5 Ways to Help Build Self-Respect When You Have a Mental Illness

Resilience is based very much on the ability we have to respect ourselves and trust our instincts. But here is the thing; for many of us who have struggled through difficult lives, battling trauma, depressionanxiety or many other things that cause us to doubt ourselves, trying to build up self-respect is really difficult. Personally too, I find that the worry and distress that comes with mental health issues can make me feel really guilty and useless. Neither of those things is good for cultivating a feeling of respect for myself!

There are several things I am working on. It is hard, but I’m slowly getting there. These are basic principles that help me personally to have a calmer life and to be able to feel better about myself and others. I hope by sharing them, it might help others too. They are simple things really, but like most simple things when you are working on any kind of recovery from a chronic illness, “simple” does not mean “easy.”

1. Try to stop negative self-talk.

It is such a bad habit and kills any respect we may otherwise be able to cultivate for ourselves. It is hard to be confident when someone is constantly being mean to you, pointing out all the mistakes you make and all the ways you fall short. Make a list of your good qualities and refer back to it when you feel inclined to berate yourself about not being good enough.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others.

You are you. No one else in the world can be you; that also means it is pointless comparing yourself to others because you cannot be them. Comparison steals any joy and confidence we have in ourselves, so try to stop doing it right now. It is also incredibly destructive to compare your recovery and life to another person’s. We have all experienced unique things that have made us who we are; while many of us may have had similar experiences in life, they are not ever going to be exactly the same. In other words, I repeat — do not, do not compare yourself to others. Different people recover at different rates and in different ways.

3. Stick to your goals.

I find making plans or goals to be a really frightening thing. My anxiety is always challenging me and saying that if I make a plan I won’t be able to follow through. However, you can make small goals for yourself. Even if it is “brush your hair every morning,” or “brush your teeth,” then give yourself a pat on the back when you have accomplished them. It is OK to start small; sometimes it is the only way!

4. Keep your space clean.

A clean space really helps me to have a clear head. It’s difficult to keep a house clean when you are exhausted from battling through chronic illness, pain or the fatigue that depression brings with it, but I do find that when things are neat, I feel a little calmer. It also gives me permission to then rest, which leads me to the last but probably one of the most important points…

5. Take time for yourself.

Sometimes the thing you need most is to have some time alone or to do something you really want to do that might feel a little frivolous. Get your hair done, go for a walk, have a luxurious long bath, have a cup of tea and read a good book — the list is up to you and is endless. You cannot heal if your battery is flat and you have nothing left — take a few minutes each day to recharge yourself!

We all have to get through the best we can, in the way we find best. But having a fluid list of things that help you to have a little respect for yourself can make a big difference in how strong you can be. Build some self-respect and you build your resilience to the trials that you will face too.

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Thinkstock photo via DariaZu

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