The Thing about Mental Health and Choices

There's this thing about mental health wherein you find yourself the master of wordplay, advice, and progress for every single person around you, but seem to forget that wealth of information as soon as the tables have turned. Once we must make our own choices, take care of ourselves or listen to our own advice we become stubbornly ignorant.

Sometimes I think that I am the only person who does this, but then I realize that it is all around me; my friends, family and loved ones are all full of opinions when asked about the world but become dumbfounded as to how they can help themselves. Call it willful ignorance, selective memory, or a lack of self-esteem, these characteristics are among us all. They affect our ability to live our truth, maintain stability, and lead to an intense feeling of self-doubt.

A gentle but firm nudge towards self-reflection

Interestingly, and most importantly, these characteristics are not limited to mental health. On the contrary, they are fluid; they flow throughout our bodies and minds to influence our emotions, senses, and decisions. They make us feel sick, sad, disgruntled or angry. They impact our choices in ways that we don't always realize; they're intrinsically woven into our daily lives.

When is the last time you ate something you know you shouldn't have? Or stayed in bed all day, not because you needed the rest but because you were afraid of the possibilities? How many times have you shrugged your shoulders and thought, 'oh well,' once you realized the consequences of your actions? "It's not a big deal," you say, "I don't care what happens," you claim. But what you really mean is that you don't care what happens to you. There's a difference. Being non-nonchalantly easy-going is not the same as simply not caring what happens to your self, your mind and your body.

Most of us know that the consequences of our actions and choices matter. But what is forgotten -- or never learned -- is that you matter. Your self matters. Your body matters. Your mind matters. This devil-may-care attitude towards choices that directly impact you is simply destructive. It's time that you realize that.

Finding a new perspective

Willful ignorance regarding choices that affect, or can help, your well-being is perhaps one of the most detrimental behaviors we have developed. Ironically, this form of self-destruction often stems from a bigger need for self-preservation; a survival mechanism that has twisted into the need to please and help others before ourselves. It's the reason we must be reminded to put on our own life-jackets before we begin to help others.

From my experience, self-esteem -- or lack thereof -- tends to be the biggest contributor to this conundrum. Whether consciously or not, we decide that consequences that affect us are not as important as those that affect others. We somehow conclude that our happiness, our desires and needs, are so low on our list of priorities that we simply forget to check in. We forget that at one time or another these things did matter. We learned to forget. We began as children who cried and screamed for our own wants and needs only to be taught that it was the wrong way to behave. Paradoxically, this combination of learned-low-self-worth and the need for self-preservation made us forget the very self we were trying to protect. I don't know about you, but I think it's time we reassess.

Learning to respect yourself

From our experiences and our ingrained behaviors we have learned to ignore our own advice and gain happiness only through another's eyes. I am not suggesting that you forget about others; on the contrary, I am suggesting that in remembering your self you will be in a better position to help others. By recognizing your own self-worth you can find it in others, or help them to find their own. By realizing that you matter, your mind and body matter, you can live a life of conscious choices. You can learn to listen to your own wisdom, and in turn find whatever truth may lie within.

It's not easy. In fact, it's going to be mind-numbingly difficult. Sorry, but it's true. You most likely will not be able to do it alone. But help is out there. Even so, you'll likely break down. You'll feel as if you're turning your back on your loved ones, but it's an illusion. You're not turning your back on the world, you're finally facing yourself.

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