Some time ago I stumbled upon a great post on reddit, where a user by the name of Tom posted on /r/getdisciplined “I need serious help, I’m destroying my life and my future”. Below, while its a lot to read, was one of the best blocks of advice for life I’ve read in a long time. /u/bauski offered great advice on how to curb the growing apprehension and anxiety involved with falling behind on what you value.
Worth the read.
First off, let me just say, I know exactly what you’re going through. Through personal experiences with “slacking” and procrastination, I can honestly say that I’ve been in a state of mind just as you have been, where projects get pushed back into obscurity and you’re left with nothing because you let all the things that mattered drop to the wayside. The part about social anxiety, I am not as personally wise about, but I do have friends who have had the same exact kind of social nervousness, the kind of feelings that stops you from being able to even talk to strangers, and I think I can help you on that as well.
It sounds like you’re very overwhelmed. I can understand that. You’re at an age where you feel like you have to bare all of the responsibilities for all of your actions. In some ways this is true, but life isn’t as scary as you think it is Tom. Life doesn’t have to be that scary. I’m not asking you to join a cult, but I am going to ask you take some time to consider how you perceive the world.
It’s good that you’ve tried seeing therapists before, they are good people, but it’s hard to start a relationship with them, to really get close and trust somebody that you are paying money to see. Not just because of the transaction of services for goods, but because of the feeling of “there is something wrong with me and that is why I am here, fix me”, not every session can help.
When I was in College, what you Brits call Uni I guess, I took a year off from school to really take a look at my life. At least on paper that is what it said. In reality, I took a year off, figured out nothing, did a ton of drugs, and then wasted away my life with video games and 4chan. When I got back to school the next year I wasted away that year doing the same thing, without even being able to finish most of my classes because of my lack of participation. The year afterwards was the same, and the year afterwards the same as that.
All in all, I think a huge chunk of my early adult life was used spending my parents money while living a lie. I’m sure you can understand how horrible a feeling that was.
For me it all started in middle school, right around when I got my first computer. Since then I’ve been fairly addicted to the computer, and only recently have I been able to control my misuses more. But since middle school I have used the computer as a tool to perpetuate my real struggle. Tom this is the important part. What is your real struggle? From the sound of it, you have a very similar problem to what I had. I knew I had potential, and talent. When I did things I liked, or when I was motivated enough to do them, people loved what I did. People praised me for it. They said I had a new way of looking at it, or that I had such pertinent questions. The idea that I was special, my ability to be cognizantly faster, conceptually more voracious made my struggle harder and harder. The struggle was that I could imagine the perfect life, the perfect things, the perfect project, all done, all nicely wrapped in a bow and paper, but all the work that would be involved looked so hard, so difficult. And as I grew older, and the projects got bigger, and as life grew more real, I pushed it all away, I kept on pushing it back further and further, not wanting to deal with it. And the more I pushed it away the harder it got for me to try.
While in my mind I could think of the most perfect things, the most perfect ways, and the most perfect scenes, in real life I just couldn’t be bothered to do them, because I was afraid to start.
I didn’t want to have that pressure. That responsibility. I was too afraid to live my life.
Here’s the good news Tom. It’s not always going to be that way. Not if you want to change it. Seeing as how you’re asking a group of strangers for help you’re already doing the right thing. You’re struggling to get out of your trap that you have set, and that’s what it takes. You have the power to change things Tom, and the best part is that as you get older your brain chemical balance will settle down and you will feel better, things won’t seem as bad, but the important part is, that you must start now, you must take steps to work out of it, if you are going to move on with your life.
Before I give you suggestions on what to do, lets get back to the mindset thing.
- “Failure is a specific label for a specific type of result.”
- “Failure will not kill you.”
- “You learn more from failure than you will from success.”
- “Failure can lead to success.”
- “Results are rarely as important as the journey.”
If we take a look at the idea of failure we can see that failure isn’t a bad thing. Failure is just a temporary state that results from some actions. It is a label we put on to results, just the same as we put on a label for “success”. For instance, lets say you go for a run. What are the state of possible results? You either run, or you don’t. What if you end up walking in between? What if you only do 1 lap? What if you walk 5? What is failure? What is failure based upon? If you jogged, walked or ran, and you enjoyed the moment, and you got some exercise, isn’t that good enough? Judging yourself upon results is useless and will only amount to sadness. Don’t worry about failure Tom. Don’t worry about the fact that most of your projects you start will not end up in the same way you planned it to be, or hoped it would be. The fact of trying is what is important. The fact of opening up that blank screen and writing those first 6 words is what is important. Not what those words say. That can come later.
- “People are so worried about themselves they don’t have time to worry about you.”
- “The very high majority of people want to look smart and strong.”
- “The very high majority of people really just want somebody they can share their hopes and problems with.”
- “The more open you are to people, the more open people will be to you.”
- “When people say something awful, it is rarely intentional, and often caused by something unrelated to you.”
- “There is an unstopping wealth of love, ideas, beliefs, and resources within people.”
- “There is no “normal” when it comes to humans.”
I’ve had two close friends who have had problems with social anxiety. Two friends with the same fears, but with very different ways of approaching the problem. One has had anxiety since middle school, and has slowly shut himself off from the world. The other had taken the opposite course and has continuously been practicing his social skills since child hood to try and be as suave and “perfect” as possible. Neither methods have made either of them happy. Either way, they weren’t really dealing with the main issue of WHY they had social anxiety. Instead of trying to deal with the mindset, the belief that was causing them this stress, they tried to patch it over. And it has led to problems for them.
Good news is, both of them are getting older now, becoming more comfortable with their skins, and have found a more balanced way of approaching the situation now. I can suggest plenty of different tools and references for you to start on learning social skills but that is only a band-aid to the problem of why dealing with strangers is so hard. Why opening up is so difficult, when we all know most of us just want somebody who will listen and understand.
Like the previous part about failure, there are no optimal scenarios of meeting people. There are no perfect get togethers. Every human being you encounter will steer your perfect conversation in ways that you might have never imagined, but that is not a bad thing. People are an infinite pool of knowledge and experience. Every encounter you have with people can be a journey.
I used to ignore my parents a lot. I loved them, and I respected them, so I wanted to perpetuate their idea of “Perfect Bauski” to them. And so I lied for a lot of my life. Sure sometimes I shared some non-important problems, but when they would ask how things were going I used to lie all the time. The phrase “Everything is going well” used to be a favorite. Right next to “I’ve got it under control.”
I know this sounds hokey, but the truth will set you free. At some point, thanks to a very smart and caring person, I decided to open up to my parents. Maybe not all of the truth, but at least start from a very small part. Instead of “Everything is okay” I called them, and I told them a little bit, and I told them, there was more that I wanted to share, but it would take some time.
The reality of the situation is, opening myself up to them, that wasn’t as much for them as it was for me. The release that I got from being able to share my real fears, my true feelings, it has been like a dam bursting open for me. Like I didn’t have to worry about my problems anymore, because somebody else knew about them. Like I wasn’t dealing with my issues by myself. Telling strangers can be nice too, but I suggest you try really sharing your problems to people that care about you. You might be very surprised by how good you feel.
And I’m talking about parents because that’s where it starts. You say you don’t have many friends, but you must have some. Start with parents, and then do friends, or vice versa, but I’m sure there are people you trust in this world. You gotta go out and open yourself up. Because people want that. They don’t want the “I’m perfectly fine and everything is okay” because everybody knows that’s a lie. Nobody is okay. We all have our own worries. And when somebody can open up to tell them, somebody that they care about, then they open up, and you become a real part of their life.
So start there. Start small, and start close. And once you can do that, you’ll feel much more capable of meeting you people and opening up to them.
- “Baby steps.”
- “Two steps forward is easy, one step back is hard.”
- “Loving yourself is the hardest thing to do.”
- “Live in the now.”
Everything people tell you, remember to take it in baby steps. You feel pressured I know. You want something to fix it now! But I guarantee you, just a little bit of progress can go a long way. Think in baby steps. Don’t overwhelm yourself with all the things. If it’s possible for you financially, I highly suggest cutting down on everything. Instead of trying to do 3 courses like a “normal” person, try doing 1 class that you know you’ll enjoy. Take walks, try to figure out what your heart really wants to do, not just things that make you upset about yourself. Although sitting inside and reading the internet might keep your mind off things, think of how you will feel afterwards and stop yourself from doing the things that make you unhappy.
Take care of yourself. Don’t think of yourself as just 1 being. Think of yourself as a tiny bird that you need to muster strength for. Think of yourself as a fragile chicklet that needs to be nurtured and strengthened. Love yourself like somebody that you would want to meet and hang around with. And of course, remember to do it slowly. Very, fucking slowly. Because if you race forward too fast, you’re only going to hurt yourself faster.
And when that progress stops, it will hurt. Progress cannot continue on a straight path forever. It will meander. Some days it’ll feel like you went back four steps. You’ll start working out for a week, and you’ll be doing well at school, and then suddenly a month goes by where you did nothing again. Where you ran back into your cave and feared the world, because you hated yourself. But remember, pitfalls are all just part of life. There is no failure. As long as you get back up again and try, things will never be over. So after a month or two months or half a year of hurting again, you’ll get back up, because you’ll get sick of being stuck, and you’ll start moving forward again, and you’ll start remembering all the lessons that you’ve taught yourself all over again, and then you’ll progress once more, and then you’ll fall, and then you’ll hide, and then you’ll get stuck, and then you’ll start moving forward once more and everything will go on forever. But each time, it’ll be a little be farther, a little bit easier, and you’ll feel a little bit better. Cause that’s how life goes.
The final piece of advice I have is this: Breath. Every time you do anything, any little thing, take a long breath and live in the now. Try to enjoy the moment of whatever you are doing. Try to enjoy the small and fine details of the process, instead of worrying about results and pride. People don’t give a shit. Just make sure to take care of yourself. That is all that is asked of you. Breath, enjoy, and love.
Good luck. And remember to have fun.