Is there a script I can follow?
January 27, 2011 1:39 PM   Subscribe

How can I learn to be (or at least fake being) passionate about things when I'm happiest doing nothing?

This is yet another anony-rant about work and life, but I'll try to keep this to tl;dr length.

I have no idea if it's depression or laziness or what, but I'm not the kind of person who has passionate interests or hobbies. There were things I used to enjoy when I was much younger, but when I realized I couldn't actually make a living from doing it (e.g. novel writing) or discovered the kind of community that surrounds a specific hobby or activity, I lost interest.

I'm currently unemployed (got laid off) and struggling to look for work and drag myself to networking events along the way. The latter is very difficult for me since I have a misanthropic streak and don't maintain relationships very well. I reach out for help and I only get lip service from people who claim they'll look over my resume, ask their friends who's hiring, blah, blah, blah...and they never follow through. To make matters worse, I've never been one of those shiny happy people, and apparently that's what hiring managers are looking for these days (?) Every aspect of my life has been shot to hell so I don't have any positive anecdotes to recant.

No, I do not want to kill myself - I do not have suicidal thoughts. But I've lost all hope of living the life I envisioned for myself: instead of being a happily married stay-at-home mom, I have a useless BA and an even more useless Masters which have placed my finances in the red, am overweight and unattractive, family who only serves to nag and belittle me, and a smattering of fair-weather friends who don't even check in on me to see if I'm dead or alive. I think I'd rather be a hikikomori (sp?) and simply not have to leave the house. Alas, that's not possible because I need money and the parental units have not bestowed a trust fund upon me. I'm just looking for a 9 to 5 grind that will help me get the bills paid and out of debt ASAP.

How can I feign being passionate about life and doing things so I can gain a good rapport with others and hence increase my chances of getting hired? At this point I'd be content just working for a paycheck, so I don't really care what company I'm with or what my role is. I try to keep my negativity and frustration from being let go from a job I actually enjoyed under wraps, but I find it leaks through anyway. How can I present myself in a better light?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (23 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Just because you're not suicidal doesn't mean you're not depressed. Maybe talk to your doctor and start an exercise regimen? I think you might be surprised at what a nice kick of endorphins and possibly medication could do for you.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 1:55 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yep. Depressed.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:07 PM on January 27, 2011

There were things I used to enjoy when I was much younger, but when I realized I couldn't actually make a living from doing it (e.g. novel writing) or discovered the kind of community that surrounds a specific hobby or activity, I lost interest.

Not everything has to have a point to it beyond making you happy. It might be helpful for you to cultivate an interest in doing things just for the pure enjoyment of doing them.

Check out The Artist's Way. It can benefit you even if you're not an "artist" -- it's really about developing a sense of creativity as well as an appreciation for, and enjoyment of, the little things in life. Even if you don't read the whole book, the first 25 pages or so can be incredibly eye-opening.

I've lost all hope of living the life I envisioned for myself

Maybe you need re-envision and re-evaluate the life you want for yourself. The book can help with that, too.
posted by Tin Man at 2:15 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The "nothing matters, I suck and everything else sucks too" does sort of sound like depression, doesn't it? So yeah, talk to a doc about that.

For now, don't worry about passion. Do two things: block the worst impulses (force yourself to take care of yourself and try to get out of your own head), and do activities that make you happy.

1. Block the worst impulses that a funk uses to sustain itself.

Some form of low-key exercise - twenty minute home workout, do some situps and jumping jacks, find a tape at the library or some videos on youtube. Walking around the block twice a day? - is something that's very much within your ability to do.

Wash regularly, dress in real clothes rather than pajamas or in-house clothes, and eat reasonably. If possible, keep up your house to at least a minimal degree so it doesn't make you feel hopeless seeing it.

Anything that gets you out of your own head is good for depression (or a depression-like funk) - so, pick one or two things you will force yourself to do that get you out of your head.

An easy one: Make a point of going to get a cup of (plain, cheap) coffee every day - so you have to put on some pants and get out of the house, and interact with a barista, and maybe you can sit and do the crossword in a cast-off newspaper. Then do your walk around the block.

Maybe another project would be volunteering somewhere a couple of times a week - sort books for the friends of the library book sale? find the "free computers for needy folks" group near you and show up a couple times a week to help out? walk dogs at the human society?

If you're prone to spending a lot of time at home online, try to be sure you do some things outside the house that require interacting face to face. Spending too much time online can make you feel even less confident about interacting face to face, which becomes a self-reinforcing loop.

2. Do things you enjoy.

Forget passion. I think "passion" is very overused as an idea these days. Don't worry about trying to create great life passions.

BUT - there have been things in your life that you've enjoyed or where the activity itself was enjoyable or energizing. Writing stories, writing letters, painting, doodling, listening to music, singing, taking pictures, reading books, reading comics, playing with a pet, designing goofy alphabets, making humorous imaginary maps, playing board games, whatever. Think of a short list of those.

Now think about what you actually spend your time doing these days. Maybe keep a time log for a couple of days. Do you spend time doing things you enjoy? Or do you spend time doing things that you don't actually get enjoyment from - like constantly reading news sites, or going back and forth unproductively over job search stuff, or watching trashy tv that you don't really like just because it's something to do?

I realize this seems silly, and maybe it's not true of you - but man, when I am in a funk I just spend all my time doing things that I don't enjoy. I actively work to fill my day with these worthless activities that I don't like while I'm doing them, and I don't actually achieve anything that I think is worthwhile. So -- consider whether you are doing this to yourself. If you are, try to expand the amount of time you spend each day on activities that you LIKE, which give you enjoyment or energy, and shrink the amount you spend on activities you don't like.

Once you're doing that, it will be much more natural to be able to hold a conversation about what you do for fun outside the office, even if you are reluctant to call it a "passion".
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:35 PM on January 27, 2011 [15 favorites]

Or - picking up on something you say in your post - what was it that you enjoyed about your previous job? What were the good aspects?

Those are some positive things you can say in a job interview -- great colleagues, interesting and varied work, a feeling of really contributing to something, a feeling of control over your own work, a feeling of accomplishment from meeting certain goals (of your own or of the company's), helping people to use technology, ....?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:41 PM on January 27, 2011

Although you may be, you don't have to be medically depressed to have a reasonable hostile reaction to a work culture that enforces mandatory cheerfulness-through-fear even for the unemployed who've got so much less to lose than do workers in jobs. It's toxic, and believe us in this thread when we tell you, almost everybody in your position feels somewhat the same way you do. Modern white-collar work (and jobsearching even more so) is designed specifically to trade on negativity, and shame, and anxious self-reflection. It's not you—it's the nature of the beast.

I'm never going to be shiny happy people either, almost nobody is. The last time I was unemployed I found most useful, even in the worst of not wanting to get up in the morning, to just concentrate on getting the simple things done; shave, clean shirt, clean shoes, tie knot, jacket. Hot black coffee, toast. Pick up my resume, keys, bus pass. Whistle the Internationale on the way down the road. And after that, even if I was still in a mood of despair and futile desperation, at least I knew I look like a professional.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:42 PM on January 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

I don't know if you're depressed. But either way, finding something you really enjoy doing seems a worthwhile pursuit.

You may benefit from the 'pleasure predicting' exercise in the much-recommended CBT book 'Feeling Good'.

Basically, you write down how much you think you will enjoy an activity before you do it - in percentage, iirc. It can be anything that you're not feeling too excited about - clean your kitchen, go for a walk, review your resume, meet up with a friend. After you've done whatever it is, write down how much you *actually* enjoyed it. Keep a running list and you'll find that many things you were not excited about turn out to be more fun than you expect. And the idea is of course, that encourages you to try and find new things that you enjoy.

Also, you sound unhappy with your social life, so maybe try some Meetup groups or other free things. It can take a while to find people you click with, but it will be oh so worth it.
posted by 8k at 2:57 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The latter is very difficult for me since I have a misanthropic streak and don't maintain relationships very well. I reach out for help and I only get lip service from people who claim they'll look over my resume, ask their friends who's hiring, blah, blah, blah...and they never follow through.

If the only time you are reaching out and maintaining a relationship is when you ask people for help finding a job, people may feel like you are simply using them and not want to follow through. I'm not saying this to attack you, simply to present another point of view. That is to say, the world is not simply out to get you...this is an aspect of your life where there is room for action and change on your part.
posted by unannihilated at 2:59 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

You don't have to be passionate about anything. It's normal not to be passionate about anything. But you do have to be interested in something. Start from there. It doesn't matter if you're any good at it or if you make money from it or if it's even something you're an active participant in. Think of five things you simply enjoy, even if they're all mundane things like dogs or bubble baths.

If you can't think of five things, something's not right.

You sound like you're going through a heavy bout of depression. Dysthymia is a possibility too, especially if you feel like you've always been this way. I've had both, and a lot of what you're saying sounds like what I was thinking at my worst. There was this feeling of my life just kind of being over, and I'd have to wait several decades for my physical body to run its course. Or the feeling of there being so much time to live through, and nothing to do except lie around while it oozed by, and it would be much nicer if I could just go into suspended animation. Etc. etc.

It is not the end, and you can get better.

The shitty thing about depression is that everything that helps is really hard to do when you're depressed. People will tell you to exercise and you can barely get out of bed. All the positive thinking and self-care and whatever feels fake and bullshitty. A lot of people need a hand up, so don't feel ashamed to ask for help digging out. Therapy and medication helped me immensely when I couldn't dig out on my own.

MeMail me if you'd like. I probably can't get you a job, but I can lend an ear.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:03 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I tend towards depression and nothing can deepen it like being out of work/in debt. What worked for me were some very big things and a very small thing. Like others have suggested, forcing myself out of the house each day was very important to improving my well-being.

I took advantage of being broke and started eating a mostly veggie diet that I cooked at home--simple, comforting foods with lots of grains, legumes and veggies and only a little bit of protein. Drank water instead of sodas, juices, booze, etc. Saved money, lost weight.

Got into a credit counciling program to deal with debt.

Made the decision that I was going to get a secure government job--applied at any government agency (federal, state, city, county, dog catcher) that had an opening--reached out to any friend, family member, acquaintance, etc. who had a connection with a gov't agency (finally got my present job through a Craigslist ad, but you don't know what is going to take).

And then I adopted a "fake it until you make it" practice. In initial phone conversations and when I would interview, no matter how crappy and hopeless I felt, I would sit up straight, smile and look the person in the eye. In any encounter, I made sure I was smiling and saying positive things--whatever the topic, I would take a positive p.o.v. (this is totally against my nature--I am an Eeyore).

And then the tiniest thing I did, that I swear, got me two job offers in a row, was I went out and got fake nails. The nails were totally out of character. I am a mimimal makeup, grrranimals approach to dressing, comfortable shoes kind of a gal. But while job hunting, I wore makeup and my fake nails. The nails made me feel like a grownup. They reminded me of my resolve to present myself in a certain way during interviews. I carried myself differently with those fake nails. My fake nails gave me the self-assurance I needed to make the kind of impression I wanted to make. And it worked.

Some of that has stuck around (Not the nails). I get blue and working for a gov't agency (particularly one that gets itself embroiled in controversies) can be hard and/or a bureaucratic slog. But, for the most part, as the little reminder note that I have stuck on my monitor says, "I am Happy and Grateful."
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:27 PM on January 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

family who only serves to nag and belittle me, and a smattering of fair-weather friends who don't even check in on me to see if I'm dead or alive

You talk about a misanthropic streak earlier in your post, and not being a shiny happy person, so I wonder if the "fair-weather friends" you complain about have actually picked up on that, and that's why they've drifted away. It's hard to want to be around someone who's relentlessly negative, and only the most extreme extroverts are going to go out of their way to reach out to grumpy shut-ins.

In answer to your actual question, there is no script to covering unhappiness or a lack of enthusiasm - just practice. If it helps, remember these points:

-Hiding personal feelings for the sake of professionalism is something many people do. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe it's bad, but it's definitely not an uncommon activity.

-You don't have to be a super-chipper or even in a good mood to be polite and genial. Work on simple things like a smile, basic small talk, and being generally well-groomed. And, frankly, I think if you have to tell a white lie (or gloss over your current situation) in an interview to seem like a more active, interesting person, do it.

-You could be enthusiastic about one thing you mention: getting a paycheck. Try to focus on the positives just of getting paid, and let that motivate you when job hunting and interviewing. It's not as great as feeling passionate about the work itself, but having income to pay down your debts, get you out of the house, etc. would be a nice boost no matter what.

-Everyone runs into problems, get stalled in life, goes through ups and downs. Being let go from your last job sucks, but it doesn't mean your life ruined forever. You only fail when you give up. Cheesy, perhaps, but true.
posted by missix at 3:30 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You sound depressed but what do I know.

After your friends look at your resume you send them a thank you note, right? And you send them birthday cards, and return their calls, and congratulate them on their achievements? Even basic acts of politeness can go a long way so, for your script, get a Miss Manners book. That will cover a lot of business etiquette too.

As for passion, when I was depressed I couldn't feel passionate about anything but the causes of my misery, but I could feel comforted. Doing too much or trying to feel too strongly could be as bad as doing less than the minimum. So getting through the daily shower could be followed by a walk around the block or a little yoga. I found I could watch Without A Trace as it was completely emotionally uninvolving but I couldn't watch CSI.

Just be gentle and it will come back to you in time.

Also since you can't find a lousy job anyway, try looking a bit wider for one that's just a little bit less entirely dissimilar to what you wanted to do. You've got nothing to lose. (disclaimer: that's how my life changed, ymmv)
posted by tel3path at 4:38 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

So, a therapist I know was describing an analogy today that she had heard in a lecture at the last conference she went to. The guy was describing individuals' powerlessness/responsibility as following a continuum:


A= (Thinking) You have no power at all do to anything, really
B= (Thinking) Everything is under your responsibility, and is for you to control

This corresponded nicely to:


A= Depression
B= Anxiety

The thing, I guess, is to start thinking about what can get your perspective closer to that middle point, the !. Because it is true that there are things in life that do fall on the continuum closer to point A that you have no control over, like when there's a big windstorm and a branch smashes your window. Act of god, totally sucks. But there are also a bunch of things you can exert some force over, like deciding to call in a window guy to replace the damn thing or making a decision to just board it over for the time being. Life really is kind of !. But if you only think about how close you are to total powerlessness, you are going to feel worse about yourself and will have a harder time doing stuff. And in general, those who believe they are closer to ! are, apparently, quite happy.

So: what in your life and job search can move you closer to ! and away from A? Are there any creative ways you can use your degrees? Can this unfortunate stint in unemployment serve as a weird gateway into better opportunities? Are there any fun things you can do in the meantime to brighten your spirits and make this whole process a little more fun?

Honestly, as others have noted, you do sound depressed. Maybe addressing this situation from that angle will help you in the long run. (Unless you are beating yourself up for every little thing and are thinking that the windstorm was your fault because of unexplainable reasons x and y. Then that's the converse situation of being closer to B; but either way, try to reach the ! !!!)
posted by vivid postcard at 5:00 PM on January 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

How can I feign being passionate about life and doing things so I can gain a good rapport with others and hence increase my chances of getting hired?

I think this is a disingenuous question. You don't really want to learn how to "feign" anything. Secretly you know that other people don't "feign" their passions...and you wish you felt like they did. Phrasing your question this way is being intentionally provocative.

Based on your post you sound like the type of person who *SIGHS* a lot. Sighs like "oh what a chore life is" kind of sighs. You are blaming a lot. I find that when I am blaming a lot - other people, my situation, my circumstances - the real problem isn't external. It's internal. Its me. In this case I have a feeling you suspect that the problem might be you. That's a scary thought to have, and it makes you feel even lower, which makes you blame even more. Ever onward. I think you can do something about it.

I think the first step is to consider that you might be dysthymic. Or, alternatively, it could be a manifestation of ADD. I have dealt with both dysthymia and ADD so your post resonates with me because I used to think much as you do now.

The latter is very difficult for me since I have a misanthropic streak and don't maintain relationships very well.

You are probably misjudging your own personality based on your low mood. Humans are biologically hard wired to be social. You are social. You want attention and praise and companionship and it isn't audacious to admit that. You can learn to maintain relationships well. ProTip: it takes work!

I reach out for help and I only get lip service from people who claim they'll look over my resume, ask their friends who's hiring, blah, blah, blah...and they never follow through.

Unfortunately, life offers no guarantees. People don't owe you anything...even when they tell you they will do things for you. This doesn't make them good or bad. It makes them people. Real people and real friendships aren't like they are on TV / Movies. It is your job to follow up on things like this. Follow up, be annoying. Get what you want.

To make matters worse, I've never been one of those shiny happy people, and apparently that's what hiring managers are looking for these days (?) Every aspect of my life has been shot to hell so I don't have any positive anecdotes to recant.

An example of seriously warped thinking. None of this is true at all. I can tell you that without knowing you.

But I've lost all hope of living the life I envisioned for myself: instead of being a happily married stay-at-home mom, I have a useless BA and an even more useless Masters which have placed my finances in the red, am overweight and unattractive, family who only serves to nag and belittle me, and a smattering of fair-weather friends who don't even check in on me to see if I'm dead or alive

1. Life is not fair, and that's ok. If you start down the path of getting help you will learn to deal with reality as it is, not how you want it to be...and you will genuinely be ok with it. You might even learn to engage in it. 2. Your thinking is likely warped in relation to your family and friends. You likely have a warped or unrealistic image in your mind of what family and friends "should" be like and the reality of the situation doesn't fit with your mental projection. The word "should" is fucking garbage. Also, see above. People, even friends, may not give you want you want. Its ok. You need to put work in sometimes to get what you want.


You already know how to act in a job interview. If you just want a job and you feel low, its as simple as faking a smile and lying about how much you want the job. Easy. I still do that and I consider myself fairly well adjusted. Whatever. I suspect, though, that you didn't really want to know that with your question.

My real advice would be to seek help in the form of therapy. As everyone recommends...get the book "Feeling Good" by David Burns. Also call around and see a talk therapist. In the meantime, you might check out some Buddhist / Taoist literature with regards to meditation / the nature of reality.
posted by jnnla at 5:01 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't smoke pot, do ya?

You sound like my ex. He was a heavy smoker for years and years and still is. Of course, I also thought he was depressed. He needed help for depression, but he really need to stop smoking too. I think they were making each other worse (the more depressed he got, he self-medicated with it, then it made him less productive, so he got more depressed.) And so on.

I know plenty of people are depressed and don't smoke pot. But I've known many depressed people and he's the only one I knew who actually claimed to have no passions in life, either, so it sounded eerily familiar. Since you're anonymous and I can't ask you, and since you didn't mention pot you probably don't, but I wanted to throw it out there just in case. If you don't . . . oh man, do not start.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 5:15 PM on January 27, 2011

Being unemployed is one of the worst mind-fucks out there. It's no wonder you feel crappy. If you don't want to see a doctor and talk about meds (and personally, this would totally be my first choice - externally triggered depression is still depression and meds can get you through it until your life sorts itself out), then you just have to make it through until you are employed again and can start feeling better about yourself. You might find that all the other things (beliefs about being unattractive, dislike of other people, lack of interest in hobbies) sort themselves out once the employment problem is solved.

While the unemployment continues, be kind to yourself. Sleep a lot, eat well, take warm bubble baths, get a massage (from a friend or family member if you can't afford it). Surround yourself with nice scenery, either by rearranging your home, or going for lots of walks. Get exercise to spark those endorphins.

All of these things will help you store up energy which you will then TURN ON LIKE A FUCKING FLOODLIGHT at job interviews. You will reach deep inside yourself and pull out every last shred of energy and joy and vim and wit and blind the interviewer with them. (Or at least not stand out for seeming listless and sad.) After the interview you will want to eat and sleep and maybe cry and then you start with the kindnesses to self again to build up your reserves for the next interview.
posted by lollusc at 5:40 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm willing to bet you're struggling with depression. Many people would find themselves stressed out in your situation, but the feelings your describing here seem to run much deeper. Look what you wrote:

I have a misanthropic streak and don't maintain relationships very well.
Every aspect of my life has been shot to hell...
But I've lost all hope of living the life I envisioned for myself...

Etc, etc.

Based on my own experiences (and I have a lot when it comes to shit like this), I'm willing to bet that once you're employed, getting out of the house, etc. you will start to feel better. It's very easy to become frustrated and feel hopeless when you're unemployed and lacking a support network.

A year ago, I was laid off from my job (and still owed quite a bit of money from my employer). Days later I got into a car accident that left me with debilitating injuries. 2 months later, when I finally had the strength to walk around the house, sit up and read a book or go on the internet, etc. I started to fall into depression. I had too much time on my hands to think about my situation and all the things that didn't go right in my life. I made a lot of not-so-great choices because my mindset at the time had me thinking life would always suck.

I eventually got a job a few months later as soon as I was physically able to do so. It was boring and tedious work, and I'd count the hours until it was time to leave. But after 1-2 months, I noticed something. I had more energy. I didn't have time to ruminate over all the shitty things that happened to me because by the time I left work, I wanted to relax & enjoy myself / watch tv / dick around on the internet. Not cry and take swigs of the vodka in my fridge. I still have the job and I'm no longer suicide-level depressed. Nothing changed in my life. I still lack the friends I want, my family situation is still awful, I still have the same nagging problem in my relationship with my SO, I'm still not in therapy, I still find my job boring. But the hopelessness is gone.

Fake it until you make it. Sounds trite and too simple, but it works. Getting up every morning, taking a shower, getting out of your pajamas and putting on proper clothes, doing your hair & makeup-- putting yourself together regardless of how shitty you feel can make you put together.

If I were you, I'd force myself to get up at a decent hour each morning, take a shower, and get dressed. Even if you don't have plans to leave the house. Use the free time you have to do 2 things: 1) make finding a job your job. Put in X amount of hours each day to finding a job. (You're going to have to put on a friendly face when it comes to interviews, btw. You can fake it. Most people do.) And 2) spend the rest of your time taking your mind off things by engaging in activities that you may not feel passionate about, but at least won't drag you down:

- Exercise. You don't have to join a gym. Go for walks. Get one of those dvds and do yoga in your living room.
- Volunteer at a pet shelter. I did this and I don't even like animals. Sitting in the room babysitting newborn kittens or taking the dogs for a walk will get you out of your head.
- See a therapist. Even if you're not clinically depressed, a therapist can help you with your outlook on life. (See a psychiatrist and get on antidepressants if that's appropriate.)
- Read those books you always wanted to read but didn't have the time to do so. A book club could be interesting if you're feeling social enough. Get out of your house when you read. Go to the library if you can.
- Start watching the dvd's for a long-running TV show that everyone is always recommending to you. I used to hate tv and felt like it was a waste of time. Now I see the value it has for me, someone who easily gets lost in her head and suddenly finds herself suicidal when she was fine a few hours ago. It takes your mind off things. I've been watching The Office on DVD. I might not be learning anything or actively engaging my brain, but it helps me when I have a few hours of free time in the evening and don't want to find myself thinking about the past & getting triggered.

You received a lot of helpful suggestions so far, so I hope you're able to use some of them. My inbox is open if you want to vent or talk. I will listen.
posted by overyourhead at 5:53 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are lots of great ideas here...

Do you still live near the college where you graduated so that you have access to their career counseling and placement services? If not, many community colleges have these departments and they offer free or cheap classes on job hunting skills, suggestions on ways to improve your chances, and, at least where I am, they help with job placement. Occasionally there are classes for different things where everyone gets an interview at the end... (Sure, you already know how to interview - but repetition makes it easier - and you're in the class with other people who might have some networking ideas or that you can commiserate with...)

Also, you might think about volunteering. Not only will this look good on your resume, and possibly give you some new contacts, but you might feel better about yourself - either because you are doing something good OR because you are realizing that you have things going for you that a lot of people don't.

If you could do anything you wanted and money were no object (besides staying home, that is) what would you do? Any chance you could work towards that?

Is there any way you could take a yoga class? They are very relaxing, you meet people, it's exercise, and who knows - maybe someone in the class is looking for an employee...

You sound like a smart woman who is just experiencing a lull - we all have them - and I bet some of the suggestions in this thread will help you get to a better place. I'm pulling for you.
posted by Leah at 7:12 PM on January 27, 2011

Well, being unemployed and having no support system and so on would make anyone depressed.

If the networking events suck, don't go to them. I tried that when I was unemployed. It sucked! What a bunch of phony BS, and I didn't know how to ask anyone for job leads anyway, and felt like an idiot for even going. It made everything worse. I read all these job advice guides and websites and it's all "networking! networking! networking! all the jobs aren't advertised and it's all about who you know!" That made everything SO MUCH WORSE because I felt like a failure who would never get hired, even though I have pretty good skills, simply because I suck at this mysterious "networking" thing. Then I said screw it, I'm just going to use the big websites that have job listings and send off resumes and cover letters to the ones that are a good fit, and I got a job that way. You should be fine in job interviews, there's no need to be all fake sunshiney, just be friendly and don't *complain*.

I think a lot of people in America have lost the hope of living the lives they'd envisioned for themselves. It's rough out there.
posted by citron at 8:20 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sounds like dysthymia to me too. I recommend vigorous exercise, mindfulness meditation, Feeling Good, and therapy, not necessarily in that order.
posted by callmejay at 8:25 PM on January 27, 2011

You do sound depressed.

If medical treatment for your depression is out of reach for you, studies have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants for many people.

For a more instantaneous pick-me-up, try dosing yourself with high levels of caffeine and chocolate just before interviews for a temporarily perkier demeanor to help get over the non-shiny-happy-personality hurdle. But don't do it every day or you'll develop a tolerance to the mood-altering effects. Once you're hired, just focus on doing a good job since that's ultimately more important than whether you seemed perky enough during your interview (unless you're trying to get a customer-facing job, in which case your natural personality can be an important component of job performance).

posted by Jacqueline at 11:59 PM on January 27, 2011

How can I feign being passionate about life and doing things so I can gain a good rapport with others and hence increase my chances of getting hired?

I don't think AT ALL that your passion about life or lack thereof is the reason you don't have a good rapport with others. I have a young male relative who doesn't care about much other than smoking weed, sleeping until the afternoon in his parents' house, and playing video games, partying, and smoking weed with his friends who also live in their parents' houses. In fact I wouldn't even say he *cares* about those things per se, they're just the things he likes to do. Yet, he has a great rapport with others, he's very popular and it's quite easy for him to make friends, and people are always helping him out, giving him special treatment, etc. And even though his life seems a 24/7 party of no responsibilities, I think it's likely that he's actually just as depressed as you are.

Conversely I have a friend who is incredibly passionate about local level politics and libertarianism, is always engaged in something or other related to that, and is super energized, but yet is always alienating people and is really terrible at building rapport.

It's not at all how passionate about life you are. It's how you treat other people. It's how other people feel around you.

I have a misanthropic streak

There you have it. This is what needs to go, in your case. Not your depression, not your lack of passion - plenty of people with those traits connect to others well. Why would people want to be around someone who exudes disinterest, disdain, contempt, or even hate for them? Would you want to be around someone who felt that way towards you? Don't you think it would make you feel self-conscious, be uncomfortable, and have your feelings hurt?

I think you need to figure out why you are misanthropic, and how that got started. Presumably, you weren't a misanthropic baby or a misanthropic two year old. Is it possible that you were in some circumstances when you were younger that colored your view of people, or colored your view of how you fit (or don't fit) into society, and you haven't really done work to examine this since then?

[I] don't maintain relationships very well.

I reach out for help and I only get lip service from people ... [I have] a smattering of fair-weather friends who don't even check in on me to see if I'm dead or alive.

The first thing here is what is causing the second thing. Honestly, would you feel very inclined to help someone who was coming off like, "I don't care about you, am not interested in you, and don't like you much, but hey I need help right now so can you help me now?" Would you feel very inclined to care about/check in on someone who was coming off like that?

Also -- do you help others regularly? Do you look for ways to help others and hook them up even if you can't think of anything obvious off the top of your head? Do you care about/check in on your friends?

What you need to do first is lose the misanthropy, even if that takes therapy to do. Then you need to work on being someone like being around. No, this doesn't mean you have to be Sally Sunshine -- even though, in my lifelong observation, the people who have the easiest time making friends are always having a good time wherever they go, always smiling, always lighthearted -- basically people will like you if they have FUN around you.

But you can create an aura of fun in other ways. You can be bitterly and sarcastically funny if you can really make people laugh with that. You can invite people out to do fun things with you -- not things you have a passion about, just enjoyable things that are simple like going to the movies. If you enjoy complaining (not assuming you do - just saying lots of people do sometimes including myself) then you can have a kvetching session with someone who you know likes to complain about the same thing.

Just don't be too much of a downer. Don't make people feel bad or like being around you is a drain. It's good to have friends to lean on in a real crisis, but you need to have a good solid foundation before that can happen. When your ONLY interaction with them is you in a crisis leaning on them, you're not building up any foundation at all so it's no wonder they're not there.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:22 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

P.S. I think it might be worthwhile for you to read The Relationship Cure by John Gottman - it's not only about romantic relationships. The chapters on "bidding" in the beginning might be especially relevant because that's really all about building rapport.

Last thing -- your post comes off as a responsibility-avoidant and excuse-making in the service of feeling sorry for oneself. (E.g.: Every aspect of my life has been shot to hell so I don't have any positive anecdotes to recant . I find it hard to believe that you really couldn't do this if you tried your hardest - even people in wartime or other horrific conditions often have positive anecdotes. am overweight and unattractive There's a LOT of action that can be taken to change this.) That might not how you ARE. But I think it's important to really keep an eye on that and make sure you're not coming off that way, because that's a huge turnoff for potential friends and employers both.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:36 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

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