You know what can drive a person crazy? Trying to be something we are not.
Defining our identities usually starts when we are children, even babies. Our parents, even the ones who are trying as hard as they can to be great parents, instill ideas in our heads that become our truths. For example, they say we are “shy” and even if we didn’t start out shy, we become that because that is what we are told that we are. We rely on whoever raises us to teach us about the world and when they assign a category to us, that is what we believe. As we grow up and gather these sorts of judgments into our self-definitions, things can get really muddled.
When I was in the first grade, I brought home a report card with decent grades. On the bottom of my report card the teacher had written “Karyn could improve her grades if she made more effort.” From then on, for the rest of her life, my mom would occasionally say to me “Well, you don’t really make an effort.” This became my truth and what I really believed about myself, that I didn’t try hard enough.
It wasn’t until the age of 47 that I found out this wasn’t true. I was in a 3-day Personal Transformation and Courage workshop, with seven other people.
The workshop involved a variety of tools like breathwork and dream analysis; the exercises were designed to get us to the point where we could see our personal truths. When it was my turn to talk, I said that I felt like I was always outside watching people live their lives; that I felt like I didn’t make enough effort. The conference leader talked about how there are people who participate, and people who lead, and wondered why it bothered me. He asked me to say aloud “I am a participant, not an instigator.” I tried to say that but the words stuck in my throat. This did not sound true to me, yet it was what I believed.
That evening, as I journaled about the day’s workshop, I wondered why that statement had been so hard for me to say. I began making a list of things that I had instigated. The list grew longer as I thought back over the years, showing me that I had actually been the leader in many different facets of my life. Journaling led me to the realization that “doesn’t make an effort” was a judgment that someone had made about a child 40 years earlier, which I had agreed to believe. What a breakthrough. After that realization, facing the voices in my head and proving them “not my voice” became easier.
When I began taking walks, after joining NutriMirror, the voice in my head said “I am too fat for this.” That actually WAS my voice; I told it that the reason I was walking was because I was too fat, and the voice might as well get used to it. The voice clammed up right away!
It may sound unscientific (and in fact, it is) but I think sometimes when people are experiencing depression it is related to this disconnect between who we’ve been told we are, and who we really are. The conflicting messages in our heads can be sorted out if we are willing to look at them and challenge them. We owe it to ourselves and the people in our lives to be as authentically who we really are as we can be. Don’t be afraid – you were created an individual, and your individuality is as valid and vital as anyone else’s. I would suggest you start with the voices that make you feel bad about yourselves. You may very well find out that the voices are someone else’s.