When You Feel Like You've Tried Everything But Your Social Problems Still Aren't Improving

A very discouraging and confusion situation for someone to be in is when they feel like they've tried everything to improve our social situation, but success, or even just some encouraging initial feedback, still eludes them. They have no idea what they're doing wrong, just that no matter what they can't make any headway on their issues. The specific area or skills each person is struggling with will vary, but this article will cover some common general explanations for why someone may feel stuck. It won't take you more than a few minutes to read the list of possible reasons below. If you're struggling with this issue yourself, the real tricky part will be figuring out which one might apply to you. It will likely take some time and effort to investigate the different possibilities and get to the bottom of things.

When faced with difficult goals it's very natural to fall into some of the pitfalls I describe below. It happens to everyone. I want to emphasize that none of the points below are meant to come across as an attack on anyone's self-discipline or self-awareness.

Your goals may be unrealistic

Your progress may be perfectly fine, and you may just feel unnecessarily frustrated because you're expecting too much, too soon. When people try to improve in some areas they can be driven by an end result that's not very realistic. A socially awkward college freshman may have fantasies of reading a few Secret Tips and becoming the most popular person on campus, and having friends and women fall all over him. A shy woman who practices starting conversations may expect everyone she chats to respond super positively to her, even though that's impossible. A skinny weightlifter may falsely think he's capable of gaining the body of a steroid and growth hormone enhanced professional bodybuilder in six months. With pie in the sky goals like that, it would be easy for anyone to get down over their seeming lack of progress, even while they may be well on their way to hitting more reasonable milestones.

You may have technically tried everything, but haven't stuck with any approach long enough to see results

Sometimes when people say they've tried everything what's really happened is that they used a number of methods, but didn't stick with or fully apply any of them. Instead, without even realizing they were doing it, they half-heartedly tested out each approach, then jumped to something else when it didn't produce instant, effortless results. There are often so many fads and suggestions floating around that it's easy to move on to the next thing. You see people do this in a lot of areas, such as dieting and fitness.

Many issues that people struggle with have an effective, unglamorous solution already in place. It's just that making it work requires consistency, discipline, and the formation of healthy new habits. The hard part isn't knowing what to do. It's being able to repeat it for months or years on end. If you're not fully committed to making it work it's easy to lose motivation and go looking for a magic pill.

A social skills example would be getting more comfortable with situations that make you nervous. You have to put in the time to face your fears and slowly get used to them. It can take a while, and it can be quite draining and uncomfortable. If someone's not 100% keen on making that kind of change, it will be easy for them to flit around and look for something easier.

You tried some things in the past, but were sabotaged by the lack of a proper foundation

There are foundations that have to be in place before you can learn new skills. For example, you wouldn't succeed at trying to learn the guitar if you had a chronic hand injury, terrible practice habits, and a belief that the process of learning should be quick and mistake-free. Similarly, some people force themselves into social situations without a good baseline in place, then declare whatever they tried was a bust. Like they may take the suggestion to join a club as a way to meet people, but they haven't learned any methods to address their anxiety and they view interactions through a lens of counterproductive beliefs like "People are unfriendly and rejecting" and "If I have one awkward moment it means I've failed and should give up." Your mindset doesn't have to be flawless before you work on your social issues, but you have to put some time into it so it's not totally counterproductive.

You haven't really tried everything and the right approach is still out there

This seems simple, but sometimes people feel like they've tried everything, but they really haven't, and the effective solution is still waiting to be found. Depending on the field, it can sometimes be easy to get sidetracked and end up chasing a bunch of dead ends. For example, a man who's trying to lose weight may be introduced to the field by fluffy fitness magazines and waste a year trying a bunch of trendy diets and gimmicky supplements before being introduced to more solid information. When some people try to improve their social skills they assume they have to go to a bunch of bars and parties and practice chatting up strangers. They may be so focused on that approach they unconsciously put blinders on to other possibilities. The bar scene's not for everyone and there are way more options for meeting people and practicing than that.

You may have a blind spot

If someone continually gets bad reactions from other people, but they don't know what they're doing wrong, they may have a social weakness that they're not able to see for themselves. To give one of many, many possible examples, someone may come across as a bit bitter, hostile, and thin-skinned, and scare people off, but totally not realize it.

If you read widely enough you may stumble upon a piece of writing that makes you aware of your blind spot. If you want to search more directly, the best way to go is to get feedback from a mental health professional. A counselor can help identify your weak areas, and tell you about them in a constructive way. You could also try asking people you know in your day-to-day life, but it's often hard to get a straight answer from them. They may be reluctant to tell you, for fear of hurting your feelings, getting a bad reaction, or because they'd just rather not be the person to have to break it to you.

A larger mental health or developmental issue may be holding you back

There are developmental differences and mental health issues that make it much harder for people to acquire and apply social skills. Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome or Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities struggle in social situations, as their brains aren't wired to 'get' interpersonal communication on the intuitive level that most people do. A variety of mental health issues are also associated with social skills deficits. Again, seeing a professional is the way to go. They can assess whether such an obstacle is in place, and if it is, work with you to help you succeed in spite of it.

You might need to look at your problem from a different paradigm

Sometimes when people tackle an issue they unconsciously view at it within a certain, limiting, set of beliefs and assumptions. Inside that framework they may never be able to have success. However, if they adopt a new way of looking at things, a solution may become clear. For example, some people are held back by their anxiety for years, because they approach it with the mentality of, "I have to put my life on hold until I completely eliminate all my nervous feelings." They try exercise after exercise, and technique after technique, but nothing works. They'll never get anywhere because you can't fully conquer your anxiety. A more productive paradigm is to see anxiety as uncomfortable, but harmless and tolerable, and know that you can still live a rewarding life even if you're feeling nervous at times.

Another example that's not related to socializing is how many people in their 20's feel flawed and discouraged because they don't know what they want to do with their lives. They try to figure out a career path, maybe even enroll in some college courses only to drop out after two semesters, but nothing pans out. Often they're approaching the issue through the societally-promoted lens of, "The way to settle on a career to have to come up with a pre-existing interest or passion I want to turn into a profession, then sign up for and complete a degree that will let me get a job in that field." That approach works for some people, but not everyone. Other people arrive at their careers in different ways. They may stumble into a field they never would have guessed would be a fit for them, even if they spent ten years taking career aptitude tests or thinking about questions like, "What would I do for fun if I won the lottery?" For example, they may take a part-time job at a restaurant simply to earn some money and then find they love cooking. Others defy the idea that your career has to be an outgrowth of a passion. They may find fulfillment in their free time, and be content to earn a comfortable living doing an uninspired-on-paper job that they fell into, like managing a call center.

Your overall situation could be slanted against you

Sometimes your lack of success has nothing to do with you, and in a different environment you may have a completely different outcome. For example, a middle-aged professional woman who's just moved to the United States from Sri Lanka may not be able to get anything going socially because she lives in a town full of mildly bigoted, blue collar types who have nothing in common with her. That's not to say her situation is completely impossible, but a large factor in her lack of success may be the mentality of the people she's dealing with. It may just be easier to move on, rather than swim upstream. Another common example is a high school student who no one will give a chance to because they've already built up a reputation as one of the weird kids.

This point isn't the same as the related issue of when someone feels they can't succeed because their circumstances are stacked against them, but it's more of a limiting belief on their part. In any particular case it's often hard to tease apart whether a person's lack of success is due to internal or external barriers.