I told a good friend I’m reckless because I don’t care what other people think of me, nor do I care about the stigma. “You’re not reckless,” he shot back. “You have self-esteem.”
This got me thinking about developing self-esteem as a bona fide schizophrenia recovery strategy. I understand that a significant number of us, when other people are critical of us or otherwise try to make us feel less than zero as human beings, internalize this guilt.
It might be that we’re already on shaky ground because just coping with the symptoms of the illness leaves us battered and emotionally bruised.
Stop. Right there. Change won’t happen overnight, yet taking consistent, moderate steps every day to boost your self-esteem can effectively lessen the stigma’s impact in your life.
The following techniques I’ve used in my own life and I offer them to you now.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
As a resume writer and career coach, I focus on a person’s assets, not on their weaknesses or deficits. Maximizing your assets, that is, using and sharing and honing your God-given talents and gifts, is the way to go. Focusing on what you lack, or trying to fix a weakness, is an ineffective use of your energy. Figure out in your own life what must be changed and what you can accept as is.
Focus on what you can do and what you can have instead of being jealous or envious of what others can do and can have. The grass isn’t greener over there. Water your own grass and plant the seeds to grow your own beautiful garden.
Thus the second technique will come in handy: dress sharp.
As best and as often as you can, take showers and wash and dry your hair. Wear good clothes (save up your money to buy two or three better items instead of 10 cheap items.) Buy a full-length dressing mirror and hang it on the back of your door to see how you look before you go out.
I guarantee that dressing well will put a spring in your step and a smile on your face.
Start to compliment others. It can be hard when you’re paranoid, yet making the effort to see the good in people goes a long way. Giving others praise not only makes others feel good, it elevates your own mood.
Acting kind and generous towards yourself and others, in my eyes, is the Golden Rule of Recovery. I have a friend who collects a government SSI check, and he always tips 20 percent when we go to a restaurant. No kidding.
Lastly: Be true to yourself.
The greatest gift that living in recovery gives you is that you can reclaim yourself after illness strikes. It’s okay to be your own person even if other people insinuate that there’s something wrong with you for being different or having a diagnosis.
OK: after I was diagnosed at 22 years old, I pretended to be someone I wasn’t because I wanted other people to think I was normal. My ongoing attempts to succeed in the gray flannel insurance field failed. I couldn’t compete with the other traditional, average folk.
I had buried the truth, and it destroyed me; when I brought the truth to light, it saved me. After I went back to school, I obtained a job where I did fit in. I could be creative and cheerful and express myself. My gregarious, witty self returned.
Acting false to yourself will only make you miserable in the end. And expecting to return to how it was before you were diagnosed isn’t always possible. Make a You-Turn, not a U-Turn: if you can’t go back to the way things were, you can create a different life that can be better.
A brand new you awaits: so be-you-tiful.
Mental Health Activist