I am a prisoner of my own mind. Trapped with myself for the rest of my life. Lesson: You better get along with yourself or you are in for a bumpy ride. A bumpy life.
When I don’t like someone, a new friend, an acquaintance, I can easily choose to not associate with them anymore. And I have done this fairly frequently throughout my life. People have come and go willingly and forcibly in my life. Forcibly by myself. Willingly on their own accord.
But what happens if you don’t like yourself? I don’t like a lot of what the person who stares back at me in the mirror has done thus far. I have alienated myself. I am not where I thought I would be career-wise. I’m not where I thought I would be in life. I don’t like how socially uncomfortable I am around others. I sometimes say inappropriate things. I am sometimes very hurtful to my loved ones. Ninety percent of the time I don’t like who I am and how I operate.
How can I set myself free from myself and my own self-sabotaging actions? Here are some steps:
- Acknowledgement: I first need to acknowledge who I am and where I am right now in this present moment. Right now I am a certain way and I am a certain person. I need to list all my current qualities, both good and bad and truly see myself. Who am I? What actions do I take, both good and bad? List them out.
- Acceptance: I need to accept who I am, even if I might not like this person. I have to look at my list from step 1 and accept that this is who I am and this is the person I am projecting into the world.
- Discovery: Figure out what qualities I admire in others. Who do I look up to professionally, spiritually, and socially. What qualities do they project into the world? How do they make others feel when they interact with this admirable person.
- Change: I know where I stand and where I want to go, now I need to start moving towards this ideal person. What will this new change look like for my life? What things do I need to do differently now?
Will you make the change with me?
My negative self talk thrives off of my depression. When I am down, I stay down because I unpack everything I feel and everything I am and blame it on my bad qualities. Here are some of the negative things I tell myself. Trigger warning!
Oh let me count the ways in which I put myself down… I’m an obnoxious annoying person. Nobody likes me. I’m naive. I’m weird and socially awkward. I have no friends. I don’t fit in with anyone. I don’t actually know anything. I have no talents nor skills.
These negative words do nothing but hurt me. And I say them about myself, to myself. The floodgates open when I go into a depressive state.
These words don’t motivate me to do better, they allow me to be lazy and fulfill this prophecy. I confirm these negative words with my actions. Depression looks bad on me.
The only way to combat these negative words is to take positive action. I know I won’t think my way out of this depression, I need to act my way towards a positive state. Inaction is my enemy.
Take action against your negative self talk, it could be your cure.
Becoming a spectator of your own life means observing yourself from the outside – from a third person perspective. Being able to separate you from yourself is key in order to look at your life in an objective manner. Doing this will help you determine if you like who you are, where you are headed, and what you are currently doing.
I often try to think of myself as a person I met on the street. Would I be drawn to myself? Am I open and warm? Am I friendly? Am I a good friend?
Answering these questions help shape me and form me. They help determine my next decision. Because if you can look at yourself from the outsider and become a spectator of your own life, you can then make decisions to guide yourself towards a life you want.
Will you become a spectator?
Sometimes when I look back on some of the things I have written, especially the self-deprecating things, I cringe. I was so harsh on myself at times. I didn’t cut myself any slack. I called myself all the names in the book.
If I had a friend talk to me the way I spoke to myself, I would have cut them loose in a hot second! But why, then, did I allow myself to talk that way in my internal dialogue?
My self-esteem was shot and I was in a dark place. I’ve been in dark places before, but not quite like this. I at least had some ounce of respect for myself. But this time was different.
I didn’t like the person I turned out to be. I still struggle with it today but I am in a better place. I’m in a better place because I changed my mindset and allowed myself to be imperfect. I allowed myself room to breath. I allowed myself room to have fun. When I did that, it made me feel a little bit better about myself.
Life is not about being perfect. Allow yourself some room to breathe.
“Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world.” – Jim Carrey said this and I really have been thinking about this one liner and what it has meant in my life so far.
The desire for acceptance and blending in with the crowd leaves us empty. The first step towards acceptance is accepting yourself. Then you are free to follow your own path.
Growing up as a little bit of a different kid made me stand out. I resented every aspect of my life that made me different: my background, my last name because it was hard to pronounce, my internal conflicting feelings because I am gay but thought i was straight, the fact that I physically stood out because I was taller than most of the kids growing up, it all made me rough and insecure. My insides were very sensitive yet my exterior presence told everyone that I could care less about these kids and what they thought of me. I appeared tough but was a hard exterior with a soft center, kind of like an M&M that’s on the verge of melting because it’s been in your pocket.
Because I was so different, I tried to make myself slip under the radar. I didn’t like being noticed because being noticed for my differences meant being made fun of. And that meant having to defend myself.
I was never able to blend in when I was a kid. But as an adult I was successfully able to go unnoticed. Coming to terms that I now blend in has been difficult. I no longer stand out as much as I once did. I find myself missing it. I realized standing out was interesting even though it may have been difficult. Because what is worse than being talked about is not being noticed at all.
My desire to blend in was really just my underlying desire to be accepted by my peers. I never truly felt accepted by anyone, friends were fleeting, and I didn’t have much stability in any type of relationship. I was always on guard thinking people would leave my life. This desire that I have to be accepted is deep rooted. But by trying to blend in and be accepted by everyone, I actually isolated myself. By trying to please everyone, I pleased no one. And in the process, I pushed myself further away from my true self. Now I am working towards making myself a better person who does what she wants to do no matter what anyone else says. I am pursuing my own interests, I am living life on my terms, and trying to make my own way instead of trying to follow someone else’s path.
So I urge you to Make your own path, choose yourself, and let the world see you.
I was in my therapy session, as per usual back then. Once a week. And I felt the air become dense as I voiced the same complaint about my situation and my life again. My therapist paused and asked me a question I never thought to ask myself. She said, “do you like yourself.” And that’s when I lost it.
I cried and couldn’t stop crying. I left the session and cried some more. I had a revelation that day. I don’t like myself. I don’t like who I am, what I stand for, how I live my life, who was in my life, my circumstances, my past, my everything. I realized I don’t have many friends because I was not a good friend to myself. How could I be my own friend when I didn’t even like myself? I couldn’t. So I sabotaged my life. I pushed people away. I was elf-destructive. I complained. The cycled repeated.
After this realization, I decided to make a change. I decided to not only like myself, but fall in love with myself. I am still on that path today. But this path, for me, meant doing things I once loved doing in order to take care of myself. I wanted to do fun things. And in doing those fun things, I have gotten better. I am a work in progress and that is OK.
It’s easy to look back and think that a different path or a different choice would have been better for you. Hindsight is 20/20. To think that you have somehow made a mistake is a great way to get down on yourself. Inundating yourself with regret for a path not chosen is a perfect way to spiral into a depression. Saying “I would be happier today had I done xyz…” I’m not one to say whether you are right or wrong in your evaluation, however for myself I can easily enter this frame of mind and be stuck in my own web of thoughts. It does nothing for me except make me feel badly about myself. This is not productive for myself and not conducive to a happy life. Something that can help me is to think about all the people I’ve met and opportunities I got from the path I did choose. If I didn’t go down the path I did choose, other things wouldn’t have happened. And, back when I had the choice to make I made the choice I did for a reason. And now, to empower myself, I can start making changes today to change my current circumstances. You have the power. You are in control. Make a change.
Some of us may feel the pressure to always be productive. I know for myself I never used to want to do anything unless it had a purpose. I would be asked to go somewhere for the sheer goal of just… going and having fun. This was too stressful to me with my burdensome work load. I pushed people away to avoid being asked to go to activities. Unfortunately, after a while they stopped asking me to do things altogether. I also avoided doing things I once enjoyed like drawing just to draw. Playing music just to play music. Eventually it became so overwhelming to even think about having fun.
This lifestyle left me burnt out and yearning for personal connection and a creative outlet. Just know it is never too late to turn around and pick up a hobby you once enjoyed doing. Create things just because… You will feel so much better and you will relieve the pressure to constantly be productive. All work and no play makes for a tortured soul.
This is a form of self-care. Having down time and doing leisurely activities just for the sake of fun is part of life. I forgot this at one point. But I have found my way back. Don’t feel the need to constantly be productive – it will burn you out. Plus, doing creative activities has helped me be more creative and see things a different way in my everyday work life. A different perspective and a change of scenery will do you good.