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What’s your problem?

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

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

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

I want to know:

What has been the hardest part for you?

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

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

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

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

Tell us. What’s your problem?


Photo by David Cain

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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?

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