“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 who were fellow outcasts.
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 has 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,… ugh.
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 a 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.
1. Not feeling good enough - the bigger picture
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.
1.1 Social media amplifies
Thank god for social media that amplify 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 theorists will write about for years.
People only post their best selves 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.
1.2 Responsibility 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 are 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 still focus on what you can control. You can change how you react to negative situations. How to handle outward challenges. What you expose yourself to - and what to cut out of your life.
You can't singlehandedly change the exploitation insecurity in this world. But you can choose how to handle the situations. You can choose in how far you are going to be part of the problem or the solution.
I don’t know how you handle negative feelings. I know 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 StarCraft were filling the void.
Other people become perfectionists, workaholics, self-destructive, or start abusing drugs & alcohol. Some drown themselves in the 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.
1.4 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 simple truth is: You can only act your way into 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 shown 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.
2. 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.
2.1 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 flip 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 thought streak.
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!
2.2 Start self-analysing
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 are 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,
- a nice text I got from a friend
- the great fresh coffee I drink at work every day.
Simple things - but valuable if you pay attention.
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 work to find things to be grateful about every day, you’ll automatically search and focus more on 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 gratitude in the now will make you appreciate everything extra you gain even more.
3. Small action to change big 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 is hard. 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.
3.1 Fail to succeed
Will you have struggles and fail?
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 a success, perfection isn’t the goal. As long as you try to push yourself you will win. Look at how far you’ve come, instead of 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, get stuck, (or find the challenge too easy), give me a heads up at email@example.com, I’ll help you move on to your next step!