Throughout history people have recognized the power of words spoken as a curse. They are words that eat at the mind, words that attack a person’s will to the point that they cause real physical harm. In our modern world we believe we have grown beyond such things. Yet we still say words, especially to or in front of children, which have the same end result.
We say things like, “too bad she’ll never be pretty,” or “you’ll never be as good an athlete as your brother,” or “has she always been fat?”. And if you are trying to beat depression, you know these words never go away.
I brought home a report card once that said “not living up to her potential.” I was seven years old. Now how much potential a seven year old is supposed to have was never explained to me. Or what kind of potential it was. The grown-ups shook their heads sadly. I might as well have worn a sign, like David Copperfield, only mine would have read “failure.” And I never forgot.
What kind of signs do you wear? If you are depressed, chances are that you carry a heavy load of labels people gave you as a child. Plus, when we feel we are a disappointment, we heap ourselves with guilt as well, for letting down the people we love.
Say goodbye to your parents’ or family’s expectations. Everyone has to face this at some point, even if they are not depressed. But our level of depression is influenced by how much power we gave those expectations, and the people who voiced them.
Talk it out with your parents if you can. If your family relationships are good overall, let them know how you feel. You may find that they gave absolutely no credence to some busy-body’s opinion, which you have hung on to for years. You may also learn that your parents never had half the expectations you thought they did, and they are just proud of who you are.
If communicating with your family is difficult, gently let them know that your life choices are your own. You may apologize for their sense of disappointment without taking any responsibility for it.
Sometimes we have to accept that other people will never be happy. When we hear criticism, we don’t always know that the person speaking criticizes everything and everybody. If you are just one more imperfect face in their eternally unhappy line of sight, let it go. Send thoughts of kindness to the person speaking the harsh words, and acknowledge how awful it must be to see no good in the world.
Speak words of acceptance to yourself. When you are trying to beat depression you may find it hard to believe good things about yourself. Think back to moments when you made someone else happy, or achieved some goal that mattered to you. Write them down if you need to, and add to the list as you remember more.
Give yourself credit for trying to beat depression, and be thankful. You only need one real fan. Make that person you.