I was combing through my email archives earlier today, and came upon this old message from my previous employer, who was a long-time VP of account management for North America at Yahoo. Throughout the time I worked for under him, he regularly complimented me on my writing skill. The most honoring piece of feedback he ever gave me was in a face-to-face feedback session, wherein I was told that my writing and materials output was of much better quality and clarity than anything he ever saw in his time at Yahoo.
Back then, my depressed self accepted the praise graciously, but secretly refused to believe it. How could I, a nobody from a lower-middle income class family with a troubled past, produce something on par or better than professional executives with Ivy League accreditations? In the present, I firmly believe that I, nobody from a lower-middle income class family with a troubled past, am capable of producing top-quality work and results; that’s exactly what I’ve done in the stints of my past where I allowed myself to hold that belief.
Depression, awful enough in and of itself, has a tendency to kill self-esteem. Having struggled with both for an entire decade, their effects were still felt long after they’ve been conquered. Emotions aren’t binary, and no longer being depressed does not automatically make you happy. Similarly, refocusing the mind and silencing the oppressive inner critic doesn’t mean make you automatically self-loving and confident. It leaves you feeling as if a blindfold has been removed, allowing you to open your eyes to find yourself stranded in the middle of an empty desert, years in distance away from the last time you believed in yourself but at least capable of being able to make out which direction to head towards.
With all the ways in which the world is capable of making a person feel insignificant, undeserving, and worthless, it’s important to be able to allow yourself to accept the positive affirmations that come your way. A depressed mind will resist them fiercely, and will make very convincing misleading arguments to prove itself right. “That’s what they think, but they don’t know the real me.” “If I’m really that praiseworthy, why doesn’t anyone seem to think so when I need them to?” “What do they know, they’re just saying that to be nice.” And after doing so through a job of getting in the way of itself, the depressed mind will turn on itself, and berate the individual for being depressed and not being able to take control of life. Unchecked, that cycle repeats and spirals, waiting to be broken by the determination to enact change and the courage to think genuinely think positively of oneself.
Be determined. Be courageous. Be nice to yourself – you deserve it.