Social Question

Mariah's avatar

Can a temporary environment temporarily change your personality?

Asked by Mariah (25863points) June 8th, 2017

I was a totally different (and better) person in college than I am now. I feel more like my pre-college self now in terms of social anxiety, lack of self-confidence, having no motivation to do interesting things in my free time, and some other factors.

I thought I had grown and changed in college but now it feels like it was just a temporary environment that influenced me to be better for awhile, and now I’m just my same old shitty self.

Is this a thing that happens? Has anything similar happened to you? Is there something I could do to “tap into” my college mind even though I’ve lost access to my college environment?

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34 Answers

PullMyFinger's avatar

Yer freakin’ me out a little here, Rachel.

Let me….um…..get back to you (yeah, that’s it….....uhh…......‘get back to you’....)

funkdaddy's avatar

Definitely. Your situation might be different, but just to explore it a bit: could it also be the expectations and attitude of yourself and those around you?

For me, some companies I’ve worked with, or groups of people, have just put me on my heels. I just don’t feel at home, so I’m not as outgoing or energetic. It doesn’t feel like the right place to be “me”.

In college you’re expected to explore, think, ask questions, and occasionally mess up, but persevere because you don’t have many other choices.

Once you’re done with that you’re expected to have it figured out, have a plan, and I think if we’re honest, kill a lot more time with responsibilities.

You can’t go back to college, but there’s nothing wrong with taking the college mindset that you’re still learning and exploring rather than looking at it like “this is it” and “I should have this stuff figured out”...

College is supposed to show you what works as much as anything. What worked for you?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I would think so. If you’re in a house hold where you’re constantly berated and insulted, that’s going to affect you. If you’re in a household where they build your confidence up….

stanleybmanly's avatar

Good point. Your environment is everything. We all get the blues. Some worse than others. I’ve been told I lack the common sense required for depression, but I’ve found a particularly handy remedy to self doubt. Put simply, find fault with and assign blame to others. You think Trump ever suffers from deprsseion?

stanleybmanly's avatar

But seriously, I sometimes think that the likliehood of insecurity grows vanishingly remote when you haven’t time for it.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I know we do not have set personalities, of course we change with circumstances. I also have been around here long enough, reading you, to know there is no “shitty” Mariah. Just the fact that you’re worried about being in a rut reflects well on you.

Anyhoo, enough with the platitudes and (deserved) flattery, some concrete thoughts about action…

I guess my short answer is “maybe there is a hands-on side project where you can learn new skills or rekindle old ones.”

Here are a few projects that restored me after times of slacking and depression. Note I’m old, it’s not like I do this stuff all at once, these are things I’ve done in a 30 year span, and kept up the habit for a couple of years or more.

After a funk, I have delved into:
Guitar lessons
Volunteering at a food bank
Woodworking – I bought a table saw and I made tons of bookshelves
Bike commuting 20+ miles/day
Krav Maga
Gardening

To some extent those are all current hobbies for me today.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Of course it can! The people you are around and how they interact with you can also have a huge impact on how you feel. Thinking particularly about workplaces, if you have supportive colleagues and most importantly, bosses, who tell you how you are doing and take the time to guide you and congratulate you when you do good work and give you advice on how to improve less perfect work, you will probably feel confident and self-assured.

In contrast, if you have colleagues who are self-absorbed or competitive and bosses who either don’t bother to tell you when you’re doing a good job and are critical of you or others , you will most likely lack confidence.

I used to work for a company and my first boss was so supportive and great. He made me feel like I was doing a fabulous job, he trusted me to do my work and had faith in me and it really boosted my confidence. Then I got a boss who was a micro-manager, who was constantly looking over my shoulder and questioning what I was doing. It was awful! I felt nervous and stressed all the time.

How would you describe your workplace? Why do you feel anxious? Do you not feel you’re doing a good enough job? Are you comparing your own achievements to others? Do they give you clear guidelines for what they want you to achieve and follow up with fair, clear evaluations of your work? Perhaps instead of internalising these feelings, analyse what’s different about the environments. What made you feel good about yourself in college, and is that missing where you are now? I know I’ve mentioned imposter syndrome to you in the past. It’s a real thing. I know I suffer from it and I know many of my very capable, and even brilliant, female colleagues also do. Could you be suffering from this too?

johnpowell's avatar

Just curious… Do you kinda feel like you could handle the daily routine if you were in prison?

I feel like I live the same day over and over again and to be perfectly honest I don’t think I would mind if I didn’t wake up tomorrow.

Same day over and over again can be a real bummer.

PullMyFinger's avatar

Hey, don’t blink-out on us now, @johnpowell . We need you here.

Yeah, for almost everyone, life sometimes seems like it really does suck, and the rising number of exploitive, shallow, inauthentic humps walking around certainly does not help.

Take a few steps back, and a few deep breaths (while the air is still….you know…..good). Try to notice and appreciate all of the ‘non-hump’ people walking around….

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I think you probably have a soul crushing job. In high school you can’t choose your direction and it’s generally depressing. Sometimes work is like that. You get to spread your wings in college only to have them clipped again when entering the workforce. Have you though about doing another run at school for a graduate degree?

Mariah's avatar

I cannot blame this on my job. My coworkers and superiors are kind and supportive. It is all me. My stupid fucking brain.

I used to find pleasure in all sorts of hobbies but I have no motivation to do anything anymore expect play video games.

stanleybmanly's avatar

You must stop beating yourself up. Believe me, the world will take care of that for you. Since you bring out the good in your coworkers, what do you suppose that says about you?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I don’t know if you are physically able but when I got into funks like that cardio got me out of it. I’d take a long weekend and backpack, mountain bike or simply jog a few miles in the evenings. The key was to do it outside. Reducing stress is what I now know keeps my anxiety at bay. I hate to hear about anxiety problems. It’s suffering nobody deserves.

funkdaddy's avatar

Video games are a way to get that feeling of accomplishment, and they’re relatively easy wins, so sometimes your brain just wants that feeling. I love games where you’re building something large over time, a little at a time, they really hit whatever reward center works best for me. Maybe you’re the same?

That rewarding feeling is real, but unfortunately what you’re building isn’t. Can you find some easy wins in other areas to kick things off?

I use the hell out of Asana and index cards for just that little reward feeling that crossing stuff off gives you.

Maybe make some easy wins the areas you want to, compare those to the feeling of playing video games, and see what works?

Kardamom's avatar

@Mariah, it sounds like you are suffering from depression. Does it feel like that to you?

I know I have felt depression when I was in a job situation where the people I worked with were crappy, or in situations (mostly at school) when I felt like I didn’t measure up, or in situations where I was engaged in a continuous situation (work or school) that didn’t fit with my strengths and desires. When I had to do something over and over again that I was not good at (in my case math) or when I was engaged at a job where I was not doing what I love, I have felt ill at ease, trapped, and depressed. Do you feel like any of those things could be true right now?

When I am in “the zone” that is when I feel content. Crappy people around me, or doing tasks, or work that I’m not suited for, keep me out of “the zone.”

stanleybmanly's avatar

I forgot the big obvious question. Have you been skipping meals?

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Do you enjoy your work? Do you wake up looking forward to going to work?

I do think sometimes it’s the type of work we do. My work constantly has me questioning my abilities. You’d never survive if you didn’t have a thick skin and the constitution of a rhino. I don’t think it’s terribly healthy though.

Mariah's avatar

@Kardamom Yes I’m depressed right now. The job situation is just me though, not crappy people, the people are great at my job it’s just me, I am just bad at this job and yes I feel very trapped and anxious about it.

@Earthbound_Misfit I enjoy programming, but I do not enjoy working on production code where everything has to be perfect all the time and you spend more of your time reading other people’s code trying to figure out wtf is going on in the existing code rather than writing your own code. I often dream of striking out on my own, making apps and being my own boss, but I can’t do that because of health insurance. I absolutely do not wake up looking forward to going to work, it fills me with dread and anxiety, I’m already anxious just because it’s Sunday and I have to start a new week tomorrow.

@stanleybmanly No I’m not skipping meals. Not often anyway.

funkdaddy's avatar

Is it worth pointing out that you’ll never find happiness being anxious and dreading doing things that also don’t make you happy, for the sole purpose of keeping things the same? There’s no carrot in that equation.

Finding your carrot would be a good start. Can we help with that?

stanleybmanly's avatar

We’re in no position to actually appreciate what’s eating you. In effect, you’re telling us that your teammates as well as your superiors are happy with your work. You on the other hand view yourself as “faking it” and live with the nagging fear that everyone else will “catch on”.

Do you feel that you are somehow cheating your employer? From a practical standpoint, do you believe you could “fool” these folks for better than a year or that they would put up with it and not so much as raise an eyebrow?

stanleybmanly's avatar

Imagine that you resign. What sort of reference would you realistically anticipate from these folks? I think you are probably expected and encouraged to pick the brains of your coworkers, and THAT might very well be a primary expectation when ALL of you were hired.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@Mariah you’re depressed. I’ve been through that myself and lived with a severely depressed wife.

I would like to present you a solution but obviously we are all just Internet friends and cannot.

But I have been right in the same place before, and…

—I think you need to find a therapist.
—There are bad therapists – don’t assume the first one is good – move on if it does not feel right
—I don’t oppose psychiatric drugs, they gave me breathing room in the past, but go light on the drugs.
—Don’t get sucked into a cult like Scientology

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I totally agree with @Call_Me_Jay.

@Mariah, don’t try to make serious decisions while you are depressed. However, when you do find a therapist, spend some time considering why you’re staying in a job you perhaps don’t like? You are in a chicken and egg situation. Are you feeling anxious and that’s affecting how you feel about your work, or is your work contributing or causing your anxiety? I don’t think you can answer this until you’re feeling better and can evaluate the situation more objectively.

We all love you here and I do hope you feel better soon.

Mariah's avatar

I have a therapist and I’m on an SSRI. I don’t know what else to be doing in order to get better.

Mariah's avatar

@stanleybmanly I realize you’re like on a mission to prove to me that this is “all in my head” or something and I appreciate that you think that, but you are not correct. Yes I am cheating my employer. My teammates are literally doing all my work for me. I am incapable of making progress except for when I’m on the phone with my senior teammate. When he’s not available to help me, so for like 6 hours at least each day, I am literally getting zero work done. I may as well be spending my time on Facebook. Yes we have a collaborative work environment where we are expected to ask for help when needed, but does that sound like the description of a valuable employee to you?

Management is not very involved in our day-to-day so unless one of my teammates complains to them I won’t get fired, and the teams are pretty nice about not throwing each other under the bus, which I guess is how I’ve made it a year. I do not think anyone who knows me well enough to give a reference would be able to honestly give a good one if asked.

@Earthbound_Misfit It’s not the company. This job is pretty much as good as it gets for programming jobs. The issue is that I don’t think I am capable of being happy at a programming job, but that is what I am qualified for. To transition into another field I’d need a different degree. Needless to say I’m not super excited by the idea of undertaking that right now.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I have a therapist and I’m on an SSRI. I don’t know what else to be doing in order to get better

You said that earlier, my apologies, I should have known that from the thread.

Mariah's avatar

No worries. Thanks for your kindness. I promise I am not looking to become a Scientologist any time soon.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Mariah, do you have a mentor you can talk to? A professor from university? Someone you have worked for who is in a position to give you good advice?

We are at work for many hours a week, and if what you’re doing isn’t what you want to do into the future, then start looking at steps you can take to get yourself into a position where you’re doing work you actually enjoy.

It might mean doing another degree, but there are many more flexible study options these days. Can’t hurt to explore your options. A mentor in your field might have an idea that you haven’t even thought of. And I always find when I’m acting on a problem, I feel better about my situation.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

One thing to consider is that your degree can get you other types of jobs. The typical software devopment environment may not be your gig. Do you like tinkering with hardware? Do you prefer a desk in an office or would some time out in the field be interesting? Are you good with people? Think outside the Agile model and consider what your talents are. You could do technical sales, develop embedded software, cross over into telecommunications. It’s all vastly different than writing code all day and your degree will get you there. I would seriously start looking for a different but related career track. You should be doing that anyway. This little inflection point is telling you that but you may not have listened. New experience will give you enormous personal growth. Trust me on this.

Mariah's avatar

I’ve been thinking about that, @ARE_you_kidding_me. I’m interested in pivoting into data science, a more math-heavy offshoot of computer science. I love and am good at math and working with data is one of the few things I’ve done in my career that I’ve felt good at. But would most likely need a master’s in statistics or a related field. I’m thinking about an online master’s but it’s intimidating right now to say the least.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

You’re young. I cannot encourage you enough to hop around and find your place. It’s what you should be doing anyway. You don’t exactly have that opportunity as you get older.

stanleybmanly's avatar

But she has the awful load of that crucial health care requirement. Kids these days aren’t nearly as flexible as justice would dictate.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I assume that you can’t shelter under your folks’ insurance plan.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

She’s not job hopping to the sizzler, she is a professional and places she is interested in working are types that still offer healthcare. You simply don’t take a job that has little or no healthcare. As much as I still feel this is a confidence issue I think @Mariah really needs a change.

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