Why some people get out of a mess and others never do.
Depression in not a term to be dandied around too glibly. While many of us do go about feeling like a dark cloud is hovering over us, we are not what we so loosely call ‘depressed’. Those who are truly depressed would happily exchange your feelings of being low for their real suffering of depression.
But I do admit that we all go through those dark emotional phases of feeling low. Perhaps you are feeling the same right now. Sometimes these feelings last a day or a week but often they just don’t get shaken off for months. Let us assume that a young person is growing through a teenage phase where doubts abound and answers are sought from the most unreliable source (that by the way is the nature of a teenager). The lack of confidence, the desire to be among the hip and trendy or simply the inability to figure out who you are among a bunch of people who are equally lost can be really scary. Teenage life can be the pits with such feelings. What does one do?
In times of emotional uncertainty, what is important to analyze is what are we actually saying to ourselves. What makes or breaks us is not the advice others give us but what we tell ourselves and then begin to believe. If you look in the mirror and tell yourself you are ugly because you don’t see yourself as beautiful as someone else who you think is beautiful, chances are you will begin to believe in what you think. Even worse, when you begin to believe another person’s half-baked opinion of an incident that transpired in your life; you allow them to define you.
Those who make it out there in the big world do a lot of self-talk. But that self-talk needs to be positive and constructive. There is a difference between allowing yourself to talk to you and you talking to yourself. It may sound confusing but let me elaborate this a bit. Self-talk is good provided you are talking to yourself positively. When you tell yourself that you are good, you are beautiful, you are focused and determined, then YOU control the narrative of what you say to yourself. This of course must be based in some reality and honesty. If you slept on your algebra book with the hope that by osmosis the matter has entered your brain, then you are delusional especially if you believe that positive self-talk will help you pass the test. (And unlike psychology or sociology you can’t bullshit your way through algebra). The reality is that such self-talk will get you a D and one that your rightly deserve.
Positive and healthy self-talk requires a daily active affirmation. It can push you out of your low feeling to a new high. Positive and healthy self-talk is driven by a desire to think and believe differently, pushing yourself to new heights. Even though you may believe that you are not as bright as someone in your college or work place, you tell yourself this is not who I must be; I am a hard worker and I know I can do better. Perhaps you made a mistake for the second time and this time a serious one. Again, that does not define you! Your positive self-talk should push you to work harder in the days to come. Positive self-talk is when YOU control the narrative positively and push the feelings of doom to give way to more positive thoughts and happy feelings.
The danger is when you allow yourself to talk to you and this is what most people do. We all have a store of negativity within us; feelings of low self-esteem and doubt. This is natural and normal. Don’t let yourself be fooled by a so-called extrovert who seems high as if he is on dope 24×7. The reality is none of us are always super high. We all hit lows. These may be a mild daily occurrence or sometimes just a bad week or month. These lows don’t last forever nor do they define who we are. They are phases that pass. What we tell ourselves in these phases is very important.
A job loss is a phase. It does not define who you are nor do you have to feel compelled to wear an invisible tag around your neck which says jobless. Circumstances ranging from the economy to your boss’s bad hair day may have got you fired. But unemployable is not who you are. What you tell yourself in this period is crucial. Don’t allow yourself to talk to you, you talk to yourself. You control the narrative. You tell yourself you’re going to work the phone and dial every person you know; you will send every email your finger can type and you will ride every storm because you are a hard-working person and because tough times never last, tough people do. The key to how your day, your month or your year will pan out depends largely on developing that positive self-talk.
So, take some time off this day. Even though you might be feeling low right now, change the self-talk. Allow yourself to talk to you. Remind yourself this Lent that we were made in God’s image and likeness and that God does not create junk. Negativity comes from the devil. It is he who messes our minds reminding us of our many failings and our failure to conquer even our daily petty sins. Fight the devil by telling yourself what a wonderful and loving God you have; a great and mighty warrior who sends his angels by your side. Fill your mind and heart with the good things that you know from your faith experience about how good God is; that is when ‘yourself talks to you.’ A healthy mind leads to holy living.