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Successful and unhappy

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I’m about to graduate college with a degree in music education. I’ve found success as a teacher, musician, student, and as a leader on campus. I’m still not happy.

I struggled with an eating disorder and depression in the past. I thought I had left it behind, but I’m not sure anymore. I’ve always believed that if you choose a career you love, you will be happy — at least, be happy most of the time. Not all careers are perfect, but I’m unhappy more often than not. I can put on a happy face at work and have a great, successful day — yet when I walk out the door, it’s gone. I’ve gone from a natural, confident extrovert, to someone who fakes her extroversion. I avoid social situations and have lost a lot of possible close friendships in the process.

I don’t understand why I’m not happy anymore. I’m doing what I want with my life and I’m still feeling empty and incomplete.

What can I do? I don’t have health insurance to cover the cost of a therapist and I have an intense fear of being vulnerable. Did I choose the wrong career or is something wrong with me?

Successful and unhappy

Answered by on -


Of course, it’s always possible that you’ve chosen the wrong career but somehow I doubt it. To become a successful musician requires a rare combination of passion and discipline. I don’t think a person can make that up. So that leaves you with you.

You say you have an intense fear of being vulnerable. Yet being vulnerable is what is required to do anything that matters. Falling in love , maintaining a true friendship, and launching a career all call for showing your whole self and risking being judged as not enough by others. My guess is that the unhappiness is a cover for your fear and your concern about career choice is a cover for your concern about yourself. The antidote is to love yourself, something you’ve apparently had trouble doing before.

It often takes a few chapters of therapy to finally make peace with ourselves. Building and maintaining self-esteem and confidence takes nurturing. I did a search of the mental health services in your community. (There are quite a few.) Please make some phone calls and see if one of the agencies has a sliding fee scale or a payment plan that you find manageable. You might also look into whether there is a women’s center connected to the women’s studies department at your local university. Often such centers offer self-help support groups. Since you are still a student, it’s possible that your student health services can at least give you a jumpstart.

You made an important first step by writing. Now take the next one and find the help you need. I’m already sure you’re worth the effort.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Successful and unhappy

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Successful and unhappy. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.