When Depression Makes You Feel Guilty for Liking Yourself
Most days are not filled with (any measure) of self-confidence for me. Most people probably don’t wake up in the morning and start their day thinking, “I am so totally awesome and I love myself.” But what happens if for once you do wake up feeling even remotely good about yourself? If you’re anything like me, that nagging sense of arrogance sets in and suddenly you find you feel terribly guilty about that smidgen of personal pride that dared to show up.
Self-hatred comes quite naturally to me. Whether it’s my impossibly frizzy hair, stubbornly bubbly butt or embarrassingly long list of mental health problems — I can always find something to hate about myself. Loud, sarcastic, flat-iron addicted, compulsive giggler. I have zero fashion sense, and even less fashion interest. I actually laugh out loud in the middle of a dead quiet room because I remember a funny voicemail I got two months ago. I trip and fall without actually picking up my feet, in flat shoes, on flat ground, sober. I eat five bags of “fun size” skittles because fun size doesn’t add up in my world. And I scream obscenities at the television during sporting events because I know they can hear me.
Despite it all, I do on occasion get this fleeting sense of “Maybe, I’m not so bad.” Immediately followed by bone-crushing guilt for having the audacity to think such a thing. But why? In part it is a knee jerk reaction — a mortal fear of being perceived as even slightly arrogant. It’s also uncomfortable to have confidence, because I’m just not use to it. But more than anything, it’s the insidious nature of depression and the way it can deprive you of any positive feelings you manage to conjure up. Depression tells me I am worthless, foolish and certainly not deserving of any hint of pride or confidence in myself.
Depression lies — a lot. But it can be hard, if not impossible, to separate the lies depression tells me, from the lies I tell myself. Which one of us thinks my butt is too big — me or my depression? And are we just one entity now? Do I even have my own thoughts anymore? Sometimes I’m not so sure, but more and more I’m starting to think the quiet little voice of compassion that occasionally tries to tell me I’m not the worst person in the world, is actually me. It’s the me that has been drowned out by decades of depression — the me I sometimes forget ever existed. The me I have a hard time believing could possibly still be in there somewhere. It’s the voice of reason, and maybe, of truth.
Guilt can be a strangely comforting emotion. It reminds us as long as we feel guilty, chances are we can safely assume we are not being arrogant and self-righteous. Guilt can give us a sense of peace, knowing if we beat ourselves up enough, no one else will need to bother to beat us up, too. But guilt can drown you in waves of pain that seem almost inescapable. Guilt can convince you, truly convince you, that you don’t deserve to live. Guilt can destroy hope and happiness, and take away so much from your life without you ever actually doing anything deserving of such feelings.
It’s OK to lack confidence. But it’s OK to have it too. It is not a fine line between “self-confident” and “self-righteous” — it’s a huge chasm. You don’t have to tiptoe along, afraid you might come across like a cocky jerk if you so much as think you are having a good hair day. Confidence has a big playground to work with — and chances are you may never have gotten anywhere near the upper limit of how much you should have. We admire people who walk into a room secure in themselves — and yet we often despise that very same thing when we feel it ourselves. That’s because depression lies, and tells us we are bad people, we think bad thoughts, we do bad things. But it’s not true.
So the next time I think to myself, Maybe I’m kinda sorta not the worst person in the whole world, I am going to try very hard to hold on to that feeling for more than a few seconds. Because in the end, depression will always lie to me — but it’s up to me if I’m going to believe the lies or not.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.