First of all, it’s okay and understandable to feel fear. You studied and got a diploma and did not get the results you wanted, a job. Now your subconscious is trying to protect you by sending out fear signals. It perceives a risk in you continuing to apply for jobs or studying more because it might not pan out. It doesn’t want you to be injured. This is Emotional Intelligence-the subconscious fight or flight response.
But how you feel and how you behave are two different things and it’s up to you. You have what some would refer to as a “limiting belief”: I have tried this before, I didn’t get a job, so nothing will be different in the future. That shows in the following statement:
I’m desperate to improve my life, but it somehow feels that if someone hasn’t managed to build a respectable career by my age, chances are they never will.
Yet, there are many cases and evidence to show that statement is not real for others, so the question becomes, why does it have to be real for you? Do you have a crystal ball?
But, no one on these forums can solve your confidence issue. Neither this reply nor anyone else’s is finally going to prove to you that you have what it takes or that you will get a job. I think you are suffering from the human condition to be risk-averse, and it sounds like possibly some conditioning you’ve had that you are not a successful person. No one can solve that for you.
I would like to suggest that alongside your coding study, you get some books, audio books, or youtube playlists on these topics. Look up limiting beliefs, “taming your gremlin”, emotional intelligence, heck even just fear and anxiety. Just like software bugs, these are known problems of the human condition and there are lessons to be learned on making it better.
A lot of people here have tried to help you, whether through sympathy, tough love, testimonial and support. But ultimately none of it will stick unless you work on self improvement. I am sure some people on here will think this is ridiculous, but this has served me well. I have always read self help books on taking risks, feeling at peace, combating anxiety, being happy. This world can be a difficult place but it is what it is and you have to get up every day and make the best you can of it.
Happy to chat more if you’d like any more recommendations, but you won’t find your answers by continually posting your fears. You have to look within!