Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


When You Feel Like You Suck at Life

Ever have one of those weeks or months when you feel like you just SUCK at something — like parenting, marriage, your job, finances, keeping yourself organized, staying fit, or just Life in general?  

Yeah….I’ve been on a roll lately.

Especially with parenting, as I have two teenagers who are in the midst of pulling away from the “mom-bond” we used to have.  Despite knowing that this is a normal stage of development, their apathy, thanklessness, critical comments, and negative attitudes toward my attempts to connect have brought on all kinds of feelings of personal ineptitude: “I put my career first too much”  “If I’d had more money, I could have done more things with them”  “I should let them feel more comfortable (i.e. messy) in their home here.”  And then the big one:  “I f*cked up their lives when I divorced their father.”

Everyone has certain levels of expectations for themselves, and most of us set those pretty high.  I’m definitely one of them.  And so, when things aren’t “working right” or “measuring up” we are quick to berate ourselves to the point where we do feel like big, fat losers.

Before I go any further with this, let me just say two important things:

First, sometimes you HAVE to give yourself a break and accept that you might not get an A+ in certain areas of your life.  As long as you know you’re doing your very best, than that’s ENOUGH.  

Second, there truly are NECESSARY LOSSES that have to happen in life.  It could be that you’re in a transition that feels messy, disorganized, out of control, or even painful.  But it doesn’t mean it’s permanent — it’s just a deconstruction of something that isn’t working (for whatever reason) in order to open you up to something better.  In those cases, it’s not that you SUCK at whatever isn’t working (like not being able to find a job or a new boy/girlfriend), it’s just a matter of time before life unfolds the new development.

In my case, I have to remind myself that my kids are displaying NORMAL, teenage behavior; that I’ve been a good mom and a good role model in many ways; that they DO love me and rely on me to be a steady heartbeat in the midst of so much change going on; that there are certainly worse mothers out there than I; and, that if I’d stayed with their father, they would have been raised by an unfulfilled and detached mother, as opposed to a happier and more engaged one.  Could I work on improving my parenting skills?  Absolutely!!  But I have to also believe that, at some point, my kids will come back and we’ll be reconnecting on new levels. 

For those of you who feel like you really ARE failing or negligent in certain areas of your life — career, money, marriage, health, social connection — think about when you WERE a success in them.  Write down what you remember when you WERE at the top of your game at work, or when you DID have enough money, when your connections to your spouse and children were SOLID, when you were fit and looked HOT, or when you had a really GREAT circle of friends.

If you can come up with those positive moments, then it means you’ve been able to achieve these things at one time, so you have a better chance of recapturing them, just in a different way.  Think of this as “muscle memory.”  When you have these moments written down, analyze them by asking these questions:

1.  What was going on in my life that made things better/easier?  
     (Are there other ways to recapture some of those elements?)
2.  What needs were getting met at that time, that I might not be getting now?
     (How can I get those needs met now?)
3.  What was I doing back then that helped make that happen?  
     (Can I start doing those things again?  What new skills have I developed that I could add?)
4.  What motivated me to make that work?
     (What motivates me now?)
5.  Who helped me back then?
     (What type of person or people do I need to surround myself with to help out now?)

These questions will at least give you the sense of power and control that anyone needs when they’re wanting to improve something in their lives.  If you’re too busy feeling helpless, depressed, stupid, and worthless, then Life will feel like IT’S in control — not YOU.  So to get back in the drivers seat, remind yourself that things weren’t ALWAYS bad, and that you may just need to put some new tactics in place to rebuild that muscle of accomplishment, happiness, and connection.

Whether this is a transition stage and you remind yourself that you’ve done the best you can and just need to wait things out, or it’s an opportunity to get back in the saddle and take action to rebuild the “muscles” you once had, it does NOT help matters to believe that you’re a decrepit loser and that things will never get better. 

So put your emotions aside, do some self-reflection, cut yourself some slack, shut down your pity party, and look forward to turning things around.

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