Confidence – it grows on trees, doesn’t it? At least, we’d think it did if we listened to all the people who helpfully told us that we just need more confidence.
But when we’re in the midst of depression, the confidence trees are in short supply. It’s a tree-free landscape – a bleak, barren moor, where no confidence grows.
And that’s one of the cruelest things about depression. It crushes our confidence, tramples our self-belief into the ground, and stamps all over our self-esteem.
Depression is a lying bully
Depression’s rasping voice fills our heads with poisonous whispers. It tells us we’re worthless – that nothing we do matters; that we’re not good enough; that people don’t like us. It makes us feel small and overwhelmed. It tells us there’s no point trying, and makes us doubt everything you do, from the clothes we choose to wear to the decisions we make in our daily life.
It’s hard not to believe that voice. Like all sly, devious, manipulative, lying bullies, it’s very convincing. So it’s pretty hard to believe in ourselves, even when well-meaning people tell us that’s what we need to do. Depression speaks louder. And just because someone tells us that we need more confidence, it doesn’t follow that we’ll get some. In fact, it’s just a reminder of what we don’t have.
Beating ourselves up
It makes us doubt the things that we once knew we could do well. In turn, we feel angry and bitter, and turn that in on ourselves. We become experts at beating ourselves up over things that aren’t our fault.
Being so self-critical makes us believe everyone else thinks the same, making us paranoid and anxious. Things we never would have thought twice about doing can become frightening and daunting, because depression tells us they will be. “Nothing good ever happens to me,” it hisses.
What can we do?
So how can we make depression put a sock in it? How can we stop believing its lies? It’s not easy, and it’s a slow process, but it is possible. Here are some things you could try.
Remember depression is a liar
The perception depression gives you is not the truth. If you were good at something before depression entered your life, you’re still good at it now.
Stop telling yourself you have no confidence
You won’t be able to start building yourself up again if you’re constantly putting yourself down. If you hear yourself saying that phrase, either out loud or in your head, try to stop in your tracks and say “No. That’s not true”. Talk to yourself the same way you’d talk to a friend – encourage and praise yourself.
Give yourself time
When you’re beating yourself up over everything, it’s really hard to be patient and kind with yourself, but you can’t just flick a switch to turn on the confidence. Take small steps, and congratulate yourself when you do.
Write down the good stuff
It can help to write down the good things that happen to you. It can be things you’ve enjoyed doing, nice things people have said to you. It doesn’t have to be a major achievement – even the tiniest positive thing is a poke in the eye for depression, and proof that good things do still happen, even when depression is telling you otherwise. Try to read your notes regularly, to remind yourself that actually you’re doing pretty well. Oh, and treat yourself to a nice notebook. It won’t make you more confident; you just deserve a treat.
What would a friend say?
If you can’t find anything positive to say about yourself, maybe someone else can do it for you. You could ask a trusted friend or family member to write a list of your qualities. What do they like about you? What are your strengths? Keep what they say, and waft the list in depression’s face if it dares to belittle you.
Sow the seeds
So confidence doesn’t grow on trees, and you might not have any of it right now, but you can start planting some seeds. With the right self-care, your confidence can slowly start to grow again.