Often, when we are making changes in our lives, other people butt in and offer their input. You move the sofa to the opposite wall, and a friend might ask why you did that, or say the couch doesn’t look good there. Here’s the thing—it’s your sofa. You can put it wherever you want, recover it in any color, or use it in any room. It’s the same with your mental health. You don’t have to answer to anyone else about your choices to feel better.
We’ve been talking about spring cleaning of the self this month, which can mean making all kinds of changes in the way you think, react, and live. There are going to be people who disagree with the changes you are making, or who will butt in and offer their two cents. However, it’s your mental health—and that means it’s your decision how to handle it.
Start by trying to be more transparent and authentic with yourself, and with the people around you. When you act in a way that is true to yourself, it’s freeing. You aren’t pasting on a smile and pretending everything is okay when really, it’s not. I did so much of that when I was recovering from my attack, because I didn’t want to worry or burden other people.
Then I realized that the people who loved me wanted me to open up. They didn’t know how to help me, and they were unsure about what I needed (see this excerpt from my book for more on how this impacted my relationships). I had to be honest with myself first, admitting that I couldn’t do it all, that my recovery was tougher than I’d expected, and that I was struggling with depression. Only then could I be honest with my family and friends. There were days when going out was simply too much, or days when I really needed someone to talk to. Being honest and authentic with those around me improved many of the relationships I had, and cost me a couple others. In the end, though, I felt lighter and freer to be myself.
When someone says negative things about the choices you are making, take a breath and think for a minute. Where are these statements coming from? Does that person have something going on within themselves that is making them lash out? Are their concerns valid or overblown? Then calmly explain your perspective to them. Getting emotional or angry only adds kerosene to a volatile situation. Standing your ground firmly and calmly helps keep you from expending unnecessary emotional energy, and helps you stay in a place of peace.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day, or you lash out at someone who is expressing concern. None of us behave perfectly every day, nor are all of our reactions the right ones for the moment. You have no idea what is going on in someone else’s life, or whether they are the ones who need a hug and a listening ear right now. Be kind to yourself, and to others, and that helps build a world that is supportive to people who are struggling. Most of all, give yourself grace. That’s the best way to be your own advocate, and to build stronger self-love.
Look for an excerpt from my book in the next column. If you want more on self-love, I encourage you to read my February blog posts, or to simply reach out in a comment below.