I’ve lost all my confidence and don’t know how to act around people
March 16, 2014 9:07 PM   Subscribe

I've faced a lot of rejection over the past year: from jobs, men, my friends, and parents, and it's totally killed my self-esteem. I don't know how to get it back or how to act social anymore.

I have been going through a very rough time over the past year. I turned 25 over the summer, and my life isn’t at all where I’d like to be. Last year started with a breakup, and the loneliness hit me hard, causing a lot of sleep issues, weight gain, and stress. All of my friends then got into relationships and forgot about me in the process, so I barely get social interaction with familiar people. Also, my current childcare job cut my hours, so I had to move back in with my parents, who criticize me often and are overall very negative and unhappy people.

I trudged through my Master’s thesis in the fall and finished in December (English degree), and am now looking for higher education jobs with very little luck. I either hear that they went with someone else, or don’t hear back at all. Also, when I follow up, I’m just told that they are still “looking through applications” or “haven’t started looking yet.” It’s exhausting and frustrating. So, I’m stuck living in a house where I’m criticized all the time, with no chance of being able to move out, since my current doesn’t pay well enough at all. It’s also a very boring and unfulfilling job, which makes things worse.

Also, I have a guy friend whom I liked for a few years, who always said he never wanted a relationship, and is now with a very beautiful girl, who also has a career and money. So, I feel further rejection, especially since I see her, and just feel like I never stood a chance. (I won't go into too much detail here, since I've already talked about this in another question: http://ask.metafilter.com/251973/How-to-mend-a-broken-heart-after-so-many-years). And after seeing ALL of my friends get into serious, happy relationships, I feel like no guy will ever want to date me at this point—I’m almost 26, with nothing but unfulfilling, short-term relationships and hurt feelings to look back on.

Overall, being single makes me miserable. I hate never having sex or companionship. It’s been over a year at this point. I’m mad at my friends for moving on and having normal lives without me, and I’m heartbroken that my guy friend never gave me a chance as anything more than a friend with benefits. I’m frustrated that no job gives me a positive response (even an interview, a slight possibility would be nice). And I hate that I’m stuck with my unsupportive parents.

And my main problem and reason for asking this question: the past year has just KILLED my self-esteem. I used to think I was attractive, I used to still be able to dress up and flirt, despite being hurt by every guy I ever liked. I used to take pride in my intelligence, and hold good conversations with people. I used to be outgoing, be able to talk to people and have a great time no matter what, but now…I’m just completely beaten down. I’m emotionally exhausted, and I feel like no matter what I do, I’ll just always be lonely, single, have no money or independence. I used to be in great shape, but now I’ve gained a ton of weight from eating junk food and drinking alcohol to feel better, and from lack of sleep (I feel really lonely and depressed, and have trouble sleeping). After years of having perfect, healthy skin, I’ve also gotten a lot of acne (my face is just COVERED with it), from the stress, etc. I actually joined a Meetup group for local women my age, and was at an event last night..And just couldn’t hold a conversation to save my life. I was around so many nice people, but just felt so insecure, like I was the most unattractive woman there. I got overwhelmed and was quiet and wanted to leave the entire night.

It was terrible, and when I realized I really need some help. I feel like I’m in some sort of catch-22 situation, how will I make new friends, or interview for a new job, if I’ve just forgotten how to act around people and be myself? I have all the qualities, but my self-esteem is just dead, and I’m exhausted. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around, that people gained confidence as they got older…but it seems to have gone backward for me. What can I do to feel better and get my self-esteem and social skills back? I dance and do yoga, two major hobbies of mine, but nothing brings me joy anymore. Please help me. I don’t know where else to go. :(
posted by summertimesadness1988 to Human Relations (19 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
nothing brings me joy anymore

I am not about to diagnose you (and am not equipped to), but this is one of the big signs of depression, and there are signs of a few others, including some of your logic and expectations, as you've expressed them here. Drinking to feel better is very worrying. Beyond that, there are a lot of things to unpack - meanings you've attached to this guy friend's relationship and his new partner, your feelings towards your parents and friends - that a therapist is best placed to help with. So, I do think you should consult a therapist.

Other than that, my limited advice is:

1) Get a handle on improving sleeping and eating, as a matter of priority. (I struggle with sleep issues and understand it's hard, but it's fundamental - without getting this sorted, you will have no energy during the day, and it's a vicious circle.)

2) Find a way to do something you are just great at, on a volunteer or hobby basis. Some activity that involves you operating from a natural, unquestionable place of strength. Giving to others from this place, if you can, may give you feedback that you are a competent person, and may be more rewarding than other kinds of service (which can be instructive and perhaps helpful in other ways). You need to hook back into a feeling of being strong, which is at least a partial antidote to comparison to others.

3) Not right away, perhaps, but, I would suggest working towards moving out of your parents' house. If it means a second job and living with (carefully chosen) roommates, it is still worth considering, in my opinion. You know that facing critical, unsupportive parents on a daily basis - starting and ending the day with their mood and expectations hanging over you - will make constructive movement more difficult than otherwise. Meanwhile, you need to find ways of managing your responses to their behaviour (again, therapist, but for now: maintain your boundaries, and try to get out of the house as often as possible, even if it's just to the park).

Take care of yourself in general - take little pleasures, little boosts where you can get them. Right now you're getting them from food and drink because that feels most accessible. Think of a list of things that feel nice to you, and are not difficult to access quickly (e.g., hot baths, walks in the sun, music). Do one thing on that list, every day.

The above may sound hollow and obvious, but those are the practical changes that I have known to be helpful to me and others who have felt similar, at least.

Best of luck. Take care.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:06 PM on March 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

Well, this is classic depression. And I understand why, you've had a number of negative things happen to you. What happens next is really up to you.

No one gets anywhere in this world without losing. And very few of us who lose can avoid a slump. The big truth is that we lose until we stop losing. And how do you stop losing? Beats the hell out of me, but not trying anymore never helped.

So my suggestion is this: get a job that is outside of your field that will pay you enough to live somewhere else. Somewhere cheap and/or with roommates if need be. Get away from your negative parents. You'll find you'll breathe better outside of their constant disapproval.

Take care of yourself. Keep exercising. Literally just go through the motions at first. But keep doing it. It can and will help.

Know that there's nothing you could have done to be in a relationship with your friend. He didn't want that with you and you'll never know why, but that's not a bad thing. He wasn't right for you because he just didn't feel it and you can't fight that. That doesn't mean that you can't have what you want with someone else. But it doesn't mean the people we want will be guaranteed to want us back with the same vigor. It's unpredictable, but that's life.

You're 26. You're going through a quarterlife crisis. You keep comparing yourself to others thinking you're in a race, but you're not. Your job every day is to try to make your life better. One step at a time. Build up when you can. But keep walking...literally and figuratively.
posted by inturnaround at 10:09 PM on March 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Warning: this can be a vicious circle...and then some. Psychologists have proven that people who expect to be disliked (or ignored or otherwise treated badly) do get the response they expect. So it's the mother of all vicious circle. It can get really really really bad.

The way out, as is often the case, is pretending. Pretend to be happy. Pretend to be well-liked. Pretend to be social and out-going. Three reasons:

1. It'll raise your spirits. Giving into your moroseness is not helpful. Pretending to be social will allow you to ratchet/boot back your sociality.

2. As you pretend, so do you become. It sounds horridly new-agey, I know. But it's true. Pretend something long enough and it sticks. Our entire personalities are nothing but a congealed pose to begin with. So...pretending's your hacker's tool to reset stuff. So get hacking. And stay in character even when no one's around.

3. A big secret taught me by several extroverts I've been close to: they're pretending, too. Even the ones who seem effortless. Glumness is an indulgence. You've got to put in the effort, and the effort amounts to, essentially, focused pretending.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:13 PM on March 16, 2014 [17 favorites]

I'm sorry, that truly sounds like a hard year and I've had a few like it. A few baby steps to get back on track:

1. See if you can at least talk to someone about your feelings of self guilt/loathing, as they may well be the cause not the symptom of your difficulty. Focus on you and get assistance from someone who can help you see your particular patterns better than I can. You have to want to change before you can change.

2. Do not compare yourself to those around you. You make yourself uniquely you. Many of those friends who are in happy relationships? They may seem happy now, but I guarantee you before long, some, many even will break up/ move on and several others are just happy, outwardly. Some will be 50 pounds overweight in a few years, have kids and be different than they are now. But that's beside the point-find out what you want for you, not just because you feel the weight of others people's expectations. Find out what you like about you (there's a lot)!

3. ONE THING AT A TIME. So, you're living with your parents, that's an option that not many people have, which may be considered an asset looking at things another way. But, definitely do take advantage of free rent, and get some exercise... maybe just commit to an hour walk everyday. Eat better next. Then take baby steps towards getting a job. Make friends in the field, get drink, have an informational interview or two. Slowly, consider a plan to move to your own place once you are in a stable spot and in the meantime, try getting out more and not listening to the negativity. One thing at a time.

4. You did something incredibly difficult--you got a Masters Degree which not may people have the opportunity to do either. Give yourself credit.

5. Know, this is not uncommon--you've achieved what was likely a set objective from an early age and now things are less certain now that shit got real. But that's the beauty in it too, enjoy the ride. 25 is young and I wish I had your relationship experience at your age and your degree. You did hard things.

Most of all, take care!
posted by |n$eCur3 at 10:18 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want to send you a hug. Realizing that you need some help to pull yourself out of this is really important and it's great that you noticed it, can say "I need help," and are working on it. I'm proud of you because I'm sure that typing out your question wasn't easy.

It sounds like you could really use some love and care right now. I know how hard it can be to feel like loving myself and taking care of myself when I do not feel good, when my skin is acting out and my stomach is not flat like it used to be and I just want to be in bed instead of doing anything else at all.

It is harder to feel loved and cared for when I am single. Some things that have helped me, even when I really do not want to do them:
- Going outside every day and walking around a little. Noticing three things that are pretty.
- Hot baths.
- Clean sheets.
- Knitting
- Snuggling my cat
- A hot meal ordered in from a fancy takeout place
- Exercising (this one is so difficult but I always, always at least feel something when I work out, which can be helpful when I am feeling no joy in life)
- Yoga
- Reading a great book
- A cup of hot chocolate from Starbucks
- Fresh flowers on my kitchen table
- Journaling

All of these things help me feel cared for and loved, and while some of them (getting myself flowers, ordering in a hot dinner) sort of simulate what a boyfriend might do for me if I was having a bad day, all of them are things that I can do to make myself feel better.

Can you list out some things that make you feel loved and cared for, and commit to trying to do one a day? I think that might be very helpful.

I also have found that a good therapist is very helpful for matters like this. You used several key phrases that indicated to me that you are feeling a lot of depression and a therapist could diagnose and help with that. Feeling no joy anymore, being exhausted all of the time - those are descriptions I've used when I was depressed. So maybe you could think about talking to someone who specializes in this kind of thing.

I'm sorry that you are feeling this way. My biggest fear in life for a long time was that I will never be loved romantically again until I realized - no matter whether I am single or with a partner who loves me, I will always, always have a relationship with myself- it is my most intimate and special relationship of all, and should be cared for and prized. Love yourself. You deserve to love you.
posted by sockermom at 10:27 PM on March 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

Among the best bits of advice I have received in my life is this little nugget: No one cares about your happiness as much as you do. Therefore, letting others determine how happy or not you might be is falsely premised.

That sounds a little tough, I know. But I suggest that if you shift your focus a tad, then a little introspection will provide a firm foundation for better days. For example consider what you just wrote:

You recently completed your Master's degree. Congrats! That is a really difficult achievement and you did it. It's a difficult economy so you may not be rewarded for it right away. But no one can take that accomplishment away from you. It means you are diligent, a hard worker, and in it for the long haul. All virtues, imo.

Two tasks.

1 ) Go look in the mirror. See that woman? Concentrate on her eyes. At first, maybe all you'll see is the sadness. That's okay and valid for the moment. But l urge you to be patient, to look more deeply. That person? That's you and there is only one of you in the whole universe. You are special. You have something to offer back to the universe that only you can contribute. It may take a while for matters to play out but that's okay; you're in it for the long haul, remember? That goodness that is behind the sadness will win out--if you let it. Give it time and take each day afresh.

2) Memorize this poem. Recite it, out loud, every day. It's true. Really!

To F____s S. O_____d

Edgar Allan Poe

Thou wouldst be loved? -- then let thy heart
From its present pathway part not:
Being everything which now thou art,
Be nothing which thou art not.
So with the world thy gentle ways,
Thy grace, thy more than beauty,
Shall be an endless theme of praise,
And love -- a simple duty.

Best wishes.
posted by CincyBlues at 10:38 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

A few things. As I've grown older, I've found myself being more mad at myself for not having my shit together. Like, being in my early 20s and feeling aimless is okay, but not at 25, or 30, or 35. Transitions and/or purgatory states are never easy. Feeling like you shouldn't be in these awkward and uncomfortable stages at all because you should know better/be better/be happier at whatever age you are is just putting extra pressure on yourself.

Can you make time for volunteering? I found that at my shyest and loneliest, finding an organization to volunteer with (an arts festival, a sustainable politics group, an environmental education org) was very helpful in giving me a reason to talk to people that was less about networking or meeting people socially and more about a shared project. Who cares if I'm a weirdo and didn't brush my hair today if I'm reducing marine debris!

Feeling like your body is betraying you is no fun. Can you do something nice for your body like a massage? Dance and yoga are fantastic and I'm very glad you are still engaging them even if you aren't enjoying them as much as you have before. But something pampering that can be a way to demonstrate love for yourself, even if you don't feel like you deserve it right now, may be good. Even something cheap like getting a delicious smelling body scrub (or making a sugar one from scratch) and then having a good long bath.

Also nth-ing therapy or at least some books with introductory exercises. I'm a newbie to therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy to be specific), but learning how to have a crappy day or even a crappy week and accept that I feel crappy without having it be a referendum on the rest of my life is a skill I realized I sorely need to learn. And I'm ten years older than you.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:48 PM on March 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is it okay if I just address one of the issues you mentioned?

I trudged through my Master’s thesis in the fall and finished in December (English degree), and am now looking for higher education jobs with very little luck. I either hear that they went with someone else, or don’t hear back at all. Also, when I follow up, I’m just told that they are still “looking through applications” or “haven’t started looking yet.” It’s exhausting and frustrating. So, I’m stuck living in a house where I’m criticized all the time, with no chance of being able to move out, since my current doesn’t pay well enough at all. It’s also a very boring and unfulfilling job, which makes things worse.

What do you mean, "higher education" jobs? Like being an adjunct?
posted by clockzero at 10:52 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dear Clockzero,

By higher Ed jobs, I meant more along the lines of financial aid counselor, academic advisor, admissions counselor, etc. Not adjunct. (Although, it may be something fun to do later on in life in addition to a full time job, but definitely won't pay enough to pursue as a career). =]

posted by summertimesadness1988 at 11:00 PM on March 16, 2014

Hey there. I’m so sorry about what you’re going through. We have a lot in common, you and I: English Masters Degree, long-standing unrequited feelings for a guy (several, in my case), conflicts from moving back in with the parents. I too have experienced feeling self-conscious about my social abilities when life just wasn’t going well.

For me, the best way to better times was taking care of the job first. If you find a career path job (or one that pays well enough), you can move out of your parents’ place. A new job could also help you meet new friends (or at least get some interaction, if you tend to be a hermit like me). Meeting short-term goals such as writing various reports for work helped restore faith in my abilities. Therapy did a lot to help me bounce back from my own emotional exhaustion by giving me someone to talk to and goals to set.

Try googling SellOutYourSoul and visiting the facebook page. He has an ebook for finding a career as a Humanities major. You may also find some free advice if you scroll through his posts. (It was easier to find in his original site, which has disappeared.)

I also recommend What Color is Your Parachute if you’re having difficulty knowing where to start for a career. Truly, English degree holders can do anything if they can sell their skills to an employer. I work in nuclear power, and one of our site managers had a B.A. in English. I do technician work as well as write reports. Most people hate writing in this field; they feel safer with numbers, ha ha.

Guy problems, specifically unrequited love, were a huge monkey on my back. Yours would be good to explore with therapy. Why are you drawn to people who hurt/reject you? My therapist told me I was attracted to emotionally unavailable men. Could that be you, too? A site called The Baggage Reclaim explores this issue at length and in-depth. You may find some understanding there, as an attraction to emotionally unavailable guys frequently indicates you are emotionally unavailable, yourself.

For the longest time, I felt I had to be at my 1000% best to be worthy of people’s love and attention. As I met more people outside of college, I was in relationships (love and platonic) for which I was accepted exactly how I was. So when I recently had that not-good-enough sense when interacting with some guys, I realized that they are probably not good people to be around. I hope you are able to experience this kind of discernment, specific to your situation. It changes everything.

I hope some of the resources I’ve mentioned and anecdotes I’ve offered help you. Please don’t give up. It does get better. Big hugs!
posted by glass.hourousha at 11:07 PM on March 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

Ah, okay. So you're not interested in pursuing professorship as your career.

You certainly can apply to those jobs with a degree in English, but most of such employers probably prefer candidates who have degrees in business, public administration, or something more institutionally-oriented, you know? You already have your undergrad coursework done, so maybe you could get a second bachelor's in just two years, and then you'd be an even stronger candidate. And knowing that you're moving forward, moving in the right direction, can have a tremendously positive effect on your psychological well-being.

In any case, it seems likely that your loss of confidence is a symptom of depression and its effects on your life. I think addressing that would either resolve or enable you to resolve a lot of these issues. Is something stopping you from getting help through mental health professionals?
posted by clockzero at 11:23 PM on March 16, 2014

I don't understand your problem if you work in childcare AND have a degree.

You could score a gig IMMEDIATELY as a live-in nanny or similar making BIG BUCKS if you are willing to move (you are.) Babysitting gigs abound if you put yourself out there just to supplement your income.

I do not utilize babysitting and nanny services, but they exist, and the pay can be quite high. Higher if the family is non-English speaking and want their children to learn English.

It can be fulfilling work and the pay/compensation can get you out of your current living situation. Target a city with opportunities that speak to your degree.


Use your childcare experience as a springboard. At least in SF, LA, and NYC you can be paid ridiculous $$ for this job.

Get going!
posted by jbenben at 11:35 PM on March 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

maybe you could get a second bachelor's in just two years

Sorry disagree with this, strongly. Those jobs are most often either 1) open to BA-holders (with any major) with some experience in an institutional setting (in which case, temp your way in; I did it that way, albeit before the crash, but this is still the main way in) 2) open to MA-holders with subject experience, in the case of academic advising or 3) open to people with a qualification in counselling, social work or education / guidance (again, for the obviously related jobs). You might get some traction with a cert in adult ed, and that might be a good focus for you and a reason to get out of the house. Another angle might be to work / volunteer with education-related non-profits that partner with or are housed in universities / colleges. But temp if you can.

Keep at it and meanwhile yes, more babysitting, if that's a local option, until you can find something career-related.

I just looked at some of your other questions - you say therapy hasn't been helpful? You're right, sometimes it's not. Good therapists are hard to find, no doubt. But worth looking for. The other part of it is, you have to do the (sometimes stupid-sounding, often annoying) homework to get the most out of it. You clearly need to at least talk these things through with someone you can trust & aren't threatened by, who's not actively making your life hard, and who is unfailingly available. The trust part involves trying people out, unfortunately, and it's worthwhile to press on with it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:57 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been in a somewhat similar situation (living with an unsupportive parent after graduating, unable to find a "real" job, unable to move out due to not having money) and I became pretty depressed as a result. I couldn't meet people, and I got stood up every time I had plans to meet someone in person after we'd talked about hanging out online. My friends were extremely unsupportive; when I tried to talk to any of them about it, I'd get "But you're Enchanting Grasshopper, you don't need to go online to meet people!" or "You don't seem depressed" or "Are you sure? Have you seen a therapist who diagnosed you with depression"? (Like I don't know whether or not I'm depressed?) I felt completely ugly and worthless and stupid.

The only thing that helped was being able to find a job and move away. I took an online course, got certified, and I found a job. As soon as I found it and knew there was an end in sight, I felt the fog start to lift. Jbenben's suggestion of finding a nannying job is spot on. You could even consider doing something like that overseas, or find an academic advising job at international schools if your domestic search isn't going super well. Are you also willing to consider any other types of jobs? With a Masters degree in English, you may find something related to communications or PR that might also be a good fit for you.

This is just a stumbling block. You're not undeserving or unattractive or worthless.What you are is depressed. Decide on a plan of action, and do everything in your power to make it happen.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 4:47 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Always be open to change, even when all around you feels like shit and you feel like shit and life seems hard and impossible. Give yourself a little out. Don't give up hope. Things change all the time. You can't predict when it's going to happen but the odds are in your favour.
posted by h00py at 5:49 AM on March 17, 2014

First of all, I'm sorry that your friends aren't supporting you and that your parents aren't able to be more positive and helpful. The time right after graduation and before landing a first "real" job is really tough on everyone who isn't snapped up right away even under the best circumstances.

To feel better right away, stop drinking and start eating better. If you are dancing and doing yoga every week you just need to clean up your diet (cutting drinking should improve your sleep almost immediately) to feel better and look better. A healthy and not too restrictive nutritional plan that will help you lose weight and stop relying on sugar for energy is "The Last 15: A Weightloss Breakthrough". I lost 15 lbs fairly easily (and have kept it off) by following the diet it prescribes for a couple of months. They say it takes 30-45 minutes of exercise to release the "feel-good" endorphins so aim for that most days if you can fit it in. You sound really frazzled and (this is a gross simplification) apparently the stress hormone (cortisol) can steal your feel good/sexy hormone (progesterone) and that can increase weight gain and make you feel like crap. Eating better and cutting alcohol will help you recharge.

Another book that might be helpful to you right now is "The Joy Diet". Simple, easy things to help you feel better, take better care of yourself, and figure out what you want to do with your life.

Chasing any job in higher ed is going to be hard, and is not related to you personally at all. Those jobs are hard to come by and will go to the person who has been (for instance) volunteering or working in the school for years already, it's very competitive. Have you checked out people who work in the positions you want on linkedin? It can give you a hint as to the years of experience and where else they worked before landing the job(s) you want. With a higher ed English degree you could try getting a part-time job as a writing tutor through a university or college as a way to get into higher ed if it's really your dream place of employment. You should try opening yourself up to more business-oriented jobs though if you'd like to get out of your parent's house and start making a better income though Communication, writing, and critical thinking skills are valued by a wide range of workplaces. Go to your school's job centre and have them help you with your resume and do some mock-interviewing, it will be a big help for when you have an interview. Also find out if they have access to "The Versatile PhD". Lots of alt-academic job help and friendly people there.

I know it seems terrible but you have so much opportunity ahead of you in every area of your life. I would try getting a basic job (like a service job or a full-time nanny job) that will get you enough money to rent a room so you can get out of your parent's place if it's making you crazy. I know it seems like a step backwards but one of my friends took a job at a clothing retailer after she finished her M.Sc. Because she got a great staff discount she was able to build up a great professional wardrobe and get out of the house while she applied to "real" jobs (it took her over 6 months to get her first real job interview and this was pre-recession). There's no shame in it. You don't have to tell anyone you work with that you have a masters degree and you don't have to include it on your subsequent job applications. You can think of it as giving you skills other than your academic skills, like people skills, communication skills, etc., it will not be worthless.

Can you try making a date with one of your friends every week? Just invite a friend out for coffee for an hour or two. Is there anyone at your yoga that you click with? Just start making little lunch or coffee dates with kind people, or ask someone if they want to check out an exhibit or something else very low cost. If you can't do that, call your friends, let them know you're hurting and need to vent/bitch about how much things suck right now, actually do all of the above. If your friends just really suck then try finding a local bookclub or a running group or take a pottery class, something where you can do something enjoyable and socialize.

And romantically I would say to just focus on yourself for a while. It will pay off in the long run as you'll attract a better partner and for now stay focused on becoming who you want to be. Being in a relationship won't fix the things bothering you about yourself now and if you break up you'll feel just like you did last year. Easier said than done, I know, but as others have mentioned if you are giving off a negative vibe you're going to scare off the good ones anyway.
posted by lafemma at 7:54 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

You finished your Master's, Yay, you! You're employed. You're doing whatever you can to deal with your unhappiness - dancing, joining groups, etc. So, not a loser.

- I've learned that a lot of people feel awkward, miserable, and loser-ish on the inside, and most other people are too self-absorbed to notice. Put on your best 'game face' for work and social events, and remember that a lot of the people who seem together don't feel that way.
- Exercise, fresh air, sunshine - every day.
- Plan a reasonably healthy diet with less alcohol and try to stick to it. Relying on alcohol when you're miserable is counter-productive.
- Go to the library, research jobs, look for a job-hunter's group, and develop a plan for getting a better job.
- Use your network of friends to find a new job, and reconnect with them.
- Academia doesn't pay well, and can be quite a difficult environment.
- Value yourself. Make lists of things you've accomplished, look for ways to compliment yourself, don't let anybody (parents included) put you down.
- Get health insurance, see a therapist, take meds if needed. It works.
posted by theora55 at 8:22 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of your complaints jumped out at me - your friends being tied up with their significant others now. I'm wondering - have you reached out to them about this at all? I went through a similar slump once when I was missing all my friends who never seemed to have time for me - I'd even plan group things for us all to do and no one would respond, and in many cases it was because they were caught up with new relationships.

But then I reached out to a couple of them about it ("look, I know you are all caught up with Betty Sue or whoever now, but it's been a long time since we've hung out and I'm going through a tough spot right now and it feels like you're rejecting me. I know you're not, but that's how it feels,") and that REALLY helped. In a couple cases they confessed that they were going through some tough shit themselves, and while they maybe couldn't hang as much as I wanted, at least I knew that both of us missed each other and that helped. In another couple cases, they apologized and made more of an effort to spend time with me. And there was a person who didn't respond at all, and I just quietly left her out of any planning and let her go (because who needs that).

Start there; a couple of your really good friends. Reach out to them and tell them how you're really feeling, and how they can help you, and how much you really kinda need that help right now. That will also help. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

oh, seconding Enchanting Grasshopper's suggestion to look for jobs abroad abroad if teaching/tutoring gigs in your town are hard to get. An M.A. in English will be gold in some place like Seoul with an obsession with "native" English speakers, and depending on your nationality, programs like JET (in Japan) or the Fulbright Teaching Fellows are a great way to find ESL/EFL teaching jobs within a larger structure and support network. Even without the larger structure, being an expat abroad is pretty freeing. You may still feel lonely (living outside of your culture is not always easy) but there is always something interesting to learn and people are very very open to hanging out.

Also to follow up on my volunteering suggestion, a random specific idea. Can you volunteer as an ESL or English teacher? I'm specifically thinking within the prison system (local jails, state institutions) because as a newly minted B.A. full of burnout about education, I ended up volunteering for a year as a literature/history teaching assistant at San Quentin State Prison's college program (run by a local Catholic college) and completely rediscovered my joy of learning and literature. Being in a classroom of people who really wanted to learn and read was a huge treasure; we read Roth's Radetzky March and I don't think I've ever enjoyed a class discussion as much.

Jedi mind hugs. Feeling stuck is really sucky and I have boundless empathy for you.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:42 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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