Stress is everywhere and too much stress can lead to depression. Depression can even lead to illness and can kill in a variety of ways. Low self-esteem adds to our stress levels, as it puts us in a state of anxiety. But why would we have low self-esteem to begin with? Why do we sometimes feel we’re not “good enough”? And, more importantly, what can we do to fix it? Please, read on.
What Causes Stress? Why Am I Depressed?
Believing others are judging our every action.
You’re standing at the coffee shop preparing your grande americano, when you accidentally spill milk on the counter. “Oh no, this woman next to me must think I’m a total idiot!“. Instantly, you get anxious and feel inferior because you assume you know what this person is thinking and you are convinced they are judging you and calling you names.
They more than likely are not. They, like you, have their own drama they’re building up inside their own heads, or simply have more important things to think about than you. In reality, YOU are calling yourself those names and YOU are labeling yourself as a loser or an idiot. Only YOU think that. So… STOP! I’m pretty sure most of you aren’t psychic, so there’s no way you can possibly know what someone else is thinking. And even if they are judging you, WHO CARES!? It’s a stranger, someone you may or may not ever see again in your life. They will forget about you as soon as they walk out the door. Why would it matter what they think about you? It doesn’t.
Those who do judge you because you don’t fit into their “ideals” are usually unhappy trying very hard to match an unattainable ideal themselves. And, they more than likely compare themselves to you and feel that there are things you have that they wish they had. The people who do judge you based on these things aren’t even worth having around.
Comparing ourselves to others
This is the underlying reason for all self-doubt. Not “measuring up”.
And why do we think that way? It’s probably at least a little bit related to the fact that we constantly compare ourselves and life in general to some “ideal” person with the “ideal” life. Usually, we compare ourselves to what the media has shown us is the “proper” way life should be and what is “attractive”, “sexy”, “normal”, “acceptable”, and “ideal”. (In quote marks for obvious reasons).
If it’s not the media’s idea of “perfect” that we’re comparing ourselves to, it’s our social media feeds. Some compare their lives to their friends’ status updates and instafeeds, which show that “everyone’s life is exciting, fun, passionate, luxurious and just all around perfect!” This, of course, is NOT TRUE! You don’t know how much of what a person posts on social media is true, and they sure as hell are not going to post that they argued with their spouse today or that they did something embarrassing on a date, that they haven’t done anything but sit in their pajamas for 3 days in a row watching Netflix, just like you have.
There’s no point in trying to live up to -our perception of- someone else’s way of life! Live your own life your own way, the happiest people live by that philosophy.
“By the time you’re 30 you should have a good paying job, invest in a house, and preferably married and with a child at least on the way”.
This kind of social expectations makes it so that anybody who is NOT at that point in their lives by 30 will feel inadequate. Both men and women are faced with this pressure. But they shouldn’t be! We all have our own lives to live, and the last time I checked, humans have free will and therefore any way we choose to live our lives is perfectly fine. As long as we’re not hurting anybody, of course.
“If you’re a woman and don’t wear makeup or dress in the latest fashion, you’re not feminine enough”.
Feminine enough to what, exactly? Attract somebody? Be liked by others? Good! If the only way someone is going to be interested in me is if I smear my face with all the products I’ve been told I need to look beautiful and buy all I’m told will make me sexy, then I’d rather not be considered interesting. Though, usually, being yourself is interesting to others in a much better way!
“The way we met was perfect. Our first date was out of a dream, sparks were flying, and we knew from the first second we were made for each other! We’ve been married for 50 years, no fights, lots of grandchildren!”.
Thinking that the above is the way “real romance” works and that if everything isn’t Hollywood perfect on a date it means there’s something wrong with you and you’ll be alone for ever is a clear sign that: 1. You need to go out on more dates. (Most of them are terrible). 2. You believe a perfect movie-like date exists. It does not.
If you are yourself, you’ll find someone you vibe well with eventually and you’ll be able to weed out the superficial suitors who don’t even know who they are or what they want. If they don’t like you, it’s their loss and you wouldn’t have worked out well anyway. Good riddance.
“My [insert body part] is a weird shape/wrong size…”
Again, compared to what!?? A model? An actor/actress? That girl in your Zumba class? That guy that lifts next to you at the gym? Some chic/dude on Instagram? Your ex’s new guy/girl? Your body is your own body and you’re never going to have someone else’s. Just like nobody has yours! Work to make yourself the best YOU possible. Stop comparing yourself to others. You’re unique, you’re special.
Embrace your small/huge boobs, love your beer belly because you enjoy partying with friends and it’s worth it to you, love your white pasty skin because it means you have a lower risk of skin cancer since you have to avoid the sun, love being short because it gives you an excuse to make tall people do things for you… Just love who you are and what you look like! It’s you!
You’re special. But you’re not that special.
What I mean by this is, like I said above, you are unique, you are the only YOU there is in the entire world, in the entire existence of the universe; the you that you are now has never existed before. So why try to ruin that by becoming someone else? Or being what someone else wants you to be? Be special, be a unicorn! Or a mermaid, or a fairy, dragon, octopus, platypus, be whatever you want to be, dang it!
When I say “you’re not that special” I’m talking about the same as before. You’re not so special that everyone around you is watching you and judging you. Quite frankly, nobody cares what you do, what you wear, what you look like. So when you think “everyone must think I’m so lame/stupid/[insert insult]“, remember that NOBODY CARES! And if they do, you never know, they might actually be staring because they admire something about you! I bet you never thought of that possibility. Believe me, that is more likely than what you’re thinking. I personally stare at people I find interesting, not people doing/wearing something that I dislike.
How this relates to stress and depression
The anxiety that comes with constantly feeling inadequate and judged is very stressful. If we add to that the stress of failure, it can all easily lead down the road to depression.
Getting fired, not getting a raise, not finding a job, failing a class, going through a rough separation. These are just some examples that, especially when compounded together, and added to the aforementioned feelings of “I’m not attractive/normal” we’ve been programmed to think, can easily add up to thoughts of “I’m just not good enough“. This is, obviously, very stressful, and will eventually snowball and cause depression.
Again, that”I’m just not good enough” thought only comes up because of the way you believe “life should be“. But guess what? You’re not the first or last person to ever fail. Everybody fails at several points in their lives. It’s part of life itself and it is something that forges our personalities and character. Failure is how we mature and learn who we are. Failure is simply part of life. Accept it, understand it, learn the lessons from it and move on.
How to avoid stress and depression.
Remember it’s all in your head
As you are fabricating all of these negative thoughts, you can just as easily reject them. Be aware of this and stop those thoughts when they arise. You are making the choice to be affected by what you think others think of you and by what others may say. Choose not to be affected. Choose not to give it any of your energy.
If you find yourself feeling tense thinking “what are people thinking about me right now?“, relax your body and remind yourself: “Their life is just as messed up as mine, and I’m the last thing that concerns them”. Just as they should be the least of your concerns.
When you catch yourself belittling or insulting yourself, STOP! Immediately change those negative thoughts, -“My life is worthless” “I’m weird”, I’m not good enough” and such- into positive thoughts or simply let the situations go. “Boy, that was awkward… oh well.” or “I’m intelligent, I’m funny, I look great” are all much better ways of thinking, and doing this often will change your thought process and help you find out who YOU really are and how great you are! Always remind yourself that it only matters what YOU think and how YOU feel.
And don’t forget that when weird, awkward things happen to you, the same thing has happened to other people. There are 7 billion+ people on Earth. Do you really think you’re the only one who feels like their life is the weirdest/most awkward life there is? You’re not. There’s no instruction manual for life. Chill, relax and just enjoy the weird, crazy ride!
Be yourself, love yourself
Be who you are, and love who you are. Be aware that nobody is judging you and if they are, well, that’s their problem. You will be the happiest when you are true to yourself and love yourself.
Do what you want, not what you “should do” according to social expectations.
Do what makes you happy, not what will make others happy.
Wear what you’re comfortable in, not what the media says you should wear. Unless you work in the fashion industry, not wearing the “latest trend” is not going to have an impact in your life. It’s just not important. You do you!
Surround yourself with people who accept you and love you the way you really are and not the mask you put on to fit into a world where, really, nobody fits in.
It truly pains me to see people, both men and women, who constantly berate and insult themselves and end up judging each other because they don’t fit into this imaginary mold they think they should fit into. There is no mold, there is no how-to for life, and life is surely not a To-do list we need to complete before we die. If you just wing it at life while being true to yourself, you will avoid unnecessary stress, escape the clutches of depression, and be happy. All while possibly saving your own life.
So please, do yourself a favor: Love yourself, believe in yourself, cut yourself some slack, forgive yourself, and choose to be happy!
Love and light always.