“I think I am not good enough? Why would someone ever talk to me?”
Do you ever feel like that? Probably high school was not a fun time. Maybe you had a few friends you were outcasts with. Of course dating wasn’t an option. Now a few years later, you have even fewer friends. You don’t socialize, except a bit at work or during online gaming.
But life goes on.
Occasionally you do come across a pretty girl or guy,…. You get that tingly excited feeling, which is immediately crushed by anxiety. So you nope the fuck out as soon as possible.
It sucks and it’s become a big problem.
You don’t feel good enough. Not good enough to socialize, not good enough to make friends, let alone attract someone.
Why would anyone ever talk to you? You are just,… just,… uugh,..
It is hard being lonely
I had a hard time fitting in when younger. It feels awful. No matter who we are, we need a few good friends and broader social circle around us. Without that, life doesn’t feel that worthwhile.
Let’s take a step back. Imagine if one of your friends talks this way about himself. What would you say? What would you think? I bet you would support him, tell him he is worthy of friends, love and more.
You definitely wouldn’t judge him so harshly as you judge yourself. So weird we can be so brutal to ourselves. Time treat yourself better.
But how to go about it? How to feel good enough so you can actually be social.
Let’s skip the personal reasons how you might’ve gotten to this state of mind. You probably know them. Let's instead focus on the broader picture. Plus the actions you can take to break loose from the negative spiral of low self-esteem.
The bigger picture of not feeling good enough
First of all, you are not alone. Lots of people struggle with feeling inadequate. All the people around you have an equally complex inner narrative.
For lots of us it is a constant negative voice critiquing on what we do. This negative voice is for a big part the internalized upbringing, culture and messaging we’ve been exposed to.
It is weird, western consumer culture is constantly telling you happiness is around the corner. Buy these sneakers, drink this coffee, adjust to this brand/tribe or be part of the corporate family. Be yourself with our generic brand (looking at you Starbucks). We are all targeted as hyper individualized people, by playing on our instinct to be part of a group. But instead of becoming part of a tribe, we are persuaded to consume products.
Social media amplifies
Thank god for social media that amplifies these messages. Facebook and Instagram are a 1 versus 1.000.000.000 cold war of “sharing-how-cool-my-life-is”. Something I reckon game theorist will write about for years.
People only post their best self online – you don’t see their real struggles on Instagram. Stop please stop comparing yourself to these fictions. Because the worst part is - while making you feel more insecure, they are making money by advertising products to you on the down low.
Responsiblity and chance
So mass media and personal media mandate you to be happy. On top of that the liberal zeitgeist tells you, everyone is responsible for their life and state of mind!
Even while socioeconomic context and dumb luck are big factors influencing your life. But both beyond your control.
So you feel responsible, but it is partially outside your influence. Culture tells you, if you are not feeling worthy or happy it is still your own fault/responsibility.
Even though a lot is out of your control -you can focus on what you can control. You can change how you react to negative situation. What you expose yourself more to - and what less. How to handle outward challenges.
I don’t know how you handle these negative feelings. I used to seclude myself, drink, smoke and drown out my consciousness with video games to cope. So Heineken (it is not a fancy beer in Holland), weed, and Star Craft were filling the void.
Other people become perfectionists, workaholic, self destructive, or start abusing drugs & alcohol. Some drown themselves in internet and video games. Or of course a combination of those.
Obviously this doesn’t help! I felt bad while hungover for treating myself this way. I should have started solving my problems instead of wrapping up another 3v3 Zerg brawl.
Action before feeling
The stupid thing is, I was waiting to feel good enough to improve my social life. But I would only feel good, if I would take action
The hard simple truth is: You can only act your way in to a new belief. So if you don’t feel good enough to be sociable yet, you have to start being social. If you don’t feel worthy yet, you have to create friendships to become worthy.
We are all imperfect fucks, in an imperfect world, trying to get a grip. Somehow you have show yourself, that other people can actually like you. That you are likable. Being able to see that, will take away 90% of your social problems.
The slow road to acceptance and improvement
Going from feeling bad about yourself to feeling good is a tenuous process. But there are a few ways to get a better grip on the process.
Letting it go
Let out your thoughts and feeling. If you have somebody in your life you trust, explain your feelings to them. Rant about what brings you down, why you feel ‘ugh’ by yourself. Talk about it. Often other people can show you the other side of all those feelings. Even display what is in your head and what is really happening.
Not feeling expressive? Let it out on paper. Write down that complex stream of thoughts. Don’t try to edit it as you go. Just write down your stream of consciousness, write what rolls through your head.
You don’t even have to reread the gibberish, you can throw away the paper if you want. But letting it out, instead of keeping it on loop it in your head somehow helps. It helps you put things in perspective. Start with a page a day, if it works try more!
Start making some self-analysis.
Since you already got pen and paper ready, also take a more analytical approach. Try to be more self-aware. Notice when you feel good, and when you feel bad. Think about these feelings, explore them. And write down what happens in a journal. Think about these questions as you explore your inner voice and emotions:
What do I feel? When do I feel it? Why do I feel it?
Towards whom or what do I have these feelings?
What does my inner critic say? Is this objectively true?
Do I recognize something in my past that relates to this?
Lean into your emotion – is there anything you can do about it?
Why don’t you do that? Is it scary? Will that fear matter in 5 hours? 5 days? 5 years?
You can use this more technical way to get yourself better. Don’t limit yourself to these, use your creativity to understand yourself even better. You can define what actions you might take (in the future) to improve.
Another great practice is gratitude. A great method to put your mind in the right mode. Start by once a day to write down 3 things you ary grateful for in your life. Think and feel these things. Don’t jot down 3 random items or thoughts, that isn’t enough. Dig deep and feel the luck and gratitude.
It could be you are grateful you live close to your job. Or that there was a nice spring rain. Even something as simple as your favorite series getting a new season.
Today I wrote down I’m grateful for the amazing weird dreams I had last night. And the new episode of Game of Thrones airing today. Plus the fresh coffee I drink every day. Simple things.
By focusing on what you have now and why it’s great, instead of what you don’t have will create a mental shift. First of all, if you have to feel grateful about 3 things every day, you’ll search and focus more on what and why things are good.
Secondly, if you can’t learn to be content with what you have now, you won’t ever be happy with what you have later. Finding the gratitude in the now, will make you appreciate everything extra even more.
Small action to change your beliefs
Alright, a lot of theory and philosophy, and some actionable mental steps. It all helps but as told, if you don’t feel good enough for friendship and romance it is time you started socializing. To feel worthy, we have to act to find our worth.
Let’s start taking small steps, to bigger steps, to huge steps. Beginning to be more social and building friendships sucks. You are out of practice and it doesn’t feel natural. But practicing something you’re not good at always does.
Actively learning new habits and behavior is exhausting, that is why to take it slow and step by step. With low self-worth and social anxiety in the game, it becomes extra hard. Use that pain to motivate you. You don’t want to feel unworthy and anxious your entire life. So bite through the pain now. Invest now to have a better life later.
Fail to succeed
Will you have struggles and fail? Yes! It is up to you to take the blows, dust yourself off and try again. Like working out, you try, fail and train again the next day. That’s why I have a little training scheme for you to get started! This way you can make a little progress every day.
Find the level that is a bit scary for you and start there. Make sure you take this action every weekday! Did it go well that week? Move on to the next.
Week 1 – Look 2 random people in the eyes
Week 2 – Look 3 random people in the eyes and smile or nod
Week 3 – Say hi to 3 random people on the street
Week 4 – Ask for direction/ the time of 2 people
Week 5 – Say hi and give 3 people a genuine compliment
Week 6 – Start a small conversation with 2 people
Week 7 – Start a 5 min conversation with 3 people
Week 8 – Start a 10 min conversation with 3 people
Week 9 – Send me an email on how it went – I’ll send you the next training scheme 🙂
It’s important if you practice your social skills, to not look for validation or approval of people. Be a person giving value by adding to the social life of others (and thus your own.)
Remember, making progress and taking action is success, perfection isn’t the goal. As long as you try to push yourself you will win. Once in a while take a look at how far you’ve come, instead how far you have left to go. Lastly, embrace your failures, knowing it is the way to success.
I bet, by going through these exercises every week, you will feel more social, worthy and make some new friends! If you finish, or get stuck, give me a heads up at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll help you move on to the next step!