“The most important opinion is the one you have of yourself, and the most significant things you say all day are those you say to yourself.” (Zig Ziglar)
Some years back I was battling depression, and decided to seek counseling. I have had battles with depression a few times in my adult life, and have found the guidance of a skilled counselor to be very helpful in righting the ship and helping me exorcise whatever demons were plaguing me at the time.
I was surprised when I realized how much of the time we were spending talking about what I thought of myself. Questions were asked of me like “Do you feel worthy of love?” “Are you allowed to be happy?” Initially I tossed these off as babble, and started to distrust the counselor. Not being a quitter, I stuck with it and kept coming back. Each week I had a list of things I wanted to talk about, but she would ultimately bring me back to those few, central questions.
In retrospect, these were the key questions for me, and have remained key questions for me since. There have been times in my life when I have convinced myself that the answers to those questions, and others like them was “no”. My depression, whether started by those thoughts or not, was certainly deepened by them. I had fallen into a pattern of self-talk that was debilitating to me, and colored my perception of the entire world around me.
Because I couldn’t see myself as worthy and lovable, I could not truly show love to others. I could do charitable acts, and be kind, but I couldn’t really love. It wasn’t until I was able to turn the corner and see that I – with all my flaws and blemishes, with all my warts and scars, with all my misgivings and insecurities – was indeed lovable and worthy of happiness. Turning that corner was the key to my victory over depression that first time, and every time since.
At times I still struggle with my opinion of myself. I look at myself both literally and figuratively, and I see many things that I wish were different. I am aware of every flaw in my personality and attitudes. I know every mistake I make even before others discover them. I put up a front of denial, but I know my physical issues and limitations as well. Having such an honest and unwashed sense of myself can be very healthy and positive. It allows me to be continually improving, and seeking out ways to be a better me. But, it is a dual edged sword, because it can also put me into a spiral of self-doubt, and send my soul plummeting back into the depths of depression.
I have learned over the years to love who I am right now, exactly as I am. And I have learned that wanting to improve doesn’t mean I have to hate the person I am today. I can love the guy in the mirror, and still work to make him better. The truth is that I have to love who I am today in order to improve. In those dark days of self-loathing, I didn’t even see myself as worthy of improvement. I lacked even that level of love for who I was.
The war against negative self-talk is never really over for me. One of the things I still work on is avoiding the tendency to be particularly pessimistic with myself. But, I know that it is a battle worth fighting. I have seen the difference in my life between being in love with who I am and hating who I am. When I love who I am I can love others, I can be the approachable, fun, sweet, kind, nurturing person I want to be.
This Reflection 365 project has been a nice tool to have in the kit for monitoring my self-talk. On days when I put a good effort into reflecting on these quotes and what they mean in my life, I start out with a fresh attitude. Even when the quote challenges me to do something better, I take it in stride as an opportunity to grow, and not as an indictment of my character.
I was not always, but I am now a firm believer that how I talk to and about myself has a profound impact on how I am able to deal with others in my life. I plan to stay on the path of loving who I am, accepting my flaws and always seeking to be better. I believe this is the healthiest and best way to be the me I want to be!