Am I broken?
November 16, 2014 5:29 AM   Subscribe

I used to like people, but now I don't. I fear I'm creating an irreversibly solitary life for myself. I think the problem must be me, but I'm not sure what the cure is. Looking for advice.

I'm an early 30s, over-educated, 1%er-successful, likeable attractive white hetero male. I'm extremely hard working, but I've also been lucky/privileged at many turns in life. I might wish I worked less, but for now it's what I choose. (I really have no grounds to complain; I can stop at any time and never need to work again.) I'm also a kind and conscientious person - I believe this to be true. I am single and most often have been that way.

As I've gotten older, I've become increasingly disaffected. I can remember looking up to people when I was younger; idolizing professors or film directors or just people I knew who were funny or clever. This is now wholly absent! I've become a secret misanthrope. I don't wish harm to anyone -- for every person I can bring to mind, I only hope better things or at worst the status quo -- but I also think poorly of literally everyone.
  • Celebrities, politicians, lawyers, journalists, white collarists in general: desperate, grasping phonies lacking awareness of their insignificance;
  • Academics, scientists, engineers: parochial, pedantic, awkward; finding too much satisfaction in what is ultimately forgotten work;
  • Artists, musicians, writers, hipsters: crushingly self-absorbed; vicariously humiliating;
  • People who use social media: indulgent, tragic; everyone shouting into the din, only ever listening to learn what to shout next;
  • My friends, now and in the past: underachieving, insecure, self-preoccupied;
  • My family: etc.
Even someone ostensibly beyond reproach -- say, Lawrence Lessig -- is just someone for whom I haven't yet seen the dark corners.

This is what my brain says, and I know it's wrong. Or at least, I know I'd be happier if I were tricked to think otherwise. I can remember the last time I felt real affection for another human. It was years ago. I think the fact that I can pinpoint when and who is more disappointing than if it were vague.

How can you respect a person who has ever taken a selfie or written a Yelp review or who watches cable news or reality television or laugh-track comedy or who can stand even one second of TMZ? There are so many ways to cross a person off the list that there can be no one left. No action is safe from my covert disapproval. This hypercritical worldview reads to me like I should be a member of ISIS.

Am I still normal? Am I broken? Should I be fixed? If you've been like me, what did you do to become not like me?

Why I'm asking this now: I'm dating a new person and even though it's early days I'm already feeling the urge to fade out. It would be selfish to continue. I'm wasting someone else's time and emotional energy. This is how it's gone for almost every relationship I've had as an adult and I'm beginning to feel like I should just quit - the small bits of fun aren't worth hurting someone else's feelings and my concomitant guilt.

p.s. I do actually like some people:

- the elderly (when not family)
- first-generation immigrants
- dogs, cats, children
- essentially, anyone earnest and sincere about who they are and what they want.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (72 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
I can get a bit like how you feel. Sometimes it makes me hide away/talk to people mainly through computers (if at all), read 'Catcher in the Rye' and agree with nearly all of it (which is interesting, because in so doing I guess I'm looking for human connection of sorts/someone who'gets it') or watch Ghostworld. Ditto.

It's not bad to question stuff with a critical eye.. but it can help to remember too, than at the end of the day we're all just flawed creatures trying our best to get through with what we've got.

You sound hurt and angry ... therapy could be good here? Spit some of this stuff out and feel someone just hear you. Or set aside a limited time per day where you can really focus on this pissed offness, but when your done have something else lined up to do. Everyone is a bit broken and many have untold riches to offer too.
posted by tanktop at 5:43 AM on November 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

"If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.".....The Dalai Lama

I agree with tanktop, there's a lot of anger there, looking inward for the cause of that might be a good first step...
posted by HuronBob at 5:45 AM on November 16, 2014 [29 favorites]

Get evaluated by a doctor, and perhaps investigate if you might be depressed.

Even people who enjoy reality television can have other admirable qualities. Underachievers by whose standards? Some of us just enjoy our lives and don't aspire to whatever you deem greatness. The other 99% is filled with people who work hard, who take care of families and who live their lives doing the best they can with what gifts they were given. No one is perfect, not even you.

You seem unhappy with things as they are. You're very hard on other people. So have your hormone levels tested, take this test (honestly) and see if there might be an issue.

Go to a therapist and tell that person what you think. The therapist might be able to help you re-frame your world-view.

Yes, even nice people can have annoying personality quirks, you need to learn to overlook these things and to appreciate people as they are.

Right now the way you view people is disturbing. It's as if you expect everyone to conform to your ideas and to your expectations. That's not how the world and the people in it work.

I'll attribute what sounds pretty horrible as you describe it, to some sort of pathology.

Good luck, your life can only improve.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on November 16, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think you could really benefit from reading up on mindfulness, specifically as practiced in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. One of the specific things you learn about is how to identify judgmental thoughts and ideally how to move towards a more non-judmental way of interacting in the world. Honestly, I think everyone could benefit from this, because so many of us go around making judgments about people and treating them like facts when they're really just opinions that are mostly meaningless except in what they reflect about the person making the judgment.

Celebrities, politicians, lawyers, journalists, white collarists in general: desperate, grasping phonies lacking awareness of their insignificance;

Desperate, phony, insignificance, these are all judgments that only give information about you and your thought process and say nothing about the objects of your disdain. Your comment about being "over-educated" is also a judgment.

The other thing that occurs to me as I read your description of people is, so what? Even if all of your assessments were true, none of these are fatal flaws as far as I'm concerned. Sure, everyone has their "faults" (although that's very subjective), but that doesn't take away the value of someone as a person. The thing is, none of us is perfect, and no two people have the same goals or opinions, but just because someone's values don't align with yours, that doesn't really give you a right to judge them as less than you.

On a more practical level, I think you should start volunteering. Yes, you're very busy, but I suspect that part of this has developed because of your social isolation. It's so easy to hate people in the abstract, but it's very different once you get to know them as a three-dimensional, living and breathing human being. I bet if you gave someone a bare bones picture of your life, they could make all sorts of judgments too, but that would be based on someone made up idea of who you are, not any actual picture of you.

Therapy could be helpful too, especially if you think you might be depressed, but I really think you'll get pretty far by starting to become more aware and trying to separate yourself from your judgmental thoughts and by actually taking the time to build deeper connections with the people around you. It sounds like you haven't always been this way, so I definitely think you can move past this, and I have a feeling you'll be much happier once you can drop this (rather toxic) way of interacting with the world.
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:04 AM on November 16, 2014 [17 favorites]

I grappled with this by developing enough depth to accept that I have my own shallow side.

All that aside, you don't really sound like you have much of a personal identity-- like you don't talk at all about yourself except to say that you have a good job that you work very hard at. So it sounds like when you look at other people who do things for their own enjoyment (read TMZ, take selfies, research obscure scientific issues), you sound pretty resentful.

I am not necessarily going to say, "Live a little!", though my perennial advice is always to pick something new and get good at it. What I will say is the following things I have learned about the working world:

1) even if someone wanted to work 80 hours a week, the amount of paying work available in the USA simply doesn't exist to support that-- people have a hard enough time working 40 hours

2) the number of jobs in which more hours = more money/success is itself limited. (1st generation Immigrants in the restaurant business, surgeons, etc.)

2) the number of people who have the capacity to be productive for more than 40-50 hours a week is limited. For most people, they find other things to do when not working simply because the time would otherwise be wasted, even on work.

So the fact that you can spend so much time on a job where working long hours results in money is a rare thing that not many other people can have (or want). Don't get all judgy simply because most people don't have a combination of uncommon abilities and opportunities.
posted by deanc at 6:06 AM on November 16, 2014 [17 favorites]

I'd be careful with that depression test above. Playing around with various combinations of answers it seems like it's going to find at least mild depression in 90% of respondents.
posted by COD at 6:10 AM on November 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

I can understand your feelings. I think a lot of (depressed or neurotic) people feel this way. People cannot live up to our expectations of how people should be. You may be feeling this way because you have put a lot of pressure on yourself to be perfect and you dislike people because they are not perfect.

Do understand that the majority of people are self-preoccupied. It's part of being a person. Of course we are all self-absorbed to varying degrees because we are human.

Everyone lies, cheats, and pretends -- yes, you too!

You're not broken.

I think you may be suffering from self-loathing. You're being extremely hard on yourself and you're putting up all of these walls so you won't have to connect with anyone.

You're romanticizing first-generation immigrants, children, and the elderly and casting all others as not good enough. You're so uncomfortable in your skin -- all of these people that surround you are shining a light on your vulnerability and imperfectness, and it's painful for you. Try not to expect so much out of people and go easier on yourself.

It's completely fine not to have heroes but stop being so hard on yourself and you may be able to appreciate others.

How to get over this? Therapy. Practice being more open, vulnerable. Practice being okay with being imperfect. Good luck and best wishes for happiness and peace.
posted by Fairchild at 6:16 AM on November 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

To expand on what I was thinking, when you make a lot of sacrifices if your own happiness and other opportunities to work really hard for professional, academic, and monetary achievements, particularly when the professional rewards are primarily monetary, it might look to you like everyone else out there watching the E! channel or pursuing their passion of being a professor of 17th century Persian art is in some way "cheating" because they refuse to make the same sacrifices you did. (It is even worse when you come across someone who makes money that approaches your own or in someway has a lot of professional security that you had to fight for or never had).

Again, what helps is to realize that the value system you adopted is not the only value system that exists and is not even the most adaptive value system for most people. In fact they would probably see the social sacrifices you have made, resulting in your not being able to get along with most other people, as unacceptable.
posted by deanc at 6:18 AM on November 16, 2014 [11 favorites]

Start volunteering your time.

Giving money doesn't count. It is one thing to understand IN ABSTRACT how fortunate you are but try forging connections with those less fortunate than yourself. Feel humbled by the grace of others. Try to see how these things you consider trite, banal (or worse) form important structures in their lives. (Much in the way that many people don't have the "privilege" of doubting religion.)

Think that you might be wrong, despite all the societal cues validating that you have done everything right.

Good luck.
posted by ista at 6:21 AM on November 16, 2014 [11 favorites]

What makes a doctor or a musician not earnest or honest about who they are or what they want? Do you actually know any academics/hipsters/lawyers? It sounds to me like you're fundamentally envious of people who have goals and pursue them.

So what are your goals, no matter how frivolous or pretentious you think they are right now? What kinds of things did you want to do when you were a kid? Why aren't you pursuing them?
posted by oinopaponton at 6:23 AM on November 16, 2014 [16 favorites]

I am not sure you want my advice as I have taken a selfie (to send to my kid at college) and I use social media (except FaceBook. No fucking FB for me) to keep up with my kid's lives and Twitter to follow certain sports writers.

I think you are angry at yourself more than at all these people. I don't know if you are broken, but there are some cracks that should be addressed. I am not one to recommend therapy at every turn, but I think in your case it MAY be beneficial if only to calibrate your thinking and see if you are not out of the ordinary.

I would also recommend you take some time and volunteer at an organization that overtly helps others such as something to do with the homeless or even with an animal rescue group. I think you will find you meet people who have less of the qualities you mentioned and more alturistic qualities. That is, people that are easier to respect (from your point of view).
posted by 724A at 6:24 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you're categorizing groups of people and not talking about people one at a time. It's easy to dismiss large swaths of people when you don't get to know them.

You said you work a lot, so I wonder if you're burning out and distancing yourself from anyone except work types. I would find a way to slow that down (you said you can afford it) and add in something humbling that will bring you into contact with other people. Maybe volunteer somewhere or join an activity you might like.

Finally, just pretend to like people for a bit. I do this at work once in awhile, and am usually surprised (over and over again, because I don't learn quickly, it seems) that if I pretend to like someone who annoys me for long enough, I actually wind up kind of liking them.
posted by xingcat at 6:26 AM on November 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

No one is "beyond reproach." That's just stupid. Nor is anyone worthy of contempt in every way. Come on! Everyone is just human.

I don't know if you're broken, but you have some kind of problem. Whether you're just lonely, or are depressed or have some other kind of mental health problem going on, maybe you should see a therapist.

Or, I don't know, maybe you should shake up your life. Get a puppy? Work less? Work not at all? Volunteer with the elderly? All you do is work to make money; of course your view of the world is that it sucks.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:27 AM on November 16, 2014 [14 favorites]

You sound like a nice person who is going through some tough times, whether that be due to depression or whatever else. I agree with the folks suggesting that it could help to seek out a medical or mental health professional to discuss this with.

I also think you need to question the validity of the reasons for which you're rejecting people, and dig a little deeper. Are you really saying that if someone takes selfies or writes online reviews they can't be an interesting or worthwhile person? You cut them off at that? With respect, to me that seems more shallow than any of the things you were objecting to. Maybe it would help to make a concentrated effort to not shut down at the first sign of something you dislike. Maybe you could make it a challenge to find 3 things you do like/find interesting for every one thing you dislike about someone. I had a friend once whose political views were so polar opposite from mine that if she were described on paper, I would have recoiled - and yet she was also a smart, earnestly caring individual, who trained search and rescue dogs and treated them like her own kids, who transitioned from working as a corporate IT cog to being a university police officer who genuinely went out of her way to look out for the students on her campus ... I could go on. My mom likes to hunt for ghosts from time to time and can always tell me about the latest Dancing with the Stars, and yet she is one of the wisest, strongest, most awesome people I know. She's been through more than I could write about here, and has come through it with grace and love ... she's earned her stupid TV.

I could go on, but my point is that everyone has entire UNIVERSES inside of them, and it's one of the real privileges of life to get even a glimpse into a few of those. Shutting down on that possibility just because someone likes Olive Garden or wants to see Dumb and Dumber To is really robbing yourself. We all contain multitudes, yeah?
posted by DingoMutt at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2014 [35 favorites]

My family: etc.

Aha-- your family. What is it about them? When I find myself getting hypercritical, it usually seems like the voice of one of my family members playing in my head-- specifically my father, who got it from his mother. On one level, it seems like it's little more than a tic, although it's more likely to kick in at certain times. Maybe study your negative voice a little more with regard to your family and see if you got it from them, and why it has become more pronounced in recent years.

On the positive side, what is it about the elderly and first-generation immigrants that you like? That list of groups is kind of non-obvious. Earnest and sincere? Really? I feel as if I know a lot of people in those groups who are not particularly earnest and sincere-- at least not more so than people in other groups. I think maybe if you are not part of those groups, they come off as having different kinds of concerns from the people in your negative list, but really are individuals as much as anyone else.

I almost get the sense that you're not allowing yourself to look beyond the surface of these thought patterns, perhaps because to do so would be self indulgent? (I don't know, just a guess.) You write about them in a strangely offhand manner, as if you're dismissing them even as they come up. I say sit with them for a while; don't think of them as good or bad, just explore what associations you have with them.
posted by BibiRose at 6:37 AM on November 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

I can remember the last time I felt real affection for another human. It was years ago. I think the fact that I can pinpoint when and who is more disappointing than if it were vague.

This is intriguing to me. If I were your therapist (and I'm not. You should get your own.) I'd start there. Who was it? What did it feel like? What was different then? Why is it disappointing to remember feeling affection for another human? If, as your question suggests, your life is split into two eras -- the time when you could feel love for another person, and the time you couldn't -- what, exactly, separates the two? Just "getting older" isn't enough of an explanation. You used to be able to feel love and affection for other people, and now you can't. What changed?
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:42 AM on November 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

There really isn't enough in this question to say anything for sure, and thus I'd recommend therapy - I'm not sure whether high-class talk therapy would be best since it might help you dig stuff out or whether it would just reassure you of your cleverness. Maybe CBT with someone from the lower middle class - something where you had to stick with it even though you didn't think the practitioner was as smart as you might be helpful. Or at least, I found it very helpful to have to sit through some therapy techniques that I found a bit childish - they worked because I let them work and denting my own dignity a bit was good for me.

Some thoughts:
Fear of intimacy is much trickier to spot in yourself than you think.
What models for friendship and love did you have as a child and a teen?
What models for friendship and collegial behavior do you see around you every day in your one-percenter gig? What models of hierarchy do you see? I find - in my non-one-percenter office job - that when I must spend time in spaces rigid hierarchies and systemic inequality, it tends to spill over into the rest of my life.

What models for "value" did you have available as a child and a teen? Whence this dislike of common pursuits? Did people important to you routinely put these things down? Were you able to participate in ordinary things (television-watching, video-gaming) as a child?

How much time have you spent in very competitive spaces? What non-competitive pursuits have you had? (I would count, say, "reading all of Lacan to show that I am a worthy amateur scholar" as a competitive pursuit.)

When you say that you like immigrants and the elderly, it sounds like you feel at ease around people who are firmly your social inferiors and/or people who are outside the social hierarchy you're familiar with. I may be over-interpreting, but that sounds like anxiety to me.

I think that when you have contempt for most people, it's often the externalization of contempt for yourself - and again, this can be very tricky to spot, especially for successful and/or intelligent people.

In the past, who has liked you? How did you feel when people liked you? How did you respond?

I think doing some writing about key moments in your childhood and teen years might be helpful as a preliminary to therapy. I found writing every day - or every time the mood struck - to be particularly good.

I find people very depressing most of the time - although I can't say that I pay enough attention to the Yelp/TMZ end of things to care much about that. I've found that reading about the popular movements of the middle ages through about 1900 sometimes cheers me up - it might not work for you, because I tend to focus on the remainder in people that still, despite the slaughtering bench of history, seeks to be alive and to know joy....that is, my problem is that I think people get more charge out of being cruel and committing violence than anything else, and your problem is that you think they're uselessly stupid. But perhaps for you, reading something about people seeking not to be uselessly stupid? You could take a look at The Intellectual Life of the British Working Class or perhaps some Paolo Friere?
posted by Frowner at 6:44 AM on November 16, 2014 [13 favorites]

Anger, too, as tanktop points out upthread. Are you angry? Again, difficult to spot, especially since you, on technical points, have everything. You could be angry for stupid reasons, of course - some sense of entitlement that you never quite worked through in your teens. Or maybe it's biochemical. Were you allowed to express anger as a child and a teen? Did you regularly feel anger or did you learn to suppress it before it became conscious?
posted by Frowner at 6:51 AM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me like you're fundamentally envious of people

Yes, this is what jumped out at me. At first glance your wide-ranging list of disdain sounds like snobbery but to me it reads as the snobbery of insecurity. Let's take fast food as an example: it's fine if someone doesn't like the taste of fast food but when someone claims they just can't like to because of their refined palate I always think of Julia Child, who was very public about liking McDonald's French fries. Or personally, when I was in high school and became a punk rocker and thought I automatically had to hate every other kind of music because I was worried about not being "authentic" enough.

I think this is a totally normal phase that people around your age go through!

It's a combination of the end of idealism/the start of cynicism coupled with exposure to older people who have become more confident with age and send the conflicting messages you seem horrified by. One unexpected pleasure I found in FanFare is unashamedly bonding with MeFites that I respect so much over totally cheesy TV shows.

There are some very thoughtful answers here, and maybe they will ring truer to you. And I know my answer may seem harsh but I'm really just saying that I see a bit of myself at that age in what you wrote, and I think it's pretty normal, even if you're kind of on the extreme end of things.

(I also found it interesting that your list of people/animals you do like can be considered fairly non-threatening to your self-perceived status, which reinforces my reading of the situation.)
posted by Room 641-A at 6:54 AM on November 16, 2014 [14 favorites]

(Also, "My family: etc" is interesting. Which of the many listed failings do you attribute to them? Are you close to your family? Are they similar to you in any way?

Obviously, these are questions for you, not questions to answer here.)
posted by Frowner at 7:07 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, the elderly, immigrants, and animals are non-threatening. They are strangers and cannot harm your psyche like your parents can.

I would look into your feelings about your family -- your anger, fear, and feelings of being unloved. Do you not feel embraced or accepted by your family? When a person feels unloved they tend to belittle or sabotage whatever love is there. Be kind to yourself. Know that you are lovable and can give love.
posted by Fairchild at 7:30 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

when i find myself thinking of others very negatively and in a judgmental fashion, i check in with myself and see what else is going on. usually i am either not doing a good job of treating my depression or i am afraid of something bad happening to me (losing something, being hurt, being humiliated, having to change or rethink some part of my perceived identity, etc.). fear can lead a "planner" to lash out at something preemptively if it poses a possible threat.

i think it's a really good sign that you wrote this question and are asking yourself about this. a therapist can help you figure out a lot of things but you have to be willing to hear unfamiliar ideas that maybe challenge your assumptions about yourself. i wish you luck. like another user ruthless bunny said above, "you can only improve."
posted by zdravo at 7:40 AM on November 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

These descriptions sound like they are written by someone who is resentful of other people for appearing to find satisfaction or meaning in what they do, when, if they could just take a step back and actually look at themselves, they would see just how meaningless and vacuous it all really is.

And maybe all of it really is meaningless; but that does not explain at all why it should affect you with such powerful feelings of withering contempt. (I mean, if they are deluded, so what? What's it to you or anyone else?) It seems to me you are not too happy with yourself, with your own life. Your description of yourself comes across as fairly neutral and even-handed -- no overt self-loathing; but this line: "I might wish I worked less, but for now it's what I choose" maybe reveals something. It's like hard work feels virtuous to you, even if you don't really need to keep at it, so you keep doing it; but then, if you were to stop, what then? It's like you don't know the answer to that question, and in rushes the void. What would be meaningful? What might offer you some real satisfaction? Nothing? It's no wonder you would look at others who seem to find meaning in their lives and feel as you do.
posted by fikri at 7:47 AM on November 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

My knee jerk response to your question was to tell you to get over yourself. You label others as hateable for having narcissistic pursuits, but don't seem to realize the inherent narcissism of yourself believing you are somehow superior to someone who has written yelp reviews (I have and I can assure you we are equals even though you are a 1percenter). on preview, im with the commenters saying this is rooted in some sort of jealousy of people with personal goals. Maybe its because you perceive that you had every opportunity to do anything you wanted, and arent really doing any thing you're passionate about. Figure out something you want to do and use your plentiful resources to get absorbed in something new and interesting to you. Also preferably something difficult for you so you have to put in effort and be challenged.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:02 AM on November 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah, anyone who thinks the elderly and first-gen immigrants are harmless and admirable never met my grandfather.

Your thinking is distorted. Immigrants are just people like every other person. The elderly not only are just people, they were once the young people you detest.

I think you've got some guilt and rage going on, probably family-related, and also, if you are 1%-er successful, probably most of the people around you are either driven to the exclusion of all else, or actual horrible sociopath dickheads. (Sorry. It's just...that's how you get money in the US, for the most part, if you weren't born to it.) If I had to hang around investment bankers all day every day for years, I too would want to burn humanity forever.

Quit, since you can, and start spending time with those of us who will in fact work until we die, if we are lucky enough to HAVE work until we die, which many of us will not be. See if you can then begrudge people a selfie or a lame TV show, when you really know what it is to not have anything better to look forward to.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:38 AM on November 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

Ohh, I get this, especially when you said who you DO like. For me, it was some underlying anger at privilege that came from what I believed I deserved for myself. I come from an artist background, and there is a whole 'starving artist' culture around this very feeling, so you are not alone. For me, there seemed to be more 'humanness' in people who were poor or struggling. But we are all in the same boat, we are all the same level of human. Really getting that helps.
posted by Vaike at 8:42 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

In your 30s, you really can't keep being an adolescent.

What changes adolescent self-regard into centered other-directedness is responsibility, and the experience of privilege as a gift that requires reciprocation to society. I can see how social anxiety, for example, might delay the growth experiences -- serious relationships, volunteer experiences, travel, starting a family -- that move boys forward into being men. But for whatever reason -- and it's what you have to figure out in therapy and through disciplined work on yourself that a therapist can only guide, not do for you -- you don't feel responsible for other peoples' happiness or well being. You aren't even interested in it unless it costs you nothing in ego terms.

I suspect you are exaggerating your level of ennui and lack of connectedness -- because you seem to realize a lot of what you say in describing yourself makes you sound like a selfish, arrogant, judgmental, insecure jerk, and yet you consider yourself "likable." So this could be a performative expression of self-loathing (as several above suggest). But even so, it's your problem. It's your job to change it. Blame it on your upbringing, your neurochemistry, or the rest of the world being full of stupid shallow people who waste time online posting selfies (wait, what do you think is different about posting a question to AskMe?), but if you want to be happy and fulfilled you need to hunt for the solution yourself, with all you've got, fast.

I have always found that becoming aware of how much other people have to suffer unfairly is the best medicine for feeling sorry for yourself. You need therapy, but you also need a volunteer gig working with truly unfortunate people who are just as smart as you.

1% is also pretty damn rich. If you can really afford to quit working, instead you can afford to work for other people. Why not figure out how to give away half your current income?
posted by spitbull at 8:48 AM on November 16, 2014 [13 favorites]

As a parent, I feel like I've seen exactly this kind of malaise in kids at the end of a long trip to the fair or the zoo, where they've been well and truly spoilt by grandparents and spent the whole day unrestrainedly picking which rides to ride, which snacks to have, which sights to see, which toys to buy. The act of choosing according to their tastes is super pleasurable to them at first, but by the end, the pressure of self-gratifying choice gets exhausting, and they reliably think themselves into a place where no dessert on the menu seems delicious enough, no toy is cool enough, no ride lives up to their exacting standards, etc. Then there are generally tantrums, and we go home knowing that they'll be fine after a day or so of having a proper routine, with less control over their own destiny.

You seem very invested in your own powers of choice-- you can pick whether you work or not, whether you keep seeing your gf or not, which people you disapprove of, which few people you do approve. The move where you carefully set out those tastes in a list, having clearly thought a ton about this (Yelp reviewers? :(. Lawrence Lessig? :))... clearly you've devoted a lot of thought to setting these very selective (and frankly, as others have pointed out, fairly shallow and self-congratulatory) standards. Of course that's depressing and exhausting: we're not set up to be the absolute arbiters of our own imaginative universe in that way. Do you have any relationships that aren't 100% a matter of your own choice? Are you ever in situations where you're just forced to be with people, living with their imperfections, being grateful for their moments of grace even when they're few and far between? I wonder whether taking some time out in an intentional community, religious retreat or volunteering experience-- something that'd remove from you all that pressure of choice and power, and put you cheek-by-jowl with real, flawed, complex people-- might not help lift some of this feeling that none of your fellow human beings exactly suit your tastes.
posted by Bardolph at 8:57 AM on November 16, 2014 [42 favorites]

Therapy can be a good laboratory for really examining how you relate to other human beings.

You will presumably find your therapist shallow, stupid, pretentious, and phony, at least at first. Tell them this, but keep going anyway. Your part of the experiment should be to learn how people whom you judge unworthy might be worthwhile human beings anyway, and might even know things that you don't, and might even be able to help you with things in ways you can't help yourself.

There are of course bad therapists out there, so if you stick with someone for four to six months and nothing's happening -- provided you are actively trying to find ways in which your therapist is worthwhile (and provided there is no active abuse, like your therapist trying to sleep with you) -- then you may start looking for another therapist. You may not hold anything the first therapist did against the second therapist.

You are having problems relating to people. Therapists have training and experience in helping clients learn to relate to people, by helping clients in how they relate to the therapist. I suspect that is the sort of support that will be most helpful to you right now. (Mindfulness meditation is also wonderful, and therapy clients who are also doing mindfulness meditation tend to make wonderful progress.)
posted by jaguar at 9:00 AM on November 16, 2014

Isolation is bad for us. Even us introverted types who like hermiting away. Too much of it warps our brains, and yes, encourages depression. So I would tell you, get out and volunteer. Join a group that does something that seems useful to you. Try to put aside your automatic cynicism and just do something that helps other people while also being around other people. It is a very useful way of moving away from hating Humanity in the abstract to caring about humans in the specific.

We are all damaged in our way. We are mostly all trying the best we can. You included. You need to be around others to be reminded of that. Not as their saviour, but as just another human doing what he or she can.
posted by emjaybee at 9:01 AM on November 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

Why I'm asking this now: I'm dating a new person and even though it's early days I'm already feeling the urge to fade out. It would be selfish to continue. I'm wasting someone else's time and emotional energy.

Here, I just think your kidding yourself; this is just garden-variety self-sabotage. Plus, it's not your job to decide for other people how or if they should expend energy on their relationship with you. I'm not going to try and armchair-analyze you, but a couple of reasons for this could be a fear of getting hurt, or feeling like you do not deserve to be in a healthy relationship/loved. This is not uncommon and I suspect it's very much interconnected with the other issues you are having.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:06 AM on November 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

I agree with ista that volunteering is a good first step, especially with people or causes who make up the people you feel most positively about right now. And because you mention being very financially secure and a supporter of first-generation immigrants, I'd like to suggest a way to give back. Scholarship funds like TheDream.US help DREAMers, who are ineligible for any non-private financial aid or scholarships, realize their dream of attending college. If you would prefer a more direct approach, you could contact the admissions office of your local community college or university or guidance department of your local high school. (I appreciate your consideration and now I'll get off my soapbox. ;-)

I personally think it's very positive that you are a supporter of immigrants, the elderly, and animals because those are all groups that are disenfranchised and often discriminated against (OK, the animal thing is different but you get what I mean!) It shows you do have compassion, which is a great starting point. The question is now how to develop more compassion for the other people: I don't have a particular technique to recommend other than that it's a long-term process that requires a lot of mindfulness, like litera scripta manet and jaguar mention. We can't necessarily help having particular knee-jerk reactions to things (someone taking a selfie, etc.) but we can tell ourselves, "Hey, they're just taking a picture and that's OK." Eventually those knee-jerk judgments can lessen and we can feel more positive. And, I mean, thank goodness you are critical of celebrities and politicians and the like!! Of course, they are worth the same respect and kindness all humans (and animals :-) deserve but I totally agree that society puts them on a pedestal when it's the little, unknown everyday hardworking people who really deserve the most kudos.

I am a high school teacher and can tell you that nothing has helped me become more compassionate than working with teens everyday. I still can have those knee-jerk judgments for adults (that I work on!) but I feel really open-minded about teens. I say this not to encourage you to work with teens -- occasional interactions could feel more grating that gratifying, for example -- but rather see that a change towards open-mindedness is possible. Externally, I am a really positive person -- and I am, genuinely! -- but, on the inside and around people I know well, I'm also extremely critical of society and angry about the inequalities. I say keep that critical mind but try to grow some love and goals to help give that anger focus so it can be used for betterment (and your own increased happiness!!)

For me, the bottom line is that it sounds like you don't like yourself very much. This is really sad because you clearly are a conscientious person who has experienced well-deserved success yet doesn't feel like it's deserved. As others have said, perhaps therapy or mindfulness training could help. It's a hard spot to be in but not a permanent one.

I'm happy that you have found this new relationship but I feel bad that you are not enjoying it because you don't feel you are deserving. It sounds like you like this person a lot so my question is this: are you feeling ready to do the emotional hard work and personal introspection to make it work out OR would you like to end things so you can just start working on yourself by yourself? Both options are equally fine and the choice is yours. The fact that you recognize the challenge and seem ready to start working on it is really, really good. I wish you luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 9:28 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Welcome to getting older and wiser! Congratulations, the prize for your gained experience is you have more insight into your fellow human beings. The challenge now is can you accept us as beautiful, imperfect beings whose harmonies and dissonances amount to the raucous cacophony of the human experience? Or will you become a jaded ascetic who will only accept people if they conform to the character qualities you deem worthy? You are on the crest of a new plateau of emotional development! Check out the Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake- it's amazing to realize we've all been at this threshold!

Let's explore your cynicism. You say you're tired of the phonies, the strivers, the people who live shallowly, whose lives have less genuine "meaning". Are you searching for a sense of authenticity or authority? Are you looking for new role models since your youthful naïveté has worn off the luster of your past idols?

You have a good heart and a good mind, and I can tell you come from a good place in your soul. I imagine you work hard and you want everyone to be the best they can be! But that's a kind of controlling perfectionism that comes from within and leads to fundamentalism. Explore where that's coming from.

Also bear in mind, there is no such thing as true authenticity. No one is "purer" than anyone else. Some people might have more or less "artifice" in their interactions, or might appear to operate with motives that align with yours, but you also don't know their histories either, you don't know their backgrounds, what pains or joys they've suffered, where they are in their emotional development and what love they have in their hearts.

And if it's too hard for you to be around people who irritate you, give yourself permission to excuse yourself from their company for a while, or seek out those whose company you enjoy. I like being around Quakers, for example, because my belief system aligns with theirs.

But remember, there'll always be a spectrum of people who you like or dislike, so you pretty much have to get along if you're going to be on this planet. You can't change them, but you can change yourself.

I agree with those saying channel your energy into volunteering. It's one thing to complain and distance yourself and criticize from afar, it's another to get your metaphysical hands dirty by getting to help and know the breadth and depth of humanity out there. You will be amazed and awed and deepened when you bear witness to the strength and resiliency of a working single mother who just needs to relax with TMZ. You will find that the grit and self belief of musicians, academics, "over-educated" people is just as inspiring as the determination of first generation immigrants and people living in hard times in Appalachia.

Don't romanticize one over the other. Everyone has their own path to walk, you have not been in their shoes. Often the things we dislike in others are qualities in ourselves we've learned to hate. Find the source of your anger, self-criticism and judgment and examine it, understand it, accept it, let it go and grow past it. You are a good person.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 9:38 AM on November 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

So this is just a fascinating question - I had missed the guilt/dating piece on a first read-through.

Why are you dating this person? Since no one really lives up to your standards, they probably don't either - are you dating them because you're hoping that somehow they will? Because you feel that you should? Out of a nebulous desire to date? Out of the feeling that somehow some time maybe things will be different? I mean, I have dated people for all of those reasons, and they are bad reasons. If you just want to have sex, of course, as a rich young man you have many, many ways to meet that need without creating a relationship.

But guilt - all this stuff is always so tricky because it's so easy to have feelings about one thing and place them onto another. (One of the bizarre things about going to therapy, for me, was that about 1/3 of my social justice feelings just....disappeared. They'd been - I think - motivated by feeling bad about myself and the desire to beat myself up for being selfish and lazy and white privileged and ignorant, etc etc. That has been a very eerie thing, because for years I really thought of all those feelings as core beliefs, who I was...but really, who I was was a person who needed to hate themselves.)

So - if I were seeking out a therapist, I would find someone who does at least some talk therapy and try to figure out where the hell the guilt and the anger are coming from. (Also - consider what you do all day. Are you, like, "disrupting" the jobs of regular working class people, or manipulating debt to make a profit, etc, etc? Are you doing something that you should feel guilty about, given that you quite literally can walk away from an immoral form of employment? Don't discount that totally just because you're all clever and wealthy and everything - guilt comes from all kinds of things.)

If you've led a rather odd life, too - and if you literally do not have to work, your life is rather odd - you may not have enough knowledge about how people act to evaluate your own feelings and beliefs correctly. I had a quite odd childhood and adolescence for very different reasons, and I was well into my thirties before I learned enough about how most people act and think to be able to understand how atypical and self-destructive some of my most basic, ingrained beliefs about myself were. It may be useful to be around regular people - join a book group, take a class, do something where you can observe ordinary people getting through life.
posted by Frowner at 9:47 AM on November 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

People seem to be reading too much into the 1%-er part of your post. Anger? Envy? I think they are projecting their (justified) anger at social stratification onto you. I don't hear that at all.

I think the key to your question is your love of what is earnest and sincere. I think that is what your soul needs: earnestness and sincerity, not the faux self-expression of social media and networking events.

Find some ways to get more sincerity in your life. Don't hang out with phony people. Spend time doing things you are earnest about. Don't have a "scene". Get new friends.

I can relate to your post and your weariness with the 1% scene. There are lots of others who will too. Even in those groups there are sincere people who will be real friends and have genuine interests in important things.
posted by 3491again at 9:52 AM on November 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

What you've written here is familiar to me.

I've been in a similar place - I was depressed sure, anxious too, and found my refuge in a pretty heavy case of narcissism.

I had a pretty tough time growing up with lots of emotional abuse, and as a result developed a pretty thick skin as well as some pretty strange coping mechanisms.

Deep down I felt badly about myself and frightened by the world, but rather than let me feel this my brain converted this to a pretty unshakable self regard, looking back this was fine and cool and stopped me short of topping myself no doubt.

However it did lead to a real stunting of my exterior emotional life - I didn't love or hate people, I just didn't understand them and while negative things could never upset me, good things never got to me either.

This led to an pretty major inability to relate emotionally to the outside world, and couldn't engage with people except on an intellectual / rational level, to the degree I thought I was pretty sure I might be autistic, if not part klingon.

Living in this black and white world was a strange experience, much as you describe filled with curiosity but ultimate disdain for other people and a sort of cutting off from any sort of narrative or popular culture that didn't have an anti hero - I couldn't read a mainstream book or watch tv or a film without being overtaken by a complete wave of boredom and cynicism.

This colored my life for years and was horribly lonely, though having no real interest or need for other people (other than for rather heartless sex) I didn't really feel the loss and went about my own business safe in my little ivory tower.

It wasn't until I had an almost fatal motorbike accident that things changed for me, and the shock of the loss of control over my life really started to unravel me to the point of really losing the plot and going into therapy.

Going to a Jungian therapist really surprised me, in the way of my stories all being about towers, lighthouses and isolation away from the sea of feeling, but really helped unlock that subconscious view of myself as a lonely lighthouse keeper, and make the transition out of the door, into the boat and off to sail to the mainland and meet people.

Perhaps this might be familiar to you?
posted by Middlemarch at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

Everybody is worse than you think they are and everyone is better. We're a ridiculous lot.

Here is my semi-objective proof that mankind is mostly good. It takes a billion dollars to make a World Trade Center. (Using today's dollars). Depending on how you count it*, it took a couple of hundred thousand to tear it down. Since few buildings are so destroyed, the constructiveness of man outweighs the destructiveness by about 5,000 to 1.

Still, it is easy to focus on the destructiveness. It is dramatic.

(You could say it took the price of two planes,or you could add those planes to the destruction end of the equation. The 9/11 conspirators spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars on their plan, which is the figure I went with.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2014

I relate to your feelings, and felt similarly until recently. What worked for me was turning inward. I was depressed and thus unable to experience joy and not much empathy for others either.

I starting seeing a therapist, and I also started focusing on being grateful for what I have in my life which works amazingly well. When you focus on all the great things available to you, and then look at other cool things about other people, you in turn feel more positive and joyful. It really works.

Buddhist philosophy has helped a lot too. Since you are in a financial position to do so I would suggest going on a complete inward journey- maybe therapy, travel, yoga classes, meditation, immersion in a different culture.
posted by bearette at 10:23 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it's easy to be critical of people, since no one's perfect or even close to it. But we are social animals, even those of us who are introverts, and need company and close relationships to be healthy. So learning to forgive "faults" and look beyond surface behaviors in other people is fundamental to your own happiness. Therapy, volunteering, and mindfulness meditation all sound like really useful ideas. Maybe try a thought experiment: Write a Yelp review yourself. Has your value changed as a person? Are there ways that Yelp might actually be beneficial to society? Instead of breaking up with the person you're dating, try being honest with him/her about your struggles to be less judgmental and the fact that you might be depressed.
posted by three_red_balloons at 10:38 AM on November 16, 2014

My arm chair psychologist take on this is that you have a really vicious case of imposter syndrome.
This seems to manifest in an inability to objectively assess and accept both your achievements and those of others. In turn, this accounts for the insecurities that others are suggesting above and the strange mismatch you're perceiving in your life's work as compared to that of everyone else around you.
The only thing I can personally recommend in this case is just to seriously stop comparing. As the saying goes, it's odious, and you're not in a pyschological state of self-acceptance sufficient to really evaluate anyone else when you're already so unfair to yourself.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:44 AM on November 16, 2014

Take a break and travel. Go to somewhere rural. Its a cliche to suggest you go to the third world and that might not actually provide you with the sense of earnestness and authencity that someone above suggested. You've reached the age where the scales start falling from our eyes, about the world as it is. Some will go into deep denial and close their eyes shut and continue with their lives while others will find a way to rebalance after the eye opening. Some amount of negative stuff certainly accompanies this transition - label it depression, anger or whatever - but its also a form of growing pains, this time for the psyche. You're intelligent and observant and are outgrowing the innocence/bliss/ignorance of adolescence and early adulthood. Initially you'll teeter to the other extreme, everything looks bleak, just as you describe.

Your choice of those whom you like - first generation immigrants, older people - implies you're overdosing on media driven consumer culture (majority of your examples) and seeking something else.

Get out of your life for a while. You can afford to do it. Take a sabbatical and give yourself the time and space to find the balance and the ways to cope with the dichotomy and complexity of the way of the world. Things contradict themselves and aren't what they seem. Neither are they as simple and fresh as we imagine they are when we are younger.

Look for patterns in the backgrounds of those first gen immigrants or older people to discover which continent you might want to start with. If you can work remotely then move to a whole new place. That challenge alone will be fresh bucket of cold water to help bring you back into balance and move forward with feeling again. This will also give you the distance from what is numbing you right now to see if you actually have a mental wellbeing problem or one which simply requires working through/growing up/coming to terms with and finding a way forward.
posted by infini at 11:22 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I re-read your question a few times and I'm pretty sure that you are not saying that you think you're better than (or worse, or indeed, comparable to) the people you describe (= almost everyone you meet or have met). Also, although it reads like you're saying "I don't like people" I'm not sure that is what the problem is. It sounds to me as though you're kind of disillusioned with your friends and family and you're dating someone who you don't really feel a connection to; in an attempt to understand why, yet again, this dating relationship doesn't feel like it's going anywhere but towards someone getting dumped and hurt (and quite likely, the dumper/hurter being you), you've latched on to the obvious nameable reasons that all the people you feel disillusioned with share: the person is a Yelper! the person once watched and enjoyed Survivor! etc. You want to protect yourself from feeling like a mean and random serial dumper/hurter/friendship-ender so you latch on to these nameable things to help you explain your feelings. But really it's just possible the person isn't the right match for you, for reasons that you might not be able to name or categorize easily. Connection and chemistry and feeling are hard to describe or explain, but they're real.

I'll give you my apartment analogy: When apartment hunting, I used to have certain dealbreaker rules--for example a nice shower was really important to me. The place I live in now, that I love, has a lousy shower. I'm in love with it anyway. I don't love it because it has a lousy shower. But if I had crossed it off my list as soon as I saw the shower, I would never have figured out that I could love it for millions of other reasons that I don't even really need to necessarily be able to name or categorize. If I ever have to move, I hope I've learned to trust my instincts and feelings more than my categorization skills.

tldr: (1) I don't think you hate everyone or yourself or that you're broken, but I also don't think you need to keep pursuing the particular dating relationship you're in; and (2) people are like apartments with lousy showers.
posted by gubenuj at 11:31 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

-Laugh more. Seek out comedy.
-you are inherently ridiculous too.
-your achievements do not matter either.
-it doesn't matter that anyone fails to meet any standard ever. Our lives mean nothing and there is no god. It might be objectively better in a meaningless universe to be stupid and watch TMZ.
-you have internalized intelligence as a valuable thing far too much. It was my last sacred cow too. Really and truly accept that intelligence does not matter.
-life is absurd.

Good luck.
posted by quincunx at 11:33 AM on November 16, 2014 [18 favorites]

You're not broken. You're in the beginning of your journey to deepening your understanding of the world and your invaluable place in it.

I suggest seeking out a spiritual mentor/counselor with an open, critical, humble mind... and see where that leads. Take a break from your usual routine. Make an effort to engage with the world every day in a deeper way than you're used to. Make a choice to recognize the complexity and see the best in every individual you meet, until you've overcome that human tendency to intellectually "lump" people into abstract aggregates. Choose empathy over indifference, every time.

Best of luck.
posted by tackypink at 11:55 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

First thought -- are you massively sleep-deprived? Whenever I get in a state of vibrating judgmentalism at how everyone is doing everything wrong -- including but not limited to all Segway riders on sidewalks; European exchange students on the bus who sit in the elderly priority seats; the board chair in love with his own voice; my friend who agonizes over the same issue every time we have coffee; anyone who focuses on service in a Yelp review of a regular Korean restaurant -- I know I need to clear my schedule and sleep til my back hurts. In retrospect, my intense anger during high school/college years was fueled largely by sleep deprivation. I am in my mid-30s now and still critical of many many things (and that damn board chair still infuriates me), but contemptuous dismissal of people as irredeemable idiots is a rare reaction.

Second thought -- we search for meaning in such different ways (even through Yelp reviews and FB) and our choices are rooted in a range of cultures, worldviews, and values. I suspect that one reason why immigrants and elderly are on your "nice" list is because these are two groups of people who in general do not share the dominant American cultural practices that you see as shallow. I am uncomfortable suggesting that you go hang out at a senior daycare center or go on a voluntourism trip abroad because other people are not props for our personal emotional journeys, but I do think immersing yourself for a while in different worldviews and cultures may be good for you. You seem exhausted by what is normal behavior for the majority of Americans. The suggestions to seek therapy are important and should be pursued, but I feel like you could use a geographic cure (physical or emotional) that lets you reset your inner calibration to the rest of humanity. On preview, what infini said.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:07 PM on November 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

When I was younger, there were several incidents in which some of my role models - people I looked up to and loved - disappointed me deeply. Sometimes in petty ways, like gossiping about my personal life. Sometimes in more alarming, highly unethical ways, which really hurt some vulnerable people.

Now, when I start to fall into idolizing someone, I pull myself back. I tell myself that they can't really be all that. There must be some dark secret that I don't know about - affairs, embezzlement, creepy behavior, petty grudges, stinky farts, a love of Toby Keith. To some extent, that's healthy. Pedestals are dangerous. No one is that good.

I wonder if your situation is not a result of an attempt to protect yourself from a past disappointment. Maybe it's just gone a bit past the point of healthy self-checking, though.

You don't have to be perfect to be good. No one does.
posted by bunderful at 12:12 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

p.s. I do actually like some people:

- the elderly (when not family)
- first-generation immigrants

I am right there with you. Those are my people (by choice, not by shared demographic).

So, why not focus on them, and not worry about liking the not-them folks? It's OK to be snobby and selective. I think if you go out of your way to spend time in the company of the type of people you like, your view of humanity will shift...since the humanity you will be surrounded with is more closely aligned with your values.

You are in a remarkable position, due to your financial security, to free up your time and resources to really dig deep with these people, bond with them, love and be loved by them, and have a very rich life as a result. If you want, and they want, you could perhaps advocate for them if they need it -- use your powers for good.

I don't see anything wrong with your views on people, and I don't think you need to contort yourself to change them. But to make it easier to deal with the undesirables (since you'll inevitably need to rub shoulders with them), in lieu of therapy, I'd suggest reading (or rereading) Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations". It's an excellent handbook on how to suffer fools.
posted by nacho fries at 12:21 PM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's easy dismiss people as unworthy if you never get close to them. Even the most fatuous among us are complicated and rarely what we seem to be at first. Everyone's usually just trying, with varying levels of success, to be happy.

I've been forced to confront my people issues over the last several years, and now I know that when I start to feel disgusted by people around me and people in general I am probably just getting depressed.

When I'm even partially satisfied that my life is useful and going well those feelings wither and drop off.

Try to replace your disaffection with compassion. Also for yourself. Don't tell me I have to love myself in order to be happy, you can stick that somewhere dark and uncomfortable. But I CAN support the idea of being KIND to myself.

Shitty people are not the cause of your unhappiness. Thinking everyone is shitty is a symptom of your depression.
posted by TheRedArmy at 12:32 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

So you're a one per center - that means you have awesome resources. Use them to meet cool people.

off the top of my head here are a few ideas -

Join, or start, an organisation to help immigrants get started in your profession. Be a mentor! Teach the soft skills you have as part of your privilege.

Some one per centers are born that way and some get there through remarkable effort. Facebook has networking groups -as does LinkedIn - and many of them are secret groups. Look to join some and meet people who are shaping and changing the world, at the top of their game.

Among the less privileged are some amazing people - change makers. How can you connect with them?

Volunteering or working with the less fortunate are great ideas - but find the very best groups to work with and use your resources to get access.
posted by Mistress at 12:45 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been thinking about your question all day. I had a period that I'm just finally stepping out of where I really felt disaffected. For me, this stemmed from two separate but really hard incidents with first my boyfriend at the time, and then my best friend who swooped in and became my friend during my breakup. I read both of these people very wrong when I got into relationships with them. I thought they were both sweet, good, caring people. I trusted them completely and immediately. Trusting anyone completely and immediately is a huge, huge mistake.

The boyfriend was abusive (yes, it was getting physical at the end), and the best friend was incredibly clingy, to the point where several people asked me if we were actually dating even though we had different significant others and were not dating each other. Confronting her about her clinginess and her propensity to treat me like an on-call therapist revealed that she was a manipulative gas lighter who would take absolutely zero responsibility for anything that she did to cause problems in the relationship. Anyhow, those relationships really burned me. Really, really burned me. They made me question myself deeply and made me consider whether or not I was a good enough person to keep going. If I was even good enough for other people to have in their lives. The people I chose to get close to did not care about me; they cared about themselves so, so much more, to the point where I was just a warm body to them. And yes, everyone is selfish. That's part of the root of the problem I have with other people. Everyone is selfish, including me, but the people that you choose to let totally in? They need to be people who can put their selfishness aside sometimes. And they need to be able to look at themselves critically and ask questions about the role they play in their relationships. That is the opposite of selfish, and it's vital for mature adult relationships to actually work.

So I became withdrawn and suspicious. I still am. I don't let people in and I don't let people close and that's partially because I don't think I deserve to have people in my life and partially because I don't trust myself to select the right people to let in. I clearly have a serious problem choosing who to get close to and who to remain close with. And I look around at strangers and I envy them for being able to get married and have families and have friends that truly love them and lives that involve other people without letting those other people dominate them with their own selfishness. And for awhile I was getting mad at strangers when I was driving around - either women who were chubby who were wearing wedding rings or who had a man on their arm, because my ex told me I was too fat to be loved by anyone but him ("why can they find love when I can't?") or at skinny women bopping around on the street ("why are their lives so much easier than mine, it must feel so good to be beautiful and skinny") and I decided, after muttering obscenities in my car at a person who could not hear me about how great it must be to be her, that I needed to do something about it. So I talked to my therapist and I started journaling these incidents to get to the root of it and that helped a LOT.

And it's an uphill battle. I'm still so careful about who I let in. I haven't really let anybody in to my inner life in awhile, except sort of my boyfriend, although that's not even true - there's a lot that I just keep to myself. Having a therapist and journaling really helps. When I find myself getting angry again at random people on the street just existing I try to figure out why. It's all about me - it has nothing to do with them.

Finally, as someone upthread said, we contain multitudes. I think we'd get along based on what you wrote in your post but then again, I am an academic that occasionally takes selfies with my pets and posts stuff on Facebook and Twitter. But I'm also eager and sincere and interested in the world and curious about stuff, and I think we'd get along. Despite my selfie-taking and my devotion to research, which might sound boring to you, but if we could sit down over a coffee and chat about it I'll bet you'd see how damn excited I am about it and you'd probably get a little excited too.

But maybe not. I don't know. I think that you might do some work examining why you classify people into non-mutually exclusive buckets ("academics" "artists" "people who use social media" "elderly people") that are not really useful. There are plenty of elderly people who are artists and academics who use social media, and they might even be first-generation immigrants, too. Your classification scheme is incredibly linear and specific for a messy and disorganized world full of people who are very, very complicated and who just can't be easily classified into your buckets.

Best of luck to you.
posted by sockermom at 12:48 PM on November 16, 2014 [13 favorites]

I don't really think there is anything wrong with what you are feeling, just who you are choosing to spend your time with. You identified the following as people you like:

- the elderly (when not family)
- first-generation immigrants
- dogs, cats, children
- essentially, anyone earnest and sincere about who they are and what they want.

and you said you could quit your job anytime. So quit your job, and use your 1%er money, your hard work ethic and smart brain to volunteer or work with:

- the elderly (when not family)
- first-generation immigrants
- dogs, cats, children
- essentially, anyone earnest and sincere about who they are and what they want.

And in terms of dating....why not date:

- the elderly (when not family)
- first-generation immigrants
- essentially, anyone earnest and sincere about who they are and what they want.

(I took out "dogs, cats and children from this list...)

Good that you were able to identify this about yourself, most people can't. Now do something about it.
posted by Toddles at 12:57 PM on November 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Stating the obvious, but: you will stumble upon a-holes and superficial twits and jerkabouts in your preferred groups of people. Perhaps fewer than in the general population (or not; who knows?), but still, they are there, and should be anticipated. And that's fine. Just step around them, and keep focusing on the good eggs among them.

I think your "search terms" as you seek out and evaluate people might include: gravitas; intensity; valor; grace under pressure; stoicism (in the original sense). People with well-thought-out codes of conduct (and who can articulate it, and abide by it). These are decidely un-American values in contemporary culture, so you'll have to dig to find them. But those people are out there. (And you don't need many of them in your inner circle to feel a fully-rounded sense of kith and tribe -- these people are "concentrated doses," so you need fewer to feel "full".)

Enjoy your exploration. You have the rest of your life to dig into it.
posted by nacho fries at 1:05 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wonder if it would behoove you to meditate. Non-judgment, and a beginner's mind, are two tenets at the core of mindfulness that might transform your view immensely.

I also wonder if it would behoove you to reflect on mortality. This is a tradition in many religions and spiritual practices, generally as a way to cultivate compassion. We're all heading for the grave. You won't be a different person as you lie on your deathbed; you will still be you, the person you are today. That grim end is coming for you, and for all of us. We're all in it together, we're all heading for the same destination. Why judge the ways in which others find peace and pleasure and meaning, en route?

It's more useful to ask, how do you find peace and pleasure and meaning? If you don't experience any of these qualities, then, yes, you're probably depressed. But if you derive great meaning, or great pleasure, or great peace, from a few activities, then instead you should try to get to the bottom of why so many other people disappoint you so bitterly. Do their shortcomings in fact speak deeply to your own insecurities? Or is your bitterness actually trying to point you to a different path, another profession/place/way of living that would be more meaningful to you?

Therapy would be a wonderful place to explore these questions. You may have to go through a few therapists before you find one who impresses you. That's normal.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 1:16 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I get like this when I work too many hours. When I start hating everyone, it's a sign to work less.

I feel for you because I can relate in a certain way, so I'm not being a jerk when I say this, but your question reminds me of The Christmas Carol. It might be a good season to catch a performance. (And that bit about "I can remember the last time I had esteem for someone" reminds me of that section when Belle breaks up with Ebeneezer, e.g., here, 37:24-43:15. I'm not saying it was a breakup, but it sounds like potentially a turning point in your life somehow?)
posted by salvia at 1:19 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

What a lot of opinions we all have! Touched a nerve, I think.

I can only offer you what happened to me. I didn't phrase it as "not liking people." To me it felt like my heart was a small, dried up raisin-like organ, and I couldn't feel anything positive about anyone else. I faked it: friends, laughing, volunteering, long-term relationship. But my heart was small and dried up. I tried to feel compassion, but it was useless.

One day I was reading a book about the Dalai Lama, and for some reason I suddenly thought, "Here I am, Dried Raisin Girl, but still I wish for a moment of true compassion for someone." And I realized what a hard thing it was, a girl with a dried raisin heart trying to feel compassion. I felt a moment of true compassion for myself. Which, of course, is always the key, as HuronBob pointed out.

Everything didn't change overnight, but it was a gift beyond price, and my life did change.

From your post, I don't think you're angry or envious or childish. You're in pain, and you want love and transcendence -- as we all do -- and you don't know where to turn. Perhaps some of the suggestions on this thread will help; we don't know you, so we can only offer from our points of view. But I hope you will be good about yourself that you asked. You're not broken. You're ready to begin to grow in new ways.
posted by kestralwing at 1:34 PM on November 16, 2014 [13 favorites]

I know that one of the main ways that depression manifests for me is extreme irritability. It is as if a protective filter is removed from my eyes and I can only see how annoying, petty, ridiculous and worthless everyone is. Then I figure I must be as well. So I'm just suggesting that depression may not slow your work or productivity, but it could affect your perception of the world.
posted by bluespark25 at 1:41 PM on November 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Am I broken? Should I be fixed?
Probably not, but making genuine friendships will make you happier, especially at work. From Zero to One: "Since time is your most valuable asset, it's odd to spend it working with people who don't envision any long-term future together."

I can remember the last time I felt real affection for another human. It was years ago. ...I can pinpoint when and who.
I do actually like...anyone earnest and sincere about who they are and what they want.
I read this as protecting yourself from disappointment...I distrust people who I sense can "read" me much better than I can "read" them.

No action is safe from my covert disapproval.
A guess: disillusionment with a parent/authority/other whose judgment and disapproval no longer motivates you, now that you've exceeded their ability to guide you or realized that they didn't share your inner life.

I'm also a kind and conscientious person
You might fight it interesting to read Nietzsche.

if you are 1%-er successful, probably most of the people around you are either driven to the exclusion of all else, or actual horrible sociopath dickheads.
Yes, this. Some are both! But, some are neither.
posted by sninctown at 1:42 PM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I go through phases where I really pretty much hate all human beings. And unlike some commentators above, I don't think there is anything wrong with having contempt for those who merit it. Whenever I see a group of people at a restaurant all mutely staring into their phones with dazed and glassy-eyed expressions rather than talking to one another or looking around the room, I feel both contempt for them and sadness about modern life. And I think I am right to feel this way because much of modern life is sad and many people are contemptible!

Having said that, for me, these feelings are transitory. I think the vast majority of people are, like me, just doing the best they can in this vale of tears.

Other people have given you good suggestions for trying to change your thought patterns. I can offer up one quick trick that you may want to try. In her book about the "affective labor" that many in today's service economy are forced to perform, Arlie Hochschild reports how one airline stewardess handles difficult passengers: "I pretend something traumatic happened in their lives. Once I had an irate that was complaining about me, cursing at me, threatening to get my name and report it to the company. I later found out that his son had just died. Now when I meet an irate I think of that man."

If you force yourself to think about people in these ways, perhaps you will break the habits of your current thought patterns and will eventually come to see that the majority of people are, in different ways, struggling to live their lives and do the best they can.
posted by girl flaneur at 3:38 PM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nah, you're not broken. You're just a little frozen and maybe developed some rigidities along the way because you had to to survive. But now, you want more than just to survive. You want to get in the game and experience this life!! So, some of that shell can now be softened, so you can take more of the beauty, love, absurdity, and amazing joy that is being alive! Yes, it's fucking cheesy 'cause it's true!!

It sounds like you are really in a position to give back to people- or at least someone- and this could be a way to develop compassion both for others, and yourself. You could work with kids or the elderly or immigrants and people you perceive in "real" need. Also, animals really are a way you can develop more connection and compassion, so if nothing else, can you get a dog or a cat, or volunteer at a shelter.

I could see this as a way you could give back to yourself, and to others. You need to give that to yourself, as much as other people need it. It's OK. Sounds like you just need to let yourself be touched, and touch another person (or animal maybe for starters). But the good news is once that starts to open up, it's like a whole new world.

Remaining in wonder and curious about life, and people, and being able to stay in awe at these things require a willingness to be open, and vulnerable.. but you can learn it. It's an opportunity to fall back in love (with yourself and others.)

I mean, also, laughter is like, one of the best ways I've found of connecting to others- and it's silly, and sometimes stupid, but also some of the most clever people I know are also the funniest, so you have to keep your wits fairly sharp to hang with them :)

Earth Your Dancing Place
Mary Swenson

Beneath heaven’s vault
remember always walking
through halls of cloud
down aisles of sunlight
or through high hedges
of the green rain
walk in the world
highheeled with swirl of cape
hand at the swordhilt
of your pride
Keep a tall throat
Remain aghast at life

Enter each day
as upon a stage
lighted and waiting
for your step
Crave upward as flame
have keenness in the nostril
Give your eyes
to agony or rapture

Train your hands
as birds to be
brooding or nimble
Move your body
as the horses
sweeping on slender hooves
over crag and prairie
with fleeing manes
and aloofness of their limbs

Take earth for your own large room
and the floor of the earth
carpeted with sunlight
and hung round with silver wind
for your dancing place
posted by Rocket26 at 4:07 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

"I'm also a kind and conscientious person - I believe this to be true." I also believe this. You are kind. You are probably too kind and that's the problem.

I think you see yourself in a "perfect place": you are good-looking, you have money, etc, so you "should" be happy, but you are not. That is scary to you, because then that means that something else is going on and you can't tell what it is.

If you are anything like me, I know what it is: you feel that you and all other adults should be doing something to improve, either the world of themselves, and they shouldn't be wasting time with that stupid facebook/being pretentious assholes/etc. This is why the elderly, children and animals are safe: they are not "in control" of anything, they are to be cared for. You can't possibly be mad at them. But you can be mad at those people who are healthy and have reasources to make a difference in the world and choose to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians.

You are not broken. You are just disappointed and frustrated, in others AND in yourself, for not doing something remarkable. You see this scenario and it freezes you. You don't want to spend your time with people who seem to not care about themselves (in a good way) or the world around them, so you isolate yourself. This has left you incapable of enyoing anything, because you feel you don't deserve that. You want to do something "important" and be around fantastic, inspiring people, or nothing.
The fact that you are in the 1% is not really important. What matters is that you are not in need of anything material so you are struggling with higher stuff, but you probably want to change the world for the better in two days. That's, sadly, not going to happen.

What to do:
If you watch TV, stop it. No more distorted images of the world/people for you.
Make an effort to focus on how you FEEL and not on what you THINK about someone/something. -It takes time.
While focusing on how you feel, try to meet new people and do new things that feel good. Even if it takes A LOT of trying.
Realize that you are not complete yet either; therapy might help.
Be patient to others and especially to yourself. Try to see what you can learn from others, even those you don't like much.

Also, there is a difference:
Some people are idiots and that's that. Some people behave like idiots because they feel frustrated, like you, and that's the way they cope. Try to become an expert on detecting this difference.
posted by divina_y_humilde at 4:13 PM on November 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

I am guessing that you are working through some insecurity issues regarding your and your family's place in the world. It sounds like you were pushed (or pushed yourself) to excel, and that there was at least a period where there was no room allowed in your life for entertainments and frivolities.

Now you're realizing that most people don't hew so strictly to such a work ethic, and you might be wondering if it was really the right thing for you. That might be causing you to wonder if you deserve your relatively nice 1% place in the world, or even if it's really such a nice place considering what you seem to have given up to secure it.

Knowing that you have a problem is the most important first step. You need to figure out what you really want that is missing from your life, and what is bugging you that you should stop thinking about or doing. Unfortunately, most of us suck at figuring things like that out ourselves. The usual answer -- and unlike most of us you probably have the money for it -- is therapy. A good psychiatrist could guide you through the minefield of mental blocks you've erected so you can see the real endgame you seem to be hiding from yourself.
posted by localroger at 5:35 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I relate to your post in a lot of ways, though the list of of people on my shit list isn't nearly as extensive as yours. Basically I got disillusioned with a bunch of people I ostensibly trusted -- members of my community and parts of my family -- whose value system I internalized and later realized they themselves did not take it seriously. They talked a good game about the value of hard work and intellectualism and education and moral drive, but ultimately all of those things were "optional"-- money and social status were what they REALLY cared about. I am still pissed at a lot of people over this. (watching the moral decisions people made during the Bush administration drove this home. Apparently you can support anything you want, as long as you give people tax cuts). I try to accept the fact that I have an advantage because I am more financially and socially secure than others who have to struggle more in these spheres to get ahead or have a "place".

In contrast to the advice you're getting, I actually DIDN'T spend my time attempting to "see the good in people." Like I already know what's ostensibly good about them and know where I stand. What I did instead was be more careful about curating both the people I associate with and the nature of my relationships with them. I also recognize that most people are just trying to make it through life the best way they can. But I do have a more cynical view regarding people's desire for social status and positioning on the social hierarchy and console myself with the fact that I have enough money and status background that I can keep that kind of thing to a minimum in my own life and pursue my own goals while remaining consistent with my value system.

Those first generation immigrants are people you have a meeting of minds with because they admire you for being hard working and conventionally successful without attaching any importance to social capital. On the other hand, there might be a time where you realize that someone within that group adheres to a set of values and makes judgments that you realize are really antithetical to what you place importance on, and you will get disillusioned with them as well.

All people are flawed. Even you. Finding people really have a true meeting of mind and values with is hard to do. Just try to see the good in the people around you and don't get too upset that they're not all you thought they were. Few people are.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 5:42 PM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I an internet stranger can very much relate to how you feel and my read of your situation is one of compassion. If like me you are sensitive and have been disappointed by people and the world in ways that have wounded you, it is easy for me to understand your pain. I don't think you are broken - you seem to me to be a good person who is in pain and wants to live an authentic life in a world where it is easy to get caught up in the superficialities of the world around you. What I have come to believe is that most people have a yearning for meaning but it is difficult to find meaning in an authentic way. This may or may not be something you would consider but for the past two summers I have spent every day for a month walking the camino in northern spain. This walking life gave me daily chances to reflect on my life in a way not possible in other settings, meet people with whom it is possible to have a deep meaningful conversation and be reminded on a daily basis that most of us harbor a pain that doesn't have to result in cutting yourself off from the world. Memail me if you want more details of the camino but everyone I met, religious, spiritual or neither found it to be a life changing experience at a point in their lives when they felt they needed a break- not a break in any trivial vacation sense but an extended period of reflection on their life. This may be the kind of experience you need to discover where this sense of loss and longing come from and that may be the beginning of the journey that you need to find your way back to your true self. I found your post to be remarkably honest and to eloquently express what many people feel. I wish you the very best.
posted by bluesky43 at 5:45 PM on November 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Work for a non-profit.

I just turned 30, educated and (well, gasp cause I'm in the nonprofit field) not the 1%, but I can give you a very accurate number on how many dollars I've generated for my agency and a similarly accurate number on how many people those dollars have put directly to work. People who NEVER would've gotten work no matter how hard they tried without this help.

Join us. Make your life mean something before it's too late.

edit, also:
How can you respect a person who has ever taken a selfie or written a Yelp review or who watches cable news or reality television or laugh-track comedy or who can stand even one second of TMZ? There are so many ways to cross a person off the list that there can be no one left. No action is safe from my covert disapproval. This hypercritical worldview reads to me like I should be a member of ISIS.

Someone who makes over $standardofliving and doesn't donate the rest to charity?

You have a healthy dose of self-hate in your post whether or not you are aware of it. Forgive yourself and make the changes you need to.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:23 PM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds to me as if you would like people to be more than people. Perhaps seeking the ground of being or your own higher power as your next object of affection would be more fruitful for you. When I get in the same headspace as you describe, I consider that everyone is doing the best they can and that it is far less alienating to find fault with contexts for human behavior than within individuals.

Then I would suggest giving away all of your money.
posted by macinchik at 10:17 PM on November 16, 2014

I'm jumping into this thread quite late, but I have a practical exercise for you. Meditation, mentoring, embracing platitudes – sure, these work for people who already have a positive outlook on life, but assuming that you are not depressed and do have something of an overly critical mindset, how do you become a more positive person?

The fact is that it's easy to hate things, but liking things is actually quite hard work. We never really talk about this much, but we build our sense of self by contrasting ourselves against what we aren't, or what we don't like, so we place the whole world of stuff that isn't us into that category by default. It takes an effort to accept difference because we feel that if we like too many different things, we become somehow less clear about who we are. But if you flip that round, the more things you like, the more you feel a connection to the world and other people in it. Once you get a sense of why people like the things they do, you start to feel something that they feel, and from that comes empathy, and from that compassion.

So, I think you would benefit from practicing liking things. Take something that you really think you don't like, a particular artefact (e.g. an episode of a trashy TV show, an idiotic sporting event, an annoying political speech), and ask yourself, if I absolutely had to list a handful of things I like about this thing, what would they be? Then stop thinking about how this particular thing fails to be the better thing that you prefer, or irritates you with all its negative qualities, and just focus on those aspects of it that you like. Take a few minutes. Allow yourself to enjoy those qualities, try and see it as the best of whatever it is, if just fleetingly. Hell, go back to hating it again once you're done if you want. But repeat this exercise every so often. At some point you will probably surprise yourself by finding a real connection with something that know you used to hate, maybe even loving whatever it is.

Try starting with this. It's a Taylor Swift music video. I'm taking a guess and thinking it's not the sort of thing that you like. Perhaps you think it's vacuous, or too commercial, or not very cool, or whatever. But focus on some stuff you like about it. How about for starters - it's a brilliantly shot video and edited really well, it's a catchy song, it's got some interesting people in it who are enjoyable to watch, and Taylor Swift genuinely looks like she's having a lot of fun.

Work your way up to Rebecca Black's Friday.
posted by iivix at 2:45 AM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also late to the party. I'm hearing a lot of pride in you. Pride is a prison, and it isolates us from others. Humility allows us to connect.

Accept that just as you see flaws in those around you, your flaws exist and are equally obvious to others.

I only know of Buddhist methods for reducing pride, one of which is prostration (bows). Find an esteemable person (a statue of Buddha, or Jesus or even a tv character you admire). Believe this person to have admirable qualities that you wish to cultivate in yourself. Bow to a picture of it it every day. It doesn't have to even be terribly sincere at first. But over time the act of bowing will reduce your pride.

Also you may enjoy reading about Maslow's characteristics of self-actualized people. People like this will not advertise themselves; they will not stand out. But when you know the characteristics to look for, you will find them more often than you'd think. They wear the garb of every day people, and have every day failings, but they are there.

Don't see the world so black and white. People have their higher selves and their selfish animal selves, and they weave between the two moment by moment.

Cynicism is the refuge of a hurt idealist.

posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:43 AM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

Wow. I just read a lot of that, and uh, felt one side was missing.

You're not broken. You're going through a really, really normal part of human development, especially prevalent for successful folks. You're a cynical idealist, and neither of those words is uncommon for human beings to be. :-)

I've hit this damn block in spades; I think I've mostly beat it; but damn, I still don't see what a decent human being could like in TMZ.

One thing to remember is that everyone has different experiences, and to some large extent, we're the sum of our experiences. Some of the experiences we hit - many of them - are luck. Not just "hit the lottery", but "were born a decent looking hetero white guy in America in the late 20th century." (I was!)

Immigrants; I *love* them, as they're hard working, usually friendly, and dedicated to the task. They also have a very similar set of relevant experiences that made them qualified for the job, built for the dedication needed, and strong enough to make it several thousand miles from home on a tighter-than-most-americans-imagine budget. Unless you mean *tech* immigrants... where yeah, actually, most of the same is still true.

One solution here is to do the mindfulness thing (it still works, and will help you be less cynical). In doing so, it may be worth focusing on everyone having different backgrounds and different experiences. If your friends watch TMZ, you're likely to as well. By giving up on your potential friends who have this as their one major flaw... yeah, you're making them even more likely to watch TMZ; by removing yourself from the world, you're slightly and notably making it, well, less a place you'd want to be.

Rotating back around, another solution is to move; to immigrate or emigrate yourself. If you're a 1%'er, you've got most major cities in the world as a strong option. If you don't like the people where you are, go somewhere else. Northern California, New York, Vancouver (CA), Copenhagen, Puerto Rico;; all are quite nice, all are quite different, and you might be up for a change; it could do ya good.

That alllll said, one thing you don't mention. You work a lot. (Lots of us do!)

Do you like your coworkers? Do you like them as friends? Would you have a hypothetical beer with them after work? If not, consider working less, just for a month or a quarter, and see how you feel. I found that most of my cynicism at the world - which seems to overlap your explanation quite a lot! - came from working 60+ hour weeks for a long, long time, and slowly becoming used to it, but not realizing the cost it had on the rest of my life, friends and family relationships, especially.

I still love the work, but I worked to not let it define me, more or less.
posted by talldean at 8:04 AM on November 17, 2014

I'm able to identify with a lot of what you wrote, because I have had periods in which I've felt very similarly. One thing that eventually helped me calm down about how terrible and stupid everyone is was the realization that everyone and everything ever is a product of their era and culture. I suspect one of the reasons you can put up with the elderly and first-generation immigrants is that they are products of another time, another culture, and thus their particular modes of being somehow obnoxious are not as recognizable to you. You're less focused on their failings because their failings are less familiar to you.

Contemporary American culture is something else. There are things like Kardashians. But it just seems especially bad because we are currently living in it. There have always been things like Kardashians. There have always been analogues of contemporary American laugh-track sitcoms. Shakespeare's plays were the laugh-track sitcoms of late 16th century London. Does merely liking a popular thing in one's era mean one is terrible? I suspect you already know that it's silly to judge people based on consumer preferences (if you didn't, you'd have fallen in with the artists and hipsters you, quite fairly, dislike along with the more mainstream people you dislike)--but even knowing that, it can be hard not to do so. When I first met manmillipede almost 3 years ago, I was taken aback and even a bit shocked that he loved the show "Jersey Shore." And sports. Two things, that, to me, signified a person was beyond hope intelligence-wise. And yet manmillipede is extremely intelligent, perhaps more intelligent than his female counterpart who is a tiny bit more of a culture snob. Really smart people can enjoy really stupid things sometimes.

I want to reply to each of your complaints because I really do recognize myself-awhile-back in a lot of what you've typed, and life was a lot more bearable once I, I don't know, changed my mind. But I'm having a hard time explaining how my mind changed. Maybe just the realization that, yes, everyone is a bit ridiculous and pathetic, but everyone is also just trying to be a person. If the world were populated entirely with uncompromisingly moral, sincere people with no artifice, no pretense, no weakness for silly pleasures, no desire for adulation and wealth and fame and attention--then what? A world of Holden Caulfields would be untenable and unbearable. Weakness and silliness and stupidity make the world a more varied and entertaining place.

I'm not going to go so far as to say that all people are inherently interesting (though some people think this--that's too far for me), but there are definitely some people with some interesting things to say. It might be worth trying to find them.
posted by millipede at 1:19 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hmm.... it does sound to me as though you're not emotionally invested in the new relationship; I would get out of it out of respect for the other person's time and emotional well-being. However, it sounds as though you already know that.

It would free you up to find a new paramour who is an 80-year old immigrant that is earnest and sincere about you. ;)
posted by phreckles at 3:07 PM on November 17, 2014

I was on the road to this particular worldview in my undergrad. I was seriously depressed. I think what you are describing are symptoms of serious depression that has become so much a part of your day-to-day life that you are only mildly aware that perhaps this is a strange outlook.

I was also, like I think you are, a workaholic. I was a workaholic because I had serious issues that I eventually had to confront and address. On some deep level, I hated myself. Or at least, disliked myself. I did not feel that I could be the person I really was. I wasn't even sure who that person was. Instead, I just buried myself in work and comforted myself that I looked amazing on paper (very much like the description of yourself). I was very unhappy even though I loved what I was studying and was successful.

The ability to truly connect with other people, I think, comes from some measure of self-understanding and self-acceptance. I was way too hard on other undergrads. I would judge anyone who partied or didn't devote themselves 100% to work. I had a very black and white view of the world, that people were lazy, self-indulgent and shallow. That I couldn't trust them. My own limited, impoverished understanding of who I was made me see the world in this narrow, limited, fundamentally ungenerous way. It was a truly terrible time in my life, where I felt utterly alone, but at the same time, had no interest in connecting with others. I missed out on a lot.

My honest guess? If you seek out therapy, you're about to uncover things about yourself that you've repressed for a long time. It won't be easy and it might be frightening. I resisted the whole thing at first (thinking that therapy was for the weak), but it really saved me. I would not be the person I am today (self-aware, generous, a good friend, who is now pursuing a career to help others) without it. I would really recommend it.
posted by thelivingsea at 8:23 AM on November 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Am I still normal? Am I broken? Should I be fixed? If you've been like me, what did you do to become not like me?
I haven't become not like me as yet, but I do recognise what you are thinking.

You have a lot of positives aside from your resources which will enable you to get past this.
You're young, intelligent, hard-working and can recognise your disaffection.
You also haven't completely fucked up your life or been in some horrific situation which from my experience is sometimes what it takes to be the catalyst for change.

The numerous calls from others for you to seek therapy are probably because like me, they think there is something blocking you from getting past this. It is certainly the case in my situation and it appears to be a common theme from others in this situation. I'm assuming someone as intelligent as you has an idea of what this might be, a professional will help you confront and overcome this.

I struggle with the idea that a more "fulfilling, happy" life somehow feels like a defeat, like an untruth I will have to believe. I have come to realise I'm fooling myself and it is fear which is causing me to rationalise this thinking. Seeking to fulfil my potential, to become "self-actualised" or my ideal is something which I can strive for, rather than something I will have to settle for.

Good Luck, and I hope you will look back on your life and be thankful you took steps now rather than later.

Failing that you could send me all your money ;)

(Just kidding, a sense of the ridiculousness of it all is something which I find helps me cope with the fear, not exactly healthy but a damn sight better than what I was doing before)

Also, "70 users marked this as their favourite", it appears you are not alone.
posted by fullerine at 7:41 AM on November 22, 2014

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