Stress. Depression. Anxiety. They're powerful words that conjure up all kinds of images and prejudices in our minds. People who suffer from these illnesses find it hard to cope with life. They can feel deeply unhappy, they can find no joy in anything life has to offer, and of course, their levels of self-esteem, confidence and self-respect plummet.
But how can this happen to someone?
Let's concentrate on how these illnesses affect the way we value the self. Of all of the destructive patterns of behavior these illnesses cause, the way a sufferer talks to the self is the fuel that maintains their illness.
I have experienced depression from two sides. For 5 years, a series of traumatic events triggered a personal nightmare I believed would never end. One of these events came when my lover was diagnosed with depression. At this time, I too had entered into the spiral of anxiety-induced depression.Both of these experiences have given me an insight into how sufferers destroy any value of the self.
Let me give a couple of examples. With my partner, if I'd arranged an evening out with friends, she'd say:
"No, I won't come, you go without me. I never have anything interesting to say. I just bore people. They'll find me an effort to be with. I'll stay here."
If I made a mistake, I'd say to myself:
"I'm useless. I'm no good at anything. Everything I do I get wrong."
This self-deprecation then spreads into other areas of life. You begin to criticize the way you look, the decisions you make or don't make, and you focus solely on the downside of life. Each time a little bit of self-worth, a little bit of self-respect and a little bit of self-confidence are eroded. Eventually, they are lost completely. When I reached my lowest point, having lost everything and everyone I loved, I'd say to myself:
"If I died tomorrow, no one would know and no one would care."
So, what helped me to come out of the fog?
Well, the reason I thought I'd become depressed was because of a series of traumatic events occurring at the same time. I was wrong. The root cause of my depression lay in the ways I reacted to them. One of the ways I'd reacted was to blame myself for events I couldn't control. The more I blamed myself, the more I beat myself up. The more I beat myself up, the more my self-esteem decreased.
The phrases I have used to briefly illustrate self-deprecating phrases we continually use against the self are mild. I'm sure you realize that many people use much stronger phrases than I've given here. The point is that these phrases would be totally unacceptable to say to others. You wouldn't tell a person that they were boring, an effort to be with and that everyone found their company dull and it would be better for everyone else if they kept away from people.
Yet, if I say to people:
"Pay yourself compliments. Accentuate your good in all areas of your life. Write down your good points, your triumphs, your achievements. Remind yourself as often as possible about all the good you have done."
They look at me like I'm an alien and say they'd feel stupid. Or uncomfortable. Or even embarrassed.
Yet they don't feel any of these emotions when they talk to themselves using emotionally charged, self-deprecating phrases! And like rust upon metal, these phrases gradually erode our self-esteem and our confidence.
OK, here's the bottom-line. I'd like you to inscribe what you are about to read into your mind over and over again until it is permanently etched there:
It is NEVER acceptable to talk to myself in a way I know is inappropriate and even offensive if I spoke in the same way to others.
Time for me to sign off, but before I do, here's a phrase I say to myself every single day without fail. Please use it, it is very powerful:
"If you put yourself down, down is where you will stay."
By Christopher Green
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