DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My life is hell and always has been. Especially, for the last four years. I am twenty one years old chronologically, but biologically I am probably in my late thirties, early forties. This is because I have done absolutely nothing for the last four years, and I mean nothing except self destructive behavior and have my self esteem destroyed by my parents (very controlling, domineering and mean at times).
For the last four years, I have not been in education, employment or training. Almost every day, my day would be spent lying in bed on the internet, pacing around occasionally and eating a lot of junk food. That sounds very bad and it’s is, but it’s not until very recently I have realized just what a intolerable lifestyle this is and how I could have done so much better. I hate it and always have, but for almost all of the last four years I have thought it was the best lifestyle I was capable of. I have no idea why I didn’t try to change it.
There were a couple of people who I spoke to during this time who urged me to change my ways and do something to change it. I never did, as I genuinely felt getting a job was beyond me. I know now it was not. These people remain the most positive social contact I ever had. I treated them poorly and obviously I regret that, but not as much as I do not listening to them.
What hurts most is, I used to be handsome guy three or four years ago and got a lot of attention for my looks. Now, I look nothing like that and very old and tired. Plus, my body is far too young to look and feel how it does.
I have bumped into a few people from high school, too. Their reactions always make me feel bad, as people who I know liked me always seem sad and like they pity me when they see me, whereas people I know who disliked me seem quite happy to see me now. I did not treat anyone badly in high school, so it hurts that they take pleasure in seeing me fail.
What makes it worse is that my brother is going to sixth form in September, as I did five years ago. He has a girlfriend, is going to school and recently got a job in the local cinema I almost applied for at his age (closest I ever came to applying for a job and wish I did it now). It brings back a few memories of me at that age and I can’t stop thinking of what might have been.
I regret everything about the last five years and have become the worst version of myself. It has been my dream to find somebody to love and move in with and finally be free from this prison cell, but my self destructive and lazy habits have robbed me of that hope.
I should have joined the army when I was forced to leave sixth form at 17. If I had I could have been in good health, looking great and flirting with women I like yet i am lying in my bed, unloved and alone. Is this all that life can show to me?
I feel ashamed of myself for how I lived for the last four years. I know it’s my fault I am in this mess and I should not be depressed about ruining my body and appearance as others have much worse problems. Yet, still; I must mourn!
Can I change Doc? Can I become a socially successful attractive guy and get an awesome girlfriend( my own age)? Will I finally leave home even with the poor job prospects I currently have and finally be free? What do I do?
P.S I don’t even enjoy junk food I are it because that was just how things were. My whole family had bad eating habits. How I have lived, both in terms how I treated my body and how barely did anything for four years. It all seems very silly now, but it always does afterwards, doesn’t it?
P.S.S one of those supposed reasons I didn’t apply for a job was because I was too shy for it. When I considered working a the cinema at 16 my parents actively discouraged it for that reason. I shouldn’t have listened to them.
Stuck In The Past
DEAR STUCK IN THE PAST: Alright, SiP, I sympathize. One of the hardest things to do is look at your life and decide that things need to change. So this is going to sound harsh, but trust me: it’ll help you come out stronger and better on the other side.
The first thing you need to do, SiP is let go of this all-or-nothing outlook. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, you’re making a lot of dramatic pronunciations without any actual weight or evidence behind them. I mean sure, you’ve been eating crap and living a sedentary lifestyle, but that’s not the same thing as having aged yourself prematurely. It just means you ate a lot of processed crap and didn’t exercise.
(Hell, in a lot of places, we call that “being a college student”)
And y’know, it’s a shame that you’ve been doing that for the last few years but it’s hardly an irreversible condition. In fact, considering that you’re 21, you can probably turn things around quickly, with minor adjustments to your lifestyle and diet. Just cutting out junk food, sodas and processed carbs can result in some pretty significant improvements to your health. Similarly, just getting up and walking for an hour a day will do wonders for you and your cardiovascular health.
But the bigger issue here is… well, are you going to choose to do it. You’ve framed all of this as being out of your control. Even your solution is for somebody else to save you from yourself. But that’s never going to happen. Hell, the closest that’s come to your fantasy were your friends who tried to get you out of your rut.
Nobody’s going to ride to your rescue, so you may as well save yourself. If – and that’s a mighty big if – you choose to do so.
That’s your biggest issue here: you’ve chosen, over and over again, to do nothing. You chose not to apply for jobs, you’ve chosen to eat crap and lay around and feel sorry for yourself. These are all things that are well within your control, man. But you have to decide that you’re going to actually make those changes.
And the first step is to take responsibility. Not in the self-pitying “woe is me” posture you’ve taken on, but to accept that you are in a hell of your own making. It sucks that you let things get to the level that you have, but you did. But just as you put yourself into this mess, you can dig yourself back out of it again. It doesn’t need to be a massive change; in fact, massive changes are more likely to hinder you; you’re more likely to give up early on. Small changes, micro-revolutions that show you that you’re not powerless will help build the foundation that will let you build the life you want.
Don’t worry about what your brother is doing; he’s on his own journey, not yours. What he does with his life is just that: it’s his life. It’s no reflection on yours. Similarly, don’t worry about the haters. Their disdain has nothing to do with you and their supposed enjoyment of your situation doesn’t affect you any more than you allow it to. Someone looking down their nose at you can sting, but only if you accept their judgement as valid in the first place.
You’re young and in the prime of life SitP. You have the benefits of your age and place in life. You have few debts, you have the metabolism and energy of youth and you don’t have obligations that limit what you can do or where you can work or live. You can go out tomorrow and start finding work; maybe not the most glamorous of employment, but even just working at the cinema is a foundation for change.
But only if you choose to take those chances. Only if you make the conscious decision to take control of your life.
It’s your life. It’s within your power. It’s up to you to make it happen.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ll start by saying what most people do: I LOVE your blog. There’s a lot in here that has helped me so much in many social aspects, plus it’s just fun to read your posts.
To cut straight to it, my dating and romantic life is pretty much non-existent. I’m 28, with a pretty decent job and career ambition. I have only what I can describe as an aversion on most days, and a lack of skill on others, in regards to interacting and flirting with women I like on a romantic level. I’ve been told by lady friends that I’m not bad to look at, that I’m a “good/great guy, etc” and although I find it hard to believe given my lack of success in the dating realm, I also know that my confidence is low, so I try to take the compliment(s) to heart instead of my own self-limiting beliefs. However, at the risk of sounding somewhat like the others with similar problems, there are some factors that certainly don’t help my chances, and I’d wager that at least of them are rather unique.
I’m about 5’7, definitely a nerdy guy, and I was born with a “small” but noticeable birth defect in my hand. It doesn’t hinder me from much, but it looks pretty weird, and when people notice, I can tell. Most people tend to stare. It definitely has led to some confidence issues and approach anxiety, since I HAVE been rejected, judged, etc. due to this in the past (school kids are dicks. Who knew?). Making a good first impression that much harder, and in some cases, undoes the first impression.
I do try to actively remind myself that these factors do not necessarily mean I’m doomed to be forever alone, nor do they mean that I’m doomed to be alone forever, as I’ve had romantic and sexual success in the past, but that success has always been few and far between, and for the last few years I feel like I’ve gotten worse when it comes to women to say the least, and I can’t help but think these things are working against me, and that there’s nothing I can do about it.
I always end up being the friend, and while I understand there’s nothing wrong with just being friends with women, it kinda becomes discouraging that every woman I find myself interested in ends up rejecting me on that level.
I’ve been reading and internalizing a lot of your advice, from trying to lead a more interesting life and pursuing my hobbies alone, to reevaluating my fear of failure, adopting and applying an abundance mentality, and so on, but it doesn’t seem as if I’m getting anywhere. I know my overall confidence is still in major need of work, but it feels as if something else isn’t clicking. Maybe it is just me and I need to accept that while I may not be the worst pick, I’m still not good enough.
I honestly hate the idea of throwing a pity party for myself because it changes nothing, but I don’t know how else to view the situation. It seems more like a reality than just a self-limiting belief. Any help you could provide would be awesome.
The Hand I Was Dealt
DEAR THE HAND I WAS DEALT: Here’s the thing about life when you’re visibly different, THIWD: it becomes a superpower. You’re gifted with the ability to see which people are shallow assholes and which people are worth getting to know. People may react with surprise when they see your birth defect at first, but you’ll quickly find the people who will accept it as just a detail about who you are and the people who will treat it as some sort of sign of God’s divine disfavor or who will think that an issue with your hand means you’re somehow deficient.
Yeah, this means that there will be many people who’re gonna get filtered out, you have to ask yourself: are these people you’d actually want in your life?
And honestly, being unique works out to your advantage in the long run. You want to nail that first impression and set their expectations of you, but letting them get to know you and your uniqueness – including your hand – means that you become more appealing to them as a person. Don’t be ashamed of your uniqueness; your hand may not be something a lot of people expect or have ever seen before, but it’s part of your story and what makes you, you. And I think we can both agree that you’re pretty awesome.
The other thing to keep in mind: you’re not Charles Xavier. You can’t read people’s minds and you have no real idea why people might turn you down. One of the things that’s tricky to remember is that the things we think are obvious or consequential to us aren’t necessarily what other people are focused on. It’s easy to assume that it has to be That One Thing that looms so large in your mind – especially if it’s particularly visible – but you have no idea if it’s actually that or something else entirely. The more you focus on That One Thing – your hand, in this case – the more it looms in your attitude and the way you act when you meet people. That, in turn, makes it harder for you to connect with folks; you’re essentially pushing them away first, even if you aren’t aware of it.
Yes, there may be folks who can’t get past your hand, but clearly there are people who can – your own romantic history is confirmation of that. It’s part of who you are and shaped you into who you are today, but it’s not what defines you. Never forget that.
You got this.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)