Daydreaming about a better life instead of living my own

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I will provide a little background before I ask my question. First, I have struggled with self-esteem since I was about 12. I was an overweight child and became very self-conscious about it. Currently I am trying to help myself with books and exercises (cognitive behavioral therapy type things). It is helping. The biggest problem I have because of low self-esteem is engaging in new relationships. I am starting to believe that I tear myself down because I fear being rejected. Lately I just don’t even try and have been single a long time now.

That all is probably a problem in itself but I feel I am making a bit of progress. The issue I wanted to ask about is that I seem to spend a lot of time daydreaming or fantasizing. They aren’t really sexual fantasies, more thinking a lot about a life I could have with a specific woman I may be interested in. I spend more time thinking how I could be happy with a person and not actually engaging anything. Or my mind will even wander and I will think about bigger and better things I could do with my life or some person I could be instead of myself and not actually work at making my situation any better. These thoughts provide a sense of relief and a bit of happiness, but of course that doesn’t last. I’ve been getting better at catching myself doing this. I just feel it isn’t healthy and it worries me.

Thank you for any help.

A: “To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.”

An unknown author puts the situation in perspective. Thank you for writing this question. I hope what I can offer will help.

I think we need a three-pronged approach to this to find some movement. You have demonstrated that you can make important changes in your life by using therapy, exercise and reading. Now we want to bump it up a notch.

The first issue is the fact that you are never in the moment. You are always letting your mind escape to the future, so this leaves you missing what is here, now, in front of you. If you keep deferring to future fantasies you miss the moment where all the action is. Mindfulness meditation will help you pull yourself back into the moment so you are not wasting your resources. You want to train your mind to be present and mindful so all your energy is focused in the here and now.

Secondly, low self-esteem comes from avoidance. When we repeatedly don’t do something that we should it chips away at how we feel about ourselves. If we have several things that we are not doing all that much more gets depleted. I would encourage you to begin doing some things that you have been putting off; anything that gives you even a small sense of accomplishment will be helpful. When we can prove to ourselves that we can have a plan, execute it, and succeed at it, the confidence to do so in other arenas is carried forward. Here is a link about how to get you going on this.

Finally, you’ll need an action plan that is supported by a positive perspective. Having a positive frame of mind is the best foundation to allow you to move forward. Here are some well-researched activities from the field of positive psychology to help you channel the daydreaming into systematic ways to promote your well-being.

To summarize:

  • Be present
  • Be proactive
  • Be positive

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Jun 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Daydreaming about a better life instead of living my own. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/06/03/daydreaming-about-a-better-life-instead-of-living-my-own/

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