Help – I need a new life… this one’s broken!

Postby Nigel » Tue Aug 17, 2004 11:10 pm

Hi All,
I came across the Uncommon Knowledge web-sites a few months ago, and I’ve read many of the articles and attempted the free ‘Self-Confidence Course’. I found it helpful, but also found it difficult to put it all into practice. I was tempted by the ‘Self-Confidence CD Trainer’ but have doubts as to whether or not it can solve my particular problems. I feel that my problems go far deeper than just a lack of self-confidence.

Firstly, I can’t help feeling that my problems are more to do with my poor self-esteem – lack of self-worth, self-appreciation, faith in myself, etc. When I think about what my lack of confidence feels like, it’s feeling nervous, anxious, worried, uncertain, uncomfortable, self-conscious, etc. I’m worried about what others might be thinking about me, what I won’t be able to do, how I’ll screw up and look stupid, incompetent, feel embarrassed, humiliated, etc. I feel that rather than learning self-confidence, I should be trying to eliminate all those negative thoughts, feelings and reactions, and feel better about myself, then maybe I’ll automatically feel more confident. Maybe I need to address the issue of self-esteem rather than self-confidence?

Secondly, as I pondered more, I realised that most of my issues with self-confidence and self-esteem stem from a lack of experience. I read about ‘social anxiety’ or ‘social phobia’ in some of the articles – well, that’s me. I have a total lack of social skills, social experience. I’m embarrassed (ashamed) to say that I’m 45 and have done virtually nothing in my life. I had a few friends when at school (nobody really close) but they drifted away when I started work. I’ve spent the last 27 years in a dead end job that I initially enjoyed but over the years have come to hate (I won’t bore you with the details) where I get on with the few people I work with but not socially outside of work.

Over the last year I’ve done a lot of thinking and reading and have realised that I’ve just been drifting aimlessly through life waiting for something wonderful to happen – love, money, happiness... anything! I now realise that it won’t happen unless I actually DO something, but I now find it impossible to actually do anything differently. The best I can do is wishing, hoping, and the odd spell of positive, optimistic thinking. That isn’t enough but it’s the best I can do. So when the next inevitable setback comes along I resent having tried to feel more positive, and end up feeling even more unhappy (depressed?) as a sort of protest against life’s unfairness and unreasonableness.

I’ve never been a great socialiser (neither were my parents) so I have no great need or desire to go out socially – you don’t tend to miss what you’ve never had or done. So I’ve no motivation to force myself to go out and do those things. I don’t want to do them on my own, and I certainly don’t want to show my incompetence when with somebody else. Things like going out for a drink, a meal (even something simple like McDonalds), days out, travelling, hotels, holidays, etc don’t really appeal so I’ve not done them. But I now realise that it’s not so much the event that worries me, rather all the little social interactions associated with it – knowing what to do, where to go, what to say, how to act and react, how to look and sound as if I know what I’m doing. It’s all the little subtleties that you learn when young, that you should just automatically ‘know’ at my age – but I don’t.

Instead I would feel totally lost, incompetent, out of my depth – I shouldn’t be there, and I’d feel that that’s what everyone else must be thinking too. I’d feel useless, hopeless, incapable, as I imagine an adult who can’t read or write must feel – it’s better to avoid those situations than show just how useless I really am. But at least they can learn to read and write if they wish – it’s only one specific thing to master. With me it’s a lifetime of subtle, subconscious, not very specific experiences.

And it’s those lacking social experiences that make me feel so unconfident in all sorts of other areas in my life. I find it difficult interacting with other people, starting conversations. I feel uncomfortable asking questions and there’s not much of interest to say about myself. I’m afraid of getting into a conversation or (worse still) drawn or invited into a situation that will reveal my lack of ordinary everyday experiences. That has lead to me never having a girlfriend, never finding true love and happiness, never getting a better job, never taking opportunities and chances to get on in life, never making money, etc. I know that money won’t buy love and happiness but it might provide a distraction from my lack of it. Wasn’t it Spike Milligan who said; “Money can’t buy you happiness... but it can buy a better quality of misery!”

I’ve seen a few things on TV where people have suffered and been cured of various fears and phobias, but in those cases they’ve been living a fairly normal life until something happened to trigger their problems. Having dealt with that issue they’ve been able to get back to where they were before. But with me, if I try to address my problems with self-confidence and self-esteem, there isn’t really anything to revert back to. I just can’t see how trying to feel more confident, better about myself, more positive and optimistic, any of the various hypnosis sessions and courses, can give me that learning and experience that I’ve never gained. And even if they could, there is now such an enormous gap between where I should be age-wise and where I am experience-wise. I can’t go back to being 20 and re-experience all that I’ve missed, and it’s inappropriate and impractical to do a lot of those things in that way at my age.

I don’t know whether any of what I’ve said makes much sense – it’s difficult to put it all into not too many words. I guess what I’m trying to ask is – has anyone else managed to screw up their life in this way or am I the first? Will the Self-Confidence CD’s be of any use or am I beyond help? I can’t help feeling that I’ve totally screwed up this life altogether. Perhaps I should just give up and try to do better with the next one!

Any suggestions would be welcome.

Nigel
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#1

Postby kfedouloff » Wed Aug 18, 2004 11:19 am

Hi Nigel, welcome to the forum.

That was a brave post, and you gave a pretty full picture of what's going on for you.

You are certainly not the first to feel that they have "screwed up their life". The self-confidence CDs will help, but you are right to recognise that they won't solve all the problems. Your question is really about whether it is possible to learn all this stuff at this late stage in your life, and the answer is, yes it is. It's pretty challenging to do that on your own, however! With the help of a therapist, however, you could begin to tackle and fill in those gaps. This might also involve developing some socialising (shock! horror!) - because social skills really need to be learned in context. But taken gently, and one step at a time, you can get to feel more comfortable and relaxed with other people.

Kathleen
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#2

Postby briary » Wed Aug 18, 2004 11:12 pm

Hi Nigel

I have to say I read your post last night and was going to write a reply but I was being too self-indulgent in my own feelings of depression and despair to think I had anything worth saying. I still don't really know if I do but I do identify with a lot of the things you have written.

I know you have read some of my post so you'll know I also have social phobia, depression, low self esteem and no self confidence. I too have run away from all of these problems all my life until I recently hit rock bottom and decided I had to try to do something about it.

I think Kathleen's suggestion of a therapist is a good one. I joined this forum when things were so bad I didn't think I could carry on living and the thought of getting professional help terrified me. But the support I've received here helped me to see that there is help available. I haven't been seeing my therapist long and there is a lot to work through but I have been making some progress. It is slow and sometimes I have setbacks but getting therapy had started me on the way to trying to solve my problems.

Maybe it would be helpful for you too. I know nothing can reclaim the years you feel you have lost (I also feel I've wasted a lot of time) but you can have a brighter future. My therapist said to me last time that I had been living in fear for 35 years and I could go on living the next 35 years in fear but taking the risk to ask for help is the first step in ensuring that the future can be better.

You may feel that you have 'screwed up your life altogether' but maybe you can take the steps you need to start living from now on.

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#3

Postby Nigel » Thu Aug 19, 2004 12:55 am

Hi Kathleen,
Thanks for the welcome. I don’t know that it was a ‘brave’ post – more an act of desperation. And it’s a lot easier than facing somebody in person. I didn’t even enter it live online – I spent a couple of hours with my word processor, chopping it up until it sounded just right. You can’t really have a live relaxed conversation in that way!
And a big HI! and thank you to Briary for your reply and words of encouragement.
You both suggested therapy – well I just couldn’t do that for many reasons. (1) The obvious one regarding not having the confidence to actually do it. (2) You hear so much about bad therapists, people who just rip you off and screw you up even more. (3) Unlike you who’ve had the sad misfortune of having had a lot of this crap inflicted on you at an early age, all my problems are self-inflicted. I’ve unwittingly created this mess over many, many years – and without even doing anything! That’s the really depressing thing about it. I’m sorry to say that I’m a bit mean with my money, and I’d begrudge paying somebody to sort out something that I’d caused myself. Nope, I’ve got to at least try to sort it out for myself. But I don’t mind spending money on something that I can do myself. I’ve read a couple of books, and have considered the Self-Confidence CD’s and some of the hypnosis downloads from this site. I just need to know that they’ll help. I’ve always being more of a ‘doing’ sort of person rather than paying somebody else to do it for me.
Briary, it’s not so much a question of reclaiming lost years – rather reclaiming lost experiences. And Kathleen, I don’t feel that it’s a case of just learning social skills at my age. Sorry, I was a bit vague in some of what I said, but I was trying to keep it not too long.
Take relationships as an example. I had a girlfriend (nothing very serious) for about 6 months when I was 17, and that part of my life has stopped there. When I think ‘girlfriend’ my mind conjures up images of the sort of relationship you’d have at that age. I don’t feel ready for an adult relationship – I’m missing such a large chunk of life’s experiences between then and now. When I think of women of my own age, it conjures up images of more of a ‘mother’ figure – after all they probably are mothers. It’s unrealistic (though flattering) to expect to attract a girl of about 20, and I feel uncomfortable with the thought of somebody older. Just learning how to act and interact comfortably with other people won’t be enough to bridge that gap.
Another example – my job. I should have got out of it years ago. I now have 27 years experience (a valuable asset) but at something I no longer want to do. I could go to college, learn something new, but at the end of the day I’d have no more to offer than the teenager who’d been on the same course, and he’d probably get the job. Say I did get lucky – start as an apprentice all over again, 5 years at college (as in my current job), say another 5 years gaining practical experience (it’s one thing learning about something but it’s completely different actually doing it). My career’s just starting to get going and I can look forward to many years working my way up, earning good money, etc. But that would make me 55 already – it’s all a bit late! That’s where I should’ve been at around 30.
These are just two example of many. Even I accomplish the seemingly impossible and learn all that I haven’t to date, I can’t pretend and live my life as if I was 20. So I still feel justified in thinking that I’ve totally screwed up my life.
Yours despondently...
Nigel
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#4

Postby kfedouloff » Fri Aug 20, 2004 7:11 am

Agreed, you can't live your life as if you were 20. But why would you want to? Does not being 20 mean that a 45 year old cannot build a new life? If you keep focusing on what you've lost/missed, you will keep yourself stuck where you are. If you look to new possibilities in the future, you can have a great life. Which you deserve!

Kathleen

PS - Another helpful resource: Breaking the Bonds, by Dorothy Rowe. I recommened it!
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#5

Postby Nigel » Fri Aug 20, 2004 10:07 pm

Hi Kathleen,
Thanks a lot for your reply this morning. Yes, I know what you mean – I need to look forward to where I want to be, not backwards to where I’ve come from. Don’t let the past screw up the future!
I think you misunderstand me (sorry, I’ve probably not said things very clearly) but I don’t necessarily want to be living my life as a 20 year old all over again. 45 is fine. I don’t tend to see myself as an ‘age’ anyway – I’m just ‘me’. But don’t you agree that it would be foolish to, for example, expect to live an adult relationship through the experiences and expectations of a teenager? Another example; to get on in life it’s necessary to take certain calculated financial risks, but I’ve never had the confidence – partly due to my lack of and fear of any social interactions. You take risks when you’re young, when you’ve got time on your side to pick up the pieces and start again if things don’t work out. As you grow older you become more conservative with your risks. Wishful thinking, but if (I guess I should be saying when) I overcome my problems, I’ll be facing a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand I should playing it safer (due to my age) whilst on the other I need to take bigger risks in order to get to where I should be by now. It’s no use having a kindly word with ‘fate’ – explaining my predicament and expecting guaranteed success in view of it. And I can’t afford to lose now and start all over again.
I don’t know whether you’ve heard the term ‘Empty Nesters’ (it’s like the new Yuppies) – people in their 40’s and 50’s who’s kids have left home, the mortgage is paid up, they’ve reached where they want to be in their career, and life’s just ticking along great. I should be approaching that stage in life now. If I try to carry on with my life from where it stopped, live it day by day and learn and do things gradually as I would have done, then I’ll be 70 or 80 before I catch up. I’ll be too old to enjoy any of it – love, money, good health, whatever... I’ll have put in all the hard work but have been cheated out of the rewards.
I’m sorry if I’m sounding selfish, materialistic, etc. I know there are a lot of people on here with far more distressing problems than mine. I’ve written a few words to one of your friends; Briary. I can’t help feeling really sorry for all the things she’s having to cope with. I bet she’d love to swap her life for mine any day.
A lot of this soul searching began when Dad died almost 2 years ago. He was only 68 and had suffered with a gradually deteriorating illness since he was 60. He’d always been an active person, not one for sitting around doing nothing, but for the last 5 years he could do very little. He felt like doing things but as soon as he tried he became breathless and had to stop. He’d worked hard all his life was really looking forward to what he and Mum would do when he retired. Nothing special – just pottering in the garden, days out, coach trips... simple pleasures. But it wasn’t to be, and he spent his last years feeling deeply unhappy, even guilty for being such a burden on Mum and robbing her of a happy retirement. It got me thinking, and I’m afraid of running out of life before I have time to enjoy it.
Sorry, I seem to have wandered off track a bit. I’ll try to check out the book that you suggested. I’ll look on ‘Amazon’ – they tend to have readers’ reviews which can be useful, and the US site has extracts from some books. I know I said that I’ve been doing a lot of reading about this sort of stuff, but it’s been mainly various articles scattered all over the Internet – many of them from Roger & Co. on your other sites. I’m not an avid reader – I’ve only bought 2 books on the subject over the past year. The last one was Paul McKenna’s ‘Change Your Life in 7 Days’… and that took me 6 weeks to read!
Thanks for your time.
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#6

Postby KatieP » Wed Aug 25, 2004 3:55 pm

kfedouloff wrote:
PS - Another helpful resource: Breaking the Bonds, by Dorothy Rowe. I recommened it!


Some 'self-help' books are pretty good. Some are pretty awful. In my opinion Breaking the Bonds falls into the worse than awful category.
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#7

Postby Nigel » Wed Aug 25, 2004 11:40 pm

Hi Katie P,
Thanks for your message. It’s always good to get a second opinion. I haven’t got around to checking this book out yet, so I’ll bear your advice in mind. I think with these self-help books, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve and your frame of mind at the time. This sort of stuff is always very subjective.
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#8

Postby KatieP » Thu Aug 26, 2004 5:47 pm

Only to a certain extent in my view.

Wish you well with your endeavours though. You write very well and articulate your thoughts well also. Reading in between the lines, it doesn't seem to me that your challenges ahead are going to be reading more books or gaining more insights into the human condition - you come across as intelligent and well read already. You're already playing to your strengths.

The challenges ahead may be more in area of putting what you know into what you do or changing what you do or how you behave. Maybe the challenges ahead lie more in you focusing on the action/behaviour components of your life rather than the thought/reflection side? Perhaps doing something different from what you already do? Have you thought about stepping out of your comfort zone, bit by bit? Maybe joinging a evening class or learning a new hobby, sport, or language? Or even helping out at a local hospice or something that's behaviour focused? Something that presses your buttons but also gradually pushes back the boundaries of your comfort zone. I think that can help confidence because gradually you learn that you can do as well as think. Just my 2 cents ;)
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#9

Postby vicki_animate » Thu Aug 26, 2004 7:46 pm

hiya, this post is mainly for nigel ,i read everything you wrote, i cant stay on the computer to long so just wanted to say i think you are soooo brave , and you know what,admiting you have a problem is brave,but deciding that your gonna do something about your problems on the other hand is just the begging of a new happy life for ya, full steam ahead,go for it!
coz a portion of your story was also a part of mine, which i can now put behind me, due to sheer determination i broke the mould and ventured to places id never been before, the land of self-worth, self-respect, and finally a social life :) and now im where i wanna be, you will be too.
hope that kinda shone a bit of light on the subject. good luck mate!
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#10

Postby Nigel » Thu Aug 26, 2004 9:06 pm

Hi Katie,
Thanks for your comments and compliments – I think it was more than 2 cents worth! But writing is easy - you can write it down, read it, and rub it back out again if it sounds silly – it’s a bit different in real life. I think deep down I already know that I have to do what you suggest – stop thinking and actually start ‘DOING’, and that’s the scary bit. I know that if I just keep doing things as I’ve always been doing them, then I’ll just get more of the same in my life.

I agree that joining clubs, evening classes, etc would be a good way of getting out more but sadly I’ve no real motivation to drag myself along to those things – you don't tend to miss what you've never done. It would just be a means to an end, but that ‘end’ would depend on an awful lot of luck. If I did those things they’d be primarily just for the sake of meeting somebody, not for the learning or the activity, or whatever. It’s not likely to happen and I’ll feel that I’ve really tried but been let down by fate yet again. I can see what you’re getting at in that there could be a social aspect outside of the actual learning. But at the moment that would totally freak me out. My fears and anxieties would come across as being uninterested or boring, and anyway I’d try to uninvited myself in some way so as not to reveal my lack of social experiences – a vicious circle really, isn’t it?

I’ve got lots of casual hobbies - photography, computers, DIY, and others, but not in a big way. Say I joined a camera club. You’d normally do that if you were a real enthusiast, all the latest gadgets and gizmos, etc, but I don’t really want to get into it that heavily. I’d feel a bit out of place going with my limited equipment and interest. I’d feel pressured into devoting a lot of time and effort into a casual interest just because I felt that that’s what I should be doing, what was expected.

If you’ve followed any of my saga then you’ll know that I do have one real passion – music, and I can give you a really good example there of how my confidence issues affect me. A few years ago I bought myself a second hand keyboard (an old Prophet synthesiser if you’re musically interested). I can’t really play it, but I can make a few pleasant sounds with it. If I were to go for piano lessons I don’t think I’d feel that bad because it’s quite normal to not be able to play, whatever your age – it’s not expected. I also play the guitar. I'm not bad at it, but I absolutely hate even the thought of playing in front of somebody. One of my neighbours heard me – he said he also played a bit, and would I like to get together one evening. I forced myself to say ‘yes’ but I was absolutely utterly dreading it. My playing started out atrociously due to the way I felt, although I’m more comfortable with it now. The difference between these two experiences is that I’ve been playing the guitar for 30 years. I feel that my playing ability certainly doesn’t reflect 30 years of experience. There’s a vast gap between what I can do and what I feel I should be able to do.

Music is one thing, but if you’ve followed what I’ve awkwardly tried to say in this thread, then you’ll know how lacking I am in just about every social department. If you can try to apply that same analogy then you can see that there’s such a gap between what’s normal and expected at my age, and my very real limited experiences and abilities, and that's what really screws me up.

I think I ought to offer you a very big apology for being so negative about all your good suggestions. I do appreciate it and I know you’re right, but I just find it almost impossible to do. You said that I’m good at expressing my thoughts, well I’m not sure this time. I know what I’m trying to say, but I don’t think I’m being very clear. If you want to try again with this hopeless case it would be nice to hear from you.
Thanks again
Nigel

ps – Thanks Vicki. Just seen you’re post – I’ll try to say something later.
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#11

Postby Nigel » Fri Aug 27, 2004 9:00 pm

Hi Vicki.
Thanks a lot for your words of encouragement – it’s nice when people care. Was it brave admitting I have a problem or was it just desperation? Deciding to do something about it would be great so long as I could actually do some of what I know I should do. But as I tried to say in my earlier post to Katie, I’m hopeless in the ‘doing’ department.

It’s not so much the social life that I miss – you don’t tend to miss what you’ve never had after all these years. I’ve no real desire now to go out for a drink, a meal etc – certainly not on my own – so it’s so difficult to ‘want’ to get out there and do it. The fear of not being able to cope and look silly is so much greater than the need to do it. But all through life those little social activities accompany other good opportunities, hence I avoid taking any of those opportunities, hence I must try to do something about it.

Which part of your life was like mine? Was it similar enough to be able to offer any words of wisdom? I’ll apologise in advance for probably finding reasons to not do any of it. It’s not that I’m ungrateful... it’s just me being me, sorry.

Thanks again for your enthusiastic support.
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#12

Postby grovelli » Sat Aug 28, 2004 1:49 pm

Nigel wrote:I can’t help feeling that my problems are more to do with my poor self-esteem

Hi Nigel,
Have you already taken a glance at the Top Ten Tips for Low Self Esteem and the 7 Ways to Boost Your Self Esteem Quickly?
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#13

Postby Nigel » Sun Aug 29, 2004 11:14 pm

Hi Grovelli,
Thanks for the advice. I’ve have already read those articles and did find them very useful. They made me aware of a lot of things that I didn’t realise about myself (I don’t know whether that was a good or bad thing!). I have tried to make little changes to my life, but I find it very hard to make the big changes that are necessary to really make a difference. However, I’ll live in hope – maybe somebody will have the answer... someday.
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#14

Postby oochigeas » Mon Aug 30, 2004 4:17 am

Nigel, after re-reading your first post in this thread and your latest post, you should be proud of the changes you are making.

Try to dwell on the small changes day to day. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.

One great piece of advice that was given to me by friend, was for me to keep a journal of thoughts, especially when I'm feeling low. Be completely honest and don't edit what you're feeling. What you must also include in your writing, are 5 things for which are grateful for and 5 things for which you are proud of yourself.

It sounds easy, but if it's something you are not accustomed to, it can be daunting. Don't be discouraged if you can't list the 10 items at the beginning. It takes time to let yourself accept a new way of thinking. I may not be 100% yet, but I'm learning to accept, forgive and let go of things from my past.

Keep up the good work. Someday, the person who will have the answers is yourself.
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