to friends telling me it’s going to take someone extra-special, telling me it will happen when I least expect it (I’ve been trying to “least expect it” for about 20 years now…so far, nothing); and ESPECIALLY the part about wondering what the #@$! is wrong with me that others can see and I can’t. I daydream about sending out a survey to all these men, asking them what it is. I can take it – I just want to know what it is and fix it.

I’m also now in a place of trying to accept that this may be my “broken part”, and that some people just aren’t meant to be in a relationship. That truthfully doesn’t really ring true for me, but I’m trying to tackle this from every possible angle.

KP July 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Cara, I have to say that I’m grateful, again, to know I’m not the only one struggling with this – but man, does it suck sometimes. I don’t want to have to accept that this is my broken part – or that I even have to HAVE a broken part, you know? Human condition and all that, but dang.

Here’s to both of us prevailing over this broken stuff, then. *hug*

Marilyn September 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Maybe no one will read this as I’m chiming in so late. But, I only stumbled onto this yesterday and… wow. In this instance, I prefer the comments to the post itself. I hope David doesn’t find this insulting–it’s a huge compliment to provoke such heartfelt discussion.

I wanted to respond to Cara about loneliness and to Oshen and others who struggle with love–wanting so earnestly to give and receive it–as their problem. First, Cara, having experienced loneliness so intense it felt literally as if it would devour me, I empathize with you. It–along with grief–is, indeed, one of the worst feelings in the world. Like KP, I too, could be your soul sister. I’m your age and have just accepted that maybe there’s something in my nature that ill-suited for relationships–except–and this is where the love/loneliness part comes in–I was married to a man I loved intensely, deeply–more than I loved myself–for 7 years. And in that time I experienced the most intense loneliness coupled with a feeling of restriction imaginable.

We married young–we met when I was 17–and I fell in love at first sight. We went thru undergrad and grad school together. On the surface, everything was perfect but I felt so unbelievably lonely that I began volunteering to visit people in nursing homes. People thought I volunteered out of generosity of spirit. But I related to those elderly people–trapped in a life not their own, divested of dignity–utterly lonely and typically unseen. As a married 20-something I had more in common with these octogenarians than my own peers. I loved my husband and he claimed to love me but I knew in my core something was wrong. I tortured myself with wondering why I wasn’t satisfied. And I felt so unspeakably lonely my spirit withered.

So, to those sweet souls who long for love as the solution to your biggest problem, I want to say: don’t give up hope. Love is always there. But… It just may not be in the form you want it to be. Maybe the love of your life will be a dog, or a child–not your own, even–or an older person. Or a friend. Our culture extolls romantic love between two people as the highest form. And it is amazing. But, when I whined, whaled, and cried repeatedly (for 2 years) to a marriage counselor about how much I loved my husband, she looked me in the eye and sighed, “But, sometimes love is not enough.”

I thought she was nuts. It turns out she was right. After 7 years of marriage I initiated a divorce–even though I felt like I was severing my own arm I’d grown so accustomed to him. It ripped out my heart. The point I’m failing to make: romantic love–being in a relationship–is not a guarantee of anything. I say this not in a bitter way–love is beautiful and wonderful but, sometimes it isn’t enough. That is why I think people over-drink, over-eat, cheat, numb out to tv–because that person that they thought would make them happy doesn’t anymore–yet nothing is superficially wrong so they begin to feel crazy, resentful.

I still love my ex deeply. I think a part of him still loves me. We just were not happy together–at all. So I loved him enough to let go. I miss him sometimes, but I do not regret for a second that I divorced him. Even though I have gone on hundreds of bad first dates since. My friends repeat hopeful litanies that love is just around the corner, to be patient. But I’ve now been single longer than I was married. I used to torture myself–especially after I returned from one wretched date after another, with scenarios of how things might have played out if only I could have acted like most other couples–pretended I was happy and not dying inside. So, I sometimes wonder if I am inherently flawed in terms of relationships and I’m trying to accept that maybe I’m one of those people who won’t flourish in one–much as I think I would like to be. I’m relieved to read that their are others out there, though I am also quite sorry for any anguish you experience.

Steve July 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm

KP, i’m a 27 year old guy, and oddly enough I feel like I can relate to what you’ve written almost completely.

I have my life completely in order in terms of having an amazing group of friends and a very close family. I have a great job, own a house, very athletic and I know without a doubt that I’m a really good looking guy (not trying to sound cocky, just saying that to help make my point). But for some reason I just can’t figure out, whenever I date a girl who I’m really attracted to, I feel completely inadequate. As if I already know from day one that eventually she’s going to find the same problem with me that every other girl that I’ve truly liked has. And sure enough, the result is always the same, I end up alone.

It’s not just in relationships though. I’ve had a feeling for as long as I can remember that I’m ‘different’ from absolutely everyone in the world. That they are all able to relate on some level that I just never will be. And I mean everyone. From people I can even recognize as very socially awkward, to kids, and even to my own family, it’s as if there’s something that they all know, and I just don’t.

Like I said though, it’s not at all that I lack friends, I have lots of friends that I’m extremely close to, some since elementary school even.

Anyways, at this point, I’m going on too long, but I also hate when people tell me to ‘stop looking’ because to me that feels like I would just be giving up. I guess I’m a bit of a stubborn person, but I don’t really like to take other people’s advice, so I just keep telling myself a few things:

I know that if I ever found the kind of girl that I’m looking for, someone I could truly connect with, the way I picture it feels like a dream. Guys are supposed to be tough, but I swear just imagining it brings tears to my eyes. So because of that, I have ended countless relationships that maybe could have turned out ‘good’, simply because I want that dream girl. I’ve wanted to give up so many times but I keep trying to stay strong with hopes that one day I can find true love. It’s odd, but just writing my feelings out like this has really opened my eyes, and even though I’ve thought it before, writing it out just emphasizes even more that my problem lies in my own self-esteem. I think people like us rather than worrying about what that one thing is that is wrong with us, should instead grab hold of that feeling and realize that feeling is what’s wrong with us, we lack confidence. When I think deeply about that feeling in a quiet moment like this, I realize I don’t care if there’s something wrong with me, because I am who I am, and I truly do love myself. It’s just in uncomfortable moments (social settings, etc) that I lose sight of who I am, and my mind natually snaps back to those feelings of unconfidence.

Maybe what I’ve written doesn’t apply to you, but it’s definitely helped me to sort my thoughts. Also, just to read that there is someone else who feels similar to me, of the opposite sex and at a completely different stage of their life is really interesting. I truly hope you stay strong, you sound like a great person and I really hope you find what you’re looking for.

KP July 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Steve, thank you. It actually does mean a lot, coming from someone younger, and a guy at that, to know that we all have these feelings. And whatever the root cause – the end result is the same, right? But I think you’re on to something, that ultimately it’s a self-worth issue, and that’s where my focus needs to be.

There is a part of me that doubts there’s someone out there for me at all; that all the good ones are taken. This past week I’ve been wallowing around in the “picked last for the team, never asked to the prom” feelings a bit, even. But a very dear friend of mine said to me that he, for one, is glad that I am single because it’s evidence to HIM that not all the good ones are taken. So… I’m holding on to that thought.

I, too, am a romantic, and I think sometimes what I’ve imagined in my head is doing me a disservice; I’m trying to remain open to the notion that it’s not going to look anything like I’ve imagined, and that’s okay, too. As long as I don’t settle in an effort to have *something*… you know?

Anyway. Best of luck and hugs to you, too. We’ll figure this thing out, eh?

Bernadette June 27, 2012 at 12:56 am

My recurring problem is with accountability for how I feel in relationships – making my dissatisfaction, annoyance, unhappiness the other person’s fault. As in “if you just did, or didn’t do (fill in the blank) I would be happy, not pissed off and giving you the silent treatment, whatever”!
I’m waking up to the fact that I’ve been dodging accountability in most areas of my life. And I’m sure looking forward to getting to a point where I don’t have those endless conversations in my head, usually in the middle of the night, because someone’s not behaving the way I expect.
Time to step up and put on the big girl pants methinks.
(Thanks for the question Dave – “sometimes I don’t know what I think till I see what I say”)

Derek D. June 27, 2012 at 7:26 am

I feel very alone – but at least I think I know why. Numbness. I don’t allow myself to feel. I judge my feelings when I do. Harshly. And the difficulty is that you can’t selectively numb. You can’t numb the pain without numbing the happiness too. And even more problematic is that we can’t connect very deeply with other people without having some vulnerability. And you can’t have vulnerability without feeling. You can’t have feeling when you are numb. But feelings feel too dangerous. I have heard my whole life to “suck it up”, “push through”, “get by”, “man up” and don’t be a burden on others. In other words, being emotional is a liability. So I am stuck in the middle. How can I be open and feeling and vulnerable to a real connection with someone without eliciting a response that tells me that being numb was really the right choice? It can’t be the right choice, right? Yet, whenever I try it, it ends up badly.

S June 27, 2012 at 9:32 am

One of the hardest parts for me has been to stop blaming the parents! Lol Accepting that they did the best job they could.
They made mistakes and were not perfect but they did what they could with what they had. They loved me, at times, in their own language…a language that I did not understand and often resented. Definitely, one of the hardest parts has been accepting that I am actually an adult now, responsible for my own choices, failures and successes and its time to stop blaming them for my own shortcomings. It’s taken me years to get there… And some days.. Even as much as I like to think Ive grown so much…. It’s still all their fault. Lol

Andrea June 27, 2012 at 11:07 am

I think my biggest problem in life is dealing with loss. I mean, I know it’s rough for everyone, but I can’t deal with loss in a different way. Even when I notice that something is wrong, some relationship, friendship or whatever, I don’t let go, I keep attached to that and that kills me inside, but I just can’t let go. It’s harder for me the idea of living without that relationship/friendship/whatever than the idea of being kind of unhappy in that realtion – even knowing that time cures it, I know it does. So sometimes I, myself, alone make a realationship/friendship/whatever survive just cause I, myself, alone can’t let go. I think and I really believe that not everyone comes to stay, not everyone is meant to stay forever, but I can’t practice it in some relations, I can’t say “this is the end of it” even when I’m sad or unhappy with it, even when I don’t want it anymore, even knowing that in some time, I’ll be ok again.

Spiderlgs July 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm

I completely understand this. I don’t have any words of super advice, but to let you know that you definitely have someone who completely understands the irrationality of this practice and the impossibility of following the logical mind.

I’ve learned just to force myself to delete phone numbers and all means of contact with people once they show me who they are.. it’s painstaking and difficult… but i use that energy to focus on the people who are worth the time. I call my bff everytime I would have called someone who sucks. LOL okay I guess I did have advice.. the emotions haven’t gone away, but i’m doing much better at the actions of letting go.

CB June 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm

“We are not satisfied with real life; we want to live some imaginary life in the eyes of other people and to seem different from what we actually are” – Blaise Pascal

This, I think, sums my problem up perfectly. I have always struggled with so many of the problems others have listed: fear, lack of self confidence, loneliness. I learned from my family that I must be humble about everything and be compliant with the wishes of others lest I be labeled difficult or defensive. I hoped that if I worked hard to please everyone and meet others’ expectations they’d be impressed with me and like me. It hasn’t worked.

At 30, I’m finally learning to listen to my own inner voice and do things that I like and really want to do and meet my own expectations. Thank you for encouraging us all to share our struggles. It’s so refreshing to hear that we are not alone and we’re all in this together.

Alex June 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Reading all these responses has actually been quite enlightening. On one hand, you see the wide variety of people out there with different viewpoints, but on the other hand, it’s comforting knowing that there are many others struggling with the same problems.

I had to think about it a bit to pin down a single overarching theme problem, but I think mine would probably be feeling comfortable being different. I feel different from others in many ways, from sexuality to hobbies to life path, and it’s difficult not to let the societal pressure to conform bother me. As I eschew the normal path of “buy house, have kids, raise kids, retire,” I think the pressure will likely only increase, so I’m hoping my continued learning, accumulated experience, and personal growth will help me there.

Sometimes I worry that I’m just being childish, like a kid who doesn’t want to “grow up,” but looking at who I am and how I am shows me how much I’ve learned and grown already. I think I’m taking my definition of “growing up” from the wrong place, and need to simply blaze my own path through life, going after my own goals, since the typical example is not one which I wish to follow.

Alex Smith June 27, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Introversion has played the major rule. I’m afraid of people, even though I can handle it most of the time. I have a big lack of self-confidence.

David June 28, 2012 at 7:07 am

When I read through these, I feel like I could say “That’s me” to about 80% of them…

P. June 28, 2012 at 10:36 am

Thanks for asking, D.! ( :-) We so love talking about ourselves, don’t we, no matter how much we mask that under a stoic facade most of the time? The world’s full of shrinks who would smilingly attest to that.)

I’m leery of starting, chiefly because I find it difficult to know when to stop! ( :-) again. Love smileys! )

The one thing I find most difficult, my biggest “problem”, would I suppose be this: holding on to my truth (in important matters at any rate) in the teeth of what “the world” thinks (or does not think) — holding on to my truth when that truth is against what most around me think — and often as difficult, holding on to my truth when most around agree so completely with it that it appears cliched — in short, holding on to being me, and still not losing my sense of humor and grounded-ness.

I love what Oscar Wilde said somewhere, that “most men are other men” (or words to that effect). There’s a reason why. It’s easiest, by far, that way. It’s difficult cutting out your own path. Makes you tired. That’s MY problem.

Thanks for asking!

LOLA June 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

I haven’t read everyone’s previous answers and so perhaps someone has already commented on what has been my own struggle—-and I can finally say “has been” as I’ve finally learned my most invaluable lesson:


Time and time again, I have been involved with wonderfully sweet and loving people. They are tender, caring and nurturing (they have their shortcomings too, but overall I’m talking these are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet).
But there were things that were missing–in fact, everything else was missing. And now I know it’s okay to want and have those things present in my relationship. Things like: intellectual, spiritual, physical, social compatibility. I need all of that and….it’s okay. Once I have that stuff I can then focus on the love we share, but I need a solid foundation of a bunch of kindred stuff.
It’s not about finding my mirror image, but merely compatibility. Perhaps a desire to ask the same kinds of questions, not necessarily to have the same answers.
In an age when I hear a resounding message of “love is all you need”, I felt a need to attain enlightenment and quickly jumped on this bandwagon. This just doesn’t work for me. Once the compatibility is there, then I can offer you my whole heart and my trust flows easily as does my respect. That’s just how I work. Perhaps this is common knowledge to others, but man, did it take me a long time (38 years!) to figure this out.

So I’ll never stay in another mediocre relationship just because the other person is very nice/sweet and I think that should be enough (and it might be for other people and that’s okay too).
Basically, I’m allowed to want and need what I want and need and not feel socially or spiritually pressured to adopt the current “ism” of the day.

Maria June 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm

My biggest problem is my exceptional ability to feel pure unadulterated, catatonic shame for even the most ridiculous, mistakes. I believe this is due to my over “10,000” hours of consistent practice that according to Malcolm Gladwell you need in order to become an expert at something…
NYC is delightfully empty on most summer weekends David. Enjoy the extra space. You arrive just in time to enjoy the McCarren Pool opening in Greenpoint.

Lindsay June 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm

The one thing that I will always get hung up on in life is when things stay the same for too long. I get bored and things become so mundane; life doesn’t feel as exciting as it did before. Now, I am only 21 years old, and I have yet to start my career. I just graduated college so that’s the direction I’m headed, but I can’t imagine the 9-5. It’s so difficult to understand how some (most) people end up at their job for 25+ years. I need surprises in my life and something new to discover all the time!

thedr9wningman June 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

@Lindsay: Where do you live that people stay in their job for 25+ years? That doesn’t even happen in Japan anymore!

I’ve never (ever) worked a job longer than 2 years. I think one can fear complacency in work (or play), but I don’t think it is something you have to worry about. You already sound like if you were to get bored with something, you’d find the necessary change you need.

Alex July 3, 2012 at 3:35 pm

For me (so far at least), I’m in one of those 9-5 jobs for conceivably 25+ years (been here 7 already). It is boring, that’s for sure. But I live in my time outside work. I know people for whom their work is their life, and then everything they do on the evenings and weekends supports that (chores, maintenance, cleaning, food prep, renovations, finances, exercise, etc.). But for me, work is what supports the rest of my life. The new things to discover and experience are all that I do outside work, and work simply removes all the stress (finances, upheaval, etc.) that would otherwise interfere with my outside-of-work enjoyment of my passions and interests and hobbies with friends and family. I’m sure it’s hard to understand for someone who operates differently, but it’s equally hard for me to understand people who change jobs or homes frequently. I find all the associated stress to be a real pain. xD I could see myself someday transitioning into a creative career doing work for myself freelance-style, but not moving from job to job or place to place. If anything, it’d be so I could spend more of my time at home! *lol*

Ace June 28, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I struggle to lead a continuous life.

Lilly June 29, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Perfection. I am stuck up on this idea that I can be perfect. That I can achieve this perfection without even trying. I get so upset once I realize that it is going to take more than two, three, four tries to get the perfection I’m looking for I just quit. I have so many half completed pieces of art and stories lying around just because I couldn’t find the perfection.

Cat June 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I have struggled with a constant questioning of my environment, my work and my life. I think that it’s important to be discerning about your life and to create your own happiness. Within this I have moved around quite a bit over the past number of years trying to get to know myself better and create meaning in my life. This is where the challenge has come in, not having a consistent home and community churns up all sorts of emotional challenges for me. I am beginning to wonder if I’m addicted to change and whether that next thing will really make me happy or if I will feel the need to move on from that too. I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that said “Not all who wonder are lost”. This is true to a point.

I’m from Winnipeg where many people I grew up with wanted stability so badly that they roped themselves into all sorts of long term commitments early on in life. That never appealed to me, in fact, I am the anti-roped in type. I’ve always felt like I needed more experience, to know myself better before making such important life long decisions. Now I’m 30 and I often feel disconnected and lonely.

I’ve committed to going to grad school starting in September though. I’m looking forward to focusing on something for a couple years and maybe even committing to a career path afterwards! I even own a bed now. Wow.

Chris June 30, 2012 at 12:26 am

When I read the question, my answer was so immediate and obvious that I thought everyone else would say the same thing. But even though I agree with most of what others have written, nobody else has mentioned MY problem. So here it is: I can’t figure out what the meaning of my life is. Some small pieces have meaning from larger pieces, which derive meaning from still larger pieces. But eventually the chain ends with no ultimate meaning to any of it. I feel this acutely, like a shadow that I try to pretend doesn’t exist. What I would give to have one absolute true thing on which to build my life!

thedr9wningman June 30, 2012 at 10:53 am

I learned long ago, @Chris, that there is no inherent meaning in life. The meaning of life is absent.

But this isn’t some Zen koan. It is freeing. How?

It is up to you to interpret and to create meaning to our lives. So instead of asking “What is the meaning of life [objective, outside of yourself]?” The real question to ask is “What is the meaning I want in my life [subjective, part of me]?”

Life isn’t this thing that is outside of you. Well, it is… but in this case, the meaning of life is really the meaning of MY life. That’s the question to answer.

So, MAKE IT UP! What do you want to see materialise in your life? What difference do you want to make.

15 years ago, I committed myself to a sustainable future. I want to see, for example, environmentally-sustainable (and socially sustainable) goods, services and practices be cheaper than their conventional (poisonous) counterparts. I want wind energy to be cheaper than coal power. I want solar technology to be cheaper than gas power. I want electric cars to be cheaper than gasoline cars. I want organic food to be cheaper than fertilised food.

So far, so good. 3 years ago, my electric company sent me a notice saying that wind power was now cheaper than conventional power. Every spring, the hydro facilities and the wind generation fight over who gets to supply the grid with power (fossil fuels are completely shut down). People are starting to see that an 85%-efficient electric motor in a car with a few moving parts makes a hell of a lot more sense than a 13% efficient motor that uses a limited supply of fossil fuels. For the last 7 years, I’ve been working in energy efficiency, and now I work for an organisation that attempts to manipulate markets to do exactly what I thought should be. I have a master’s degree in international management with a focus on sustainability that I attained 8 years ago. I walk to work every day; I drive 2000 miles a year.

There is still room to go. I want to see a carbon tax. I want fossil-fuel energy to be more expensive than solar. I want wave power and high-tech, grid-based batteries that store wind power for later so they don’t fight with hydro dams. I want a smart grid, whereby appliances can be controlled automatically to run when it makes the most sense, thereby decreasing ‘traffic’ (Imagine if every freeway in the world used all of its lanes and each lane was driving at optimal speed… that’s what I’m talking about, but with electricity).

The meaning of life is adding purpose to your life. Give yourself some purpose and let everything click-click-click its way into helping you get there. Envision a place where you want to live in 30 years, or an environment you wish to pass on to future generations, or simply what food you constantly want to expose yourself to. With that purpose, you will have a compass.

Be well. Hope I didn’t come of as a braggart. The point for me was to reflect on this and give concrete examples of successes. So, I thank YOU for that opportunity: without your enquiry, I wouldn’t have realised how far I’ve come!!

Alex July 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Maybe part of the benefit of this post has been to show how differently people tend to think about things. Getting to know my partner really well and some of my best friends over the past decade or so has really taught me that the whole spectrum of thought and opinion and experience was far wider than I had understood it to be up till that point.

I’ve never really understood the preoccupation with purpose or meaning that some people seem to have, though. Maybe to you it seems like such a natural thing to wonder that you’d expect everyone to think about it, but to me it’s a bit of a puzzle. I recognize that I’m only around for a limited amount of time, but my reaction to that is simply that I want to make the best of it. I want to continue learning and growing for the rest of my life, I want to experience as much as I can of the never-ending and unlimited scope of human imagination and creativity, and I want to have an enjoyable life. No doubt that’s a bit of a selfish way to think about life, but I’ve just come to accept that that’s what I want out of it. Is that a purpose or meaning in the way you understood it, or does it mean I’m not concerned with purpose or meaning? I’m not quite sure. But it feels like enough for me; I’ll never run out of things to learn and read and watch and play and make and do, and sharing those with others I care about just makes them all the more deep and meaningful to me.

Chris July 10, 2012 at 1:56 am

I think what you say makes sense, but you’re right, it’s not how I think. I don’t consider personal happiness to be especially important. I mean, I like being happy, but it’s sort of empty for me. I frankly prefer sacrificing my own happiness for something more meaningful, when I can find it. But real meaning remains hard to find.

thedr9wningman June 30, 2012 at 10:33 am

I have two answers to this question, and I’m taking a real interest in learning brevity. That said, I will explain each.

1. Unlearning
2. Keeping quiet

One of my constant observations is that being an adult, like truly being ADULT, means you have to unlearn much of the things you’ve learned as a child. I observe in people (ahem, myself) that accruing stuff in our modern culture is fairly easy to do. I type this on a 1920s table next to my wife’s grandmother’s tea set and behind me sits my grandmother’s hutch with all her dishes in it.

But the hard part is getting rid of stuff. Of letting go of bad memories, bad training, attachments to ‘comfort food’, poisons that are killing you (anything that works against your health), ideas about what should be. Getting rid of my CD collection is hard. Why? Because I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to let it go. It represents a time when I was curious about music, when I ‘collected’ music. Now, I have to face the music that everything I need is on the internet and I need to adjust my tactics.

Adjust my tactics: you see, it is I that needs to change. It is I that needs to take action. And the little i doesn’t like that. The ego i says that the world needs to change around me, bend to MY will, do what i think.

2. keeping quiet

I lose friendships over this. But I also, at times, strengthen friendships in my failings at this. My observations of the world, the core, the Truth that I (think I) am able to discover in this life are some things I often wish to share. When those observations relate to calling out an ego, usually someone else’s, for dominating others, displaying bad behaviour, or otherwise being inappropriate to other people, they don’t want to hear it. Down to mistakes in grammar. They just don’t want to hear that they’re not communicating effectively. Dispelling that illusion is something people don’t take well to. But time and time again, I think I’m close enough with someone that I say something.

Sometimes it ends well. Many times it does not.

Those are my problems. Thank you for reading/listening.

Arielle June 30, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Maybe the instances where it doesn’t end well was where those people already had a complex. Not that it’s not helpful to be corrected but sometimes but it’s not really necessary. Sometimes it can be annoying. We have to learn to use discretion when it comes to people’s feelings. I used to be that way. I learned to be more conscientious of what I say because I noticed I was offending people, even those I care about. People got tired of talking of me. People want to be accepted not so much corrected, especially by their peers. It takes practice. If it’s something you really want to change make it a point to think of their reactions and how it would make them feel before you say something. Take the time to think about how it would make you feel. Your gesture could be misconsruied as critical instead of genuine. Don’t be too hard yourself, though. We’re only human.

Alex July 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm

And it’s not entirely your fault either. Some of the fault lies with the other person. I’m someone who often gets corrected, particularly by my partner. At first it made me angry, but then we talked about it and came to an understanding about it. I realize now, without getting defensive, that I’m not the greatest at communicating and I’m actively working to improve. At the same time, my partner has come to realize that the very reason I often speak in imprecise or inaccurate terms, sometimes with incorrect grammar, is also the root of the flexibility of thinking (linguistically) that allows me to have great proficiency in picking up foreign languages. I can speak several with varying degrees of fluency and my progress in learning them is very rapid, whereas he has a lot of trouble in that area. That same detriment of not being precise with how I string together my own sentences or whether the way I describe something uses the best possible words for the job allows me to express myself in another language with different structure, even when I don’t know the exact word for something. So I think that kind of understanding needs to be present with both parties, and having a frank discussion about the subject when you reach that point where you feel you can do so can help. :)

Jessica June 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

My biggest problem: I have Asperger syndrom.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a problem per se. I quite like my condition actually. But some parts of it are harsh on a daily basis. And the biggest issue is social behavior. I don’t get it. I don’t get people, I can’t understand their motives, their reactions, their jokes, their behaviors. And I don’t know how to behave. Every little social thing is an ordeal for me, from looking at the cashier in a supermarket to having fun with my friends. I’m constantly struggling to understand and react accordingly. I panic when I’m surrounded by more than 5 people. I feel like I’ll never understand people and be understood by them – like I’ll never belong anywhere.
This condition is sometimes exhausting.

Spiderlgs July 15, 2012 at 11:47 pm

I work with students with Aspergers and I promise you that there are people who do understand you. I have students who despite any and all of their social miscues, I understand them completely. I understand how much the tone of my voice can matter.. I understand that sarcasm will fall flat… but I also understand that they still have to be a part of the joke, even if they need to be told its a joke immediately after, so they don’t feel like the jokes on them. I know that a meltdown may come in certain situations, so I protect them… and though I don’t “understand” what it’s like to have Aspergers.. I don’t “understand” what it’s like to be anyone else but me. People are more in tune to you than you think.. trust and believe that.

Ian July 1, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Hi David, I repeatedly struggle with inequality and unfairness in a global sense.

You see I have been lucky, stable in every way, married with great kids, nice place, still have my parents etc. I lived in New Zealand when my kids were little and now live Norway for their school years. In a sense I have everything one could wish for…..but then there is this nagging that won’t go away.

Because I am an ex aid worker (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania) and even 5 years after leaving this kind of work, I am beset with the unfairness and inequality of my life when compared to many millions of people ‘unlucky’ enough to be born in poverty/elsewhere.

This feeling is doubly problematic here in Norway, where people show such wealth through their cars, houses, second (and third) houses (main, winter and summer!), their clothes, holidays and general ‘expectation’ that this is all somehow normal and a ‘right’.

I am always fighting the urge to run away back to Africa, where I feel normal and a part of something real that helps balance the scales, even if its just a little! It just doesn’t feel natural to relax in such comfort when you know everything is so out of balance; that so many face war, hunger, disaster, struggle, pain and fear on a daily basis.

marian June 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm

This is my biggest problem as well. I’ve been plagued by lack of confidence, anxiety, and a lot of the other things people have mentioned here, and I’m unendingly grateful to people like David for giving new perspectives on these issues. But the sheer imbalance in the world is something I haven’t managed to get a functional perspective on (either one that would let me accept it, or one that would let me do something worthwhile about it without completely giving up other goals in my life).

Ian, I think it’s really interesting that you’ve worked directly on these issues, and I can sympathize with your desire to run away back to Africa, though I’ve never been there. It just seems like it would feel more real to work on things somewhere like that than in a 1st world country. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot about living in a 1st world country, but it just seems like a big piece of the puzzle–or rather, of reality–is missing here. How does one continue to live such an incredibly privileged life when so many others are living far below the poverty level? And yet, I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a missionary or a relief worker.

Hope July 1, 2012 at 8:10 pm

My constant problem is probably a theme of the lack of moderation in my awareness and a lack of self confidence. I would like to learn how to relax. Go with the flow. Not think about every little thing that comes from my mouth.

Raimond July 2, 2012 at 8:05 am

My constant problem is lack of ability to unite my inner and outer worlds and to gain one perspective. Although I understand that I will die one day, I am not able to make any meaningful realization, beyond the intelectual level (in a budhism praxis way).

Nilza July 2, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Guilt–of never being good enough for anything. Desire–of being different and ‘better’ than everyone else. Fear–of being found out. Inability to connect with anyone. Resentment–of everyone else being happy but me. Realization–of being completely and utterly unremarkable in every sense.

Tobi July 2, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Well, I have a lot of reoccurring problems. but I think the worst one right now is liking to have control. If things get out of my control, I get angry and frustrated and that’s led to embarrassment and loss of dear friends.

I think the main problem is the environment in which I’m used to. Growing up and even now at 20 (and home for the summer break) I am not going to school (I was never allowed to go to school. But now I’m enrolled in Job Corps, where for the first time I am around people a lot and not in control of my surroundings). Here at home I am the master. I can go where ever I please (as long as my mom doesn’t need the car) I can do whatever I please. I can arrange the furniture however I want, be as clothed or not clothed as I want, I have the tv remote to myself, the wii to myself, the refrigerator is all mine, bed time is non existent, I think you get the point.

After enrolling in job corps and living on center with those 250 other people and the militant rules, I’ve noticed a lot more anxiety, troubling making and keeping friends, and everything else that comes with this sort of thing. If something isn’t under my control, I don’t feel as ease. I am anxious or angry or depressed.

Basically, I want things my way.

Reem July 3, 2012 at 12:41 am

recurring theme ..
i believe the ability to forgive has never been easy for me, i read those articles about forgiving and letting go and how it does you good.. but i see no truth in it, forgiving is like accepting evil.. letting it in, you give it permission to dim your emotions and make you less of a lover , giver… dreamer.

unless a great good finds me as a result of the trauma.. and i “feel and experience it” i believe i will never be able to forgive..

Tobi July 3, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Forgiveness isn’t at all about bowing down, it’s about the exact opposite. It’s not something you can do out of emotion. It’s something you just decide. By forgiving you’re saying “I’m better than this.” You don’t sink to their level by trying to get revenge on them or anything, or let the situation control you through anger. That is what it means to forgive. And you may have to do it a million times over, for the same thing. But if you don’t, evil really will dim your emotions.

Marie July 3, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Reading the responses to this post was really heartening for me, because hearing the stories of people’s struggles with self acceptance and perfectionism, reminded me that those issues used to be a problem for me, but aren’t anymore. I can’t even remember how they ceased to be problems for me, but it’s nice to realise that I’ve moved beyond them.

However I’m still stuck in one area of life. My problem is relationships. I try so hard to be a good partner – being respectful and accommodating and reasonable, but I never feel appreciated or loved. I wonder if I have some problem that prevents me from feeling loved or if I just make poor choices of partners. Perhaps I’m looking for more from relationships than they can give. I don’t know. I just can’t get it right. :/

John July 4, 2012 at 1:39 am

Facing unfavorable social situations. I find that, having spent a lot of my youth in social situations in which I am a target for unpleasantness (aka, bullying) that if I have a commitment to an unfavorable social situation, like returning books i borrowed from someone who doesn’t like me any more, I will avoid it like it is the plague. I will make a plan to meet up with the person, and then when it gets closer, I just chicken out, make an excuse not to go, and don’t respond to any inquiries. I do not like this, for a lot of reasons, one is that it’s a particularly crippling weakness in today’s world, and it’s caused many relationships of different varieties to fall apart, because I choose to chicken out of what could end up fixing things, rather than facing it properly.
While I know I face a lot of other shortcomings, this one is the most prominent of them for me, because I can fake things like compassion when I feel like the problem is ridiculous, or interest when I lack it, but I can’t fake the ability to face this, because the only one who really sees this is myself. And, on top of that, if I plan to do anything besides be a rock star (because they can just do whatever they want), or unemployed (nobody to answer to), I am going to have to learn to deal with these, even though I really only recently became comfortable with pleasant social situations.

but what bothers me most about it, is that people do not seem to understand it, and are very unwilling to work with me about it. As seen with the case of the borrowed books, I had been offering to mail them to her for months, since making a trip upstate just to return some books was a rather large inconvenience, I was working a rather time consuming, unpleasant job, with a boss who would not give me time off, and she wouldn’t come more my way to get her books, things got more unpleasant between us, as she wanted the books back, though never enough to meet somewhere convenient for me…

While, having written that situation out, I realize the problem was by in large her fault for not being willing to make it somewhere convenient, or by giving me her mailing address, I still chose on some of the odd times in the ending of this whole episode, to cancel any meeting up with her, because by that point I knew she was totally pissed, as she had a right to be.

Fiona July 5, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I did a word count for ‘anxiety’ in these comments and was surprised it only showed up 4 times (sorry for those who also struggle with it). ANXIETY is by far my biggest problem. It is a horrible, unnerving feeling – the worst feeling in the world according to me. I should be an anxiety expert by now (35+ years in the making), but I still struggle with the fundamentals of getting it under control. I am exhausted by the number of solutions I have tried, books I have read and experts I have met with. They all ‘help’ but they don’t ‘cure’ and sometimes it’s a daily battle to get through it, accept it, treat it, and take faith that it will dissipate as quickly as it came on. One day … I hope to write the book on mastering anxiety so someone else can suffer less as a result.

Alex July 6, 2012 at 9:01 am

Even if that word only showed up so many times, there were a number of other posts that mentioned things like lack of confidence, self-consciousness, etc. Perhaps others struggling with anxiety simply think of it in different terms?

Fiona July 12, 2012 at 12:43 am

Thought about it. Anxiety, I believe, is a symptom of potentially many different types of problems – many listed here. Often I do not know what exact problem is causing the anxiety, though I will often learn in hindsight and it usually winds up being related to uncertainty about something. But for me, personally, “anxiety” – the physical and mental symptoms of it alone – is what immediately comes to mind when I think of my biggest problem … not any of the potential ‘bigger’ problems that cause the anxiety in the first place. The uncomfortable physiological/psychological problem of anxiety is a greater problem to me than anything that may be causing it, if that makes sense. I would like to think that I am wise enough to work on the things causing anxiety and not just countering the anxiety itself, but I often find this very difficult to do as logical as it may sound.

Brian July 7, 2012 at 10:57 am

What’s my problem? Relationships with other people. I can’t seem to be comfortable having a conversation unless it’s about something really profound. Maybe this is because I feel like I have no real, close relationships beside one girl who I’ve more or less emotionally abused via my indecisiveness in our relations over the past several years. Even so, I find myself unsatisfied with the degree of “real” “profound” communication between us, which may be the reason I’ve been so indecisive. Regardless, I often attribute my constant moving around as the reason for my lack of close friends, but I realize that my family members have gathered plenty of great relationships, while I feel as if I have not. I think this makes me less comfortable “leaving the shore” as it were, since I feel as if the shore is practically nonexistent.

Vivienne July 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm

My problem is my career choice. I love acting, as cliche as that sounds but I would fight for acting & I would gladly die for it a million times. I’ve never loved anything so much. But growing up in a strict, conservative household, my parents want me to go to college. I want to go to acting school & thrive in theatre & film. Due to our tastes into what’s best for me, we tend to clash frequently. My father, who’s never been around for me decides ever-so-magically to give me advice on my career. He gives me false hope that he’ll support me in whatever I do but when we’re around family together, he mocks me. I’m standing no more than 5 feet away from him & he mocks me. “Hey, you know what she wants to be? She wants to be a BIG MOVIE STAR. What a joke.” & I have to take it. Because he’s my dad. My mother, on the other hand, reminds me that I should give up on my dream because it’s not realistic. She’s not as harsh but still sides with my father. It seems like I should give up on my dreams because I don’t have the resources: money,experience,etc. But how are you suppose to give up on something that makes you feel like you’ll die without it? That there’s no significance to life? But when you’re out there performing, you’re..free. People do crazy things when they’re in love. So should I let go or should I fight to the bitter end?

CB July 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Have you considered going to college to study theater? I know there are theater programs – most require auditions – but that way you could follow your dreams and honor your parents wishes. If you double majored in theater and something else everyone would be happy. Good luck!

Partha July 9, 2012 at 8:51 am

Hi Vivienne. As a rule I keep my nose firmly out of other people’s business, but I find your post so very moving — and, more importantly, you’re at one of those critical junctures of your life where perhaps, just perhaps, a word of support might provide that critical tilting over that might make all the difference — so, if I may, here’s what I think.

Nothing, but nothing, is more important than following your heart, your dream. Unfortunately one’s parents often do not support their children in this very critical juncture. That happens due to three reasons, generally: first, they do not really empathise with the child, do not hear her heartbeat; and/or, two, they don’t care all that much, that is, they don’t really love the child unselfishly, and enough, to go out on a limb for her, not when it inconveniences them seriously; and/or, three, perhaps not having had a real dream themselves, or perhaps not having followed it themselves, they do not themselves realise the vital importance of being able to follow one’s dream.

In any case, do realise that parents’ views, while not unimportant, aren’t all-important.

Now about the practical aspect of this whole enterprise: look, think about this. If you’re sure you want to do this, really sure, then decide: you do it, come what may. Don’t give yourself the option of not doing it. Do it, and do it now. Now I cannot presume to advise you on the specifics of your situation — you can do that best, and do it yourself. But don’t give yourself the option of backing out, okay, nor even of delaying. Tell yourself that, no matter what it takes, you’ve GOT to do this. Believe you me, things will work out. You may or may not become the next Natalie Portman, but you will definitely be able to walk your dream path. And that’s all that matters.

I say this to you as a father myself, and also as a child of not-always-very-supportive parents, as someone who’s found out the hard way about the importance of following one’s heart, and the huge price one pays, deep inside (although it may not always be evident on the outside), when one does not do that: Go live your dream. Let nothing stand in your way.

Not knowing the first thing about the world of acting, I wouldn’t presume to say anything about the specifics of things you need to do, but seek out people, ask, I’m sure you’ll know, you’ll find out. But the important thing is this: don’t let this moment pass, don’t let go your dream, don’t give up, don’t postpone: it could, in the long run, make all the difference to you, the difference between being fully alive and being one of the innumerable living dead who populate this world.

Cheers, and all the best.

Rosa July 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm

My problem is finding love. I’m young (24) and pretty and smart. But I find it hard to really like someone. The few times I have really liked or fallen in love with someone, it’s either unbelievably hard for us to be together or they are in love with someone else.

Dee. July 9, 2012 at 7:14 pm

So you asked what’s my problem. I wanted to come up with something deep/better at being human type-ish and all of that jazz, but frankly, probably one of the shortest comments here caught my eye. It was a post by a girl who’s young, smart and finding it impossible to find love. You want to know what my problem is? Girls and boys who have the entire world in front of them and feel/expect that love or whatever thing that they want will suddenly fulfill their lives. Trust me, I get it. It sucks being lonely. I’m only 19 and I know this. But that’s of no matter. If a person can’t really love themselves, how can they expect to be loved by someone else? And frankly, (I’m pretty sure I got this little motto ingrained into my head from one of your posts) getting the things you want isn’t necessarily self love. It takes a lot of fighting and quite a bit of patience, (and maybe a bottle or eight of wine along the way) but eventually when you come to terms with yourself, you become at peace with what you have in your life. And usually – it turns out – that life is a lot better than what was once imagined. So cheer up kids.
I just read more posts and they’re frustrating me.
All this false “good self esteem” crap is a load of crap.
I’m sick of people not being true to themselves. No wonder they can’t find love.. Honesty is the most important thing in a relationship. When you start with honesty.. You start.

Yazoo July 10, 2012 at 3:21 am

My problem is my family background!
Not one of my extended family have a career, let alone a basic job. Social welfare for all of them. Only one of them is married, the rest of them (middle-aged adults) are still struggling to even have a functioning relationship, or even functioning friendships. Low-self esteem is abound, self-centred selfishness, pettiness, lack of drive, lack of care for other people. These are my earliest “role models”.

My mom, as a single mother, under the pressure (and struggling with depression), has always been my worst critic, the things she has said to me have been worse than I myself could have came up with even in my finest moments of teenage self-loathing (or adult self-loathing)! Calling me a selfish bitch who ruined her life, when I was eleven, or informing me that my friends wouldn’t be my friends if they knew just what a horrible person I am inside, are two simple examples. The verbal-attacks got progressively more detailed as I got older, nitpicking at what I do, how I do it, what I say, etc.

But! I don’t consider myself particularly unlucky! I took it personally when I was young (snivelling in my room and such) but, I soon realised it was her being a nasty person, not me being a nasty person that was the issue. I got through my teen years trapped in that house of hell by shutting off all of my emotions. I was as cold as ice. I had two modes. Angry or hungry :P Nothing else came into it.
Looking back it’s just grey, vague memories. I remember I had an abusive boyfriend but I look at it in my head like I’m watching a film because I had no emotional reaction at the time. I can’t connect with that person I was because I wasn’t a person. I was a shield of iron.

Then in the last six years since being an “independent adult” I have come a long way. Beginning with extremely self-destructive behaviour resulting in chronic depression that lasted for a year (THAT definitely broadened my emotional plane! ), flunking college, getting kicked out from another college I have come one full circle. I have an amazingly healthy relationship with my boyfriend and with my friends, with people in general! I’m no longer a shield, I’m open and relaxed. I have drive, I’m athletic, I excel in college (there’s only so much failure one can take). To look at me you’d think I had a stable, loving caring background.

In reality, during my depressive episode, where not one family member helped me, where I tried to reach out, openly telling them I had depression, they ignored me or laughed. So, I read as much “self-help” literature as possible and tried to learn and change from that. If you can’t find a basic role model in life reach for one off a shelf! That’s how I changed who I was.

Unfortunately, my issue is, every now and again I do get hit quite badly with the “imposter” syndrome, but in a hard way, I get really low and feel disgusted with myself. What am I doing with a boyfriend who is mentally stable? If he knew the struggle that goes on in my head, and who I’ve been in the past, they way I’ve acted over the years, the failure I’ve been. ( I have told him, but a description is not the full reality)

I will also be hit by extreme feelings of inadequacy when it comes to my friends because they’re so well-adjusted and it all comes so naturally to them. If they knew that I have had to take deliberate action and work towards being normal, they would ship me off to a loony bin! :)

I just have the disgusting feeling that creeps up on me that no matter what I do I will end up on the social welfare, with no friends, all alone just like my mom and my relatives, because poor mental-health runs in families, why wouldn’t I crash and burn one day and just be a total failure, it seems inescapable.
I have been a success, I’ve turned my life around, but the feeling happens sometimes, MOST often when I check my financial status. I get stressed when I have to scrape by because no money means less options to further my education leading me back to the doom and gloom of rumination about my future.

So! That’s the biggest problem in my life. Don’t even get me started on my Hypochondria! That is also a weighty issue in my life, but it does serve me well. I exercise my body with discipline because of THE FEAR!!! :O

My only advice to people is…
This is about survival of the fittest. So figure out how to be the “fittest” in all aspects of your life. Love, health, friends, career, education, hobby, etc.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the best, but you do have to do your best. That’s your responsibility and that’s how you change your life, in your own way, in your own time.

I just lived in a third-world country for a year, so I don’t have words of comfort or faith to offer to those struggling. And I think it’s best if people don’t hear those kinds of words.

The first-world ideas of “everything happens for a reason” and “karma comes around” don’t quite translate so well when people die all around you, and there’s injustice in all aspects of life.

Faith is a nice comfort blanket, but it holds you back. Reality is harsh, but when you know what the problem is completely, no matter how little you want to hear it, you know what you can do about it.

Life story = Over ;)

Sukeey July 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm

What you have done is amazing, even heroic!
I can’t imagine how hard it must had been. I applause, respect and admire you for that.
Although I don’t know you, I’m proud of what you did and encourage you to be proud to !
There is no such thing as a normal person. There is no predetermined you. You do not inherit failure. You are who you choose to be. You have chosen to be a warrior. For that, I congratulate and love you.
I wish you the best and hope you will never belittle yourself again, because you should know you DESERVE better!

Yazoo July 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

WOW, thank you so much for you kind words, and for even taking the time to read my comment!!! I really appreciate it! You just made my day! :D

I hope life treats you well, for you are a lovely person! :)

Sukeey July 14, 2012 at 3:12 pm

My pleasure ^^
I’m actually very honoured to know that someone somewhere appreciated what I have to say after he allowed me to take a peek at his life although I don’t know really him <3
And I hope the same for you my friend and even more if it's possible :)

Yazoo July 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Haha, Sukeey! Of course I’d appreciate your kind words, it makes more of an impact than you’d realise!

However, I’m a girl!!!! ;)

Thanks again!!! :D

Janet Maher July 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

I have nominated you for an Illuminating Bloggers Award. You can read the details at MaherMatters: .
Wishing you well,

Sukeey July 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Lack of answers.
Not knowing how to answer the following questions:
Why I’m I still alive while I have no purpose ? (Maybe it’s fear)
How could I be less afraid ? (of just about everything)
Is it possible to know exactly what to do with my life ? If yes, How ?
How to start living ?

Booboo July 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Why I’m I still alive while I have no purpose ?

It hasn’t come to you yet. Some people know! Some people get hit with it ;) Something will come into your life that will make you realise your purpose, you don’t have to go out there specifically looking for it, but you do have to get out there and “show up” in this world for the next few years for it to come along!

How could I be less afraid ?
Just look over your entire life and all the bad things that have happened to you. You handled them, you know if something bad happened again, you can handle it. Things happen regardless of whether you think about them or not, so enjoy yourself when nothing fearful is happening, and deal with the fearful things as they come!

Is it possible to know exactly what to do with my life ? If yes, How ?
A lot of people are in the same boat as you as regards this question. It is possible to know exactly what you don’t want to do with your life ;) Maybe by process of elimination throughout the next few years you can figure it out? Throw yourself into the opportunities that seem interesting, learn which ones suit you and which ones don’t and it will eventually come to you.

How to start living ?
Get out there and throw yourself into something! Find a social group, work, read, study, learn, grow. It doesn’t have to be fantastic, it doesn’t have to be successful, but it does have to make you feel like you’re alive, and make you happy.
Everyone has their own definition of what it is to be “living”!

That’s just my two cents… I hope it helps in some way? My answers may not even relate to your life! Sorry, I wish you gain clarity soon! :)

Jude July 13, 2012 at 4:34 am

Whats the hardest part? … I have two. My LIFE hardship is keeping myself open when the men in my life continuously show me they aren’t to be trusted, as they have my entire life. Realizing that becoming bitter would only harm me, no matter how badly I’ve been hurt and no matter how they’ve betrayed my trust. This is actually quite hard. I believe this is what I’ve struggled with since I was 5 years old. And, will continue to do so. At least, until honorable people are introduced into my life.

My second struggle would be on that I’m currently battling with. It is to not let others (and especially not the internet) control what I think of humanity. I believe the internet has a particular way of making one feel soulless and black. Moreso than any fight with any one individual that happens ‘in person’. If you have a fight with someone in person, you still somehow maintain your person-hood. But if you receive negative feedback online, somehow everything we are becomes more evil. More … I don’t know, more nasty. It becomes easier to always have to be right, to show ego, and its dirty. It really is.
I’m struggling to remember that every day, as I work on the web.

Ani July 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm

This is the my first time writing on Raptitude. I just recently discovered this blog, and I check in now and again. I get inspired by the overall commitment to honesty and self-betterment. I often relate to the struggles expressed (most especially the disabilitating procrastination).

Just reading through the comments on this post, it emerged clearly to me that many of us are struggling on opposing sides of the same problem. What amazing potential for healing and perspective-swapping to occur!

I would like to share with you two dear pieces of inspiration that I think about that help me get back on track when I am particularly hard on myself.

One is a quote from Martha Graham, and I think it applies to the human race, not just artists: “There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

The other piece of inspiration comes from the beginning of the 2nd part of an interview with Leonard Cohen. It so resonates with me. Finding a sense of inner-peace and contentment has everything to do with toppling the blame and shame mindset, and adopting a forgiving and accepting approach to ourselves, life and people. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30u_L99IOLU&feature=relmfu

Taken together these inspirational bits are powerful, even paradoxical. How could we feel relaxed and at peace (Cohen) in a perpetual and necessary state of restlessness (Graham)? I’ve come to understand it as a cat-and-mouse game! A matter of psychological tag! On a good day, I might even find this to be amusing.

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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