I want to start by saying I’m sorry you feel this way. No one types out the words, 'I hate my life' lightly. Hating your life is a big deal – in fact, it's terrifying. I know, because I've been there too.
Hitting rock bottom is scary but mindlessly sleep-walking through life isn't an option either. See this moment as an opportunity. Sometimes it takes reaching the very depths of dissatisfaction to clear out all the rubbish in your life and start afresh. Here's when you start writing the next chapter of your life. And no one is better equipped to do that than you.
The truth is, life is hard. Rejection, loss and disappointment are all part of what it means to be human. But so is the good stuff – love, inspiration, joy... Just because you're going through a shitty time now doesn't mean it's forever. It's all going to swing right back round again. You know why? Because life itself is a constant flow of ups and down.
In order to hate life, it usually means we have veered away from our truth. In Victor Frankl's book chronicling his experiences in concentration camp, Man's Search for Meaning, he expresses this beautifully when he says, 'He who has a why can bear almost any how'. In other words, as humans we have the capacity to withstand all manner of painful experiences (including the types of horrors Frankl experienced that are inconceivable to most) - provided, that is – that we never lose sight of meaning. This is our core; the truth of who we are underneath it all.
Whatever our meaning is (it will be different for all of us), we need to place it centre stage, never taking our eyes off the ball. When meaning becomes our priority, we let it become our driving force in life, gently guiding us towards the things that really matter.
But before we do anything else, we need to start clearing out the rubbish. So, let’s begin there.
It’s easy to boulder through life complaining but not really admitting to ourselves how bad things really are. To end up in this place, we’ve probably turned a blind eye here and there along the way. This is your moment to own it and say, ‘This really sucks. I’m miserable’. And REALLY feel it. Embrace it and express it - wail, shout, scream… Whatever it takes to really feel all those deep, dark emotions we've stuffed down.
Most of us breeze through life glossing over the difficult bits. It’s easier that way. But the more we stuff things down, the more we allow them to fester and turn into something much worse. When we stop lying to ourselves, all kinds of old baggage can come to the surface. Let it all flow out, however it needs to - you’re making space for the new life you’re about to create.
It’s all well and good saying ‘I hate my life’ but you’re going to have to get more specific than that. Now’s the time to really dig deep and get to the root of what’s making you unhappy. Are you in a dead-end relationship but pushing through because you’re scared you won’t find anyone else? Or going through the motions in the wrong job, terrified that if you take a leap you'll fall flat on your face? Denial is a place no one wants to be.
One practice that can help you get to the bottom of what’s making you miserable is an exercise called The 5 Why’s, a process developed by Sakichi Toyoda during the evolution of Toyota’s manufacturing methodology (yes, you heard it right).
As the name implies, The 5 Whys is about asking ‘Why?’ 5 times in order to really get to the source of your problem. Here’s an example:
1. Why do I hate my life?
Because I’m not doing enough of the things I enjoy.
2. Why don’t I have enough time to do the things I enjoy?
Because I work long hours and when I get home I just want to go to bed.
3. Why am I always working late?
Because I feel like I need to prove myself.
4. Why do I feel like I need to prove myself?
Because I’m struggling at work and not hitting my targets.
5. Why am I struggling at work?
Because it doesn’t play to my skillset.
So what started as something quite vague has quickly become clearcut. As soon as you uncover the specifics of what’s making you unhappy, you’ve got something to work with.
If you could wave a magic wand what would your ideal life look like? Too often we tell ourselves we can’t do something because of ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’. This is your chance to dream big, unfiltered. Where would you be in your career? What kind of relationship would you have? What kinds of hobbies would you be doing? Where in the world would you be travelling/living? Write your answers down, as clearly as you can.
These dreams are your goals.
Now you have a clearly defined goal, it’s time to start weeding out everything in your life that doesn’t serve this purpose. Of course, no one's expecting this to happen overnight. But big change calls for big action. Create a strategy to clear out the negatives and begin building afresh, never taking your eyes of your main goal.
Focus on small steps and tackling your goals in small chunks. Some people find the concept of the 12 Week Year helpful, which essentially involves separating your year into quarters to make your goal-setting more manageable. However you choose to do it, be kind to yourself, and most of all - be realistic.
As said by the great Martin Luther King, “Faith is taking the first step even though you can’t see the whole staircase”.
Whilst you're at it, here are a few day-to-day tips that can support you in making these changes:
Lay off the booze
When times get rough, booze can provide a welcome relief. But never forget that alcohol is, above all, a depressant. Whilst alcohol might help you numb the pain in the short-term, it can wind up making things much worse in the long run. Try steering clear of boozy nights until you’re feeling stronger in yourself and where you’re headed.
Dress your best (even when you feel like crap)
As shallow as it sounds, making an effort on the outside helps provide a temporary mind trick. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable, awesome and confident. As they say - fake it until you make it.
Remind yourself that endings are also beginnings in disguise
Whatever you’re going through, remind yourself that when things fall apart, they’re making space for new amazing things to come your way.
Nutritious, home-cooked meals are often one of the first things to go out the window when we’re not feeling our best. But sugar crashes caused by over-indulging on carbs and sugary foods are the last thing you need. Try stocking up on easy, wholesome foods.
Stop comparing yourself to other people
If you find yourself frequently scrolling social media lamenting how wonderful everyone’s life looks, try and take a break away from it for a while. No one needs reminding that most of it is just fantasy anyway. Besides, we’re all on our own journey. Make sure you’re owning yours and yours only.
Have more baths (and other good stuff)
What makes you feel buzzy and good about yourself? A massage? A long indulgent bath? A giant bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut along with the latest netflix show? Whatever it is, commit to more of it. Self-care and listening to the things that make our mind and body happy is one of the most powerful things we can do.
Move your body
For fear of sounding like a broken record, science says exercise really does release happy hormones and lower stress levels. Even if it’s just switching up your morning commute and walking to work every now and then, try and move your body every opportunity you get.
Challenge your inner critic
“You look terrible”, “You won’t be able to do that”, “You’re different to everyone else” - sound familiar? That’s your inner critic. Your inner critic is formed from painful past experiences and attitudes that you witnessed or experienced growing up. Everyone has an inner critic, but some people have managed to find healthier ways of coping with it. When we fail to call out our inner critic, we allow it to gain momentum and shape how we live our lives. Try changing, “I hate my life, I feel useless” to “I might struggle from time to time but I’m more than competent, and I’m working hard to turn things around for the better”.
Practice letting go
I’m not trying to claim this is an easy one. Letting go is all about cultivating acceptance around the (scary) realisation that we will never be able to control everything in our lives. Practising mindfulness meditation is a great way to start practising the art of letting go (and remember all art forms require practice).
Talk it out
Never keep negative thoughts and feelings inside. That’s where they become toxic. They're always better out than in. Open up to a trusted friend or family member if you can, and tell them how you’re feeling. They might have been there too. And if you don’t feel comfortable opening up to a loved one then try joining a local support group, or find a therapist.
Remember it’s never too soon to ask for a helping hand. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and you're finding it hard to get out of bed and muster enthusiasm for the day, a therapist can work with you to unpack some of the reasons for why you're feeling unhappy, help you reconnect with your values, and then support you in building a life that's more fulfilling.
It’s important to remember that whilst we all move through difficult patches in life - times when we feel sad, exhausted or lonely - feeling this way for an extended period of time might signal something more serious.
If you’ve been feeling consistently low for a period of over 2 weeks then you might be suffering from depression. Depression can make it difficult to break out of negative thought patterns, and cause feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth.
If this is something you can relate to, it’s important that you seek the advice of a professional mental health expert who can help you identify if your depression is mild, moderate or severe, and then guide you towards making the necessary changes in your life.
Whatever you’re experiencing or feeling right now, remember that there is always a way out. Hitting rock bottom does not mean you're going to stay there. When things fall apart it creates space for you to build better, stronger foundations. This is your chance to start anew - the right way.
Remember that what comes next rests in your hands. In the words of the author Dr Roopleen,
“If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality”.
Speak to a therapist today and learn how to navigate difficult feelings and build healthier behaviors so you can start creating your best, most fulfilling life.