Is life worth the effort? That’s the question I keep asking myself
Tell Me About It: I’m in my 30s and feel any change I make now is too late. I missed out on too much
‘I’m trying to get better now, but I struggle to see a point to it’
Problem: Is it worth the effort? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for a while now, even after being in therapy for well over a year. Although I am able to notice some changes, I still just feel that it’s too late. I’m 34, male, been single all my life, pretty much excluded myself from everything as a teenager due to getting picked on in school by a teacher (it seems her habit was to pick on the weak kid in the class in order to establish control over the rest of the class). This pretty much destroyed my self-esteem and confidence. In short, it feels like I missed out on so much. Think of all the standard things that a person would do and experience as a teenager in their 20s – I’ve haven’t done any of them. I was bullied as a teenager so that caused me to sink back a bit. I saw my dad die very suddenly in my early 20s so that knocked me back down too.
I’m trying to get better now, but I struggle really bad to see a point to it. It feels like it’s way too easy to just point fingers at bullies or seeing my dad die the way he did as an excuse – surely this is mostly my fault if not all of it? And, in reality, I’m in my 30s and I just feel that any change I make now is just too late. I missed out on too much, I feel like I’m so insignificant in the company of everyone, even strangers. I don’t have the support of friends and family so every time I hit a low point, I need to pick myself up again and to be honest I’m getting tired of it.
ADVICE: To have a life worth living is something worth considering and going after. It seems that you are trying very hard to make this happen but your past and current loneliness are against you. It is a credit to you that you are in therapy and seem to be sticking with it as this would be a steady thread in a life that needs a lot more threads. Ask yourself this question: are the bad things of the past an excuse for your current situation?
The answer is not straightforward but we all know that what happens to us as we grow up can have a huge effect on us and if these effects are not dealt with, we tend to bring the thoughts and feelings with us as our lives progress. But you are only in your 30s and there is a lot of life to be lived yet, if you can find a purpose and some people to share it with.
Inherently we are social beings and to be (or to feel) excluded causes us great pain and distress. If you truly have the goal of a meaningful life, then set yourself small, achievable goals and stay on an overall path of connection.
Making friends or connecting with people requires effort and risk. We need to find people we admire or like and then take the risk of spending time with them and showing that we are interested. For example, joining a group or club and then asking someone to go for coffee. The risk is that they will say no but not to risk at all means that your belief – that you are insignificant – becomes your baseline truth. Perhaps taking on this question of significance might lead to connection or/and answers: could you look up groups that tackle these types of philosophical questions, such as meditation/mindfulness groups? Another option, along with therapy, is to attend an Aware or Grow group as everyone attending is also seeking to learn about life and social skills (www.aware.ie/lifeskillsprogramme and www.grow.ie).
Bullying in teenage or childhood years can result in a withdrawal from engaging in life and taking risks. The world needs teenagers and young adults to take risks, challenge the status quo and think outside the box. All of this was hindered in you, but reaching out into the world and shaping it still needs to happen. Now, of course, that reaching out will take a very different shape to what you would have done as a young man. Could you set yourself a target of one action a day that pushes you into connection and risk with the world? This could take the shape of speaking to someone when you are a bit afraid or going to an event, even if you only stay a short while. The transition to a person who is comfortable and connected in the world will take time, but if one step a day is taken, six months could see a significant improvement. Try not to judge yourself for at least this time, because to do so could stop you from continuing.
Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into.