Stop asking “What’s wrong with me?”
Do you ever ask, “What’s wrong with me?”
Maybe something has gone wrong at work, with a friendship, or with a romantic relationship. Whatever has happened, you feel responsible or, at least, you feel like if you were different somehow this wouldn’t be a problem.
Let’s be real. Feeling inadequate or not good enough sucks. These feelings can quickly overwhelm our minds.
The thing is, asking questions like, What’s wrong with me? can simply make the situation worse by riling up our emotions.
On the flip side, asking a friend or partner the same question with the expectation of them exclaiming adamantly, Nothing is wrong with you! will never resolve the issue.
The fact is, when something goes wrong in your life you need to adjust.
If you’re sailing and the wind changes direction, neither lamenting your bad fortune nor asking a fellow sailor for a self-esteem boost is going to resolve the problem, which is that you’re now heading in the wrong direction. You actually have to do something — you have to adjust the sails — to stay on course.
But, life never feels this logical, does it? Our emotions often get the better of us.
To more effectively help ourselves through these tough times we need a better question than, “What’s wrong with me?”
A devious question
“What’s wrong with me?” is a devious question.
On the surface, it seems pretty benign. Something has gone wrong and you want to understand why it’s gone wrong. You assume that what’s gone wrong has something to do with you, and you might be right.
Asking the question can seem logical. Like it’s the natural thing to do.
But, at the heart of this question is the implication that something is fundamentally wrong with who you are — something wrong with you at your core. Aren’t you asking the question because you wish you weren’t the way you are?
This can make you feel helpless because it seems like the solution to the problem is to not be you. If you were different in some fundamental way — if you weren’t you — this wouldn’t be a problem at all.
What we often miss about questions like this one is that they quietly conclude we are the problem, while simultaneously making us feel like we are the only variable in the equation that is fixed and unchangeable.
Other people can change their behaviour. Our luck can change. Our circumstances can change. Everything outside us can change. But, us? No, we can’t change. At least, not in the way we would need to to solve the problem.
So, we’re stuck. We think, I can’t control my external environment and I also can’t fundamentally change who I am. This is hopeless!
The deviousness of the question, “What’s wrong with me?” lies in its ability to incapacitate you. It makes you think there is nothing that can be done.
Thankfully, you’re wrong.
You’re not fixed and unchangeable
We’ve all confronted a challenge that we didn’t know how to deal with. It may have made us feel a little helpless. But, when we let that helplessness go, we began to move forward.
How did we move forward? Often by doing something we were afraid to do. Often by confronting the unknown.
You might remember the word homeostasis from your grade 7 biology class. It’s the mechanism in your body that maintains balance — the status quo. Homeostasis is the force that acts against you when you try to do something new or something different than usual.
We are creatures of habit far more than we realize. We will choose established habits even over what will make our lives better. This is obvious when we consider how often we choose Netflix over exercise or fast food over a healthy, home-cooked meal.
With your body and mind acting to keep you exactly where you are, it can feel impossible to act differently than normal. Instead of trying new strategies for getting to the gym or cooking a healthy meal, we stick to the old, tired, and failed patterns of the past.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If that’s true, I’d say we’re all insane. At least, on occasion.
But, there are few things in life more difficult than facing the unknown head-on. It takes courage. And if you’re unaccustomed to acting courageously — acting in spite of fear — facing the unknown can feel impossible.
So, rather than facing the unknown and our fear, we incapacitate ourselves with questions like, what’s wrong with me. These kinds of questions bring with them a frenzy of powerful emotions that cause us to feel not good enough and hopeless. And instead of considering other options, we mull these feelings over in our minds and never get anywhere, except perhaps further away from a solution.
In other words, questions like these distract us from the answer we’re looking for, which is simple, but not easy: learn to be courageous.
Fear is one of the most powerful emotions we have and, if left unchecked, it will rule your life. I know this from experience, as it once ruled mine.
Being ruled by your fear is a terrible place to be.
Few things seem safe. Most things seem terrifying. All you want to do is retreat to somewhere you can feel some comfort.
But you can fight back against your fear. Small steps, taken over time amount to incredible change. Whatever you fear, you can combat it in this way. Do the minimum viable action that requires the least amount of courage. Then do another. And another.
In time, you will see that fear is nothing but a habit — an ingrained response to a situation that needn’t be.
Once you understand how courage is developed, you will stop lamenting, what’s wrong with me?
You will start asking, what can I do?
Because when you have courage, facing the unknown no longer feels impossible.
Instead of waiting for the wind to change, you will simply adjust your sails.