How do I motivate myself when I feel like such a failure?

Posted by aew24 @aew24, May 19 9:44pm

I am a senior in college. I'm supposed to graduate in a few weeks, but I'm struggling to put any effort into my final project or really anything. I feel like my project is going to be a massive disappointment, and I've already failed because I didn't get accepted to any of the grad programs I applied to. A big part of me doesn't want to finish the term off. Instead, I just want to walk away from my entire life, family, friends, future plans, all of it.
This isn't a new feeling, and it's not the first time it's gotten this bad. I felt like I didn't belong from the moment I stepped foot on campus. Mostly, It lessened with time save for a few ups and downs, but it never went away. This year, it's been so much worse. I know that part of that was one of the girls I was living with. She had to control everything to the point of me stressing out over where I put my shoes, if I got every last crumb off the counter, or if I remembered to put everything in my room. I no longer had a safe space, and I couldn't sleep. I would take naps in my car during the day and shove snacks in my bag so that I didn't have to go back to my apartment to eat. During all of that, she started taking away communal resources, starting with board games, then toilet paper, and eventually dishes. The final straw was waking up at the crack of dawn to her standing in the doorway of my bedroom, yelling at my roommate for something that wasn't actually a problem.
I moved out without telling any of my housemates and haven't seen the problem person since. I hoped that would eliminate all of my excess stress, and while I am nowhere near the disaster I was two weeks ago, I'm still not back to my lower baseline level of stress that I'm used to. I'm still overwhelmed by impending deadlines, even though there isn't much left to do. I can't focus on my assignments despite finally having the space to work on them. Everything I do complete is absolute crap in my mind and makes me want to rip it apart.
I don't have a support system. I now live alone, almost an hour away from campus and my friends. I don't know how to help myself get through the next few weeks and get everything done that I need to. If anyone has any advice, I'd really appreciate it. I want to like myself again, or at least hate myself a little less, and just maybe see value in the things I'm doing.

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aew24 @aew24

Welcome to Mayo Connect, it is a helpful caring community. It has been long time since I was in college, but just reading your post reminds me of the stress of finishing my senior year and anxiety of what the future will bring. Your not alone with these feelings. If your a senior, you have faced other challenges and succeeded.

I am glad your out of what sounded like and abusive situation.

Do you journal? Reading you post reminds me of journaling, sometimes it helps to write down your feelings and vent, even if it is just to paper.

Any project, when look at it in it's entirely, can seems overwhelming. Break it down into smaller steps. Accomplishing the smaller steps will get you closer to your goal and a sense of accomplishment.

Are your other friend's experiencing something similar? How are they dealing with it?


@aew24 You wrote with great insight into how you are feeling now, related it to how you've felt in the past, and the terrible situation that you were living in. I can understand how difficult this last push is through the end of your senior year. You were in an awful living situation and now you are uncertain about your future. Have you talked with anyone in your family about how you are feeling? It's really difficult to go through such emotional pain alone. When I was your age I could open up to my mother and she would listen and try to help me. I couldn't do that with my father who became impatient and thought I should just get on with it. I had many stops and starts throughout my 20's as an undergraduate and then later as a graduate student. Quite honestly, I couldn't tell you how I continued to push on but I did because at some level I must have known that my future was in my hands and no one else could do it for me. I did have friends in the programs I was enrolled in so I had people I could talk to and study with. But when it came time to work on a project I had to sit myself down and do it on my own.

I've learned a lot about motivation since my university days as a student. Here is one thing I've learned. I don't wait to be motivated. I have learned that there are some things I know I have to do and so I ask myself "am I willing to do it?"

What resources are available to you on campus to help you? I know it's very late in the semester but is there drop-in counseling? Drop-in study centers? Writing tutors?

I was a university professor for many years and spent hours with undergraduate students on their assignments and projects. I also assisted them with their graduate school applications including how to be realistic where they were applying and writing their personal essays. The majority of students had success with their applications but some did not. Some re-applied to the same schools or different schools the following year and were successful. I'm thinking of a student who was stunned when she wasn't accepted to graduate school. I don't think she had ever received a rejection letter before. She took a year off and reapplied to different programs. During the year off she worked on a tall ship (a classic schooner) and that's where she met the man she eventually married. She was accepted to graduate programs that second time around. I haven't heard from her in awhile but I often think how she turned what seemed like a rejection into a new life path.

I can understand how difficult this last push is through the end of your senior year. You were in an awful living situation and now you are uncertain about your future. Is there something I wrote above that resonates with you?


You're certainly in an unenviable spot.

I encourage you to hang in there. Things will get better.

You might think, "Yeah, easy for him to say," but I assure you. I've struggled with your kind of issues for many years.

One of the many things I have learned is that life is a progression. We go through different phases, each of which has its own challenges and rewards, and each of which requires different abilities.

For example, in high school I was unbelievably unpopular. Out of a graduating class of 700, not a single person signed my yearbook, or asked me to sign theirs. I thought there was something irredeemably horrid about me. I can remember thinking. "If this is what life is like, and I can expect to live several more decades, it's not going to be worth it."

But life is not just an extension of how things are right now. Once I started college, the same traits that made me a weirdo in high school allowed me to make friends in college. In fact, compared to some of the people I met in college, my weirdness didn't even register.

Decades later, I am now disabled. Typing is very difficult for me, so I'll keep this short. Remember these four words:
This too shall pass.

The world is full of joy and beauty -- if you know where to look and how to look. Don't shut yourself out of a lifetime of joy because things look bleak today.

Maybe you will derive some help from my YouTube channel, "From Recovery to Discovery":


With three ups and three downs in my life of eight decades with moving from continents and countries and cities, I can say that life IS going to throw a curve or two in our path, it's NOT life it's how you wished. We're only in control what's possible At That Time. I was planning to be in a walk tomorrow but it seems finally my perephiral neuropathy (u can see it's so New I can't spell it right!) makes me stay out of it For the FIRST time in my life (yes I'd walked over snow last winter in parks). It's a new chapter in life? Likely.
Yet as Scott above has said, there's "joy and beauty" in life still. Maybe I've to learn it -- just as the toddlers learn as they barely are able to walk, with no complaining.
I hope you stay open to the surprises, good and bad, finding life a wonderful experience.


Aew24, if you have a project coordinator you might talk them about your misgivings about your project. If there are several people who will grade or approve the project, they might add perspective because they know exactly what they are looking for in the projects they'll grade highly.

More importantly, at some point you could get some career counseling about getting accepted into programs similar to the one that you prefer.

You could write to us about your project because we are curious about it. And because it helps to revive your own interest to talk about it.

It isn't healthful to be around someone as negative as your old roomate. it isn't just difficult or unpleasant; it can undermine your sense of self even after your realize that they are troubled.

You are in an excellent position. Even if your project doesn't turn out to be a masterpiece. You are graduating from college.


The motivation to do anything is gone. If I don't have to go outside I usually don't even bother to get dressed. Showering is now hit and miss. And I don't care. I don't care because I feel no one cares about me. Does it ever get better?


The motivation to do anything is gone. If I don't have to go outside I usually don't even bother to get dressed. Showering is now hit and miss. And I don't care. I don't care because I feel no one cares about me. Does it ever get better?

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@thisismarilynb - Hi. I'm sorry that you find yourself in a low spot or low period.

In answer to your question: it DOES get better. It feels like it never will - at least in my experience, when I've been in the middle of this kind of physical and psychological depression. Also I've been told that's a characteristic of the feeling of depression.

I don't have any specific advice on how to get out of it. Sometimes, for me, it has meant just suffering through it. Other times, circumstances have brought me along such that I eventually am lifted out of it. Those circumstances could be a new person I've met, a different schedule to my day, a task that I've dreaded, but that somehow I managed to get done (whether it was on my own or with resources I could rally to my cause). Basically, as I think about it, some kind of change in pattern - for me - can help, although I can also think of times where I resisted any kind of externally-presented change, just wanting to retreat, and be quiet, and withdraw.

I have read and responded at times to your posts over the past year and recall that one of your sons had been of some comfort to you. Is that possible now, or maybe something has changed?

Has a therapist been of any insight or consolation?

Thinking of you, and hope that time will be kind to you as you recover from this ennui. Has anything I've shared rung clear to anything you're experiencing now?

Sending a message of hope along for you in these more trying times.


I found no way to reply to your message, and so replied to another reply, and then that disappeared. Wow, that seems an appropriate way to start my message, feeling frustrated, which would help it seems for me to have some insight into your situation. i don't mean to belittle your conflicts and frustrations in any way, but I think you are micronize everything in it seems sort of the same intense way.. This is exhausting, and it seems for you accomplishing little compared to the drain on you energy and vitality. What i suggest is you go to a body of water, preferably along the shoreline of the sea, or a lake, or even a river. Take your usual approach and look at each wave, as it rises, falls, and seems to disappear. Of course it moves underwater as well, but you can't see this or see any strategy to resolve it, as to where it is going or affecting or being affected. Actually, as you may know, waves move in a circular pattern going underwater and coming up again, something like a dragon that the hero cuts off the head, but there it is again, and the exhausting battle goes on and on. Well, just focus on what you see, the wave moves and then seems to disappear. You can go on and look at another wave, then another wave, then another wave, then another wave. On it goes. No wave is completely seen in it ciruclar pattern, and many waves you have seen before with various people and situations that only partially relate to your frustration. Birds seem to do this. The bird is studying everything, every blade of grass, ever leaf, every bird that flies by. It doesn't seem to move, but a point seems to be reached it has had enough, it spreads its wings and flies! The same thing can happen with your micronizing every wave. You are feeling tired, uneventful, not accomplishing anything, and then you look out and forget the myriad waves, and see the sea, or lake, or river. Altogher new things happen. Like the river, where does all that moving water come from, and where is it going. What is happening as it moves along a changing shoreline. Then with the lake or the sea, with all your micronizing, you missed that they have a very great and significant sense of identity that is far more than all those waves. With the sea, you see there is a horizon, and that expands your thinking to take in the curved shape indicating the shape of the earth. There isn't all the details to micronize, as you can't make out individual waves. Memories are given a chance going back into your own childhood, and a chance to connect yourself with a larger time frame and major changes. Nothing is trivial, and micronizing is inadequate.

Well, I hope that might help you get out of your situation. New solutions have a chance to become relevant. There are useful places for micronizing, but it seems in your life, this approach is dominating, like a kind of addiction. You are much bigger than that, and recognizing the horizons in your life and the great sea of life and adventure waiting for you to explore. Find a place and a time hopefully each day to leave all the monotony behind, focus on something that suggests a much bigger picture, that you have inside yourself to fully appreciate and explore.
Good luck. I am very confident you can move past all this frustration and see a very different future for yourself. Just be patient, you will meet the challenge and find what you are looking for.


I have been in your place before. This is a challenging part your life. The worry about what happens next. I truly believe if you finish your project, you will feel much better. As for going to graduate school, I believe an opportunity for you is out the way I have worked in graduate and professional school admissions for nearly 30 years...worked with a lot of students to find their way. I would be glad to advise if you want to message me.

Sounds like you have been moving on from a bad living situation. When I read the words, "I felt like I didn't belong" I know that feeling as well. It sounds like "imposter syndrome" which happens in high achieving environments especially. Believe me, there are plenty of others who feel the same way, but they just hide it better (unfortunately).

When I worked on my master's I was sort of the odd person out. I started later than my classmates, so I missed the initial bonding period. Also, I came from a more non-traditional background. Even if this was not your case, I know the feeling. I would encourage to seek out different groups of people....campus probably has a group that fits you. If not now, since you are graduating, then in graduate school...which I believe you will find an opportunity. Some lifelong friendships of mine were made in school.

Things will get better one step at a time. If you want to talk about graduate school and where your interests lie, please feel free to message me.


Just do one small thing toward your project. Like…sharpen a pencil…or turn on your computer..then do one more small thing…like open up a relevant document…take a small break…then do one more small thing…and so on

Instead of looking at the big task, break it into small tasks and take breaks..a walk, a cup of tea. Think about how far you have come.

Another door will open in time

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