1. You only talk about your accomplishments.
When you’re insecure about yourself and miserable, an all-too-easy fix can be to talk yourself up to anyone who will listen. I’m in the 6.7% of Americans who have had a major depressive episode. (Hi guys!) I’m working in a field that is completely different from what my degree and debt supposedly prepared me for. I don’t play any instrument well enough to speak of or have a six pack. I live 15 minutes from where I grew up, regret a few of my life choices, and don’t have nearly as much clarity as I want. I’m not a savant or genius. Point being, I’m painfully average.
Though it took seven years to get to the point where admitting it didn’t seem like complete failure, I’m making my peace with it. During those seven years, I told people of my “accomplishments” whenever I could. I graduated high school at 15, university two months shy of 20, learned two languages, traveled internationally, taught myself to cook elaborate dishes, and worked from 7–7 for three years while never seeing the sun. I literally didn’t get a phone until I was 21 or social media until two years ago because I didn’t think I had anything to offer the world. Guess what?
Sure, I’d have the occasional question about how I got around without a phone or the rare look of envy mixed with admiration for graduating so early. Random comments about how I must be so smart. (I’m not. I’m stunted. For God’s sake, give your kid a gap year if this happens.) On the whole, though, no-one really gave a shit. We’re all in this rat race, acting like the world’s on our shoulders, and everyone should give us love based on what we can do for them.
2. You play the (unoriginal role of) victim.
Name one person who has never heard the word “no”. Name one person completely safe from rejection.
Everyone’s been either embarrassed while flirting, fired from their job, hospitalized, ran into trouble with the law, or run out of episodes to binge-watch and books to read. Keep in mind, I’m not bashing the victims of actual crimes or those who struggle with mental health issues. Some things are beyond our locus of control in life. Our perspective isn’t. If you view your life as a burden instead of the incredible opportunity for learning experiences, stop pretending to have it harder than you actually do.
“Oh, but Miyah, you don’t know me! You don’t know my struggles.”
I know you can’t read this article without access to the internet-a computer or phone. I know most of my readers are young adults from America which means you likely have access to some form of employment, a (rented) roof over your head, and food on your table. Listen to me. Everyone is not out to get you. You don’t have to sit around, twiddling your thumbs, and wait for the next bad thing to happen to you. You have more control and ownership of your happiness than you think.
You could go the opposite route of playing the victim, however, which is…..
3. You believe all of humanity is dependent on you.
Crap happens. Life won’t always go your way, and shit will hit the fan. Our 3lb. brain tends to filter everything into understandable chunks causing us to see coincidences involving us everywhere, but our perspective is shaped by confirmation bias.
When your friend screws up at work, you tell them to try again next time. You believe they’re smart and capable people who just made a mistake. When you screw up at work, though, the world is over. You lay awake, replaying the last thirty mistakes you’ve made this past week. You think you shouldn’t even have the job you do have because you’re obviously an idiot who fooled everyone. (Impostor Syndrome) You keep thinking that you’re fat, ugly, clumsy, and constantly forgetting your keys. What grown adult forgets their keys?!?
You work yourself up into a panic, conveniently forgetting all of the times you’ve had your shit together. Oh no, because of this one mistake you’ve made (that chances are no-one remembers but you), the company will go under, people will lose their jobs, and all of the employee’s children will starve.
Take a breath.
Very few people are that important.
4. You‘re your own worst enemy.
Self-sabotage is the hardest addiction to beat because it breeds other addictions like wildfire.
Cursing the world for every damn thing that happens to you gets old fast, but cursing yourself? Most of us know ourselves so well that we could curse ourselves for years. I’m also in the 18.1% of Americans with anxiety (Hi guys!). My memory is awful at remembering the tasks on my to-do list, but years later, I can still vividly recall accidentally smearing ink on my first boss’ tie.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-sabotage because it starts small. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep because you were trying to find a new show to binge on Netflix and kept picking crappy choices. Now, you’re slacking off at work for the third time in a week. Maybe you assumed a friend was leaving so you left first. Maybe you’re dehydrated because the only thing you’ve drank in the past 24 hours were whiskey shots and that half-empty soda from Taco Bell at 2:00 am. Now, you’ve got regular afternoon headaches, and “you don’t know why”. Maybe you get no sun ’cause you’re in a job where you arrive and leave in the dark
5. You don’t take care of yourself.
Self-care is a phrase I hate, and I don’t hate many phrases. It has taken on so many meanings and nuances depending on who you’re talking to and what situation they’re in. Our wires may get crossed while you read this.
When I hang out with friends on afternoon Zoom calls, they might see me folding my laundry while we watch our show together. I try to spend 30 minutes immediately after work to toss in a load of laundry, light candles, cook dinner, load the dishwasher, and throw laundry in the dryer. I almost always get the response of “You didn’t have to clean up just for me!” which makes me laugh. It’s not for them. It’s for me.
Clutter destroys my focus and calm. I can’t relax in clutter, and close friends know one of my personal signs of a depressive episode is a messy living space. Means I’ve used up all my energy just getting dressed and working all day. Putting away dishes would drain me. Self-care has been described to me as pleasant: take a bath, eat chocolate, watch Netflix, or expensive: get a mani/pedi and facial, get a membership to yoga class, or go traveling. Neither of those encompass self-care.
Self-care is, at the very core, taking care of yourself. Simple things like taking 20-minutes a day to maintain your home is self care. Tracking those headaches you’re getting around the same time each day so you can pinpoint why is self-care. Reading is self-care. Masturbation is self-care. Taking a break from the relentlessly depressing news for a few days is self-care. Making sure you have clean clothes and food that fills you is self care. Decompressing from a stressful day is self-care unless it turns destructive. Be kind to yourself, okay?
Self-sabotage is super easy to get caught up with. A draining call-and-response that leaves you with nothing.
Find the holes in your ship and plug them.