"I've Been Working On My Social Issues For Several Years And Things Still Haven't Changed"

When someone is feeling frustrated and discouraged about making friends or getting past their shyness one thing they may say is, "I've been working on this problem for years and things still aren't much better." It really bothers them that they've spent so much time trying to fix their issues, but they haven't seen enough progress.

Well it is clearly aggravating and demoralizing to have spent a long time trying to change and not see the results you want, focusing on the sheer amount of years can be a bit misleading and make your recovery seem like it's going worse than it actually is.

I'll quickly give some reasons why it's not always as bad as it seems if you've been working on your baggage for several years. I know it's a very specific complaint to focus on, but by addressing it hopefully I can take a small piece of discouragement off your plate.

Just because you've been working on a problem for many years, it doesn't mean all those years are equal

This is especially true for people who are in their early or mid-twenties, and have been trying to overcome their social anxiety and loneliness since high school. For a few reasons their years of high school effort don't count for as much:

A year of trying to change at age 27, when your brain is fully developed, and you have more freedom, knowledge, and life experience is worth a lot more than 365 days when you were fifteen, and only operating on a fuzzy sense of what was wrong.

You likely weren't putting in a ton of effort all those years

Even if you knew you were shy or lonely, and wanted to change, there were probably stretches where you were more or less content with your status quo, and focused on other things like school, work, your family, or your hobbies. If you did try to improve, it was sporadic or you focused on easier tasks that naturally came up as you went about your life. Again, a year of that doesn't count for the same as one where you're consistently, deliberately chipping away at your issues.

If you were pursuing an ineffective strategy, more years don't automatically mean you'll get better

Sometimes people complain that they've been trying to make friends or become more confident for many years and have little to show for it, but they haven't been using a helpful approach. Accumulating enough hours isn't magically going to make a mediocre practice pay off. To use one example of many, someone may think just sitting at home and journaling about their insecurities will eventually lead to an earth shattering epiphany that will make them confident and charismatic in one fell swoop. In reality, while self-reflection can help here and there, other things need to be done as well.

Even if you were putting in a lot of effort each year, some issues just take a while to change

For the most part when people bring up the number of years they've been trying to change as a reason to feel discouraged, dwelling on the raw amount of time can make things seem more futile than they actually are. However, even if someone has wrung the maximum amount of progress out of each of their many years, it still doesn't mean their situation is hopeless. Some problems, like more-serious childhood traumas, can need a lot of time to heal. I won't deny that it's tiresome to still suffer from your problems after trying to address them for half a decade, but that's not the same as being a lost cause. Unavoidably slower progress is still progress.