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I'm losing my edge to the kids from France and from London.
August 6, 2009 8:19 AM   Subscribe

It doesn’t matter how many goals I achieve, I never feel good about myself. It’s really beginning to be a real drag. It’s even starting to keep me up at night. I sit up in bed thinking about how much of a loser I am all night long. It’s really insane. How do you feel like a success?

I recently turned 30, so I think that’s part of it. I have also had the same dead end job for the last 6 years since I finished college. I thought it was going to lead to something, but it hasn’t and now I feel I have wasted so many opportunities in my 20s and have nothing to show for it. I don’t know how to leave. I am so specialized in this stupid job that I don’t know how to move on. Humanities degree, obviously.

But, you know, it shouldn’t make me feel that bad. Many people smarter than me don’t even have jobs these days. I also have a family and worked all these years at this job to support it. It gave me the flexibility I needed to keep my family going. There were great reasons to stay, including raises and health insurance, but I regret staying so long. Really, really regret it. I was going to leave YEARS ago, but things kept coming up. Health, collapse of economy, little things like that. So I am still here, feeling bad about myself. I compare myself to mythological people from high school, imagining them all rich and happy and in wonderful careers. What the hell? I didn’t care about them then, why am I comparing myself to them now? And I don’t even talk to any of them, so it’s not like I am comparing myself to anything real.

This is the part that just drives me crazy: we are all doing well. My wife and daughter are doing wonderfully. I love my marriage. We have no debt. Finally live in a great apartment. Have money in the bank. I am totally sober. All of these things I worked damn hard to achieve. But I don’t feel like a success. I feel like a total, complete loser. Ashamed all the time of my job, my past decisions. My self-worth is totally shot. Maybe my hedonic treadmill is stuck at a higher setting than most people because objectively I have achieved plenty for my age. Not a lot of 30 year olds are picking out high schools for their kids to go to next year. But, I feel so far behind people my age that had their 20s to actually craft their career.

I am just giving this as a bit of background. I know that I have to quit my job and find a new one. Besides the voice that tells me I will end up at Burger King, I am just worried that once I achieve the goal of a better job, it will just be something else. For a while I hated myself for not being sober. So I got sober. Then I hated myself for being totally broke. So I saved up a sizable amount of money. Then I hated myself for having such a crappy apartment. So I got a great one. I mean, how the hell do I ever feel good about what I have done? It’s this endless struggle and it doesn’t matter what I achieve; I always end up at this place just feeling like a loser.

So, how do you savor your success? How do you feel like a success?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (35 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
I sit up in bed thinking about how much of a loser I am all night long.

If this is accurate and not hyperbole, you almost certainly have something neurochemical going on. Interrupted sleep and obsessive thoughts of self-loathing are two textbook symptoms of clinical depression.

Please see a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist, and get some help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:21 AM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't have a marriage, children, or money in the bank. Those are all achievements to begin with. So too is freeing yourself from an addiction to alcohol. It sounds like there are a lot of things to be proud of in your life, the focus - what's bringing it all down - is being unhappy with your job. That's the thing you need to change.
posted by mippy at 8:22 AM on August 6, 2009


I was one of those mythological people from high school that were supposed to take on the world. At my fifteen year reunion last year, half-blotto, one of my classmates told me, "So what happened to you? I'd have figured you would have made millions on the Internet by now." In reality, I was underemployed for a while, fixed people's cars and tutored math, and now I design plumbing. So man up, bucko. It's called growing up.
posted by notsnot at 8:28 AM on August 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


I have achieved plenty for my age. Not a lot of 30 year olds are picking out high schools for their kids to go to next year. But, I feel so far behind people my age that had their 20s to actually craft their career.

This is two sides of the same coin. If you base your feeling good on what you have accomplished relative to other people, you're never going to feel good until you become the most successful person in the world. It's a very easy trp to fall into; I catch myself doing it constantly. But it's just not healthy.

And yes, it sounds like depression may be a component. I would suggest go to therapy, and work on finding out what makes you happy. Just you, without any comparisons to anyone else or what you "should" be doing.

(And don't listen to people who call you "bucko.")
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:36 AM on August 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


If this is accurate and not hyperbole, you almost certainly have something neurochemical going on.

Just because you have issues to work out doesn't necessarily mean they're neurochemical and can be solved by medication. Medicine doesn't fix us, it just changes how we're feeling and the decisions we make in the present tense. If you have an underlying problem, then it will be waiting to spring on you again if you don't combat it directly. I'm just piping up to say that if you seek any psychological or psychiatric treatment, I hope you explore a full range of options.
posted by hermitosis at 8:37 AM on August 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


For a while I hated myself for not being sober. So I got sober. Then I hated myself for being totally broke. So I saved up a sizable amount of money. Then I hated myself for having such a crappy apartment. So I got a great one. I mean, how the hell do I ever feel good about what I have done?

I don't remember where I heard this story. I'll make it really short. A little girl was learning to ride her bicycle. Her dad pushed her down the driveway, and she ran smack into their tree. After the tears ran out, they tried again. BOOM! Tree. In a stroke of insight, the dad asked what she was looking at. "The tree," she replied. Giving a chuckle, he said, "Look at the sidewalk this time." She then rode comfortably past the tree.

You're approaching your life as, "What do I hate about it," and then trying to eliminate that thing. You're playing whack-a-mole with sources of negative energy. Some of that isn't a bad thing, but if it's all you're doing it means you're choosing to engage your thoughts and emotions with situations that make you feel badly.

Instead of moving away from what you don't want, trying figuring out what you DO want. And then work on getting it. Try making a list of life goals, and then give each one a next action step. In this way you will condition yourself to look for positivity and opportunity in your life.
posted by dualityofmind at 8:40 AM on August 6, 2009 [33 favorites]


Just because you have issues to work out doesn't necessarily mean they're neurochemical and can be solved by medication. Medicine doesn't fix us, it just changes how we're feeling and the decisions we make in the present tense

hermitosis, I could not agree less. It is possible that there are two things going on--the issues, which he can work on, and bad chemicals in the brain, which need medicine.

Having concerns about your life and where it's going is software.

Lying awake all night being unable to think about anything except the above is quite likely, if it happens frequently enough, to be hardware. Until you fix the hardware, you're not going to be able to debug the software effectively.

Sleep disruption and obsessive thoughts are two symptoms of misfiring neurons. Yes, there's a continuum--people whose brain chemistry is working fine sometimes experience those things--but if they happen consistently enough, they're a symptom that something is wrong.

It's like the diagnosis of other diseases. Everyone feels dizzy from time to time, but if you feel dizzy several times every single day, you need to go to a doctor and figure out what's going on, because that's a symptom of something being out of whack.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:48 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


welcome to samsara, the cycle of suffering. It doesn't matter whether or not you believe in rebirth or reincarnation, and I'm not trying to proselytize, but this is a pretty good description of the different realms people pass through. The article describes it as separate lives, but I'm sure you can apply characteristics from each realm to your single life. Here's a secular, non-Buddhist article if you prefer. This is the human condition, to suffer, find happiness, then suffer again.

It really doesn't matter how much you achieve, because you can't hold onto any of it, none of it is yours. You suffer because you're attached to this idea that you must have this or that, and upon getting it, you become attached to something else. Again, this is the human condition and you should not judge yourself for it. However, I don't think any amount of realization and insight will help until you get to a psychiatrist. It'd be like thinking about running a marathon when your leg is broken - heal the leg first.
posted by desjardins at 8:51 AM on August 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


For a while I hated myself for not being sober. So I got sober. Then I hated myself for being totally broke. So I saved up a sizable amount of money. Then I hated myself for having such a crappy apartment. So I got a great one.

So let me start off by commending you for actually fixing all of these things. Most people wallow in their own self-loathing and never actually do anything about it. Congratulations, you have gone out and made a better life for yourself. I am quite impressed.

I thought it was going to lead to something, but it hasn’t and now I feel I have wasted so many opportunities in my 20s and have nothing to show for it.

From where I'm standing it sounds like you evaluate your self-worth based not on what you have, but on what you've failed to achieve or acquire. There are other aspects to your job that aren't just the dead end that you see. If the job weren't so easy for you, then I doubt you would have been able to achieve all the things you've already done. Now that you have accomplished those things maybe it is time to find a new job and become more successful. But don't be blinded by the possibility of more money or more success. The most important thing you have going on right now is your family and if you don't pay attention to that you will seriously regret it in the years to come. Don't miss out on watching your daughter grow up because you want to put in some late hours at some new job looking for a promotion. A job is a job. It's something you do and get paid for. It is not you. It does not care about you. Frankly, your family and the people who care about you probably don't care about it. So why should you? Now that you've got all these other things straightened out in your life, take some time to do the things that you are actually interested in doing. Start hiking regularly. Take family trips. Go see some plays. Learn how to cook awesome meals. Anything you want really. Having a simple job affords you an awesome luxury that others in higher positions often lack: time.

There are benefits to the job you have. Don't throw it away unless you know for certain that your quality of life will be better with a new job.
posted by scrutiny at 8:51 AM on August 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also, I have to disagree with the posters who are saying that he needs medicine. Taking the western approach to drugging everybody up isn't really healthy. Sometimes people just don't know what a genuine relationship with themselves looks like and they need to be shown by a therapist that they build trust with. Pumping someone full of chemicals that we've had for much less than a century for every ailment seems kind of grotesque to me--especially if the underlying self hate patterns can be corrected with talk therapy.
posted by vas deference at 8:56 AM on August 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Go see a doctor. I did.
posted by Xoebe at 8:57 AM on August 6, 2009


Also, I have to disagree with the posters who are saying that he needs medicine.

I just went back and re-read the thread. People are suggesting he needs to see a doctor. That isn't the same as saying he definitely needs medication. Perhaps a shrink would suggest seeing how therapy goes first.
posted by Justinian at 9:01 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


especially if the underlying self hate patterns can be corrected with talk therapy.

Exactly. Medicine is not a silver bullet. You can't target a specific receptor in a specific part of the brain. You target that receptor in all parts of the brain. Sometimes this is the best approach, and sometimes it's the only approach, but if it's possible to fix the way you're feeling without a psychiatrist's help, that is far superior. You should definitely see a therapist first and see what can be resolved by simply talking.
posted by scrutiny at 9:03 AM on August 6, 2009


If you base your feeling good on what you have accomplished relative to other people, you're never going to feel good until you become the most successful person in the world. It's a very easy trp to fall into; I catch myself doing it constantly. But it's just not healthy.

Seconding this. I got lucky when I was in college -- I had a mind-blowing conversation with one of my teachers, and it profoundly affected my attitude towards success, achievement, and life itself. It's kind of a core-level attitude adjustment, and even still it took me several years to really incorporate it, and I still had some struggles to overcome, but her philosophy affected me profoundly.

Her argument was, basically, that trying to live your life towards certain goals wasn't the trick -- the trick was to live your life by a METHOD. See, we're all going to live a long time, she said, and we will probably change what our goals are many times over because that's just what humans do. We were meant to try new things every now and then. So if you decide that you are going to have a goal as the foundation for your life -- you are going set out to be the best cobbler EVER -- well, then, what happens if you actually DO become the Best Cobbler Ever when you're only 32? Then what do you do with the rest of your life? Or, what happens if you DON'T become the Best Cobbler Ever?

On the other hand, if you decide to have a METHOD or a philosophy as the foundation for your life -- something like " no matter what I decide to try to do, I will always do my very best at it" -- then you can change your goals as much as you like. And even if you don't actually attain the goal, if you've stuck to your method of doing them, you've still succeeded. (My own personal such goal is, basically, "to mine own self I will be true"; I won't do anything that makes me feel like I am changing who I am on some level or giving up any of my principles, and anything I do I do in my own fashion, and it's brought me a somewhat quirky means of success.)

I fully realize that this sounds like the kind of thing that you think up when you're stoned, but it had a big impact on me. Try pondering that for a while.

Others have advised therapy or counseling -- that couldn't hurt either (hell, it helped me too). Drugs may work too, but they may also not work -- straight-up counseling could help you wrap your brain around some "what exactly is success anyway" concepts.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:06 AM on August 6, 2009 [39 favorites]


You know, you've shown the discipline and determination to accomplish a lot of things in your life: you have a happy marriage and a good family life, you're debt-free, sober, were able to move to a great apartment, etc. etc.

I'm sure you've got lots of stories to tell about how you identified a problem (e.g., being in debt), straightened out your feelings about it (i.e., stopped feeling lousy about it and got focused on fixing it), stuck with the plan for correcting the problem, and succeeded at it.

So how are your current problems -- needing to change jobs, feeling depressed -- any different? Won't they yield to the same strategies you've obviously perfected for overcoming problems in the past?

[In case it's not obvious, I am not being snarky here. The fact of the matter is that you've perfected ways to fix problems and you can apply those same ways to these problems. As pointed out by other commenters, you may be hitting one of the underlying issues here -- that is, depression -- but it can be confronted like any other problem. Yes, you may need to seek assistance in the form of a therapist or psychiatrist or both, but I expect you've learned to use outside resources in overcoming some of the problems you've already successfully tackled.]
posted by DrGail at 9:14 AM on August 6, 2009


The best trick a therapist ever taught me was to list the things that are going right in my life. It puts what you're worrying about incessantly in perspective. Also: good job on fixing what you felt was wrong. That's healthy.

For what it's worth I have similar issues as yourself. I worry about not doing enough with my life (even though I have my share of accomplishments) or that I focus too much on the wrong things.

Here's how I deal, but it may not work for you. I realized earlier this summer that I need to live my life as if it's a high-wire act. I don't mean that I feel the need to take stupid risks or seek thrills. I need to have a long-term project that isn't certain to pay off. I need this so that I have an answer when I ask myself what I'm doing with my life. The most extreme manifestation of this was that I quit college to become a novelist. Having a risky, long-term project like a novel was something that I could focus on and kept me from feeling I was wasting my life. After the novel had been accepted for publication and the euphoria of success had worn off all those feelings returned. At first I didn't really know what to do about it. I was somewhat confused as to why my longed-for success wasn't sustaining me emotionally. In the last month or so I have started out on a couple of risky, long-term projects. While it hasn't made me completely happy it has at least gotten rid of the whole "what am I doing with my life?" business. This may be easier for me to do because I do not have any children, but your long-term project can be something more sensible than mine are.

It is important to know what one is doing with one's life. I can't tell you what you need to do, but figuring it out is important.

On a more practical level, if what you need to feel more fulfilled is a different job then I recommend seeking out a good career counselor. The National Board for Certified Counselors' CounselorFind is one place to start looking.
posted by Kattullus at 9:36 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude, you need Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
posted by dchrssyr at 9:51 AM on August 6, 2009


This sounds a lot like depression/anxiety and the age 30 transition. People are right that human suffering is normal and not treatable, but depression is. A colleague of mine told me that the Dalai Lama's brother was getting treated for depression. He (the Dalai Lama) was asked about it and suggested that there was nothing wrong with "A little meditation, a little medication..."

I think you've already figured out that if you make some kind of dramatic change (e.g., leave your job, etc.), it won't help, because you'll find some compelling reason to hate that as well.

I'd strongly suggest you talk to a therapist, just for a few times to see if it's in the realm of helpful. If not for your own sake, do it for your daughter, so she can learn that it's possible for people to take their sense of fulfillment seriously enough to try something as bold and scary as getting help.
posted by jasper411 at 9:55 AM on August 6, 2009


You might want to check out this recent Scientific American article on perfectionism and self-criticism. It details the damage this type of thinking can do, and potential coping mechanisms.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:08 AM on August 6, 2009


I sit up in bed thinking about how much of a loser I am all night long.

You do this, and you don't see the connection? Try CBT. It's basically what you're doing, just in a much more positive way.
posted by Solomon at 10:14 AM on August 6, 2009


Whenever I feel like you, I think about all the people that wish I had what I have. I'm not rich. I'm underpaid for the degree I have. I'm not passionate about my career, but I have nice colleagues and they put cookies out in the kitchenette pretty frequently. Lots of people with degrees with more prestige (and a lot more educational debt) are getting laid off right and left.

I'm just really grateful that there are so many options available to me. I don't feel stuck. You shouldn't either. You have a solid track record. You can do anything you want. The fun is in mulling over all the hundreds of options you have that you don't know about.
posted by anniecat at 10:22 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not a lot of 30 year olds are picking out high schools for their kids to go to next year. But, I feel so far behind people my age that had their 20s to actually craft their career.

I had my twenties to "craft" a career and I went to a top college and have a very shiny master's degree from an internationally renown university in the UK, and look at me, I'm in the same place. People with my title are almost a decade younger than me. My supervisor is my age. I went to better colleges than she did. Shrug. The chips, for most of us, fell where they did.
posted by anniecat at 10:27 AM on August 6, 2009


Here's a computerized, self-paced CBT program that might be very helpful to you.
posted by jbickers at 10:45 AM on August 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Bad chemicals in the brain" might be the symptom rather than the cause. Thirding that you should pursue therapy, not a pill.
posted by ellF at 10:46 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


What stood out to me in your post was the part about

"For a while I hated myself for not being sober. So I got sober. Then I hated myself for being totally broke. So I saved up a sizable amount of money. Then I hated myself for having such a crappy apartment. So I got a great one. I mean, how the hell do I ever feel good about what I have done?"

It seems like what's keeping you from feeling good is that you have a self hate issue going on. It's motivated you to keep improving your life and your family's so it's working for you that way but it's not working in that you aren't able to really enjoy your successes. Logically, you know you're doing ok but emotionally you aren't buying it. Even if you find a better job, I have my doubts it will make you feel better for long.

I'm more comfortable with the self help books myself than with therapy but either would probably be a step in the right direction. Books are nice because you can go to the library and if it doesn't work for you, just go on to the next with out being out a lot of money. If you find one that works for you, then go out and buy it as a reference. If you do better with talking to someone, go the therapist route but I think you need some kind of help to figure this out.
posted by stray thoughts at 11:00 AM on August 6, 2009


I wonder if the feeling of "success" isn't something most people are always looking for in the future, not the present, & see in others, and never think they've achieved it themselves, because then they'd sit back and stop competing with everyone else for success.

But environment matters - a dead-end job will mess with your head. It's putting yourself in a place, on a daily basis, that says you'll never be able to do anything more than you're doing. Because as long as you stay there, that's true - you won't - and the environment itself is telling you that you can't. That's not you, it's the job. Even if it's not about the money, who wants to do the same thing for years?

Psychiatrists and antidepressants aren't going to take you out of an environment that objectively sucks and will make just about anyone unhappy. It can't hurt you to apply for other jobs and try to get out! What's the worst that can happen? You don't get a callback, or you get an interview and don't get the job (but if you even get an interview, that should tell you that you're qualified for different and better jobs, or they wouldn't waste their time). So why not go for it.. after all, you absolutely, positively can't have those years of your life back, you can only do what you can do today.
posted by citron at 11:13 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was feeling similar the other day and happened upon this TED speech by Alain de Boton. Although it's coming from a successful writer, he's got some interesting things to say about how societies measure success and failure, and why we've become obsessed with those two terms and their implications.
posted by sharkitect at 11:19 AM on August 6, 2009


Lying awake all night being unable to think about anything except the above is quite likely, if it happens frequently enough, to be hardware.

That right there is the biggest pitfall of reasoning through metaphor. We aren't computers. The "hardware" and "software" are functionally the same thing. And a kneejerk suggestion from Dude On The Internet M.D. to medicate immediately should be dismissed out of hand. (There may or may not be neurochemical factors involved, but let's put away the hypospray for a second.) Given the state of our world, a certain amount of anxiety can be a sign of an active and healthy mind, and our societal compulsion to muffle it as a first resort is deeply troubling.

It’s this endless struggle and it doesn’t matter what I achieve; I always end up at this place just feeling like a loser.

That's the business model, yeah.

So, how do you savor your success? How do you feel like a success?

Wrong question, I suspect. Success, my friend, is a mug's game.

"Success," as we are taught to understand it, involves getting ahead. Getting on top. "Making it" in an economy designed specifically to ensure that you won't. People in positions of success, wealth, power, etc. as we currently understand them couldn't exist as such without a whole lot of people beneath. So, statistically, you are simply way more likely to be one of the latter. I think we all have a basic understanding of this from a young age, which probably makes getting as far as you've managed to be both really comforting and really unsettling - yeah? It's the "Is this really it?" feeling, am I right?

This kind of leaves two options: Conclude life is pointless and keep on giving in to more and more material impulses and arbitrary contests, or conclude you've been sold a raw deal. You've got disposable income, so you could go with door #1 pretty easily - you'll get a rush now and then, no doubt, but mostly you'll just be helping make a few other already very rich people even very richer, and basically be chasing so many horizons. Luckily you're young enough to go with door #2.

I mean, how the hell do I ever feel good about what I have done?

Choose to feel good about it. I think the comment upthread about samsara was hamfisted (and my politicizing may be just as unwelcome), but one quote attributed to "the Buddha" has always made sense to me: "Rely on a happy mind."

You talk about how you've made a good life for your kids, but you talk about it like it was a relay race at a high school track meet. What's your relationship with your kids like? Do you ever get that amazing, fleeting feeling of interconnectedness when one of the young'ns looks you in the eye smiling? Or are you just worrying about how to help them make the Honour roll years from now? Take it from another young dad prone to anxiety: you'll be helping the both of you a hell of a lot more if you spend time just being with them in the moment whenever possible. Watch how the whole of existence is often lining up to express itself through their pointless playing, or their stillnesses.

I don't know who said it, but they said it well: "We cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love."

You've got savings, you've got a house, you've got a family. You have already won. Walk away from the game. You have it better than 99% of the human population will ever have it. This isn't to make you feel guilty for your anxiety: it's quite reasonable. You've encountered the possibility that the road offered you by the mainstream of society was not a road to happiness, but a road of distraction, distraction from the really important questions that I think are maybe now starting to nibble at the edge of your mind. Everyone's anxious. The successful folks especially.

What is it that really connects you to the people in your life, including strangers? To all the other life forms? What brings you joy, regardless of the value attached or not attached to the answers which will (slowly) come to you? How can you use the little time you have to more fully participate in this singular, absurd, beautiful and impossible miracle of a life-giving planet? What can you do to improve the lot of those around you, and those not within your immediate circle, now that you've accumulated such privilege?

Take up meditation. Study German poetry. Volunteer at a day shelter. Get involved in your city council. Go for walks in areas you never would have before. Go traveling if you can. Dabble in photography. Learn to identify local plants and their traditional medicinal uses. Try your hand at beatboxing. Start a full-contact body painting club, I dunno. Fill in the blank. Do something unexpected. When you think of things that would make your friends say, "Oh, that's so you," don't do those things.

This doesn't mean you need to buy a Harley that runs on weed and go live in a cave. The great thing about feeling disconnected is it means you can look for connection wherever you are, whenever you're there. Be responsible to those who depend on you, but don't be put off if there's some immediate resentment that comes from your family, either. We're all in our own funks and we can get jealous in spite of ourselves when we see someone shaking it off, especially if there was a tacit agreement that we would all stay in our funks together. As long as you're not abandoning anyone, it may just be jealousy and confusion, hopefully assuaged by loving communication.

Most importantly: give yourself permission to be anxious. It may not be a problem, it may be a challenge. A reminder you're alive, a suggestion that maybe you're built for more than this. A cursory survey of the history of art suggests everyone feels this way, and no one - no one - has ever found the answer. The greats are the ones who owned up, and accepted the challenge, regardless of whether they'd be "successful" in the end.

When you're dying comfortably in a beautiful bed decades from now - or draining away in the wreck of a car accident next year - are you going to look back and think, "That sure was a nice apartment, and I sure did contribute to a lot of widgets getting made," or are you going to remember all the contributions you made to the greater human bank of knowledge, happiness, and interconnectedness, just for their own sake? Probably my own bias is present in the question, but I don't think it's a crazy one.
posted by regicide is good for you at 11:32 AM on August 6, 2009 [18 favorites]


Oh and I should say: following your bliss can, especially when done by someone who's already in a place of privilege, lead to more fulfilling employment (I'm not unaware of the need to pay the bills, believe me). I and others I know can attest to this. I love my current job. And it wasn't one that came from the "Must Acquire Career" part of my life/brain, it came indirectly, from a certain passionate acuity developed through extracurricular activity. It doesn't pay nearly as much as some other jobs I could have been really good at, but my mental health, and my sense of social responsibility, are way more important than being able to buy new shit all the time thanks to selling my time for the privilege of being destructive to myself and my environment.
posted by regicide is good for you at 11:39 AM on August 6, 2009


Wow, regi. thanks.
posted by toastchee at 11:41 AM on August 6, 2009


Also, I have to disagree with the posters who are saying that he needs medicine. Taking the western approach to drugging everybody up isn't really healthy.

Though I agree that drugs are often wielded bluntly where they shouldn't be, the phrase "drugging everbody up" is a bit loaded. Medicine can be considerably more subtle than this.

I would agree with hermitosis that a range of options should be explored. Cognitive therapy, improved nutrition, and better exercise habits are all great options. Religious philosophy like what desjardins pointed out has things to offer. Good psychiatric and medical professionals often use a number of these tools. But Sidhedevil's got a good point: if the poster is pretty much at a loss to stop himself from lying awake at night thinking about what a loser he is, it's not at all unlikely there's a bad chemistry cycle that a drug might help arrest while he learns to do things that can help him long-term.
posted by weston at 11:55 AM on August 6, 2009


Are your successes challenging enough? Maybe you need to aim for something that (a) you don't have to do (it isn't an "I should do this" goal) and (b) you genuinely don't know if you can do.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:16 PM on August 6, 2009


Focus on what makes you happy and stop fixating on the ideogical notion of success. Lots of people with successfull careers lead unhappy and unfulfilling lives.

It sounds like you're in need of a change of perspective that will let you feel positive and happy about the good things in your life and all that you've achieved rather than obsessing with what you haven't accomplished. A strong marriage and a healthy and happy daughter and financial security? These are not things to be taken for granted.

In order to gain said change in perspective, maybe you need therapy, or maybe you just need to read The Alchemist (or something of a similar vein) or spend some time volunteering in a soup kitchen or helping others who would love to be as successful as you. Since you mentioned sobriety, maybe helping out recovering alcoholics (though AA or another program) would give you that sense of accomplishment or meaning you're seeking.
posted by emd3737 at 12:20 PM on August 6, 2009


anonymous, in the ways that matter at the end, you're a success.

i used to be very career focussed and had an inferiority complex when i compared my job with those of my peers (i am your age). i went to grad school, they went to grad school, but i was still a secretary and they were doing something more important or whatever.

as i was comparing myself to others, i was in jobs that were "on track" for my career but that i totally hated. once i got off track (due to extenuating circumstances) but in a job i didn't loathe, i suddenly stopped comparing myself to my peers. because i got to wear flip flops to work and they didn't (it was more than that of course).

so, you have a good job that is allowing you to support your family. but you don't like it and haven't liked it for years. do you have enough savings for you to quit and find a job you like? i know it's not the best economy, but even if you don't quit, you could still be looking for jobs that you like. or, if you're so specialized, maybe you could work for yourself and be a freelancer?

really, having a job that you don't loathe is a really great step to not feeling like a loser. add that to what you already have and you'll be good. (and if working at burger king makes you happy, no one will judge you for it. your friends will be happy for you because you are happier.)
posted by misanthropicsarah at 5:33 PM on August 6, 2009


You're finding out what works in making a good-quality life (which is what you need in order to be happy). So good apartments and money don't do it; they aren't the right parts. Sobriety would probably help you build a good life out of the right parts; but what are those parts?

I would suggest that you build a new life out of these parts: Friendships, deeply engaging pursuits, valuable roles you can play. Something that ties all three would be wonderful.

Friendships are obvious, although I bet we all can improve. Call people, ask how they're doing. Go out for lunch. Cook dinners for friends. Etc. If you don't do these things your life will suffer.

For pursuits, try learning something that's challenging and rewarding. Learn to play an instrument. Read lots of philosophy. Learn a new language. Take years doing it.

And for valuable roles: Find a way for people to need you, so that they would miss you if you were gone. Volunteer, yes, but do so with dedication and your life skills. Don't pick up trash by the highway; become an ESL tutor to an immigrant. Or round up art supplies and teach an afterschool program. So on.

Set up ways to check in with yourself. Tell the people that you love that you mean to build a new life in these ways. Or tell a therapist that you want more roles to play, more friendships and deeper pursuits. Get help planning concrete goals you can meet: Calling at least one friend per week; or trying out for a play or a musical group; or spending x number of hours volunteering.

There is no short cut. You get better by making a better life.
posted by argybarg at 12:12 PM on August 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


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