Everything you want involves people.
Assuming you’re unhappy right now, I can guarantee one thing. You’re taking something too seriously.
You’re just like everyone else, in that sense. You want something too much. You’re brooding over a comment someone made earlier. You think nobody appreciates you. You’re dreading some detail about tomorrow, or worrying about all the money you don’t have. A thousand miles away, someone you don’t even know is doing the exact same.
Maybe a personality disorder makes these little tugs at your sanity all that much harder to shrug off. Most of the time, we don’t even know we’re hurting ourselves. And we don’t know how to make it better.
We just know we’ll try anything. Before you attempt your version of anything, try something a little simpler.
Give up for a little while
We’ve put a premium on grit and persistence lately. A failure can send us into a tailspin of counterproductive effort. We think we’re getting something done, when we’re really just spiraling into a crash. We refuse to let go of our precious plans, and it makes everything worse.
When we’re wrecked, we usually stumble into what we need. We don’t get there by engineering every gear of our lives.
Walking away from your current plans can cure everything from burnout to tunnel-vision. The distractions you hunger to escape could save you — not the ones on your phone, but everywhere else.
Maybe you needed to crash and start over.
If things didn’t go according to plan, maybe that’s because there’s a better plan for you. The truth is, you’re just not the master architect of your dreams you think you are, and you have to get over it.
Let go of your tortured past
The ones who injured us have already forgotten about it. This includes all of our exes, bad friends, terrible bosses, and judgmental relatives. Some of us waste our lives fantasizing about an apology.
In the mean time, we can’t wait to tell our stories of heartbreak, abuse, and neglect. We think they’re worth something on their own. If a river doesn’t get anyone’s attention, we’ll cry an ocean. We have to sink all the way to the floor before realizing — it’s just a way to drown yourself.
Swimming back to shore, that’s the narrative you want.
You don’t need anyone to feel sorry for what they did to you. You just need to survive, and keep it from happening again.
You need to go after the life you want, regardless of how much farther back you started from it than everyone else. Know that you’ll enjoy it more, because you had to fight harder for it.
Start planning for what you fear most
You can’t Magic 8-Ball your entire way through life. The more you try to predict what will happen, the more stress you dump into your brain. You’ll replace action with the paralysis of worry.
Here’s one thing you can count on, something will happen that you don’t like. And you’ll have to deal with it.
Understand that you can’t imagine a fate that hasn’t sideswiped someone else. Do some homework. Read. Visit discussion boards. Talk to people. Find out how someone else worked through the things you fear most. Assume those fears will turn real and claw into you at some point. Also understand that your worry brings zero to the table. It doesn’t help your friends and family, just diminishes your strength.
If you can’t stop worrying about a possible future, make a plan for it. You’ll feel better knowing you’re prepared.
Let people be a mystery
You can never see inside the thought bubbles above everyone’s heads. Most of us can barely make out the reasons behind our own habits and decisions, much less those of our friends.
What you love most about someone could be something neither of you will ever fully explain, and if you did, you’d ruin it.
Trying to read minds just leads to speculation, a key ingredient in misery. If you want to know what someone’s thinking, or why they did something, ask them. Even a lie tells you something.
Better yet, focus on the consequences. You don’t always need to know the why of a person in order to handle them. Sometimes a toxic friend is just that, and it’s not your job to fix them.
Give yourself permission to be ordinary
We want everyone to love us as much as we don’t love ourselves, to make up the difference. It’s not that we think we’re unique or special. The problem is we think we have to be — to everyone, all the time.
You can relax with the knowledge the nobody ever enjoys universal appeal. Nobody is exciting 24 hours a day.
You are not a theme park.
You are not a social media stream.
Some of us just put a great deal of effort into pretending to be. When you see someone with a million likes on some app, divide them by a billion. For every insta-celeb out there, there’s thousands of people who have no idea who they are, and couldn’t care less.
Every single one of us plays a supporting role in the screenplays of other people’s lives. Nobody wants or needs you to always play the ingenue. A lot of times, you’re just auditioning for a cameo.
Micro-dose on material desires
The exact moment you get something, you stop wanting it so bad. When we finally reach our dreams, we’re happy for five-and-half minutes. Then our next everything crests the horizon.
Life is an exhausting pursuit of what comes next. If you don’t stop for breaks, you’ll either die or turn orange with greed.
It’s fine to want more, even healthy. Satisfaction can slide into complacency and stagnation before you realize. But you can at least pretend to enjoy what you have, in the midst of pursing what you want.
You can even learn to enjoy wanting things — without having them. They used to call that window-shopping. These days, I guess you could think of it as micro-dosing on the material.
Rediscover simple ways to connect
Loneliness is the disease of our time, a kind of emotional cancer. We’re either too scared or too proud to introduce ourselves to strangers anymore. And yet, even introverts need something that resembles a social life. When we tell ourselves we don’t need it, we’re lying. We have screens, in the literal and figurative sense — but that’s not enough.
Heads up, your soulmate might’ve deleted their dating apps. Maybe they’ve been exploring singles night at the club, or trivia night at the pub. You didn’t see them because you were busy swiping, or complaining to your friends about how long it’s been since your last kiss.
We struggle more than ever to connect with each other. We think every conversation has to go somewhere — that it has to end in a professional connection or a lasting friendship.
Conversations can be just that.
Remember when you were a kid, and you bonded with people over shared interests? You weren’t scared of calling your friends over just to play a game, or just to watch a movie.
You met after school with strangers to play chess, practice a sport, or dance. These strangers your age became your friends, and some of them still are. You’re not too old to start doing that again.
Individualism is a blessing and a curse in one jewel box. We spend all day thinking about ourselves, doubting ourselves, looking at ourselves in selfie mode, mourning our failures, and wondering what will happen to us if we lose our job, or never find true love.
The answer is simpler than we want to admit. This answer is, frankly, to begin paying attention to other people again. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it’s a start in the right direction.