Don't hang around with anybody who routinely asks "Why am I a loser?". There is a tight feedback loop. (This is a subset of the more general rule "Associate more with people who you'd like to be like and less with people who you wouldn't like to be like.")
You know those guys who say that exercise and diet cure almost everything? They're a lot more right than I would have credited them 10 years ago.
If job / career / $$$ are not primary happiness drivers for you (which is Totally OK), then figure out what is and take the obvious steps towards getting them.
This. I always tell exactly this to my friends who come to me for advice related to career. You want to be a successful manager/executive ? Try and associate with those. You don't want to be a loser in life ? Stop associating with ppl who always think so about themselves.
Overall, associate with people who you think are better than you in the context of things that you wish to achieve.
This is probably great advice for any individual, but really screws your friends who are depressed or otherwise in bad places. How would you like it if you felt like a failure, were sad all the time, and then all your friends stopped talking to you because you were a downer?
I can't see what angle you are coming from, so I can't give you a specific refutation, I hope it was novel.
Of the things you listed, only two are really concrete (wife, kids) and some people don't have those things, sometimes by choice. "Great life" could mean different things to different people and I'm not sure what "contribution to society" entails. Charitable works, volunteering? Again, this could mean all sorts of things; some people see raising good kids as contributing to society, while others might consider their work important to society (for example, medical research, clean energy, advancements in computer science, etc.)
If I spend at least 8 hours of every weekday working, that's an enormous portion of my life. So, going back to the death bed scenario, you better bet I don't want to be like "well, I spent a huge portion of my life sleeping, and another huge portion working a mediocre job, but the rest was pretty good." I'd rather be able to say that I had a rewarding and challenging career that gave me satisfaction (above and beyond just money for survival and comfort).
Many people value wife/kids and see their job as just a paycheck and there's nothing wrong with that. But some people look for different things, and yes, that can include one's career and professional life. And some people are a mix of the two. To assume that it's just about money is to project your own view on everyone else.
Job may not be everything, just as kids may not be everything (find my a homeless person who has had kids and tell me his life is perfect), but that doesn't mean that a career can't be enjoyable and a big positive in your life, not just a necessity.
So on my deathbed, I'd like to say: "I was good at making $$$ which allowed me to spend more time with my family, give some to charities and see a good portion of my mother earth with the ones I love."
Why would you downvote or even refutate instead of asking?
Those shouldn't be your primary drivers but it doesn't mean you won't have them. I don't measure happiness with those variables, they are a result of what makes me happy, a consequence.
This is far from the case, and even trivial reflection presents us with many counterexamples (military veterans, construction workers, folks from NASA, etc.).
What if they're people you care about?
I know you are American, why?, because "loser" is an American word, as an American friend told me "In America everything is about money and they have this word they are always using, loser".
Go to Brazil, India, Rift Valley in Africa and contemplate how people could be 10 times more happier than you having 10 times less and think about that. Look at how people live in communities there and not isolated like in the US, where places to walk and talk with your peers simply do not exist, unless you have lots of money(but not time) to enjoy it.
$$, job and status is an external thing, we need a minimum those things, but is not going to make you happy over it. You are not going to eat 10 times a day, or drive two cars at the same time, are you?.
You also need internal things to make you happy. For every person is different. E.g I need to create new stuff for feeling alive, I need to spend time with my girlfriend, touch and feel her, money(once my necessities are satisfied) is nothing in comparison.
cough bullshit cough. I grew up in Africa and spent ten years in India. There is nothing magical about communities there that will solve the OP's feeling of being a loser or not. Just because people are forced to interact with community or family because they have no space or they have deep cultural ties doesn't mean that they automatically become happy. I have known enough people who are deeply sad within and keep up fake appearances just to make others think that they are doing OK. Also, the other thing about these societies is the lack of filters: People will tell you straight to your face that you suck and are worthless. I am unsure of how going to these countries as tourists and getting enamored by the external facade is going to help OP get over feeling like a loser. Also, everywhere you will find people who like the idea of money. I could argue that people here in the U.S. are more open to the idea of finding themselves because of the societal safety nets (Yes, despite all the shit flying in Congress, America has way better a safety net than the third world) than people that live in the third world. The myth of the primitive savage who lives a noble existence is just that... a myth.
Assuming that you have been working towards your goals since 16, that's nine years. You have a reasonable expectation of four times as many productive years in front of you, maybe five times.
Let go of attachment to impermanent things like name and achievements and reputation, and just go to work.
I find that writing down an internal dialog helps profoundly with isolating the specific reason that I feel like a loser. Then, it's just execution.
125 billion humans have walked the planet since the first Homo Sapiens first roamed Africa. How many of them are remembered today? How many of them had any real impact or achieved important things?
Statistically, it is unlikely that you will be either remembered, or in fact have any real impact on the future of any great significance.
Thinking otherwise will merely depress you.
You are feeling like a loser because you are one - just like the rest of us. None of us will be known a generation from now and furthermore our entire existence will effectively be wiped away within 2 generations.
So do whatever makes you happy for the longest period of time and embrace the pointlessness of your existence.
I know I have.
You presuppose that there are certain things in life which are "mine" and that significance means that I enlarge those things, like a ripple in a pond. But you observe, correctly, that few of us make a great splash. Our ripples are lost in the chaos.
Okay, first of all - we all can improve the welfare of others. Small ripples can be good enough.
But the main fallacy in your argument is that there is a "me" whose impact needs to be enlarged. I believe this is fundamentally incorrect. What is the distinction between me and you right now? I have high-bandwidth communication going on between the neurons in my skull, but they're doing a low-bandwidth dance with yours right now too. This is why our achievements are lost in the chaotic echoes, because we are chaotic echoes. There never was a time when they were not just chaotic echoes. Things become arbitrary and meaningless when you succumb to the illusion that things are otherwise.
With everything in my life that has had lasting value, there is a certain dissolving of the boundaries between myself and others. I don't mean altruism, I mean something more than that. I'm not sure I can explain it better than Chuang Tzu.
I know that sounds glib - maybe even unfair - but it's also easier than it's ever been, especially if you're a programmer.
Start with something stupid. Buy a domain and implement it.
Then put in a little more effort to think of something a little less stupid.
Repeat until you have your pride back.
If you do that for a month you'll likely find yourself feeling a lot better.
That's a healthy way to feel. Save up, cut your costs, and then quit your job and try to do something amazing.
People on the outside may be easily impressed (parents, friends, acquaintances) but maybe you don't quite believe it because they haven't poked holes in your accomplishments so far?
Yes, I am projecting.
Remember, you don't have to create a new RoR or Facebook to feel successful. For example, many small open source projects provide great value for a number of people. Now at 30, I'm happy to be able to list a number of things I have done, however small or big they are.
Your expectations are wrong then.
EDIT: You asked what to do. Change your expectations. Really, that's probably the root of things. What are you calling "achievement," to begin with?
Consider your three given metrics.
Money is, ultimately, just a measure of how much economic influence you have available. You don't even need to have your own money in order to make a dent--somebody working for a non-profit or trading company probably controls wealth far in excess of whatever you'll be able to scrape together. The value of money isn't even constant across regions: a pauper in the Bay could live like a king in Houston. From this we see that money is not a reliable yardstick.
A job, especially one for someone else doing something you don't enjoy, is just a way of accumulating money. If you aren't rewarded by the work, you are just wasting the reserve of hours you were given at birth. There's plenty that needs doing out there, and plenty of people that'll pay you for it. Even with a "good" job, you are not guaranteed respect by society: a lot of folks who do construction are viewed with contempt by people who've never tried to float drywall properly in their lives, and a lot of folks who design beautiful architectures go utterly unseen and unappreciated by the public who consumes their software. So, jobs are not a good measure of self-worth either.
Status is arbitrary and something that is accorded to you by others. Valuing yourself in that fashion is much like valuing yourself based on how popular with your preferred gender--it's something over which you ultimately have not the final say, and so makes you vulnerable to "market fluctuations". Status is just good marketing, one way or the other, and don't for a second conflate your perceived worth with your actual value as a human being.
In the end, you need to remember that the default case is still failure, and that in half a century you'll be dead, and in a century more more than likely completely forgotten.
This being the case, enjoy every morning and opportunity to try something new, put yourself out on the line, and go to bed each day secure in the knowledge that hey, you're ultimately free to play the game however is most enjoyable to you.
And don't worry about indicators that won't mean anything when you're worm food along with the people who would've judged you. :)
Try to find your achievements in being a friend, being a valuable person in your community. Do arts. Publish your art.
Try to be part of a community of crazy people, people who try things out, people who motivate you.
Call your parents, hell - go see them and take them to a movie on your dime. Buy a video game for your nephew/niece and play with them. Call your friends up and buy a round of beer!
When you stop thinking about "YOUR" achievements and start thinking about others, I'd bet you will feel a whole lot more successful.
Does your work have meaning? When you are 50 or 60 and you look back at your life's work, will it have value? If not, you might try to find a socially meaningful project to contribute to. It seems you've got valuable technical skills; share them with a project that has the kind of value you'd like in your life.
For me, mindfulness meditation helped me understanding emotions, sensations, and life in general. But running, hiking, or cycling, works for many people as well. Give your mind peacefulness.
Time, money, advice, effort, compliments - whatever you have to give. After you've ticked your own achievements off you need to expand your goals. Nothing feels more rewarding than achieving something bigger than your own wants.
Something longer term, challenging & meaningful will give you direction, purpose and greater success than just money alone.
Read this book to understand more what I'm talking about:
i'd suggest growing up a bit. get some more perspective on life. do something different. broaden your outlook.
you might also consider counselling. perhaps there are "issues" about trying to please parents or whatever.
what i'm saying is that what's broken is not how you evaluate yourself (winner or loser), but that you're actually doing the comparison at all. people are different. value different things, want different things, care about different things. you can't put them in a line.
Let’s start with an audacious premise, that just by virtue of the fact that you are reading these words, you are fast. I know. I know. “Bullshit,” you think to yourself. But maybe it’s true, last week’s post not withstanding.
These things can be self-fulfilling, the placebo that cures what ails you.
Allow me to perform the trick of the medium, the palm-reader or the gazer into crystal balls. Dim the lights. Put your credit card on the table.
You ride a bike. Oh yes, the low-hanging fruit. The obvious. But don’t you see we’re already more than half-way there. Because not only do you a ride a bike, but you ride a bike often, some might even say regularly. Wait. Wait. It’s more than that. You actually define yourself, sketch the outlines of your deep and true and core identity, in relation to the bike.
You are a cyclist, but you are more. You are a committed cyclist. In the back of your mind, at some point, you have assigned yourself a sub-identity within the cycloverse. You are a climber (grimpeur) or a rouleur. Maybe a sprinter or a randonneur. It doesn’t matter, because you know which one you are, and you know which one you are because you’ve tried to be at least one of the others and found it didn’t suit you.
How am I doing? Uncanny, right? Look, every Robot with a neon sign out front isn’t a charlatan. Some of us have true mystical powers. We see things. We know.
And so you ride. You ride a lot. Maybe you ride through the winter, or maybe you take an off-season. It doesn’t matter. Even if you use the term “winter weight” un-ironically, you remain a cyclist, and you know, even as you shovel another forkful of cake into your gaping maw, that you will return to the bike. You have faith that it will set you free from these days of excess, the license you’ve given to your id, that rotten son-of-a-bitch who doesn’t care a whit how (not) fast you are in the spring.
It’s all alright, because you’re a cyclist.
And now we circle back to our premise that you are fast. “Pfffffttt!!” you think again, “Have you met me?” And yes, I have. I know you. You’re that guy who rides a bike, by virtue of which, you are fast.
No, you are not fast relative to Steve. Fucking Steve whose muscle-y ass you’ve had to follow over hill and goddamned dale all summer long. Steve, who once won things and knows how much his wheels weigh. Steve, who, despite being faster and fitter and better adjusted than you are, is actually an alright guy, and let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for Steve, we probably wouldn’t ride as much as we do. Let’s not murder Steve, just because he’s fast. There are better ways to bend the curve of velocity back toward our own very human capabilities.
Go to the grocery store. Never mind a cart. You don’t need a cart. And forget the basket. Put it down. Just walk the aisles. Up. Down. Frozen foods. The chip aisle. Even allow yourself to wander into produce. It doesn’t matter. Have a look around. Count the number of shoppers you couldn’t beat in a two-up, town-line sprint. KAPOW! You’re fast.
Take your life, add a bike, sprinkle liberally with a ruthless realism and a modest sense of humor. It’s that easy. You are fast.
It helps if you know where you want to go, and you're doing something to get there.
So go and talk to somebody you love.
You'll feel much better about yourself - it's all about giving.
There are over 6 billion people on this planet. How many have you heard of by name?
Of those you have heard of, how many appear to have happy lives and don't have children who wont talk to them or belong on a MTV reality show?
I would say live well and if after you die you are remembered outside of your friends and family then you most likely did something wrong.
What about Steve Jobs or Richard Feynman or Christopher Hitchens? (to pick three random examples)
They are dead and well known because they are highly accomplished.
Of course, doing things because you expect to be remembered for it is misguided. But being remembered after you die by large numbers of people is not a sign that you did something wrong.
It certainly seems easier to get notoriety - at least for a short time - by doing something significantly hurtful to people (e.g. die in a violent blaze of glory while mass murdering others, like the recent incident in Newtown, CT).
However, I agree that this isn't necessarily useful information for someone who has an innocent question about feeling like a loser.
I'm not big on the heros thing. But the people I looked up to as a child they were people who could fix their own house, show me how to use physics to rescue a lost toy, etc.
When I think of "successful" people like Henry Ford or even John Kennedy, I think how great it is to be unrelated to the rich and famous.
I wont even touch the tech rich by name. But yes, I feel the same way about them...
If you make more than those around and have more social status and you still aren't happy then ask yourself what those around you have not how to get more of what isn't helping.
I watch a slo-mo tiger woods fist pump* and get back to work.
In my case, I tend to feel like a loser when I'm exhausted from doing things I don't particularly enjoy, and neglect the things I do. For example, spending countless hours doing a job that doesn't particularly excite me (but still do it well), and neglect my favorite activities such as playing soccer, dancing, or going out with friends. Then begins the spiral loop of wondering "what you have achieved", and looking at what others your age or younger have done. If that's how you feel, you're not alone and thankfully there are ways to break that mentality :)
When that happens to me, my best approach over time has been to pause for a moment, take a step back, and reflect on my situation. Realize that at 25, having $$, job, and status is actually "quite an achievement" that many others wish they could have accomplished as well. Realize many of the things you take for granted, like eating every day, having access to water, are a dream for some in other parts of the globe. Being able to afford what you desire for the most part (except maybe that Lamborghini), is a dream for many for many within the country. All in all, on an absolute scale, you're definitely in a pretty good spot and by no mean a "loser".
At that point, I usually feel better about myself. But that's only a temporary fix, because the underlying issues are still there. Rethink your priorities in life in terms of what provides YOU happiness. Forget about what society and movies make you believe priorities should be, and think personal. A quote I really like on the topic, from fight club, is:
"God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."
Now don't get me wrong, it is possible you genuinely have a personal goal to become a movie star, which would make you the happiest person on earth (but again, that's beyond the point). So think hard about yourself and what really motivates and makes you happy, and reset your priorities. Maybe it's worth not staying as long at work, fix that bug tomorrow, and go play that soccer game you've been craving for. Or maybe instead of spending an afternoon going to some event you don't really want to go to is better spent hacking away this fun idea you've been wanting to do for a while. Whatever makes you excites you, make it and priority and find time for it. The rest really is secondary. In my case, after a while I decided to make the bold move of quitting my job for another that pays less, where I work longer hours, but that is oh soooooo much more fun. I'm loving it and am super happy learning great stuff on a daily basis, and being payed doing what I like. We're all different, so it's up to you to find what your thing is :) Good luck, and I hope if you got this far my answer helps.