I thought death was the only way to escape the nightmare my life had become. Desperation led me to rediscover and listen to my true self. Finding her greatly improved my mental health and helped me create a new life worth living. I can help you create a better life, too; contact me to discuss how.
Many aspects of my former life did have to die before I was ready to seek and find my true self. I had to give up my former career. I had to feel the intense grief, anger, and other emotions my false self had buried in order to survive. I had to challenge harmful beliefs I was convinced were true.
I had to accept the painful reality that hard work and a can-do attitude don’t always lead to the results I want. My thoughts and actions don’t give me complete control over everything that happens to me. The choices other people make also affect my life. So do things like a worldwide pandemic.
Most of all, I had to want to find my true self and let her speak instead of silencing her to please others. I had to create a safe, welcoming environment where she wouldn’t be shamed or rejected. I had to empathize instead of criticize when she was honest about her thoughts, feelings, and needs.
The truth is that I still struggle to do those things sometimes. My true self and I play an endless game of hide and seek.
I find her and start to listen to her, then my inner critic — the harmful messages from others I’ve internalized and come to believe — tells me to lose her. It insists that she must hide again so I can fit in and succeed in the real world.
I’ve learned to let my true self overrule my inner critic most of the time, because I’ve discovered that I’m much happier when I do. My true self understands my needs better than anyone else. The path she encourages me to take is more likely to lead to a place I want to go than the paths others recommend.
My inner critic means well and also wants me to be happy. It just thinks the path to happiness requires me to meet the expectations of others. That path is easier to navigate and seems safer. That path provides the approval and admiration I need to feel good.
It does feel good to be praised and admired, but not for long. To keep getting that praise and admiration, I must stay on the path others see as the only acceptable one. If I leave that path to explore (or create) another one, their approval quickly shifts to criticism.
It feels much better to listen to my true self, and the good feelings last much longer. It hurts less to disappoint people I love dearly and lose their respect than it does to lose myself to please them.
So what kind of new life has my true self led me to? I’m now a freelance writer, nature photographer, and mental health guide. I no longer feel compelled to hide my feelings to avoid upsetting others. I openly share the painful parts of my life as well as the highlights. I’m honest about my own mental health issues and the coping strategies that have helped me. I offer hope and encouragement to others without pretending to be fully healed or have all the answers.
I consider myself an eternal seeker. I constantly seek new information and tools that help me understand and more fully embrace my true self. I am on a never-ending mental health journey that includes loving myself just the way I am. I continue to challenge beliefs and change behaviors that I now recognize as harmful.
I also seek new ways to help others. If you or someone you love could use a “Depression and Anxiety Survival Kit,” you can download mine here. If you want to explore the possibility of working with a personal mental health guide via phone or email, contact me to request a free phone consultation. My “Changing Lives” newsletter is another way I share my struggles and what gives me hope. Readers do the same, and their comments have led me to additional resources. We all face hard times at some point. We can help each other get through them by sharing our stories and survival strategies.