Leaning Into Your Sense of Self in the Face of Stigma
It's one thing to say that the opinions of others don't matter, but actually believing these words to be true is another beast entirely. Growing up, people had a bad habit of telling me who I was, what I offered, and even who I was going to be. Sometimes I would brush these comments off, but I would mostly let them sit and fester until the line between what I believed and what others believed of me blurred. I was susceptible to those thoughts and expectations of others because I lost touch with my sense of self.
What Is a Sense of Self?
Our sense of self is like a river flowing into every ocean of our life. It's the birthplace of thoughts, actions, and patterns. What we think of ourselves drives how we live our lives. When that sense of self is rattled and easily shaken, we leave the door open for the unfounded opinions of others to walk right in and sit on the metaphorical couch that is our mind. When our sense of self is stable and fortified, well, the door is just that, locked and bolted.
Establish Your Sense of Self in Spite of Stigma
It's not easy to develop a strong sense of self, especially if you have gone through a significant emotional obstacle such as depression. I will be the first to admit that after experiencing my bout with depression, I didn't think highly of myself. Not only was I speaking down to myself and being my own worst critic, but I was also in desperate need of reclaiming my sense of self. I let the noise of other people's opinions get to me. My sense of self was highly dependent on the beliefs of others and needless to say, it was a recipe for disaster.
I don't pretend to have the answers. All I can do is provide you with what was helpful for me, and hope you can adjust these tips to best suit your needs. Without further ado, here's what worked for me:
- Tap into positive self-talk: When I was depressed, I was mean to myself. I showed myself zero grace during the most grueling time of my life, and I regret that to this day. Starting to speak to myself as I would a friend or someone I love has changed my life. I personally believe I am more confident, balanced, and overall happier since making an effort to be less of a bully and more of a cheerleader to myself.
- Express all your emotions (not just the "good" ones): When I was taking other people's words and opinions to heart, I didn't allow myself the space to be human. I was miserable. I pushed away painful feelings in an attempt to live up to totally unrealistic expectations impressed upon me. The funny thing is, speaking nicely to myself is what ultimately led to a healthy release of my emotions, both "good" and "bad." I gave myself permission to ignore the expectations of others and set new and healthy ones for myself.
- Listen to your loved ones: As much as we like to fight it, our loved ones truly know us best. If you're not quite ready to completely free yourself from the opinion of others, start by filtering them. No worries if you don't have an entire support system; just start with one person you appreciate and value the opinion of to help you redefine your sense of self. Odds are they have some valid reasons for caring about you that can be used as a starting point for reestablishing your own sense of self.
Jack, J. (2022, September 15). Leaning Into Your Sense of Self in the Face of Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2022/9/leaning-into-your-sense-of-self-in-the-face-of-stigma