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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 02:05 AM Thread Starter
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I feel like I've wasted my teen years


Recently turned 20, I mean, really recently. It feels so weird to finally think your teen years are over and I feel like I've wasted them. I'm not sure what caused me to be this scared of social interaction but it ultimately lead me to feel like I've wasted these young chapters of my life. I know it's the past and I can't change it and I should move on, but I seriously can't.

I got diagnosed with austim very recently and I feel like that probably explains. I wasn't good at socializing, so eventually, I developed social anxiety from it. I spent most of my teens on the repetitive cycle of waking up, school, home, spend time inside home, sleep, repeat. I didn't hang out with friends (to be fair they weren't very good friends either), I didn't date or fool around, I didn't have hobbies outside of home, I didn't have a part-time job, ever. I feel like **** over it, especially when that's all teens are depicted doing in movies/tv shows and what other people say of their teen times. They say it was the best time of their life.

I realise I'm still 20, I'm still young. Won't turn old till another 10-15 years. Have I spent the last 3 years of high school doing anything productive though? No. I'm 20, never had a girlfriend, never had genuine friends, never kissed or y'know. Something everyone else seemed to do but I didn't.
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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 02:57 AM
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Won't turn old till another 10-15 years.
Ouch lol.

Anyway I know a lot of people who didn't really start dating/having sex etc until their early-mid 20s. I would ignore TV shows because teenagers have been having less sex every generation for the past 30+ years according to research. The TV shows are probably in some sense a displacement of that fact. Less sex irl = more sex in media maybe. Could work the other way around too either way it's happening.

https://www.insidehook.com/daily_bri...-sex-than-ever

I'm very cynical so I find headlines like this mostly darkly amusing because of why they all freak out about it lol (but won't go into that here.)

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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 03:58 AM
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I realise I'm still 20, I'm still young. Won't turn old till another 10-15 years. Have I spent the last 3 years of high school doing anything productive though? No. I'm 20, never had a girlfriend, never had genuine friends, never kissed or y'know. Something everyone else seemed to do but I didn't.
I remember having similar feeling when I turned 18, 20, 25. It didn't happen when I turned 30 though. I spent a lot of time when I was 27 obsessing over my first white hair. I also try to mentally add a few years whenever I think of my age to avoid future birthday shocks.

20 is young though, objectively speaking lol. I remember complaining about being 17 and too old on a forum at one point so I dont really blame you.

Also have a vivid memory of crying when I saw myself in the mirror wearing secondary school uniform for the first time : /

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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 05:21 AM
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i didnt like my teens either.....i think thats the case with most folk.....itis an incredibly insecure, immature time....as a teen i was bullied alot....also i had no success with the opposite sex......i was covered in severe acne, my whole face so i never had a relationship of any sort, and yeah still a virgin but i try to forget about that.

anyway i think most people would look back on their teens as an awkward, foolish time which theyre glad to see the back of.
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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 05:56 AM Thread Starter
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Ouch lol.

Anyway I know a lot of people who didn't really start dating/having sex etc until their early-mid 20s. I would ignore TV shows because teenagers have been having less sex every generation for the past 30+ years according to research. The TV shows are probably in some sense a displacement of that fact. Less sex irl = more sex in media maybe. Could work the other way around too either way it's happening.

I'm very cynical so I find headlines like this mostly darkly amusing because of why they all freak out about it lol (but won't go into that here.)
That's... Strangely comforting to be honest. Then again most of the stories I heard were from older people who very clearly lived in a more sexually active time so that's why I felt a bit down about having literally no one during my teens.
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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 06:04 AM Thread Starter
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I remember having similar feeling when I turned 18, 20, 25. It didn't happen when I turned 30 though. I spent a lot of time when I was 27 obsessing over my first white hair. I also try to mentally add a few years whenever I think of my age to avoid future birthday shocks.

20 is young though, objectively speaking lol. I remember complaining about being 17 and too old on a forum at one point so I dont really blame you.

Also have a vivid memory of crying when I saw myself in the mirror wearing secondary school uniform for the first time : /

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I'm not stressing myself too much over my age. I know I'm young. I'm a young adult, will be for another 15 years or so. Socially tho, I do feel like I am behind everyone else which is why I feel like I've wasted time worrying too much about what people thought of me to even properly live the teens.

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i didnt like my teens either.....i think thats the case with most folk.....itis an incredibly insecure, immature time....as a teen i was bullied alot....also i had no success with the opposite sex......i was covered in severe acne, my whole face so i never had a relationship of any sort, and yeah still a virgin but i try to forget about that.

anyway i think most people would look back on their teens as an awkward, foolish time which theyre glad to see the back of.
My teens weren't completely bad, just a tad bit boring. I didn't take risks and I didn't try to meet new people, that might've because I didn't know how to properly socialize either so I just avoided it completely unless I was forced too befriend someone, like my classmates. Because of that though now I feel like I'm late to things.
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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 07:17 AM
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Meh it's not worth worrying about doing stuff by a certain age that's nonsense, teenage years can be hell, at least you made it, how many didn't even make it through their teens through illness, drug abuse, mental illness/suicide, accidents, violence etc, I personally know of many in my area, in life only death can be classed as waste everything else is experience.

I left school at 14 because of bullying, very rarely left home for the next 10 years only for a part time job, mainly to fund escapism/videogame addiction, no friends, no girlfriends etc, I liked that time tbh.
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 10:25 AM
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I feel you. I also pretty much wasted my teens, and my twenties, and my thirties, and I'm in the midst of wasting my forties. At least you are realizing that it's a problem at your age. I don't think I realized what a hole my poor decisions and laziness had dug me into until I was 30 or so. So I would suggest finding all the areas you feel you're lacking in and resolve to fill in those holes.
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Kthulhu View Post
Recently turned 20, I mean, really recently. It feels so weird to finally think your teen years are over and I feel like I've wasted them. I'm not sure what caused me to be this scared of social interaction but it ultimately lead me to feel like I've wasted these young chapters of my life. I know it's the past and I can't change it and I should move on, but I seriously can't.

I got diagnosed with austim very recently and I feel like that probably explains. I wasn't good at socializing, so eventually, I developed social anxiety from it. I spent most of my teens on the repetitive cycle of waking up, school, home, spend time inside home, sleep, repeat. I didn't hang out with friends (to be fair they weren't very good friends either), I didn't date or fool around, I didn't have hobbies outside of home, I didn't have a part-time job, ever. I feel like **** over it, especially when that's all teens are depicted doing in movies/tv shows and what other people say of their teen times. They say it was the best time of their life.

I realise I'm still 20, I'm still young. Won't turn old till another 10-15 years. Have I spent the last 3 years of high school doing anything productive though? No. I'm 20, never had a girlfriend, never had genuine friends, never kissed or y'know. Something everyone else seemed to do but I didn't.
I feel exactly the same pretty much. I'm 23 now and tho I haven't been that social the last 3 years compared to many people I've done a lot more than I did as a teen. I know it feels like **** having all that wasted time but at least you realised it now instead of years down the line. You still have time to experience a lot if you start trying now.
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 03:47 PM
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I think in terms of Social Media, everyone paints a rosey picture of themselves, the reality is probably not all that. What can make a difference is joining classes, clubs etc. learn new things that interest you and make new connections with new people. Hope this helps

These are just my thoughts/opinions, I am not a Doctor/Health Professional etc. so please draw your own conclusions.
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post #11 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 05:18 PM
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I "wasted" my life up until I was 40. Except it wasn't wasted, it was the product of things I couldn't control (how others treated me, how I was raised, the environment I was in) which gave me certain issues I wasn't able to resolve on my own and move forwards.

I then got the tools through therapy and started to move forwards.

There isn't anything you can do about the time that has passed. All you can do is your best in the current moment to make the best future for you. That most definitely isn't beating yourself up over something you can't change. I understand the difficulty, and the temptation to ruminate about this stuff, but if its at all possible you are doing yourself the very best kindness to instead try to think about what you can do now to make your life a bit better.

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post #12 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 07:47 PM Thread Starter
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I "wasted" my life up until I was 40. Except it wasn't wasted, it was the product of things I couldn't control (how others treated me, how I was raised, the environment I was in) which gave me certain issues I wasn't able to resolve on my own and move forwards.

I then got the tools through therapy and started to move forwards.

There isn't anything you can do about the time that has passed. All you can do is your best in the current moment to make the best future for you. That most definitely isn't beating yourself up over something you can't change. I understand the difficulty, and the temptation to ruminate about this stuff, but if its at all possible you are doing yourself the very best kindness to instead try to think about what you can do now to make your life a bit better.
I wouldn't be beating myself up over this if it weren't my fault, but to a certain degree, I think it was my fault. I feel like I should've made more attempts to socialize with other teens despite I never being taught how to do so. I was too scared of being made fun of/looking creepy/being awkward that I didn't bother to try that much.

I feel like I already had the label of "quiet kid" back then as well, so I felt more pressured. I didn't talk much.
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post #13 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 08:02 PM
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@Kthulhu Beating yourself up though, isn't likely to help you moving forwards. I like to see these things like this:

Imagine you had a four year old son. You wanted the best for him, and had two schools to choose from with which to send him. The first school uses gentle encouragement, kindness, and tries to build up a sense of responsibility, passion, dedication and interest. Trying to get your son passionate, using positivity, and fair discipline where needed, but never unkind. The second school uses criticism. The teachers watch for every mistake, they flag him up on it, and they use criticism to instil fear so he doesn't make that mistake again. Sometimes they are even abusive.

Which of those two schools would you send your four year old son to?
Which of those schools would result in your son progressing on with his life?

It is, I think a no brainer. Then there is nothing different about yourself. You deserve to be treated in the way which will give you the best chance at succeeding in whichever direction you want to succeed in life. You should try to treat yourself in the way which does this.

The thing with criticism, and beating yourself up over the past, it masquerades as "being helpful" but really its not, it does the opposite. When you notice this critical voice, you can (kindly, or you end up again fusing with the critical voice) thanking it for its input, but that you want whats best for yourself, and that means treating this day as if it was your first and trying your best to encourage yourself.

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post #14 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 08:12 PM
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Try to make your 20s more productive then. At least in your 20s you have more freedom to do the things you actually want to do.

Personally, I haven't done much socially with my life. But I don't remember my teen years much anymore anyway.
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post #15 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 08:23 PM
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At this point, the question is, and the only question the matters is, how can you improve your social ability and move forwards? I recommend for you compassion focused therapy with CBT. You can get workbooks for it, and then there is a book for social anxiety using CFT and ACT, where you would try to gradually and slowly expose yourself to social situations very slightly outside your comfort zone, but having built up a base of self compassion (i.e. be the good school, so you can learn and move forwards).

Another thing perhaps to consider, is that this negative rumination might be a form of avoidance (avoidance is very very sneaky). For this reason, if it's at all possible I would advise you to see a counsellor or therapist, and particularly, find one who does CFT and CBT. This will, imo give you the best shot, and the process (because its compassionate) will be quite comfortable. If you don't have access to the resources to get this (if there is any way for you to, I would strongly recommend it, it's your future and your life), you can start reading and doing self-therapy with workbooks (there are some excellent ones on amazon).

I don't know how autism plays into this, I imagine it adds another layer of difficulty, and it sucks and I am sorry you have all of these burdens and difficulties.

I can in no way promise you that there are easy solutions to your problems. Life isn't like that (sometimes, it basically just ****s on you). But I do believe there is something to be said to kinda giving the universe the middle finger and just battling on in as pragmatic and productive a way as possible. And at the very worst, if you aren't beating yourself up, you are suffering less, even if you don't end up exactly where you wanted to end up.

But I wish you all the best, I really do.

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post #16 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Kthulhu View Post
I wouldn't be beating myself up over this if it weren't my fault, but to a certain degree, I think it was my fault. I feel like I should've made more attempts to socialize with other teens
I think this is an illusion created by hindsight. Everyone feels that they should have done more, and everyone feels partly to blame for their problems, but at every point in your past you were faced with a choice, and at each point you weighed the pros and cons, and at each point you decided (for whatever reason) that making those attempts wouldn't be worth it, or that it would only increase the amount of pain you were experiencing. At the time, you were always acting in a way designed to minimize the amount of pain you expected to experience. Because that's what the brain does: it protects you from pain. And often it uses a milder form of pain to protect you from what it predicts will be a bigger form of pain. You experience anxiety at the thought of socializing with others because that smaller pain (anxiety) protects you from a potential bigger pain (being publicly humiliated or rejected). So, the whole time you were "wasting" your teen years your brain was doing its best to minimize the amount of pain you experienced. Your brain, iow, was doing its job.

The problem here is not with your actions. The problem is with your expectations. And those expectations were almost certainly created when you were a very young child. Before you could even speak you probably came to expect pain from reaching out to others. And this prediction led to a pattern of avoidance. Those predictions probably had something to do with your autism and how other people related to you. There is no possible way that you, as a young child, could have had any responsibility for the formation of this prediction and its adaptive response. So there is very little you could have actually done about this. Even knowing that isolating yourself was bad, and feeling that you should be doing something to change it, will not, on its own, change the kinds of predictions your brain is making or the brain's reflex action of avoiding pain. Mental illnesses are like physical illnesses; we do not expect people to cure their own diabetes, and we should not expect people to cure their own anxiety. We have science, doctors, hospitals, parents, school counselors, and therapists for a reason.

Saying that you are not responsible for being where you are now does not mean that you are powerless or that you are not stuck with fixing the problem. You will have to do your best to address this issue, and you will have to do most of the work on your own. But blaming yourself for having a brain that avoids pain, for having experiences that set those expectations, and for avoiding situations that you predicted would create more pain than pleasure (which is completely rational, btw) is not going to help. The regret is something you are going to have to live with, but it's not too late to make changes, and your life is not over by any means. The brain is a powerful organ, and if it can find a better way to deal with your social anxiety or make better predictions it will. Most likely, you will need some kind of help for that. Like @SplendidBob , I recommend self-compassion (CFT) and CBT.

Beauty isn't everything. It's the only thing.
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post #17 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 10:37 PM
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post #18 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-16-2021, 10:53 PM
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I've felt just like you at that age. I also never left the house except for school. At least you had some people you would call friends, I had none. Some of those class "mates" would actually make fun of me for not having friends, even though I never told them that, they just knew by looking at me I guess. I always tried my hardest to be accepted but nobody really wanted anything to do with me. No attention from girls either, it's like I didn't even exist for them. Those class "mates" I used to see every day, that never considered me as a part of them, I literally never saw them again the day I was done with my school and I never looked back.



It really sucks to be left out of all those experiences, especially when you WANT to be part of it. It's just not fair. Now I'm 29 and I feel just like I felt at 20, only that I've "wasted" another 10 years. Except that I didn't actively waste them, that's just what life had in store for me. I'm at that age now where people start having families and here am I being less socially experienced than the average 15 year old. It just doesn't match up. But thankfully now it doesn't bother me that much. I would probably bother me more if I was in an environment where people socialize a lot and I'm being the one left out again but that's exactly why I'm staying home. If no one cares about me I'm not gonna waste my time being around people.
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post #19 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-17-2021, 03:14 AM Thread Starter
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I think this is an illusion created by hindsight. Everyone feels that they should have done more, and everyone feels partly to blame for their problems, but at every point in your past you were faced with a choice, and at each point you weighed the pros and cons, and at each point you decided (for whatever reason) that making those attempts wouldn't be worth it, or that it would only increase the amount of pain you were experiencing. At the time, you were always acting in a way designed to minimize the amount of pain you expected to experience. Because that's what the brain does: it protects you from pain. And often it uses a milder form of pain to protect you from what it predicts will be a bigger form of pain. You experience anxiety at the thought of socializing with others because that smaller pain (anxiety) protects you from a potential bigger pain (being publicly humiliated or rejected). So, the whole time you were "wasting" your teen years your brain was doing its best to minimize the amount of pain you experienced. Your brain, iow, was doing its job.

The problem here is not with your actions. The problem is with your expectations. And those expectations were almost certainly created when you were a very young child. Before you could even speak you probably came to expect pain from reaching out to others. And this prediction led to a pattern of avoidance. Those predictions probably had something to do with your autism and how other people related to you. There is no possible way that you, as a young child, could have had any responsibility for the formation of this prediction and its adaptive response. So there is very little you could have actually done about this. Even knowing that isolating yourself was bad, and feeling that you should be doing something to change it, will not, on its own, change the kinds of predictions your brain is making or the brain's reflex action of avoiding pain. Mental illnesses are like physical illnesses; we do not expect people to cure their own diabetes, and we should not expect people to cure their own anxiety. We have science, doctors, hospitals, parents, school counselors, and therapists for a reason.

Saying that you are not responsible for being where you are now does not mean that you are powerless or that you are not stuck with fixing the problem. You will have to do your best to address this issue, and you will have to do most of the work on your own. But blaming yourself for having a brain that avoids pain, for having experiences that set those expectations, and for avoiding situations that you predicted would create more pain than pleasure (which is completely rational, btw) is not going to help. The regret is something you are going to have to live with, but it's not too late to make changes, and your life is not over by any means. The brain is a powerful organ, and if it can find a better way to deal with your social anxiety or make better predictions it will. Most likely, you will need some kind of help for that. Like @SplendidBob , I recommend self-compassion (CFT) and CBT.
I'll try to make my 20s better, but I feel so behind on everything compared to everyone else. Didn't hang out much with others, didn't have a first kiss or lost my virginity, didn't even have genuine friends that cared about me. I was like this sad eyesore wherever I went, always assuming people wanted the worst for me and judged me. Thing is, I'm not hideous or an ******* (though some people interpret quietness as rudeness) so I can only assume I developed this fear of other people from my overprotective mother.

I didn't even get a proper autism diagnosis till I was 19, so, a couple months ago. I never got the help I needed to better cope with social situations so it got worse and worse the more I tried to socialize. Knowing I'm autistic tho doesn't exactly help my situation, since even among other autistic people, I seem to still be an outcast who didn't properly enjoy his teens. Most of them did, I didn't.
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post #20 of 32 (permalink) Old 02-17-2021, 03:23 AM Thread Starter
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I've felt just like you at that age. I also never left the house except for school. At least you had some people you would call friends, I had none. Some of those class "mates" would actually make fun of me for not having friends, even though I never told them that, they just knew by looking at me I guess. I always tried my hardest to be accepted but nobody really wanted anything to do with me. No attention from girls either, it's like I didn't even exist for them. Those class "mates" I used to see every day, that never considered me as a part of them, I literally never saw them again the day I was done with my school and I never looked back.



It really sucks to be left out of all those experiences, especially when you WANT to be part of it. It's just not fair. Now I'm 29 and I feel just like I felt at 20, only that I've "wasted" another 10 years. Except that I didn't actively waste them, that's just what life had in store for me. I'm at that age now where people start having families and here am I being less socially experienced than the average 15 year old. It just doesn't match up. But thankfully now it doesn't bother me that much. I would probably bother me more if I was in an environment where people socialize a lot and I'm being the one left out again but that's exactly why I'm staying home. If no one cares about me I'm not gonna waste my time being around people.
I wouldn't necessarily call them "good" friends. They were my friends mostly because I hanged out with them at school. Even then, I barely spoke with them. No one actually knew me, myself. They only knew this quiet guy that hanged out with them at school.

I'd say things get better but I'm literally just entering my 20s, I don't know anything and I most certainly won't tell you a lie.
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