I’m a peacekeeper by nature. I don’t like to ruffle feathers. It makes me anxious when others express anger, even when it’s not directed toward me. I’d rather sacrifice my opinion or preference to avoid conflict. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about how this impacts my own happiness. Am I giving up my love for certain things or experiences out of fear of how someone else will react? And if so, is this stealing my joy?
Our society values selfless people. We encourage our children to let their friends choose which game to play. We admire people who give of themselves in order to meet the needs of others. These aren’t bad things. It is virtuous and sometimes necessary to practice selflessness. In moderation, selflessness can lead to great joy and contentment. The key word, though, is moderation.
You see, after a while if you keep on giving of yourself and sacrificing your own standards and preferences for those of others, then you lose a little bit of yourself and then a little more until you get to the point where you’re really not sure what you want anymore. This is a little like not knowing who you are anymore, a crisis which can definitely lead you down the path to depression.
If you want to beat depression, try honoring your true self. I’m not suggesting that you go around insisting on your own way, but setting boundaries and expressing your opinion is a healthy way of honoring what it means to be you. You can start with the small things. For instance, the next time your significant other asks you where you want to eat or what you want to watch on television, speak up.
Instead of saying, “I don’t care” or “You choose,” give the question some thought and then let your voice be heard. It doesn’t matter if you ultimately get your way or not, just knowing what you want gives you powerful insight into who you are, something that is vital in order to beat depression.
One effective meditation method I’ve discovered for finding your true self is to close your eyes and mentally rewind your day. Now think about the decisions you made throughout the day. Next imagine that you’re faced with those same decisions again with one caveat: the decisions affect no one but you. Now, how would you do things differently? Meditation methods such as these can give you real insight into what your true priorities and desires are.
If you find that you’re allowing others to have too much influence over your choices and decisions, then realize that this can be a key element to why you’re feeling depressed. When your actions aren’t in alignment with who you really are, then there’s conflict in your mind and in your heart, whether you realize it or not. The irony is that you often dishonor your true self in order to avoid conflict, but in reality, you’re creating one of the worst kinds of conflict within yourself. Practice being more assertive and standing up for what you want—and ultimately, who you really are.