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Past 4 years constant failures, now anxiety is through the roof


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Over the past 4 years, I've failed courses, exams, my drivers test, at getting a girlfriend and at pretty much anything I tried.

This last exam broke me. I have lost any self esteem I've ever had. What makes it worse is that I have no one to turn to.

Everyone from family to friends to acquaintances expects me to be this confident outgoing person with his life together.

I'm constantly criticized for being a failure at life instead of receiving the support I desperately need. My father thinks I'm just lazy and don't care about life but he doesn't know me well because I see him only once every few months.

I want to be successful but I'm always afraid of failing and always judged and seen as "the dumb one" in the family just because I'm not already married with kids and with a good paying job. I'm only 22 but my parents at that age were much more mature while I feel like a scared kid in an adult's body.

How do I change for the better when I have crippling anxiety?

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I'm sorry you're going through a difficult time, BluePhoenix. :( We  welcome you to our community.

I think a lot of us fear failure at times during our lives. You aren't alone. Anxiety can be debilitating and can make it difficult to function. Is there anything you have found that has been helpful in the past? I think it's that much more difficult when we don't feel supported or receive the support we need. Quite possibly your path may be different from your parent's path and that is okay.

Take care of you.

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Best I have been able to do is to isolate myself and listen to music or immerse myself in my computer. This has only made things worse because it feels like an addiction.

Even though I don't drink, smoke or do any drugs the computer has become my means of escape.

I want to become the person I need to become, the successful outgoing guy everyone likes but I don't feel like I have it in me.

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Hello, BluePhoenix, welcome!

It seems to me that the main problem might be the expectations and pressure from your family and your desire to do exactly what is expected you. That might produce the crippling anxiety and failure. There might be also some self-sabotaging. I may be wrong because I don't know you, so take these just as inspirations for further reflections. In any case, Ii suppose it could be helpful for you to get to know yourself better. Now you're too focused on your failures and on the expectations of others, but there are always (for all of us) many things to discover an to learn from. Here are two suggestions for reading to begin:




Also, psychotherapy would probably help with this process as well as the anxiety. Have you considered this option? (As you probably already know, therapy is not only for the mentally ill.)

Good luck and keep posting!




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I haven't  read the book, but I've listened to several interviews about it and I like YOTH's suggestion very much :) .

Here's one of the brief ways to learn more - a series of short videos about the book - this is the 2nd one, but you can easily find all the other ones:

You may know J. Peterson is pretty controversial these days, but no matter what you think about some of the controversial subjects he's most famous for, this book shouldn't "bother / annoy" you and can be helpful.

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It's funny to hear his name here since I actually met him once.

He told me that my issue is finding the right balance between the tyrant and the rebel. The tyrant used to be in control up until 4 years ago and then the rebel took over.

I don't know what the trigger was that led to this downward spiral. My parents divorce happened long before and was mutually beneficial for both my parents.

I've never been close to my father since he works to live and lives to work. He doesn't see more to life and the rare times when we did go fishing or did anything together, although fun, always took a lot of energy out of him.

There was always a feeling inside me that I'm not whole because I've never had a male role model and this feeling has only grown stronger.

I don't want to be like my father. I want to be better. I want to be someone for whom work isn't everything but merely a means for living.

A lot of the advice Jordan Peterson seems to give sounds like the standard "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" which everyone has been saying to me and I'm sick and tired of hearing it seeing as it doesn't work.

How can I become the person I need to be when all my failures are under a microscope and no one understands me? How do I improve when I've failed in so many things, so many times regardless of the amount of effort put in?

I've tried getting help from my university's mental health office but they had no idea what to do with me and told me to go to some Catholic institution. From my research I found that the vast majority of these so called mental help resources are simply regurgitating the same stuff and hoping some of it works.

I need something different to the standard "pull yourself up by the bootstraps".

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Hi BluePhoenix. Just a thought but have you spoken to any Careers Advisors at your University with a view to taking some aptitude tests that may help identify your strengths and interests and whether they are in line with what you are studying? Sounds like you need separate support for the anxiety, it's just you may be able to see a theme that way, maybe you could find one interest old or new you could build on . Are your tutors supportive - do they give helpful feedback?

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19 hours ago, jazz said:

Hi BluePhoenix. Just a thought but have you spoken to any Careers Advisors at your University with a view to taking some aptitude tests that may help identify your strengths and interests and whether they are in line with what you are studying? Sounds like you need separate support for the anxiety, it's just you may be able to see a theme that way, maybe you could find one interest old or new you could build on . Are your tutors supportive - do they give helpful feedback?

I did try career help at my university and the lady there was completely lost and had no idea what to do with me. I was very lucky that I got some work experience in the tech field and realized that is what I want to do. I hate coding but I love figuring out how different softwares work. Problem is to do what I actual am interested in I have to pass programming which is very difficult for me.

I've made my schedule such that I should have enough time to study and hopefully with notes from my last attempt at this course it will help. I had a tutor I paid for last time and even though he did help me go from knowing nothing to a medium level of understanding, the exam stress got to me and I wasn't able to answer the questions correctly.


3 hours ago, YOTH said:

What exactly do you need? 

If I could offer you guaranteed help and all you had to do was be specific, what would it be? Genuine question.

What I really need is someone that gets what I'm going through and doesn't belittle me for it. Someone who doesn't say "oh you think you have it tough when I was your age I had to deal with X". I need for someone to get that I'm not "just lazy and don't give a shit about life" but actually am struggling a lot, so much so that there are nights when I can't sleep.

I need someone to understand that failure has taken its toll on me and that the classic "just keep trying" implies that the only reason I don't try to get out there and get a girlfriend or do anything of value is because I don't want to rather than the truth which is that I feel paralyzed and am unwilling to allow myself to get hurt again.

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That whole "you think you've got it bad" is so overplayed and tedious. From what you're saying and as I understand it, it's what others think of you that's keeping you paralyzed. What would you do in life if (for instance) money wasn't an issue? Where would you go? Family can be the cruelest people in the world, and we love them the most. Comparing you to other kids, other relatives "Why can't you be more like cousin Jeff?" So it might be time to find yourself, away from them. You're 22, that's the age when you start to make your own reality, fuck what they expect, fuck what they want. If they want a relationship with the real you, they can call, otherwise, fuck em. I had to go back and find the things that made me feel the way you're feeling. It took about a year of meditating before I pinpointed the root cause for what I why I was so angry, depressed etc. Turns out I'd guarded the real reason in my mind like Fort Knox. I don't think there's anything I or anyone could say that'd fix the situation. Because even though the stereotypical self help jargon is touted pretty much everywhere, the one thing that's painfully true is whatever personal prison we're in, we're the only one with the key. < Some more jargon there lol

I hope you find whatever it is you're searching for, nobody deserves to go through this shit. 

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I can only second the previous post.

As you can see in my first post under this topic, I had the feeling from the beginning that you'd need to first know yourself better and let go of the pressure of expectations of others. (I don't say it's easy; sometimes it would take too much to escape the presence / interference of family members :(... But you can decide to put much less importance to their opinions and emotions. It's their problem that they are disappointed or critical or angry, not yours. Unfortunately, you usually have to listen to the consequences of their emotions, but you can tell yourself they aren't decisive for you. You're not here to please them.) Have you checked the links I posted there?

I really like your post where you describe what you need. You can put it in words very eloquently. I don't think you need to persuade us (who read it); we don't have any reason to doubt you and to tell you the useless and/or hurtful stuff some other people did.

You say you need to be understood and I hope you already feel there are people who do get how you feel, how much you've tried, how frustrated and lost you are. What's the next step? I would say; find someone who's better at their job of mental health professional. Those you've seen are perhaps good for "regular / usual cases", but they cannot offer help with deeper  introspection and therapy. That's why I would suggest psychotherapy, not just counseling. (You, as a student, should be eligible for an affordable therapy; are you?)

As YOTH mentioned, sometimes a year off and / or meditation can help, but taking a year off isn't possible for everyone and meditation is best learned by a good teacher (ideally at a silent retreat) because starting alone can be too hard and frustrating. (Also, it's not for everybody, but you cannot know if it helps you unless you try and succeed...)

As far as relationships go: It's rather good that you don't try to date anyone right now because, unlike some exceptions, relationships don't work well when one is struggling too much with own mental health issues, anxieties, and self-esteem issues. It's preferable, at least according to some psychologists I've read, to first work out some of one's issues before trying to find a partner.

Take care and keep posting!

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@BluePhoenix, there's something better, in my opinion, than Peterson's approach that I'd recommend to you. I've been praising this philosophy here for some time, so sorry for repeating myself, but I do believe it's important to at least try to learn about it and then "decide" if it's useful for you. It's Alain de Botton's philosophy, presented in a very easily understandable way by his The school of life and Book of life projects. Here is one very nice interview with him, mainly focused on love / relationships (which in itself can also be interesting / useful for you), but also touches some broader subjects - perhaps that would be a very good intro to his views:


If you prefer reading, here is its transcript: https://onbeing.org/programs/alain-de-botton-the-true-hard-work-of-love-and-relationships-aug2018/

Here is a snippet:


MS. TIPPETT: I happened to see your tweet at the end of 2016 when The New York Times released its most-read articles of the year. And your “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person” was number one, which is really extraordinary, the most-read article in a year of the Brexit vote, the presidential election, war, refugee crisis. I wonder what that tells you about us as a species.

MR. DE BOTTON: It was deeply fascinating and quite extraordinary. And apparently, it was first by a long way. It’s just peculiar. Look, first of all, it tells us that we have an enormous loneliness around our difficulties. One could write a follow-on piece — I may or may not — called “Why You Will Get Into the Wrong Job,” which would probably score quite highly too, and “Why You’ll Have the Wrong Child,” and “Why You’ll Go on the Wrong Vacation,” and “Why Your Body Will Be the Wrong Shape,” and “Why You’ll Think You Live in the Wrong Country,” etc. And in a way, we need solace for the sense that we have gone wrong in an area, whatever it may be, where perfection was possible.

And anyone who comes along and says, “You know, it’s normal that you are suffering. Life is suffering,” is doing a quite unusual thing in our culture, which is so much about optimism. It sounds grim. It is, in fact, enormously consoling, and alleviating, and helpful in a culture which is oppressive in its demands for perfection. So I think a certain kind of pessimistic realism, which is totally compatible with hope, totally compatible with laughter, good humor, a sense of fun — it doesn’t have to be dour.

MS. TIPPETT: It’s how comedy and tragedy belong together.

MR. DE BOTTON: Exactly. I’m a great fan of gallows humor. We’re all on our way to the gallows in one way or another, and we can hug and give each other laughs and point out the more pleasant sides as we head towards the scaffold.


MS. TIPPETT: [...] And that book was so wise. And in fact, that book that you published when you were 23, On Love, really presented a lot of the themes you’ve carried forward in time. But I do wonder what you really did not know, what you’ve learned, what you continue to learn about love at this stage in your life.

MR. DE BOTTON: I genuinely thought at that time that problems in love are the result of being with people who are, in one way or another, defective. And in 2002, this belief was severely tested in that I met someone who was really absolutely wonderful in every way. And through much effort, I pursued her and eventually married her and discovered something very surprising. She was great in a million ways. She was very right. And yet, oddly, there were all sorts of problems.

And I think it’s been the path that I’ve been on to realize that those problems had nothing to do with her being a deficient person or indeed with me being a horribly deficient person. They were to do with the challenges of being a human being trying to relate to another human being in a loving relationship, that I was encountering some endemic issues that every couple, however well-matched — and there is no such thing as a perfect match — but however well-matched, every couple will encounter these problems, that love is something we have to learn, and we can make progress with, and that it’s not just an enthusiasm; it’s a skill.

And it requires forbearance, generosity, imagination, and a million things besides. And we must fiercely resist the idea that true love must mean conflict-free love, that the course of true love is smooth. It’s not. The course of true love is rocky and bumpy at the best of times. That’s the best we can manage as the creatures we are. It’s no fault of mine or no fault of yours. It’s to do with being human. And the more generous we can be towards that flawed humanity, the better chance we’ll have of doing the true hard work of love.


You can see some of the videos and texts posted here:


I would recommend to you, for instance:



Societies tend slyly to insist on cheerfulness. We end up not only struggling, but humiliated that we are in such difficulties. Yet, in truth, there is nothing more natural or routine than grief. We have so much to feel morose about: simply by virtue of being alive, we will inevitably so often feel badly misunderstood, unfairly criticised, overlooked and rejected. We will be struck by our own stupidity and appalled by our inner ugliness and cowardice. We will make some shockingly poor decisions, we will let others down – and will witness those we love suffer and die before ourselves having to give up the keys to life.


Every day, almost without noticing it, we have to fight off a range of incoming powerful reasons not to despair. We rely on an internal engine or muscle of hope to pump out consoling thoughts. Then one day the task seems too much; the muscle can’t take it any more.

At such times, we need to keep a few ideas in mind:




I hope you don't feel overwhelmed by it and find something useful in the articles, interviews, and videos!


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The only thing I would add is that meditation is unfortunately misunderstood in the west as something that requires effort and is difficult to do. But it's the most natural thing for a human to do. Some of my best meditations were when I first started doing it, before I thought too much about it. And although there's nothing wrong with retreats and being guided by an experienced teacher, neither are necessary. Whether it's 10 minutes or 10 hours, it doesn't matter. Just taking that time to sit with yourself and really allow your mind to clear for a few minutes is sometimes the difference between an overreaction with repercussions and letting it go completely. You'll never be better at meditating that right now. There are a plethora of guided meditations on YouTube if you want to do that, but sometimes just closing your eyes for 5 minutes and breathing nice and long breaths is exactly the thing you didn't know you needed. No rules, no guilt. Just a quick system restart. 

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I've just learned about this site - perhaps you could find some interesting insights there:



We like to imagine we can work out what we’re good at through reflection, in a flash of insight. But that’s not how it works.

Rather, it’s more like a scientist testing a hypothesis. You have ideas about what you can become good at (hypotheses), which you can test out (experiments). Think you could be good at writing? Then start blogging. Think you’d hate consulting? At least speak to a consultant.

If you don’t already know your “calling” or your “passion”, that’s normal. It’s too hard to predict which career is right for you when you’re starting out.

Instead, go and try things. You’ll learn as you go, heading step-by-step towards a fulfilling career.

Now, once you’ve chosen an area, how can you ensure you succeed? That’s what we cover in the next article. After that, we’ll show how to fit everything together into a career plan.

Or also: https://80000hours.org/career-guide/anyone-make-a-difference/


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In the context of what YOTH has written about meditation, you can listen to a brief but apposite description here, around 1h38m of the mp3 file / recording:


There are, of course, tons of podcasts about meditation (and even this brand new app for iPhone on that website: https://wakingup.com), but this excerpt (~3-4 min) seems well suited to complement YOTH's post, doing it in very few words.

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