Note: This is an edited version of a response I gave a couple of weeks ago on asktrp. Rewriting and posting here so more people will see it.
So you're at the point in life where you feel like you ought to start getting shit figured out, but somehow--almost certainly due to your own ignorance and sloth--things just never started coming together for you, and you spend all your free time playing Fortnite and masturbating. I can't do anything about your sloth, but after reading this post, hopefully you won't be quite so ignorant.
Getting your shit together involves a three-pronged attack.
ONE: GET YOUR UNDERLYING STATS UP
Part of the reason you feel so anxious and helpless is because you have it in your head that you're worthless. Maybe not completely worthless, but other people your age are miles better than you, and both you and they know it. Before you can start telling yourself, "Fuck those people, I know I'm awesome" you have to be somewhat awesome, or at least well on your way there. Your tasks are:
- Take school seriously. Keep those grades high.
- Lift weights. Eat a diet high in protein. Add muscle. Shed body fat. If you're a giant fatass, cut back to one meal a day, low carbs.
- Dress better. Get a halfway decent haircut. I don't care if you decide to sit on your ass all day and not talk to anybody, but you aren't going to look like a total slob doing it.
- Clean up your room, your locker, your car. You might be ashamed of yourself, but there's no reason to be ashamed of the space you inhabit. Stop sabotaging yourself; it's not that fucking difficult to be tidy.
- This can come a little bit down the road, but learn how to cook. If you don't know how to change your oil, you can take it to a mechanic and be pretty sure they'll do a competent job. If you don't know how to nourish yourself, you can go to a restaurant, and while they may do a competent job of making your taste buds happy, they sure as hell aren't going to make sure your body is fueling itself with the correct mix of macronutrients. Learning to make cheap, healthy food taste good will do so much to improve your day-to-day experience that it's unreal.
TWO: GET YOUR HEADSPACE RIGHT
Most of you assholes have convinced yourself that you have some kind of depression. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, but either way, your batteries are probably sitting on low. That means you aren't going to want to do much of anything. OK, fine. You're going to have a lot of free time. I don't care what you fill it with, but stop filling it with crap. The key is to avoid short-term dopamine hits, because those will make your brain chemistry even worse.
- No porn. No elaborate jack-off sessions. Take two minutes every few days to check that the ol' prostate is still working, then move on with your day; don't weave some elaborate fantasy out of it.
- I'll say it again, no porn. Seriously. That shit rewires your brain. You want to get horny when you see a cute girl your age wearing a nice outfit, not inure yourself to the female form so much that you can only get hard if you're watching a dozen black dudes in horse masks tag-team a pregnant midget. That's what happens when the "regular stuff" stops doing it for you. And the "regular stuff" isn't that fucking regular anyway.
- No videogames. For most of you, this will be harder to cut than porn, if not downright impossible. So let's say no more than 30 minutes to start with. And if you're going to play, try to play with someone that you know rather than just sitting there alone. The more you start getting your other shit together, the more you're going to realize videogames are a giant waste of time unless they're a social activity. (And the more you start moving in social circles that have successful people in them, the more you're going to realize that winners do other things besides play videogames when they get together, but that's an epiphany for a later date.)
- No caffeine. Caffeine fucks your sleep. Now, you aren't going to be able to cold-turkey porn, videogames, and caffeine all at once, and I'd put caffeine at the bottom of that list, but coffee is a crutch, and nobody learns how to walk--much less run--if they're stuck relying on a crutch. If you're drinking soda, cut that shit immediately, though... it's about the worst stuff you can possibly fuel your body with, and it'll rot the teeth out of your head.
- Get off Reddit. Or at least unsubscribe from subs where the whole idea is to point at people and laugh at how stupid they are. Same thing goes for "outrage porn" that reinforces how dumb/evil/corrupt the people on the opposite side of the political spectrum are. How the fuck does that help you get in a frame of mind to succeed?
- Ditto the YouTube videos you watch and the books you read. Watch, listen to, and learn from people that you admire, not people that you disdain. There are lots of people out there that do have their shit together, and they're more than willing to tell you how they did it for free. In this day and age, the only excuse for not knowing how to do some basic shit is not having the willingness to seek it out.
- Don't binge Netflix shows.
- YES to reading, exercise, yoga, walking the dog, hobbies like painting or woodworking where you are making something in the real world, a part-time job, doing chores, writing, volunteering. Stop thinking you don't have time to do stuff. Almost all of you are wasting 4+ hours a day between videogames, Reddit, YouTube, PornHub, and Netflix. If you set yourself a rule to avoid all that crap, you'd be amazed how much of your day still needs to be filled with something. You can make it something worthwhile.
- To elaborate on those last two bullets, do you know how many basic bitches--both male and female--are on dating apps thinking that the stuff that they consume is what defines their personality, rather than the stuff they produce? It is not to your credit that you like The Office. A retarded turtle could like The Office. Define yourself by what you're able to do, not by what other people have made.
- Get more sleep. That means quality sleep when it's dark outside, not lying in bed until fucking noon. Don't keep your phone or your laptop within ten feet of your bed. Don't read them in bed, ever. If it's 10:30 at night and you aren't tired, that means you should have been more physically active during the day. You can simulate the effect by taking a long, cold shower. Stand under the water until your teeth are chattering, then stay there for another 7-8 minutes.
THREE: UNCALCIFY YOURSELF SOCIALLY
Here's something a lot of people don't realize. In the absence of major trauma like going to war or losing a parent (and no, losing a girlfriend is nowhere near being in the same ballpark; women are replaceable), once you've broken through a particular type of social anxiety, it's gone forever. There's little to no backsliding. Exposure therapy is the thing. Go do shit that scares you a little bit. It might take three or four times before it stops scaring you at all, but once that problem is solved it's fucking solved for good.
Go talk to people just for shits and gigs. Tell a stranger at the park you like their shirt. Sign up for stuff that you have a legitimate interest in, even if you suck right now and don't know anybody who'll be there. Work out at the gym and then strip down naked and take a shower in front of people. This stuff if only difficult because you have a mental block--chip away at the block; it doesn't grow back.
Now let's talk a little bit about alcohol and weed. A lot of people will tell you that alcohol and weed will help loosen you up, while other people will tell you that weed and alcohol are vices that distract way too many people away from their purpose. Both sides are correct; this is a nuanced subject.
- Will these drugs open you up socially? Yes. (Though weed can also make you a paranoid wreck and keep you inside on the couch.)
- Do these drugs give your charisma score a boost? No. If you can't talk to women because you have social anxiety but are otherwise an interesting person, alcohol might help open you up. If women don't want to talk to you because you're a boring fuck, alcohol won't help at all.
- Should you go to a social event where there'll be drinking and smoking? Maybe. Is it a chill environment with people you trust? Then probably. If you get caught, are you going to lose your job or get kicked off the track team? Then probably not.
- Are you a giant pussy if you don't drink or smoke? At any one time, no. But over the course of your entire young adulthood, yeah you probably are. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you're a pussy because you don't drink or smoke. I'm saying that you're probably a pussy in general, and not drinking or smoking is just a symptom of that. Going out and getting drunk might help you uncalcify yourself socially, but it's a small part in getting your shit together, and learning how to not be a pussy in general is a much more important thing to learn. In fact, if you lean into weed or alcohol too hard, it becomes counterproductive. Speaking of which...
- Is getting high or drunk an accomplishment? No! This is one that took me a long time to learn. In my teens, I was a pussy-ass introvert with social anxiety. As I improved, I found myself with more and more plans to go out on Friday and Saturday nights. At first, getting drunk with friends seemed like a pretty cool achievement, since it was something I never had the balls to do in high school. But as you take stock of What Did I Accomplish This Week, let me tell you, getting hammered doesn't belong anywhere near that list beyond maybe the first time.
Don't be too hard on yourself. Don't get lazy, but as long as you're getting better at something over the course of any given 3-4 day period, you're on the right track. You don't have to do everything at once. What will kill you is fucking backsliding. Don't backslide. Though inevitably you will here and there. When that happens, don't throw your hands up and think all is lost and go back to the sack of shit you were before. Move past it and keep plugging away. Progress isn't linear. Don't get discouraged. It does get easier. Like they say, nothing succeeds like success. Winning at life produces a positive feedback loop. The more shit you get under your control, the easier everything else becomes.
And to hell with the people who will try to keep you down, but that's a post for another day.