Dark Moments and Counters

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I’d like to think that I live a happy and blessed life. And on most days, I feel pretty good. However, I would be lying if I said things were always smooth sailing. Like most others, I have my darker moments and they come at unexpected times. I wanted to catalog some of these (along with how they spiral down a darker place) and also share some counters that have been helpful for me to shake off the dark feeling.

Feeling Like I’m a Failure

Dark Moment: Feeling like I’m a failure with little to show for, typically comes when I’ve had a tough day at work or when I see social posts of other people’s success that, in a very specific way, makes me feel like I’ve been too slow or unable to achieve myself.

Dark Spiral: I keep scrolling through more posts and reading even more about the success of others. I might shoot off a text to my partners pointing out the success of others and how we’ve fallen short. I might joke to my wife and say I’m a failure but sort of mean it.

Counter: Express gratitude. Make a mental note of all that I’m grateful for. Loving family & friends, my own business, great co-workers, my health, a wonderful home, all the comforts of a well-off person, all kinds of privilege. Great memories and a life that’s been full of joy and happiness. My journal, which I try to write in every weekday morning, serves as a great place reset and center myself with gratitude.

Feeling Like I’m a Failure Part 2

Dark Moment: Feeling like I could’ve made better choices in life and that I would be in a better place if only I had done X or Y when I was younger.

Dark Spiral: Getting lost in fantasies of what might’ve been if I had made different choices in life, re-opening old memories and full bathing myself in regret.

Counter: Reorient towards the future. Remind myself that the past is the past but I can always shape the future. Write down commitments, use future-based language, and move forward.

Feeling Like I’ve Been a Bad Person

Dark Moment: Related to Feeling Like a Failure Part 2, this is more specifically around regretful interactions I’ve had with people in my life that may have been hurtful, inconsiderate, or manipulative.

Dark Spiral: Feeling the heavy weight of guilt, wondering how that other person feels about me today, how I can never truly get redemption, and a deep sense of shame.

Counter: Believing I can learn from my mistakes and make different, better choices today and tomorrow; acknowledging that I’ve also been kind and caring of people, forgiving myself, and committing to making more empathetic decisions in my interactions with others.

Feeling Lonely

Dark Moment: Nobody cares about me, I feel ignored, and it’s hard to feel a genuine connection. Usually happens later at night when others may have gone to sleep.

Dark Spiral: Social lurking, getting envious of how everyone else seems to know each other, find ways to hang out, and seem to live rich social lives.

Counter: Get out of my head and engage in an activity. Read, write, do yoga, go for a walk, play a game. Go to bed early, my family will be there in the morning. Make social plans to do with family or friends in the future. Write a message to a friend I haven’t connected with in a while saying hello.

Impostor Syndrome

Dark Moment: I don’t know anything, I feel like a fraud, and others will catch on quick that I don’t know jack about things. And even when I talk, I’ll have trouble being articulate and making a good impression. Happens in situations when I’m scheduled to meet with people I’m intimidated by because of their credentials, reputation, or status.

Dark Spiral: Get super nervous, elevated heart rate, and a resigned sense that I’ll mess everything up. In extreme situations, just back out.

Counter: Try to be as prepared, trust in the work I’ve put in, accept myself for all my capabilities and limitations, contemplate worst case scenarios and realize they aren’t so bad.

Anger, Feeling Slighted, and Disrespected

Dark Moment: Something someone has said has led me to believe I’ve been disrespected or mistreated, which engulfs me in rage and has me feeling slighted.

Dark Spiral: I am emotionally charged and unable to calm down. I want to retaliate somehow or express my anger in a very explicit way.

Counter: Write my grievances down and do what Abraham Lincoln did with his anger-filled letters–file it away in a drawer, never to be sent. Humanize the other person as much as possible, understanding they may have their own reasons for how they behaved. Point the finger inward and ask myself if anything I did may have led them to say something that angered me.


  1. Ran Jaden Cao says

    Thanks for being so honest and human. Just thought to say a thank you note – I’m learning a lot from what you share here and do look up to what you guys built at Barrel a lot. Your team is lucky to have someone like you who has so much intention and so much self-awareness as a leader. Cheering for you and the journey ahead.

  2. John Rattigan says

    Brilliant post. Honest and real and whilst I identify with it so much, I would not have been able to express it all so clearly. Appreciated the tips on countering too. Thanks so much for sharing!

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