I’ve spoken a lot about friends.
I’ve spoken about support networks, and how people will be there for you if you need them.
I don’t think, however, that I’ve spoken enough about one of your best potential friends… and the one that severe depressives are most likely to ignore and mistreat:
I know a lot of people who go out of their way to know themselves. They ask deep questions. They worry about their behaviour, and their attitudes, and their intentions…
I know far fewer people who go out of their way to *like* themselves. In fact, it seems that knowing yourself and being critical of yourself go hand in hand.
Do they have to? Now that’s the question. And I would hope that the answer is “NO”.
I’ve always worried about how I come across to others. And I’ve engaged in a lot of soul-searching, and asking people what they really thought of me, and taking advice and feedback and working on it… and I think I’ve reached a point where I’m a pretty confident and like-able person.
Somewhere along the line, I also decided that I was someone I could hang out with.
So when people can’t meet up with me and I really want comfort, I feel paranoid, and I worry that no-one likes me, because that’s what depression does to my brain. But even when I blame it on myself I think “I made mistakes, and that’s why this happened” and not “I’m a flawed person, and that’s why this happened”.
And that’s not perfect, but it’s so much better than I used to be!
The first part of learning to like myself was learning to listen to myself. I learned to listen to what I was saying about myself. I learned to pick up on my depression’s propaganda. I noticed when I was thinking “I fail” and I thought to myself “I didn’t actually fail. Actually, I did nothing wrong.” I noticed when I yelled in my head “SHUT UP!” and I thought “What are you trying to say, and could you say it quieter?”
And by listening to myself I found out so many things about what was upsetting me that I might otherwise have missed.
The second part was being as patient with myself as I would be with any friend who was going through problems.
I wouldn’t tell a friend to “get over it”. Why do I demand that of me? I wouldn’t hate a friend for “crying over nothing” when things upset them. Why do I hate myself for it?
Thirdly, and perhaps most difficult of all, I started taking my own advice. How much of your self criticism consists of “I knew this would happen and I did it anyway. Idiot. Idiot!”? I know a lot of mine did.
I say this is the most difficult of all, because I haven’t mastered it yet. I still think “If I leave this until the last minute then I’ll panic and get stressed.” and then I leave it til the last minute anyway, because that’s how I’ve always done it. I still think “If I eat this I’ll regret it later” and then eat it anyway, because it tastes so nice!
But at least I’m making progress with not calling myself an idiot afterwards. I just think “Oh well, I was expecting that.” and move on. At least… some of the time I manage that.
So what about my readers out there?
Do you like yourselves?
And if not, don’t you think it’s time you set aside some time to figure out how you can fix the relationship?
You’re going to have to live with yourself anyway… wouldn’t it be great if you could enjoy it?