For Anyone Who Feels Like Garbage
You’re never the only one.
The way you feel right now, that won’t last. Your mood is like the weather in a given city. Wait a day…
The best of us can change our mood. You do that by remembering how fleeting emotions really are.
It doesn’t have to rain to make you wet. Your mind invents all kinds of shadows and clouds. You’ll tell yourself you didn’t get enough done, that nobody loves or even respects you — that you’re a fraud.
That you’re finally starting to look your age.
See the someone in the nothing
The richest man in the world right now came from a teen mom who divorced his alcoholic father and re-married a Cuban immigrant, and he knew one word of English, “hamburger.”
Correct, Jeff Bezos.
On Mother’s Day two years ago, Bezos tweeted an old photo of him and his mom, declaring how lucky he was.
You don’t have to like Jeff Bezos to like his attitude. Everyone starts from their own version of nothing. They don’t let their nothing define them. They see the something in the nothing.
Or the someone. They go from there.
You can reach a breaking point
So break. Fall down on your bed, or your couch. Close your eyes. Let the world continue without you for a minute.
It will be waiting when you’re ready.
You’ve felt like garbage before
You just don’t remember. Brains have a way of glossing over the past. We look at photos and think we were happy back then. And we were, but we also had all the same trash in our heads we do now.
We just played the part and smiled.
Feeling awful happens.
You catch a cold, and for two days it ruins your life. You think the fever will last forever. Then it fades, and you forget you were ever sick.
Emotions work the same way. You catch a bad mood. You get well, sometimes overnight. You go back to taking your normal state for granted. It’s worth remembering how the cycle works.
You’re doing better than you think
Decades ago, Gay Talese published an essay called “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” in Esquire. Suddenly the world saw the most charming man in the world without his gentlemanly act. Talese didn’t write a hit piece — quite the opposite. He made Sinatra more likable than ever.
The point was simple. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve achieved. If you feel like crap, nothing seems to matter.
You feel like a bitter failure, and you feel tempted to take it out on everyone you come across. You throw a hot dog at someone you bought a house for a few months ago. When you’re as rich and influential as Sinatra, you can get away with that for a few days.
For everyone else, check yourself.
Mood doesn’t reflect reality. When you feel bad, you fixate on all your flaws compared to everyone else’s curated perfections. What’s going on in your sniffly, dejected head isn’t what everyone else sees.
You can do even better
If you feel like less, maybe that’s because your standards have risen. When you raise the bar, your limitations show. It sucks.
And yet, you have to stay aware of what you can’t do.
And what you haven’t done yet.
That doesn’t mean you should’ve already done it. Your mind is playing a little trick to motivate you. It sees someone else at a higher level, and asks how you can get there. Welcome to life, a constant climb.
But know when you’re spent
You’re not a superhero, even if you feel like one sometimes. Reality brings a swift hangover when you overextend yourself.
Maybe you had to. You were trying to find your limit. Well, congrats. You found it. Now you need to chill for a day.
Pay attention to what’s in front of you
There’s one way out of a pit. Stop thinking and look at your hands. Look at that wall. Look out the window.
Now think about the things you’ve worked for — not just the things you’re grateful for. Everything you have, you earned.
Unless you’re a Russian oligarch, very few things in this world came to you for free. You managed to survive a public education. You got job after job. You washed dishes and waited tables for money. You passed exams, and you exceeded your own expectations.
All that led you here.
Sure, you got lucky. But lots of us squander good fortune. You had the eye to spot an opportunity, glinting in the dirt, and you dug it out.
You can do this again.
No matter how bad you feel, there could be a small chance glinting, waiting for your dirty hands.
Know when to fish for diamonds
A lot of us especially feel like crap when we can’t produce good work — whether we’re an artist or a CEO.
Charles Bukowski once wrote, “If you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it.” Hey, that’s one approach to basically anything.
But it doesn’t always come bursting out.
Sometimes you have to squeeze, and squeeze hard. After all, that’s what makes a diamond. Or maybe it’s more like fishing. You have to sit and wait for a long time as your thoughts rush past you. You hook the big ones, and reel them in. Somehow, it’s both — a lot of digging, a lot of casting your pole. I guess some ideas are fish, and others are diamonds. Sometimes a diamond can wind up in a creek, like a fish in a mine.
Your big moment doesn’t have to come
It doesn’t even exist. Look at anyone’s life— full of ups and downs. Any one of our household names could’ve fallen into the dust bin.
They didn’t define themselves as a series of big moments, even if they pretended to. Neither should you.
Most of us don’t want millions of dollars. We just want a job we like, someone to love, a comfortable place to live, and maybe a kid.
But not necessarily.
You need to figure out what you really want. Maybe it doesn’t need a big moment at all, just lots of little ones.
Think about someone else for a change
There’s no such thing as a selfless act. Your self worth depends on doing some good things for other people, even ones you don’t know that well. If nothing else, it takes your mind off you for a while.
If we’ve learned anything the last few years, it’s this — the more time you think about yourself, the more miserable you are.
The less time, the better.
Everyone in America wants to trace their ancestry back to a factory or a farm. In some cases, it’s true. Maybe your grandpas worked on farms. Your grandmas worked in factories.
They had their flaws. But they didn’t have time to fret over them. And they certainly weren’t fed unattainable luxury on a smartphone. Thinking about someone else, helping them, it’s a quick relief. Always has been.
You’ll feel like garbage again
Maybe you feel better now. It’s not going to last. The next time some little thing doesn’t go your way, you’ll need a minute.
We all need a night off. We all need to remember our limitations, and our origins. We all need to remember that it’s impossible to feel good all the time. And also, it’s impossible to feel bad.