In my life I have often encountered destructive negative thoughts which I know many of us face. I not only overcame my destructive thought patterns, but I also found it within myself to find greater self esteem and treat myself with the compassion I deserve. If I can do it, I know you can too. This is me sharing my story, hoping to reach those who want to achieve harmony within themselves and let go of coping mechanisms which no longer serve them.
As an aspiring clinical psychologist my passion for mental health directly correlates with my experiences in life, and my curiosity towards individuals and how their minds operate. I believe that openly speaking about mental health is still somewhat a taboo subject, and we have yet to break barriers and boundaries in order to have those intimate and genuine conversations. I am driven by the idea of creating an environment where people can be educated and empowered by discussing different mental illnesses and challenges. Being equipped with the proper tools to cope with their issues and thrive. This will create a safe space, for those who are vulnerable, who have often been silenced. I want to provide a voice for those who have been stigmatized by society, such as mothers, low income families and youth. I am especially interested in creating programs and workshops catered to women and how they can become successful while battling mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. I believe having the ability to carry out those vital conversations, will provide hope and direction for those struggling and overcoming hardships.
Since I can remember I have been struggling with destructive negative thoughts. It is like I waged a war against myself and the pessimistic side always won. I was my own biggest critic. One thought made me spiral into darkness, and led me to believe that I was worthless left without a purpose. I have learned numerous lessons from this experience, which I wanted to share with you. Initially, it is key for you to discover that the negative comments are not you, they are a product of your upbringing and environment. This has become engraved in your subconscious and these thoughts will dictate your reality. In order to let go of this pessimistic view of yourself, you need to deconstruct the story which you are creating in your own mind. By questioning the statements objectively which you tell yourself, you make the realization of how distorted your reality is. We must acknowledge how we feel and why. Once we do this, we can isolate what we are feeling in that moment and identify the source, only then we can separate ourselves from our destructive thoughts. While keeping this in mind, there are other takeaways from this process. It is crucial to have a strong self concept, what do I mean by this? Spend the time truly getting to know yourself. These thoughts begin and end with you, so make sure to build a compassionate relationship with yourself. Regardless of the struggles you are facing, you have to be understanding towards who you are. Once you begin that journey, the negative self-talk begins to silence. Another factor which changed my view, was seeking help and sharing my internal issues with a psychologist. Professionals often have an objective opinion where they can pinpoint the flaws in your logic and thought pattens. Once you come to terms with the debilitating habits which you are engaging in, it will be easier for you to change them. Lastly, you have to know that you are one of a kind. Find acceptance for who you are as a whole, with both the positive and negative traits. Reach the point, where you are focused on how to elevate your positive traits. While for the negative traits (your shadow) use them to your advantage, and know your weaknesses. For example: if you know that you have pent up anger and you are aggravated easily, use that energy as a powerful tool to get active. Use it towards a sport or join a debate club. This way you are not removing parts of yourself, you are learning to use your natural weaknesses as a tool for success in other areas. Your strength comes from internal factors, and how you view yourself. The time which you choose to invest in YOU will always be worthwhile. Remember, these thought patterns are all in your own mind, find peace and harmony, by shedding light to the false narrative you are telling yourself, then these thoughts will no longer affect you.
The destructive thoughts which arise can be managed by many different strategies. I suggest you incorporate as many as you can into your daily routine, in order to change your perspective. What personally worked for me was journaling every day, as soon as I woke up. This exercise allows me to recognize your feelings and gain clarity. As I mentioned earlier, speaking openly to someone whether it’s a close friend, or professional will ease the pain, and make you realize you are not alone. A solution may be provided for you, when hearing an alternate perspective. Also, your mind is heavily influenced by your lifestyle keeping a healthy balance is important so you are functioning well. The pillars of health which contribute to mental health, would be being active, eating a healthy diverse diet, and avoiding toxic habits like drinking and surrounding yourself with negative people. These small changes can contribute to a more positive outlook on life, and make you feel happier all together. Lastly, on my own personal journey spiritually has made me appreciate the power which comes from within. Spirituality can come in many different forms, it doesn’t mean to believe in god, it means to believe in a cause or energy which is bigger than yourself. The way I practice spirituality is begging and ending my day with a meditation. Meditation has many natural benefits such as; finding the proper solutions for the problems at hand, gaining peace and serenity, allowing yourself to be more present in the moment, and letting go. These combinations of strategies have guided me to a higher quality of life, and flourishing mental health.
Developing greater self esteem and compassion are qualities I am consistently working towards. Remember healing isn’t linear, it takes time and effort. It is the path I am choosing for a lifetime, building a deeper and kinder relationship with myself. In order to do this I began loving myself fully. Instead of being ashamed of parts of me which I disliked, I understood that everyone has insecurities and flaws. However, it is not our job to scrutinize ourselves because of this. Instead we can accept ourselves. I spent many years actively working on myself, by watching TED talks, healing my trauma, and reading various self-help books. I decided to seek peace, by resolving the consistent chaotic thoughts, and becoming aware of how I was often harming myself. Ultimately, it’s a choice how you want to live your life. I choose to be my own best friend, and take life in, and all its simple pleasures. I choose to openly communicate my story, so others may get the courage and do the same. Sharing our stories is empowering. I am choosing to provide compassion for myself disregarding the circumstances. Once you invest so much of your time and energy into yourself, your confidence naturally blossoms. I believe everyone has the power to make this choice. It is not an easy path, but it’s a necessary one. This is the decision to take care of yourself fully.
After making many life changes I wanted to reiterate the most helpful form of support I received which keeps me accountable and dedicated. The one thing which I highly recommend is surrounding yourself with positive people who truly want the best for you. You will encounter many different types of people in your life, it is important to seek those who provide support and lift you up. Once you decide create a change for yourself, many people will not be on your side, and with time you may also lose close friends. That is completely normal, it is like a snake shedding it’s skin. Every time you endure hardship and pain, you transform after the experience. This will lead you to feel empowered and like you can conquer anything which comes your way. Another factor which helped me are books, they not only educate you but make you aware of intricacies in your behaviour you may have not noticed. They can also serve as motivation to become a better version of yourself.
Everyone is capable to transform their mental health keeping in mind it is a process which requires time and persistence. You will make the decision to let go of coping mechanisms which no longer protect you. You will see the beauty in creating a relationship with yourself, and nourish and grow as an individual. In conclusion, I want to mark the significance of pain and hardship as a necessary catalyst for development:
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.
Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened,
ambition inspired and success achieved” – Helen Keller.
Remember those words the next time you are facing difficulties, it is an unavoidable part of your mental health journey.