How To Avoid Making Yourself Feel Like Crap

The main thing I’ve tried to learn this year is avoiding things that I know will make me feel bad. Whether it be avoiding certain people, situations, drugs, foods, or even cities, I’m trying to develop some sort of learning curve. It’s harder than I thought. When you’re young, you don’t really familiarize yourself with the word “NO” because you’re still figuring things out. There comes a point, however, when you become old enough to know better. The excuses dry up, the apologizes wear thin. You need to start becoming accountable for your actions.

It sounds stupid, doesn’t it? For some people, they make a mistake once and move on, vowing to never repeat it again. They cut off bad exes, they stop drinking so much, they cut out toxic friends. But for most, I feel like it’s not that easy. As humans, we’re always on this quest to better ourselves. Why else do you think self-help books sell so many copies and organized religion is so popular? People like to turn to others for guidance. We like having our actions explained to us in a relatable way and then be given a solution to our problems. A lot of this is shame-based. We feel so guilty all of the time, which in turn, allows us to actually make the same mistakes over and over again. Guilt never got anyone anywhere productive. But it’s profitable. Boy, is it profitable! Any person can claim to have insight and authority over any given subject and rise to power. I mean, hello, cults! When seeking to improve your life, it seems best to avoid all of the comparisons and the outside noise and just look to yourself. Oh wait, I think I just became a self-help book.

Here’s the thing: We all want to be the best version of ourselves. At 30 years old, we want to be able to look back at our wayward youth and say, “Wow! I can’t believe the things I used to do. Thank god that’s over with!” We want to have our wild days and make mistakes just so one day we can feel removed from it and see our own growth. But it doesn’t always seem to work that simply, does it? Certain mistakes and destructive behaviors seem to stick to us like glue. When I’m able to see a positive change in my life, it’s usually very subtle and often not conscious. For example, I smoked weed occasionally for eight years and never enjoyed it. Each time I would smoke, I would ask myself why I even did it. The other day though I realized I hadn’t smoked pot in six months and I had no intention of doing so anytime soon. I finally accepted that it wasn’t for me and moved on but I didn’t realize it until the other day. The change just snuck up on me. Instead of beating myself up every tine I smoked, I just let it evolve naturally and fade away from my life. It was cool to be able to see that positive change. It made me realize that I needed to chill out and let certain things take its course.

Whenever I get upset about where I am in my life, I need to remind myself that life isn’t like TV and the movies. Story arcs can’t be wrapped up neatly with a ribbon. People change gradually instead of over the course of three episodes. When I put it in those terms, it makes me feel okay. It makes me feel better about eating that crappy food the other night and wasting a day in bed instead of being productive. Things are changing for the better. They just don’t present themselves with a giant “TA-DAW!” like I want them to. TC mark

image – TORLEY

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • Cheryl Keit

    Beautifully written.

  • Robert L.

    I should stop beating myself up over every single bad joke I’ve made and awkward moment I’ve had. I still can’t. Damn, that sucks.

    • Ty

      Then you catch yourself cringing in public thinking about those moments, and have to wonder if the stranger across from you on the bus thinks you’re making faces at them.

  • Kate

    thank you. this was helpful, insightful, and very well written <3

  • Truth

    This is so real.

  • 3P

    This was the best per/word article I’ve ever read on TC.  Very well said.

  • potchie

    It’s annoying when you stick with people who expect a lot from you, who only strive for “excellence” and their mere presence intimidates you on your seasons of much-loathed rut. (i.e. my ex-boss)

  • potchie

    It’s annoying when you stick with people who expect a lot from you, who only strive for “excellence” and their mere presence intimidates you on your seasons of much-loathed rut. (i.e. my ex-boss)

  • http://karyninny.com/ karyn

    At 30 years old, we want to be able to look back at our wayward youth and say, “Wow! I can’t believe the things I used to do. Thank god that’s over with!” . . . I thought this would happen but it hasn’t…maybe tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

  • Guest

    Ryan, you rock. Your articles give me a reason to come back and read TC again and again. You’re not Kat…you have substance. Rock it out!

  • http://twitter.com/jenrikay Jen Enrique

    The most fabulous, well-adjusted people I know who know when & how to say “no” gracefully are all 30+. I’m looking forward to that. Props on this post. Really like it.

  • Guest

    I definitely needed to read this, especially the last paragraph.

  • Chick A Dee

    loved this. makes me feel better about my life haha

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508371039 Rayan Khayat

    true, and I also think people should stop putting so much pressure on themselves and not feel too guilty…we’re all human and we’re all guilty of the same nasty habits and feel like we’re the only freaks who do those things that make us feel bad about ourselves. What’s important is at the same time we should do things that makes us feel good about ourselves too, and at least trrry not to make a big deal out of doing those lines of coke the other day,

  • NT

    Ryan you are wonderful and this made me feel so much better. Thanks for speaking my own mind in a comprehensive written manner once again

  • Acidtown

    Oh, that’s how I live. Glad it works for you too.

  • h-may

    Oh, Ryan … I just got into an awful knock-down-drag-out (verbal) fight with someone about the place (deserved, undeserved, or otherwise) of feminism in contemporary LGBT culture, and I had to place myself on mandatory drunken time-out for being a seriously pathological dickhead. But this piece may just have spared me a spoiled night and a damaged friendship. I have to thank you for that.

  • Prettymisanthrope

    thoughtcatalog has basically just turned into whiney, entitled 20-somethings diarizing their own journey towards becoming more human. and that’s just not an interesting read for those of us who have been human all along.

  • Phillip Johnson

    You are singing my life with your words sir. 

    Ps. (Time in the weed paragraph is spelled with an ‘n’ – you can delete my comment after you fix it if you want to so there’s no trace! Or learn from the mistake? And leave my comment? This is all too much for a rando comment – Maybe I’ll just go see Weekend and cry about not having a lost love…)

  • Badoop

    Everything you said here is actually very similar to a self help book about the “Kaizen Way.”  Taking small steps towards change instead of expecting big changes to happen overnight.  You should start writing semi-cynical/semi-sentimental self-help books for twentysomethings! ;P But uh, no joke you could probably makes tons of money off that shit.

  • Badoop

    Everything you said here is actually very similar to a self help book about the “Kaizen Way.”  Taking small steps towards change instead of expecting big changes to happen overnight.  You should start writing semi-cynical/semi-sentimental self-help books for twentysomethings! ;P But uh, no joke you could probably makes tons of money off that shit.

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  • Thwart

    This has quality.

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