Trying to make a change in my life, but I don't know where to start?
July 24, 2014 7:24 PM   Subscribe

I am in a weird phase of my life where I want to change some things. I have always been a rather antisocial person and for the first time ever I am dying to get out and be social. I am also wondering where I will end up and what my goals in life truly are. I also want to get healthier, eat better, be more productive. Truth is, I don't know where to start?

To start with, you guys have read all of my rambling posts and put up with me since 2011. You guys are awesome and I could not have asked for a better resource for life advice. You all present such unique perspectives and are truly helpful. I want to thank you sincerely for this. This site has made a big difference in how I see things, even if I try to deny the tough things pointed out to me.

Onto the dilemma... of course. lol
I am probably in the healthiest state of mind that I have been in, in my entire life. I don't know how it happened, I haven't been seeing a therapist... but I feel pretty great for the most part. I have always been kind of reclusive, not outgoing, not going out, not talking to people, and had some close friends (always was choosy about who they were).

I have always been kind of lazy, too. I still struggle with being lazy. I work a full time job and I find myself coming home and wanting to lay down and just not move for awhile. lol I also was a fan of processed quick and easy foods. I know this is horrible and I am seeing it now for what it is. I never really knew what healthy eating was supposed to be like and the extra work for healthy food seems daunting. I also hate cooking. :/

I have put on 5 pounds the past year since I turned 21 and I am desperate not to acquire anymore unwanted weight, yet I am still stuck in this web of bed covers that sucks me in with their comfy appeal. I also can't seem to get to bed on time when I need to get to work early the next day and find the preparation time I allow myself in the morning does nothing for me to plan my lunch. I just can't get myself to wake up!

Basically, I want more friends, I want to be healthy, I want to find a way to get my ass off the couch. I am ready to get out there, just don't know where to start. I guess I am in that "finding yourself" stage...

The friends I had in high school for a long time have turned to crap. I had a habit of choosing deceptive friends who routinely took my self-esteem and ran over it with crap comments. I don't deal with that anymore as I have developed a thick skin against it and refuse to befriend anyone who shows signs of being like that. I want healthy friendships with give and take. I also am in a town I did not grow up in and have limited social resources. I didn't have the typical college experience and found it hard to get close to people.

How the heck do I do this? For the first time in my life I don't want a relationship to be the basis of me, I want to have a plan, be proactive, healthy, social, etc. I also realize I am a perfectionist and am putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to be a perfect person. The pressure makes me want to be, well, lazy. lol

On a side note, my older sister has been around for a month back from medical school. She is someone who weighs her food to make sure the portion is meticulously spot-on. She has dropped about 90 pounds and has thyroid issues. She tracks all of her eating and plans every meal a day or even three in advance. She works out 2 hours a day, hikes for miles, etc. She is also pointing out, not so nicely, that I have less-than-perfect habits in my everyday life. Called me a hoarder, lazy, boring, no drive to exercise like her, picks on my clothes, rubs things in my face, etc.

We have a tense relationship that goes back for years. She always put me down and I just took it. She was very overweight when we were growing up and I was a slim child who didn't do anything to be that way, I just was. I knew I wanted to make changes before she came back in town, but she has been spending time with me and controlling everything we do. I was all for dieting and exercising like her (this was a prerogative before she came back), but then it became you eat what I do, you cook it when I say, etc. You will exercise when I want to, you will hang out with me, you will do what I say. She is far more controlling than I ever remember or maybe I just never noticed. I'm wondering if her involvement is fueling me even more to turn my back on the healthy? She also finds joy in being handed things for free and has a strong sense of entitlement. She seems offended when I don't want to be around her for too long.

Any advice on how to make a change in a positive way to your life? Anyone else have some experience with such a task? Have you had anyone try to help you but it ended up not being helpful at all? I just don't know where to start.
posted by Chelsaroo650 to Human Relations (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
First, get away from your older sister. Sounds like she's got a whole smorgasboard of issues that she is conveniently projecting and taking out on YOU. I know this kind of behavior and recognize it well because I used to share a lot of similar traits. Realize that she is insecure, but is unable to face those insecurities. She isn't you. Don't let her shame you into thinking you are. Contrary to what she might say or have you think, she is NOT a positive influence in your life. Surrounding yourself with likeminded people, strong, reliable, and yes-- POSITIVE influences, will help you tremendously in this road to an even awesome-r Chelsearoo.

Now, onto friends. Continue to stay choosy! As you get older (I'm in my late-twenties), you realize that high school friends just don't jive with you anymore. You stay friendly as the years go on, but life will take you in different paths. Your world will broaden and open up in ways you can't even imagine. I didn't have a traditional college life either (commuted from home!), but you can meet people in so many other venues. For one, at your workplace.

Perfectionism is dangerous. Part of surrounding yourself with positivity means you've got to accept who you are. What has helped me over the last few months is guided meditations. Sounds kinda hokey, and I used to turn up my nose at those friends who went to yoga, meditated, and practiced "mindfulness." But it's been life changing. For 5 to 15 minutes a day, meditate. Appreciate the good things, accept that the past is past, focus on what you can do now. To that end, I'd recommend checking out some free guided meditations here.

Start slow. Baby steps. You're on your own pace, no one elses. Figure out what you like and go from there. Don't like running? Don't do it-- there are other forms of cardio and exercise that's more effective. During college I was a huge gym rat. Now I avoid it like the plague. Hiking is a great way to meet new people-- see what groups are in your area.

As for food, focus on fresh! Crudite and dip, smoothies, are all hassle-free ways of kicking off healthy eating. My Nutribullet has been a lifesaver.

You are definitely on the right track! Be true to you.
posted by chloe.gelsomino at 7:52 PM on July 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Start with one thing you want to improve. Just one. It doesn't matter which specific thing you pick; often, one of the easier things on the list is best. Make progress in that one thing, to the point where you feel like it's something you can sustain long-term, and then start another thing. If you try to give your life a complete overhaul all at once, you run the risk of losing focus or crashing. Breaking it down into pieces allows you to get used to each change in turn, and will give you a sense of accomplishment.

Keep in mind that you have so much time. I didn't get my shit together until my late twenties, and it wasn't too late then.

And distance yourself from your sister. The hours of exercise and food-weighing may seem self-disciplined and virtuous, but for me it raises some serious eating-disorder flags. Working out two hours a day is unnecessary unless you're a competitive athlete.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:17 PM on July 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ah, Welcome to Adulthood!

You're not a little kid anymore, so no one tells you when to go to bed. You can go to bed at 9, and get plenty of rest...or you can stay up until 4, and be a hot holy mess the next day. That is the beauty of it. You're not a little kid anymore, so you don't have to put up with any shit from your sister, and you don't have to sabotage your own happiness to prove some point to her. You're not a little kid anymore, so friendships that were somewhat dictated by where you lived and what school you went to, are no longer your only choices.

You get to make those choices now, they are ALL YOURS. Consequences and all.

It's all about choices. Make the poor choice of buying expensive shoes instead of paying your rent? Get evicted and have to start all over, and now you're behind and struggling. Make the good choice of paying your rent? Good relationship with your happy landlord, great reference later when you need it. You make the poor choice to deal drugs in a school zone, you wind up in the newspaper and you do some prison time. Make the good choice to keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble? Doors will remain open to you, instead of being slammed shut in your face when you need them the most.

The bad choices we think are funny or 'no big deal' in our teenage years, begin to be less funny in your 20s. They become even less funny in your 30's. And by your 40's, they aren't funny at all. By 50, it's scary.

But take heart! There are so many different kinds of people to be! Boat people, art people, movie people, fine dining people, camping people, dog people, cat people, dance people, tailors, bankers, food truck people. People who body-build for a living, people who cut wood. What kind of person do YOU want to be? Do your future self a favor, set goals and make little moves now and going forward, toward those goals. Make the choices that will push you in the direction of positive change.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:31 PM on July 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wow. Your sister is not helping. If you can, put a little distance between you two, ASAP. That might be enough to improve your life in the here and now. I've had your sister's life and outlook and it is not anything you want. She might appear to be healthy and in control of everything, but in fact, it's often a scary, ugly, out-of control place to be when you're measuring food out to the tenth of an ounce and exercising hours at a time. Focus on being the best you and not an imitation of your sister.

If you can afford to see a therapist, it might help to give you some perspective on your situation. Not that you're depressed, just that you're making changes towards a better life and could use some non-judgmental support. If you're at uni, check out their services for a low- or no-cost therapist.

As far as long-term goals, it might be helpful to write down three to five big goals (Eat Healthier, Get More Exercise, Socialize More, etc.). Then break each goal into smaller goals. Start with one small goal at a time.

Like: Eat Heathier for a large goal can become: 1. Pick two healthy recipes from online sources. 2. Plan (specific number of) meals and snacks. 3. Make a shopping list and go shopping. 4. Make lunch 3x a week after dinner. 5. Have one cheat meal a week (anything you want, as unhealthy as you want it to be).

Then: Start with number one. When you've done it, reward yourself. (Do something you love to do. Go out and pick wildflowers. Buy a new pair of socks. Anything that makes you feel good and celebrates your accomplishment.) Then move on to small goal number two. And so on.

Take things one step at a time and slowly.

And when your sister starts to badger you to do things her way or tries to tell you that you're somehow inadequate, laugh. We all know that what she's saying is not true. You're awesome already and it only gets better from here.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 8:37 PM on July 24, 2014

My answer will be a bit scattershot, because the question is a bit scattershot. (That's okay! I've written plenty of similar AskMes myself. I know what it's like to have no idea where to begin with something.) It's great that you want to make changes for the better, and are actively seeking ways to do that—that's where it all begins.

Make a conscious effort to find ways to say "yes" when you're invited to social events, even if you don't think you'll enjoy them. There's a chance that you'll be right—but there's also the chance that you'll be wrong. If you don't even try, then your chance of failure is 100% (and people will stop inviting you). (I'm very antisocial myself, so I know where you're coming from. This advice is easier given than taken, and there are gonna be times when you just really don't want to go, and that's okay. Still, it's worth asking yourself before you a decline an invitation: what's the worst thing that could happen if I went? What's the best thing? Is it worth a shot, even if success isn't guaranteed?)

Make a list of specific goals. Don't worry if the list seems random or too ambitious or whatever; you're just brainstorming. Examples (some of which I've included on my own lists): lose weight, cook more meals at home, quit smoking, find a significant other, try a new activity you've been curious about, visit a particular place, pursue a particular creative project, take up a hobby, learn a new skill or area of knowledge. Anything that feels like it'd get you closer to the life you want.

Now, look at the list through two lenses.

One: look for the items that feel the most doable. Maybe because they're just easier; maybe because you're just feeling more motivated to tackle that particular task. Doesn't matter; just look for items that make you think "yeah, I can see myself tackling that".

Two: think about how different items on the list might depend on, or reinforce each other. For example, my list once included "quit smoking", "lose weight", "cook more meals at home", and "find a girlfriend". Regarding the latter, I knew that my confidence and dateability would improve if I lost weight first. And I knew that losing weight would be much easier if I quit smoking (making it easier to exercise) and started cooking more meals at home (allowing me to eat better). Plus, I'd save a bit of money that would help me with other items on my list. This helps you figure out which threads you need to tug on to start untangling things.

Hopefully, there will be some overlap here: some of the logical first steps will also be things that don't feel like huge challenges to start working on. That gives you a place to start, and the outline of a broader strategy.

Expect to repeat this analysis every few months. Situations change. The important thing is to always look for things you can do today, and to have a sense for how that's going to help put you in a better place a year from now. Think long-term; act in the present.

Don't expect to tackle all of the items at once, or to conquer them too quickly. You will fail, and the failure will make it harder for you to believe that the goals are actually achieveable. Big goals are achieved by breaking them into smaller, more manageable goals, and those smaller goals are achieved by chipping away at them a little each day.

As for becoming more active: I'm hardly the one to be giving advice here,'s crucial to find activities that you actually like doing. If you try to start running regularly, and find that you simply hate running, then don't do it. Try something else. Hiking, individual or team sports, yoga, dance, swimming, rock climbing—eventually, you'll find something that you find rewarding aside from the health benefits.

Perfectionism: man, can I ever relate. You've probably heard the saying "the perfect is the enemy of the good". So many times, I've started out on an endeavor, only to get frustrated and quit when it proves to be difficult to make it "perfect" (imagine that!). I probably could have achieved an 80% or 90% result, but because I wasn't willing to settle for anything less than 100%, I actually achieved jack shit.

So think about things that other people do that aren't perfect, which you love anyway.

Do you know a home baker? Do their pies look like the ones in magazines, or meet the standards of three-star pastry chefs? Probably not! Do they give you pleasure and make the world a better place anyway? Hell yeah!

Do you love a particular movie/TV show/book? Can you honestly say that it's completely devoid of plot holes, lame dialogue, derivative cliches, or other warts? Probably not! Does it enrich your life anyway? Yep!

If you can recognize the flaws in these things and be glad for them anyway, then maybe you can do the same for your own endeavors.

It can also help to reframe the goal of an endeavor. If your goal is to produce an end result, then it's easy to get bogged down in making sure every aspect of the end result is right. But if your goal is to play—if you're worrying less about the end result, and focusing more on the experience, approaching it as practice, or experience/exploration for its own sake, where you're okay with throwing away the end result—then that changes. Not only is play fun, but it's a great way to learn, and once you learn enough, you'll start achieve great results! The smartest and most accomplished people are always learning; always willing to produce an imperfect result, or even fail, for the sake of gaining experience. (Google beginner's mind.)

Take risks. Indulge whims. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I don't mean that you should be going on random, zany adventures every day (unless that's what the moment demands!); you can start in small ways.

Food is a whole universe of its own. The advice in the previous paragraph will serve you well when it comes to food. Be an adventurous eater, and it'll be easier to eat well, because you'll find more dishes / cuisines / ingredients that (1) are healthy and (2) you like. Is there a restaurant or an ethnic grocery store that you always pass and wonder "what's that all about?" Go there!

Jesus; I just wrote a novel. Hope at least some of that is helpful. Good luck!
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:45 PM on July 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

as for the perfectionist part... i think that being healthy is a way of life. you can look at pictures of perfect people in magazines, but that doesn't show the reality. there is no quick diet or solution, and it can take some real effort to get into for the long haul. it can take a couple starts and stops and i want you to know it's okay to fall off track as long as you pick yourself up again and keep going. start slow and work these changes into your life gradually.

the one thing i've personally found with exercise is that the type i stick with and get me off the couch are the activities i've found interesting and challenging. i never thought i'd be so eager to get out of bed at 5am until i learned to surf. nowadays i do trapeze - crazy right? - and it's a absolute blast. it's important to make sure you love what you're doing, because in order to make it part of your daily routine it's helpful if it's fun too. there's something out there for everyone, so try a bunch of different things and see what peeks your interest.

as for your sister - bite back. she (and you) have to realize that the motivation for becoming healthy needs to come from within, and the path to that is different for everyone. i would suggest telling her if she has good advice you may take it under consideration, but that is your thing that you need to figure out for yourself.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 8:55 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Imagine your ideal "you" a year from now, 5 years from now. What's this person like? What's this person doing? How is this person making use of life's myriad possibilities? What characteristics does this person possess that that make them uniquely amazing?

Begin cultivating a mindset and good habits that will help you work towards being that person.

Stuff that worked for me: facing each day with an open heart, being adventurous in all the ways that piqued my curiosity, having specific long-term goals, staying focused, taking risks, always being on the lookout for potential collaborations with people I share a common vision with, pursuing inspiration wherever I can find it, learning humility and resilience and self-possession from the people I meet and the roads I take.

Best of luck and enjoy the ride. :)
posted by tackypink at 9:07 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Did I accidentally write this? All kidding aside, welcome to being an adult. Not all it's cracked up to be, but also one of the best things that has ever happened after escaping the sh!tstorm that is childhood and adolescence. You kind of aimlessly drift until you get older and find your place in the world. You're at that stage of drifting now where you have an idea of what to do, but are overwhelmed by all the possibilities. Well, no need to figure it all out right this second, just take it one day at a time. Set a goal, accomplish it, set another goal. And enjoy life, it's not about what's waiting for you at the finish line, but about what you did to get there. Good luck!
posted by lunastellasol at 9:23 PM on July 24, 2014

Hey! Classic askmetafilter advice, but I would really advise getting an awesome therapist! I have one and she taught me this (maybe you could try it too):

1. Rank your life from 0 (I wanna die) to 10 (everything is awesome)

2. If by the end of your semester/year/three months your ranking would have gone up by two, what would have changed?

E.g. I said my ranking was 3 the first time I went to see my counsellor, and in order for things to turn into 5 by the end of semester, I would have
-made friends
-exercised more
-go to all my lectures
-talked to my parents more often

3. What can YOU DO to make those things happen? BE REALISTIC about what you will do, and what is likely to work
You can pick one of the above and choose more intensive steps you could take, or several (with less commitment for each)

E.g. making friends meant joining a few societies and attending frequently or exercising more meant waking up and making a point to run every weekend

4. Check in with your therapist after the end of the chosen time frame and see if things have changed, and if not, why not?

This is obviously a simplification, which is where your therapist comes in. The steps are usually straightforward and there are usually hidden or complicated reasons which have stopped you from taking those steps. A good therapist will sit down with you and pick those reasons apart. But if that's not possible then maybe try the above and see what happens. Good luck!
posted by dinosaurprincess at 7:57 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

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