Signs you are depressed

Depression from the inside

This first post on depression described its diagnostic criteria. It’s more of an external point of view, very useful to understand quickly if someone suffers from the Black Dog. It’s also very interesting for doctors and clinical psychologists exchanging information about a patient or clinical studies.

But these standardized descriptions do not tell what depression feels like from the inside. And I believe sharing this inner experience is important. It’s easier for us to relate to emotions and thoughts than to a DSM 5 list of symptoms.

Most of us spend a lot of time and energy criticizing what we believe are our character traits (along the lines of : stop being so sensitive, lazy, procrastinating…), not realizing that they are classical symptoms of a disease.

And it is true the distinction is difficult to see especially when we have been living with depression for a long time, sometimes from early childhood.

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How to increase our self esteem

In my early twenties, I was certain the solution to increase my self esteem was to succeed, to win the holly grail of achievements. Once I would have a great job, a great partner, friends, a cool house and a cool life, then, my self esteem would be ok.

What a disappointment.

I sometimes hear people trying to explain the fleetingness of good feelings when reaching their goal. For me, even fleetingly, it did not happen: achievements never increased my self esteem, not for a minute. Nothing.

You will find a self esteem definition in a previous post. I have also tried to explain the meaning of a low self esteem in another. Here, let’s talk about how to increase our self esteem. (Hint: it is not by reaching goals.)

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The meaning of low self esteem

Part one of this series on self esteem explains what self-esteem is and how you can measure yours. Part 2 now examines the meaning of our self esteem.

We often believe that our low self esteem is caused by who we are, or some mysterious vulnerability. It is not: often, it’s a direct consequence of what happened to us.

And this, my friends, makes a real difference: it is not about us.

Of course, having a self esteem issue does not mean we have necessarily been through a trauma. And violence can have many other consequences . Sometimes, our self esteem stays miraculously intact regardless. The relationship between sexual trauma and self esteem is not that simple.

But psychologists have long known that sexual violence creates long term damage in our self esteem. Why it is so is not that difficult to understand: it’s all about the messages we receive.

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A self esteem definition

Clara’s talking to herself

To illustrate a definition of self esteem, let’s have a look at the internal dialogue taking place in Clara’s head :  « I have been so ridiculous in this meeting. When my boss asked for my opinion, I blushed, then blurted out something that made no sense at all. I feel so ashamed.

Deep down, the reality is that I’m incompetent at work. Other people seem so self assured; I just feel lost. I never really know what is the best thing to do. I never really succeed in anything. I’m really not up to the task.

In reality, I feel stupid and worthless most of the time, in any type of social interaction. What I say or do is often silly, if not downright inappropriate. I can not even count the times when all I wanted to do was to disappear into the ground. I hate parties. I hate dinners.

And I’m not even talking about my love life: it’s even worse. »

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