ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Accepting and Validating Ourselves

By Jack Bragen
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:37:00 PM

It is not necessary to incorporate other people's expectations into your mind and heart. Other people may or may not understand you, and you need not follow their standards. When we allow ourselves to absorb other people's messages that try to define who and what we are, it sometimes leads to our own programming mimicking these ideas in the form of self-denigrating thoughts.  

I've seen myself suffer seriously due to guilt about the amount of work I expect of myself. I believe many others are the same. Sometimes we unnecessarily torment ourselves with unfair expectations. The "work ethic" that exists in cultures worldwide is a means of punishing ourselves if we do not feel as if we are producing enough work.  

If someone has a legitimate disability, including a psychiatric one, the regular work ethic should not apply, and any work the person produces should be considered exemplary.  

We need to give ourselves a break and this includes those times when other people expect us to do more. We should neither become human doormats nor walk on eggshells. Other people do not get to tell us who we should be.  

When we incorporate too much self-trashing, we might turn into self-haters and become our own worst enemies. While certainly, some of the time, things just need to get done, it doesn't mean that we can't give ourselves some down time when needed.  

When things need to get done in my life that are unpleasant, I try to approach it in an organized way, a way that minimizes the amount of pain I have to experience. If things are put on a list and are mentally categorized, it helps with minimizing anxiety concerning these things.  

The "sink or swim" mentality of testing a person may work with unimpaired people but should not be applied to people with disabilities. Applying such a standard to oneself means you could be setting yourself up for failure.  

Are you "okay" with a psychiatric disability? You need not be alienated from yourself due to a psychiatric diagnosis. I have seen too many people including myself struggle with issues of self esteem due to a mental health diagnosis. You deserve to feel good about yourself.  

It isn't necessary to compare oneself to other people who have or don't have a psychiatric illness. A person with a mental health diagnosis is still an acceptable human being. We do not need to "justify" our existences. We have as much right as does anyone else to exist and to be respected. It begins with self respect.  

Oddly enough, people who have amassed large quantities of wealth and who appear to be society's best examples of hard work may still suffer from self-esteem issues. It seems that self-appreciation is almost a universal issue--it is a gift that only we can bestow upon ourselves.  

Along the same lines, one need not always be concerned about "wasting" time. If you are getting something meaningful in the moment, it could mean that time isn't being wasted even though it may appear as if nothing is being produced.  

In life, enjoyment and meaning are things that might count more than the amount of money you have. If you are enjoying yourself in moment, then that is all you can ask. Your life isn't devalued when someone else disapproves of your progress or lack of it. If you approve of yourself, it is every bit as good as, if not better than, the approval of others. This includes family members.  

You can't change the fact that your life is going to be part good and part bad. If we believe we are making an effort at things, then we should compliment ourselves accordingly. If something is enjoyable (that doesn't harm oneself or others) then it is probably worth doing.  

Work has its place in life, so does rest, and so does play. Yet this does not have to become yet another standard to which we are comparing ourselves. The mind can always find a reason to believe we aren't going "good enough" and sometimes we must put a stop to such thoughts and just enjoy what we are doing.