Live Through This

When You Feel Like a Loser

Don’t beat yourself up—try one of these tricks instead.

Avoid movies about child prodigies!
I don’t resent anyone for being talented or having a big ol’ brain, and on a better day I would probably be delighted and even moved to learn about a baby whose first word was asymptote or watch a video of a preschool-age virtuoso playing “Stairway to Heaven” on her toy ukulele, but when I’m down on myself, these kids and their extraordinary DNA can be kind of a bummer (especially since I can barely do math, was fifth-chair flute in my eighth-grade band, and didn’t develop the fine motor skills that would allow me to be able to fold a piece of paper in half so that the corners matched up until I was almost in middle school). My rational mind tells me that I shouldn’t compare my life and achievements to anyone else’s, and that child prodigies are actually evidence that we all move through life at different speeds. But then there’s that other part of me that’s always not-so-secretly wanted to be one of those precocious wunderkinder that you often see in documentaries or on news-magazine shows, and watching those remarkable little kids when I’m not feeling very confident just forces me to face the fact that as I get closer to my 30th birthday, the chances of me becoming a baby genius are getting slimmer.

Hang out with your pets.
I was in a writing program a couple of years ago, and during a student critique of one of my short stories, two women totally savaged my work. I mean, they tore that story apart. They didn’t say anything helpful, they were just mean, and they smirked at each other as they pointed out sections that they thought were particularly shitty. I maintained my composure during the class and on the bus ride home but started bawling even as I unlocked my front door. Seeing this, my cat Schön immediately jumped up on the dining room table and stood on her hind legs while resting her front paws on my chest. She pressed her nose against mine and then started licking my face. Some might say that Schön was just parched and my tears were the most convenient water source, but I know that I have a bond with that cat, and licking the insides of my nostrils seemed like her way of saying, “I got you, girl.” It made me feel appreciated.

Pets don’t care if you’re a success, they don’t care about what you look like or whether you’ve showered or if you write a horrible short story. They don’t even know your name. You don’t have to put on airs or live up to anyone’s expectations when you’re with your pet, and that’s one of the things that makes them such great company when you’re hurting or just kind of listless. They’re also calming—animals are often used in therapeutic settings, to help people suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress, and to comfort hospital patients and nursing-home residents. Running your hands through their fur, snuggling with them, or dancing around them seductively like Eva Longoria does in that one cat food commercial can ease some of that existential dread.

Be careful about whom you discuss your problems with.
You may be friends with or related to one of those easygoing, staggeringly confident folks who can brush failure right off their shoulders, someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to STILL feel a palpable sense of embarrassment about stupid crap they did in the third grade or to sometimes not have the emotional wherewithal to get out of bed and, like, do things. These sorts of people may respond to whatever turmoil you’re experiencing with something dismissive, along the lines of “Well, it’s not the end of the world,” or, worse, “Suck it up!” Or they might think they’re giving you “helpful” advice when they criticize your entire personality—they can’t wrap their heads around the fact that not everyone can cope with stress the same way that they do. These people could very well be amazing in a lot of different ways (maybe they’re hilarious, a hoot at parties, don’t judge you for waiting in line to see a midnight screening of The Smurfs 2), but if they’ve shown that they can’t accept or sympathize with you when you’re a nervous, unhappy mess, then obviously these aren’t the people to hang out with when you’re low. If you know someone like this and he or she begins to offer unsolicited opinions on your situation, SHUT IT DOWN—try to change the topic to something neutral (“George: Now that’s a name. Am I right?” or “So wait, how do you make chili?”) and then seek out the people in your life who won’t immediately write off your emotions, even if they know that you have a tendency to worry excessively about circumstances that eventually turn out OK. You can hit George up again when you’re feeling better.

Watch this video.

It’s normal to feel apprehensive about your future from time to time, and everyone has felt like a loser at some point in your life. It’s tempting at these moments to beat yourself up, but that’s not gonna do you any good. It’s gonna do you a lot of bad. To nip that cycle of negative self-talk in the bud, distract yourself with one of the above techniques, which, if they don’t alleviate your bad mood, at least won’t make it worse.

And if you’ve followed every tutorial on the whole internet and flossed your teeth till your gums bled and you still don’t feel any better? It’s probably time to tackle your problem head-on: Talk to a therapist or a school counselor. Call a hotline. It’s one of the ironic curses of depression and anxiety that they render you least able to ask for help right when you need it most, and I know it can be totally scary to reach out to other humans. But the good news is that you can take your time. Remember, baby steps. ♦


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  • September 6th, 2013 7:21 PM

    thank you so so much i needed this <3

  • lilagrace September 6th, 2013 8:23 PM

    Thank you, Amber! This is such an incredibly insightful and helpful article.
    But one other thing: Your cat’s name is Schön?! That’s probably the cutest thing ever!


  • whoknows September 6th, 2013 8:32 PM

    i’m in 10th grade & still can’t fold paper right nbd

  • Isabela September 6th, 2013 8:37 PM

    Perfectionism issues. Spot on. xx

  • spudzine September 6th, 2013 8:51 PM

    These tips are so great! As someone with anxiety, it really does help to distract the mind from all problems, even the made-up ones. It’s around this time that my anxiety is on overdrive, as school already gives me enough stress than I need. Also, I suggest being careful with whom you trust talking to your feelings about, like the above article stated. It’s when your at your low do you find out who your true friends are.

  • Suzie Q September 6th, 2013 8:52 PM

    thanks so much for writing this!!!!

  • Sophie ❤ September 6th, 2013 8:57 PM

    This was amazing. Love the art!

  • notnobody September 6th, 2013 9:01 PM

    When I’m feeling down, the best thing I can do is find something (anything!) useful to do. I clean my room, draw pictures or write in my journal- seeing the result makes me feel better.

  • Abby September 6th, 2013 9:07 PM

    This made my day. Especially the video.

  • pulpfiction September 6th, 2013 10:35 PM

    I needed this right now, Rookie always has perfect timing with the articles. As someone who also suffers from anxiety this made me feel so much better. Thank you, Amber!

  • julalondon September 6th, 2013 10:51 PM

    THIS is amazing and perfect and so unbelievably helpful! Thank you so much for that. Also, your cat’s name is SCHÖN?? How cool is that (i’m german haha).

  • jedarq93 September 6th, 2013 11:00 PM

    thank you, really, Rookie and Amber, this is screaming at my face that i need my own cat :c loneliness is sucking me these days.

  • dragonfly September 6th, 2013 11:10 PM

    Rookie, I love you.

  • Glenny September 7th, 2013 1:00 AM

    Perfect timing. Rookie is the best thang ever. Therapy. LOVE the first image of the Drew Barrymore girl. It’s now in my other-people’s-memories bank.

  • AndreaGG September 7th, 2013 2:10 AM

    I so needed this right now. I’m at college and I’m doing good, but I feel like I need to be extraordinary.
    Like, I HAVE TO gradaute as soon as possible, I HAVE TO get and amazing scholarship to study abroad, and of course, I have to keep up with all my extracurricular activities, and find time to audition to music school.
    And whenever I can´t make it a 100% I feel like such a loser. And then I watch August Rush and it makes me feel worse. :/
    But this <3 Thank you so much!

  • emlyb September 7th, 2013 5:23 AM

    oh my god, thank you so, so, so much for this.

  • cornly_ September 7th, 2013 7:06 AM

    this is beautiful and really, very helpful. thank you so much

  • elliecp September 7th, 2013 11:12 AM

    this is awesome. my favourite refresh thing is make two cups of tea and do some yoga. that, or eat a tonne of blueberries. both work for me! :)

  • Sho-Sho September 7th, 2013 11:54 AM

    This is fab. <3
    Thank you so much Amber!

  • Erin. September 7th, 2013 11:56 AM

    Thanks for this. Seriously, I’ve got tears welling up because my situation is so similar to what you’re was. I don’t know what to do or what I want to do. I’ve been out of university for a year, no job, or prospects. And all anyone ever asks me is if I have a job yet. I beat myself up enough as it is; I don’t need everyone else to do it too.

    I’m gonna do that fishtail braid tutorial now.

    • Erin. September 7th, 2013 1:00 PM

      Even that I fail at. ><
      My hair is just too long, keeps getting tangled.

  • cicconeyouth September 7th, 2013 6:23 PM

    Thank you, I needed this today :)

  • Milala September 7th, 2013 7:07 PM

    THANKS SO MUCH. i needed to read this!

  • NotReallyChristian September 8th, 2013 5:23 PM

    there will always be someone better than you
    even if you’re the best
    so let’s stop the competition now
    or we will all be losers

  • christinachristina September 8th, 2013 10:46 PM

    I always turn to How I Met Your Mother when I need to feel better.

  • Serena Head September 9th, 2013 8:48 AM

    Thank you so much, this is so helpful…

  • Pristinaa September 9th, 2013 1:56 PM

    I have a playlist for those days when I feel like a loser… I like to dance to it pretending I’m the it girl from every song

  • Helena Markos September 13th, 2013 8:42 PM

    Hey Amber! I really related to this; particularly the part where you mentioned the people that try to help you, but you end up feeling that your personality is being criticized. I just realized…I’m one of those people! I’m the person that tries to give a friend advice because I care about them and want to help them feel better, but clueless (until now) that my helping is actually just making them feel worse. I feel extra awful about it because my good intentions end up being the opposite of good :( So my question is,(anyone can answer this if they have any helpful tips) what can a friend do to really help and be there for you when you are feeling down, in a way that wont make you want to change the subject?

  • still_dreaming September 17th, 2013 6:02 AM

    This article was really amazing!!!I also tend to get depressed at times and I went through a fase last year where I thought that I was useless because I wasn’t REALLY good at anything!!!There were people I knew that could do all the things I did a thousand times better and the fact that I didn’t draw better that a friend of mine or I didn’t play the guitar well enough or I didn’t play tennis as long as everyone else in my tennis club, was really making me angry…eventually I got over it since I realized that you don’t always have to be the best!!!you just have to try..and the fact that I took part in all these different activities while being a good (not the best but..whatever!) sudent is something I should feel proud about!!!

  • cin September 25th, 2013 5:11 AM

    “Some might say that Schön was just parched and my tears were the most convenient water source, but I know that I have a bond with that cat, and licking the insides of my nostrils seemed like her way of saying, “I got you, girl.” It made me feel appreciated.”

    Literally the best thing ever.
    Literally me.