“I hate my life.”
A decent amount of people have sent this exact message to my inbox over the years. They read my work and it makes them comfortable confiding in me.
I’ve had people tell me they’ve wasted multiple decades in sexless loveless relationships. They tell me about how much they hate their jobs but can’t bring themselves to quit and start over.
Some have talked about problems with substance abuse. Others tell me they’re just flat-out depressed.
Even if, in general, you don’t hate your life, I’m sure you’ve had moments of your life that made you think to yourself “I hate my life,” and you’ve found yourself in ruts feeling stuck and lost.
If you’re having problems figuring out what to do with your life, these insights will help.
Here’s the first thing you need to understand. As much as you might feel like your life sucks, understand that self-loathing is one of the easiest and most comfortable states of being.
“But, you don’t understand. I hate my life. I struggle to do nearly anything. I want to stop hating myself.”
No, you don’t.
You seek refuge in self-hatred. Even if you’re in pain, you become addicted to your pain. You can create an elaborate narrative to describe the pain that absolves you of all personal responsibility.
If self-loathing was legitimately difficult, then most people wouldn’t be able to do it. Instead, it’s ubiquitous — the quickest cop-out you can find to avoid having to face what scares you more.
You’re not vulnerable when you’re stuck in a cocoon of self-pity. You’re most vulnerable when you finally decide to pick yourself up from the ground and face yourself, face your demons, face the world with your head high, standing straight with your shoulders back.
In this state, you’re exposed to blows that are much more emotionally crippling than self-hatred — rejection, embarrassment, humiliation, confirmation that you’re not cut out for what you hope to achieve, trying your very best with all your might and still failing, climbing up the mountain top only to lose it all, being your real self around others and risking ostracism, being brutally honest with yourself about your flaws.
There’s no way for me to force you to undergo this process, but bursting your bubble about the difficulty of your life is a great start.
The amount of self-hatred you have is inversely correlated with the height of the bar you should set for yourself in the beginning when you’re trying to change your life. In short, the more you hate yourself, the less you should try to do in the beginning.
It reminds me of Jordan Peterson‘s mantra: clean your room. Paraphrasing, he says that cleaning your room is at least one tiny step toward escaping your wretched existence. It’s a start.
Developing small habits leads to the development of bigger ones. You can slowly lift yourself out of that state of self-pity. So first you might just clean your room.
Next, you might graduate to keeping your entire living space clean. Next, you pick up a book. You start hitting the gym. Then you become a well-rounded enough person to start tackling true goals.
You can’t think your way out of self-loathing. You act your way out of it. Instead of trying to change your perception of yourself, behave the way someone else would and your mind will conform to your behaviors.
Eventually, you may reach a level of confidence where you’re ready to tackle your mission.
A lot of people are overly concerned with their own feelings. They want to feel one hundred percent confident and sure of themselves before they do anything. They’re obsessed with their own level of happiness, which leaves them unhappy.
They are self-centered. They don’t have a goal or a mission to pull them forward. If you find something to aim at, a mission worth undergoing, you develop passion and satisfaction down the road.
Counterintuitively, you start to hate yourself less when you focus on what you can provide for the world instead of the way you feel. There are few feelings better than the life-changing magic of building your body of work.
Cal Newport put it well:
“If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (“what can the world offer me?”) and instead adopt the craftsman mindset (“what can I offer the world?”).”
You stop worrying about yourself so much and you put the energy into the mission. There’s this idea in our culture that you’re supposed to feel good about yourself all the time and if you don’t something is wrong.
What if you just stopped giving a damn about how you felt altogether? What if you realized you don’t need to feel great to get the job done?
I often tell people that happiness isn’t a goal of mine. They take it as me saying I’m unhappy when really it means that I know happiness and contentment will come as a byproduct of going on the mission.
You find your mission by choosing something that seems relatively promising and you decide yourself to hone the skills necessary to make that dream a reality. Here’s a resource that’ll help you get started.
After you start, the mission transforms you and you begin the process of personal transformation that comes from your activity.
There’s this meme that goes:
“Men would rather to [x] than go to therapy.”
It’s a tongue-in-cheek joke, but there’s truth behind the meme. Look, if you like therapy and you think it’ll help, go for it, not knockin’ ya.
But my personal remedy for lifting myself from moods of melancholy is to focus on changing my life from the outside in. I was my most depressed when I was broke, out of shape, stuck in a job I hated, and drank on a nightly basis.
I lifted myself out, not by talking to someone about it, but by doing something about the obvious issues I had. I lost weight, found a skill that made money, turned it into a living, and stopped boozing constantly. Voila. I felt much better.
I’m not telling you what to do. I’m telling you what I did.
Anytime someone talks about mental health and describes an alternative to drugs and psychotherapy, the peanut gallery comes out en masse with their pitchforks and torches.
Mental health doesn’t always have to be reactive. You can work on your mental health proactively. Some people legitimately suffer from issues that require therapy and medication. Others don’t but think they do.
I can’t tell you what to do, but I can say for many people that fixing the obvious defects in your life goes a long way. Such a long way that you may never need to lay back on a chair and talk about what your mother said to you when you were five.
This is one of my favorite quotes.
If it gets me canceled and banned, so be it:
“I feel anger and frustration when I think that one in ten Americans beyond the age of high school is on some kind of antidepressant, such as Prozac. Indeed, when you go through mood swings, you now have to justify why you are not on some medication. There may be a few good reasons to be on medication, in severely pathological cases, but my mood, my sadness, my bouts of anxiety, are a second source of intelligence–perhaps even the first source.” – Nassim Taleb
Moods are messengers. In today’s society, most people opt to dull and blunt their moods instead of listening to the messages that come from them. In our obsession with happiness and contentment, we forget that the darkness can be our friend.
Darkness is part of the duality of life that makes life interesting in the first place. Success isn’t sweet without failure. Love isn’t worth cherishing if not for heartbreak. Failure and catastrophe can set you up for a comeback story.
Most people can’t overcome their negative feelings on their own because they never actually feel them. They confuse their attempts to suppress their emotions as feeling their emotions.
They can’t ride the highs and lows. The point isn’t to obsess over your emotions, but to continue to live your life while you feel them.
Your routine, your mission, your standards, your goals shouldn’t be subject to the whims of your emotions. Your emotions should be signals for the move you need to make next.
Winning cures a lot of problems.
If you start winning, you can no longer feel like a loser. If you’re no longer a loser, you’ll stop hating yourself.
Some people hate on this message and recommend all of these self-care tips — just wallow in your feelings, it’s okay, it’s not our fault.
I’ve yet to see a single person who lives by this philosophy appear to be happy. They appear to be in a perpetual state of mental masturbation that incrementally sends them backward, further away from the state they say they’re trying to reach.
I’m in an all-out war against loser culture. I’m calling a spade a spade.
Some people are just soft. They hide behind their feelings when, in reality, they just aren’t willing to do what it takes to win, period. Even worse, people will congratulate and applaud you for being soft, creating a self-reinforcing mechanism that begets even more softness and more losing.
I want zero parts of it.
If you want to change, you shouldn’t participate it in either.
You’ve tried feeling sorry for yourself, it solved nothing.
You’ve tried pretending not to want what you want, it doesn’t work.
If you hate yourself, you don’t really have anywhere to go but up anyway. You should feel the freest right now because you have nothing to lose.
Swing for the fences. Worst comes to worst you miss and go back to living a life you hate. At best you get to win and escape from mental hell.