One of the hallmarks of depression is supposedly low self-esteem. I would have told you during my years of clinical depression that my self-esteem was fine. I liked myself. I thought I was an inherently good person. I never did what I’d observed in a few others – verbally berate myself as stupid and worthless – I considered that to be pathetic behavior.
But looking back, I cannot deny that my self-confidence was nil. I felt petrified by my fear of uncertainty and incompetence. This fear prevented me from learning what steps to take to achieve in my endeavors and from knowing how to socialize with others. These qualities unfortunately lead to a downward, self-perpetuating spiral of depression. You feel terrible, you feel unable to do anything, you do nothing, you feel worse.
For me, turning thirty has been a welcome transformation in my life. I have a lot more confidence in myself, both in that I can take steps to minimize my ignorance about whatever activities I wish to take on, and also in that I care less what others think of me. One of the easiest ways to damage your self-image is to get caught up in shoulds. I should have a career, I should have children, I should volunteer, I should be able to keep a clean house, I should be able to throw fun dinner parties.
I’ve stopped listening to that inner voice that tells me I’m not successful enough by measurable standards. So I’m not good at having a career; nor am I good at domestic skills. Where does that leave me? It leaves me the compassionate, interesting person that I am! It leaves me here in the moment feeling gratitude for my miraculous, mundane life. I’m learning that it is enough just to be. And a thousand times better when you pair that being with a connection to those you love.
I love being married. I love being a daughter, a sister, a teacher, and a friend. I think I will love being a mother. I love connecting with others, something I wasn’t able to do when deeply depressed. This is what it is to be joyful. This gives me not only confidence, but faith that I will be successful in life whether or not I have physical markers to show for it.
At least, this is what I tell myself. : )