It’s Depression Awareness Week, and having suffered in the past from crippling self-destructive depression, I’ve been thinking about how I could contribute to raising awareness of it. I feel it’s appropriate to share a chapter of my book Become the Best You.
In it I talk about the importance of respecting ourselves. For me, this fundamental lack of respect lead to doing things that I would later hate myself for, thus sparking off another cycle of depression. Everyone is different and depression can be caused by so many varying factors, but I thought this might help someone out there, somewhere.
“Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.” Clint Eastwood
Given that you’re reading this book you are likely to have had troubles in your life. Perhaps you were abused as a child. Or bullied at school or in the workplace. Perhaps you witnessed your parents go through a horrible messy divorce when you were a kid. Perhaps you’ve had bad relationships that have left your confidence in tatters. Or maybe you just lost your way and have turned to booze, drugs or food for comfort and escapism. Whatever your reasons are, they will almost always lead back to a dysfunctional past.
The only way to move on and properly heal is by being brutally honest with yourself. Admitting that you are troubled and pinpointing the cause is the first step towards breaking the cycle. Getting to the very root of our problems, even though it will involve dredging up painful memories, is the best way to ensure they are properly dealt with. Sweeping them under the carpet and pretending they don’t exist isn’t an option, it will only lead to long-term heartache. Unless you make peace with your past and forgive the wrongdoings of yesterday, and all parties involved, you will always be glancing backwards and won’t be able to focus on ensuring that tomorrow is a better day.
When we have been through trauma and stress, especially if it involves abuse, our confidence often takes the brunt and can all but disappear. Other people’s words or actions can be tremendously damaging for many years after the event. However, if you are to break the cycle you must not let your life be defined by tragic and unhappy past events. You cannot allow yourself to be a victim. Take back control from those who have taken it from you.
It’s important now to stop torturing yourself over the things you have done before because absolutely no good will come of you beating yourself up. Put in the simplest terms the past cannot be changed so it’s best to accept it for what it was and move forwards with life. It is just as essential to let go of the hurt caused by those who have brought you pain. What has happened has already been done and cannot be taken back. Acceptance is the only solution. Rather than dwelling over what has gone on before, truly learn from the mistakes that have been made by not making them again. Repeating the same negative behaviour will only lead to the same negative outcome.
If you know you have caused someone else pain and you feel bad about it, reach out to them and apologise. Call them; send them a gift or a card; say the words ‘I’m sorry’ and sincerely mean it. A genuine apology will go a long way to help rebuild damaged relationships. Apologising and trying to make amends will also help to ease your guilty conscience. If the other person will allow you to, you can prove that you want to start afresh. If they’re not interested then at least you will know you’ve done the right thing and given it your best shot. As long as we put the experience to good use in the future there can be many valuable lessons to be learnt from failed relationships. All does not have to be lost.
It doesn’t have to be complicated but I would like to suggest you devise a set of basic principles to live by. Say them in front of the mirror each morning like a mantra. Embrace them fully and believe in them until they are deeply ingrained. When you’re having a tough day, repeat them in your head over and again. Here are a few examples:
‘I will be true to myself today’
‘I will be kind to myself and those around me today’
Make better decisions
Most of us have done things in our lives that we aren’t very proud of, but admitting the error of our ways is a brave thing to do. Changing for the better has to start with making good decisions. If you grew up in an environment where the adults were setting bad examples and you weren’t taught right from wrong, then you will need to learn it. Let’s fine-tune your moral compass and work on your life choices.
During this process you won’t need to hide away and become boring, but you may need to remove yourself from certain situations to stop doing things that make you feel bad about yourself. This will mean taking the time to properly think over your decisions to ensure you are making the best ones possible. We want decisions that will lead to happy events, not further upset. Avoid doing things that give anyone else the opportunity to hold leverage over you, or throw those things back in your face at a later date. Occupy your time in a productive way; don’t waste it on people who don’t deserve you or situations that will damage you.
By not putting ourselves into precarious situations in the first place nothing bad can happen as a result. Often we do things because they are easy or because they have become a habit, but all habits can be broken if we put our minds to it. If you know that socialising with certain people always leads to trouble, the next time you are invited out with them politely decline. Try it as soon as you can, I bet it’s easier than you think it will be. Instead, treat yourself to a night at home with your favourite movie and truly relish the peace.
When we are surrounded by bad influences it can be very difficult to think clearly. They can cloud our judgement which leads to us doing things that we don’t really want to do. This in turn makes us unhappy, and leads to low self-esteem. We have to turn this around and get you liking yourself. It’s time to decide who has a place in your life; let’s start thinking about how your friends and family make you feel. Is anyone taking advantage of you?
Do you give too much and feel that your relationships are one-sided? Are certain people causing you to be miserable more often than not? We will discuss this more throughout the book.
Having confidence in our own abilities is so much more than an external front. Once you start respecting yourself and have stopped doing things that make you miserable, over time your confidence levels should start to grow. I believe that confidence is vital if we are to drag ourselves out of a rut and move forward with our lives. When we conduct ourselves with integrity and carry ourselves with genuine confidence, it inspires faith in those around us. It will shine through every word that comes out of your mouth. There are many ways to give ourselves a boost, here are a few examples:
– Walk tall and smile! Hold your head up high and face the world with a massive grin on your face. These two tiny changes can be implemented immediately and have a dramatic effect.
– Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone and scares you a little. This can be anything from participating in a class or course to skydiving out of an aeroplane. It could be throwing a dinner party and cooking the food from scratch for the very first time all by yourself. Whatever you decide, I’m sure you will be impressed with your own capabilities.
– Start a hobby and become really good at it. The only way we master skills is by practising them over and over again. If you’ve always fancied turning your hand to something new but haven’t managed to before, now is the time.
When your self-respect and confidence are firmly in place you can start living, breathing (and most importantly) believing in the power of YOU each and every day! There is absolutely no point in sitting around talking about changing your life if you don’t actually think that you are capable of pulling it off. Anything is possible but you have to be willing to work hard to make it happen.
Visualise: Start visualising the person you want to be and the things you would like to achieve in life. Read up on the people you most admire and how they got to where they are today. A healthy dose of inspiration can work wonders for our own motivation and creativity.
Positivity: Look for the positives in every situation and focus on all that is going well in your world. If you’re feeling low take a walk through your local park, stopping every now and then to appreciate the beautiful trees. No matter how dire our situation there is always something good to be found in nature.
Confidence: Do something small every day to boost your confidence and make you feel good about yourself. From taking extra pride in your appearance to learning a new skill, there are opportunities to give yourself a boost to be found everywhere.
Above all else at this early stage of the process: Make peace with your past no matter how dark or painful it is. Otherwise it will haunt you forever!
If you found this post useful please visit the website Become the Best You for more details about the book.