6 Tips for When You Feel Like a Loser at Life

Tips for when you feel like you're making a mess of your life.

Posted Dec 31, 2020

Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis/Unsplash
Source: Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis/Unsplash

For many of us, sometimes we think we're doing a terrible job of managing ourselves and steering our lives. You might think you're the only one who feels like this, but in reality, fluctuating self-esteem is common. Here are some tips for when you feel like you're a loser at life. Some will probably surprise you.

1. What could you do with support?

Human growth and development isn't a solo endeavor. A lot of growth (in skills, cognitive, and emotional development), happens via the zone of proximal development. This is what we can do with help versus alone. It's a concept that is usually applied to kids, but it applies to adults too. 

Instead of thinking about what you can't do, or aren't doing well, think about what you could do if you had the right support. This can shift your focus from getting everything right all on your own, to finding the support you need. We all need help to bridge gaps between where we are and where we want to be. 

Support can come in a variety of forms. It might be personal support, a roadmap, or even a tool. For example, the Couch to 5K plan and podcasts might be the support you need to start running.

2. Take a long view.

When you look back at the last days or weeks, it might seem like you're getting nowhere. If you look back at the last decade, you'll probably notice that you've acquired a bunch of new skills and achievements and had meaningful experiences you were overlooking. Personally, I like to look at each year and make sure 1 or 2 truly meaningful and important things got done. 

3. Embrace serendipity.

When people are feeling frustrated, their tendency can be to want to force progress, even if this means jamming a round peg into a square hole. When you take an unexpected opportunity, grow from trauma, take action on a whim, etc, some of these moments captured will propel you in directions that end up creating your sense of self and meaning in life. You won't always know where following a whim is going to land you. Seek a diversity of experiences. This doesn't need to be hard. For example, watch more varied YouTube videos on topics you didn't know you were interested in. Seek knowledge you don't have an immediate use for. Pique your curiosity.

4. Seek new perspectives.

When people feel stuck, it's often the result of stuck thinking. For example, the way you are thinking is leading you to overlook your strengths, underestimate your capacities, see yourself as trapped, or overlook opportunities available to you.

Cultivate a feed of curious people who put forward interesting ideas that challenge your thinking (example). Pick some people who don't share all your values. By exposing yourself to other people's thinking, you'll learn to appreciate values, ways of living, etc you had overlooked. And, you'll learn how people with different thinking styles approach problems, which will increase your repertoire of ways you can approach your own problems. You'll learn some new attitudes and mindsets that you can employ if those seem to suit a particular dilemma.

5. Seek to be influenced by other people.

Following on from the last point, sometimes people can end up with too fixed ideas of who they are and what they like. When you allow yourself to be influenced by other people, this will expand who you are. You'll gain a sense of personal growth and change. When you see this capacity in yourself, you'll see yourself as more capable generally.

This doesn't need to be difficult. For example, if someone gives you a recommendation and you think, "I wouldn't like that," give it a try. If it turns out you do like it, you've just expanded your sense of self.

We see this pattern when people start new romantic relationships and their new partner introduces them to new interests, and helps them see new strengths in themselves. (The research on this is known as "inclusion of other in self" if you're interested in this topic.)

6. Take control of one aspect of your life.

Sometimes we feel like a loser at life when an uncontrollable situation is not going our way. Control one thing you can control. For example, a fitness goal can help people out of a rut. Sure, you can't 100 percent control even this (e.g., injuries) but it's more controllable than other aspects of life. 

Spending and investing are other potential areas to target (example). Or, even your dating life. For example, you make a plan to go on one date per week for three months (at least post-COVID-19).

Pick one area to gain control in.

If this feels too hard right now, try the other tips and see if this one starts to feel achievable. 

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