When you are dealing with stress and bouts of depression, do you ever feel like a winner one minute, and knocked down the next? When your confidence is up, life is great. But it only takes a second to lose your grip and go barreling down again like a roller coaster ride.
Only this ride is not thrilling. We have no idea if anyone is at the controls. When we hit the bottom, depression can hit too, and we may believe we’ll never climb up again.
We might even imagine ourselves like Ebenezer Scrooge, facing his grave. But instead of a name, there is just one word… loser.
To break out of this cycle, it helps to understand where it comes from.
Three factors influence our confidence. 1) We base our self worth on other people’s opinions, 2) we compare ourselves to other people, and 3) we have a mindset that does not allow for mistakes. In each case, we ride up and down because we let someone else drive.
1.1. Do opinions matter?
No new movie or bestseller gets 100% good reviews. People always judge from different perspectives. But relying on the good opinion of others puts us under constant stress. We can never please everyone.
1.2. Comparing ourselves. Are we good enough?
When we compare ourselves to others, we invite stress into our lives. Our minds are watchful, and our bodies are tense. We fear we won’t measure up, or be accepted.
The need to belong is practically in our DNA. Ages ago it kept us safe. We could sit by the fire in the cave, instead of outside alone in the dark. But in today’s hyper technical world, we are barraged with constant images, beckoning us to compare ourselves, even to people who don’t exist.
1.3. Does our mindset cause us stress?
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. describes her research watching children solve problems. She discovered that children with a “fixed mindset,” had been taught that they were bright or talented, and believed that their abilities were fixed and unchanging. Children raised with a “growth mindset” were taught that effort is what counts, and believed that their abilities could improve.
When growth mindset children make a mistake, they think, “ok, that didn’t work, I’ll try something different.” But when fixed mindset children make a mistake, they think, “that didn’t work. I’m a failure.” We may be doing the same.
How can we change?
According to Dr. Dweck we can change our mindset, once we have recognized it. That changes how we view our confidence, and reduces our stress.
We can evaluate other people’s opinions, and ignore those with no importance. We can meditate on the value of our real selves, and practice being aware whenever we compare ourselves to thinner, richer, happier people on TV, or anywhere else.
We can remember the adage, “I’m Ok, you’re OK,” and let the roller coaster gently slide to a stop.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. (2007). Available in book, ebook, and audio.
I’m OK – You’re OK, by Thomas Harris., revised (2004). Book, ebook, and audio.