In honor of National Mental Health Day which coincidentally also happened to be a very trying day for myself, I decided to write about something that I struggle with in hopes of allowing me to more deeply understand the patterns which lead to negative swings in my mood and to serve as a reminder that feelings can fade if approached from the right perspective. As the title has already revealed, I want to talk about forgiving yourself to which I believe some context might be useful. Interspersed between my recollection of the day are the thoughts that followed each moment.
Today started off pretty unremarkably until I happened to receive an email about a request for an interview about a position I had applied for. Naturally, I was ecstatic and replied offering some times of availability to speak and hit send. Some time went by and I hadn’t heard back considering I had offered to speak as early as tomorrow, but upon checking the email I sent I had forgotten to include a contact number which was specifically requested.
#1 I can’t believe I would be so dumb as to not read the email carefully before replying.
I hastily sent another reply with my number, hoping to correct my blunder. But even now as it’s almost 10pm as I write this, I haven’t received any reply from the recruiter.
#2 Why would they even bother to continue considering you if you can’t even follow simple directions?
I try to convince myself that it was a simple mistake that you made an attempt to rectify, so I should hope for the best regardless. Maybe they just didn’t get a chance to reply, I shouldn’t worry this much. Later while in a class, I had asked a question about a conclusion the professor reached, but he pointed out that it was actually based on the homework I had not yet started which another student also pointed out the reasoning could also be found in the previous class’s notes. The professor not so subtly suggested that some of us still need to do the homework.
#3 You should be working harder so you don’t fall behind so much
I laugh softly and smile along, but don’t ask any other questions for the rest of the class. During the midclass break I and my professor head out of the class and he holds the door for me which I reply thank you in a somewhat breathless whisper which leads me to think maybe he didn’t hear me (This ties into another entry I wrote about reciprocating kindess)
#4 Wow he must think you’re so petty that you can’t even muster a proper thanks because he made a joke about you
Now, I know this professor having had him before. He is a very kind man who I feel deeply that he wouldn’t think this of his students. And I know it may seem I’m reaching for negative thoughts, but this was honestly my first reaction which generally doesn’t follow logic or reasoning. I have also numbered these thoughts because negative feelings have a momentum behind them. They build on each other and increase the overall effect of the emotion which not only makes it harder to get past it, but also makes it easier for smaller moments to build on top of it. Upon reaching home I learn that I have completely skipped a meeting I had agreed to attend.
#5 You can’t even be relied upon to keep your promises
#6 Everything today has demonstrated your worthlessness
#7 You don’t deserve anything good in your life
#8 You don’t have any excuse for the way that you are
#9 You’re going to end up miserable and alone and it’ll be all your fault
This may come off as hyperbole, but this is not the first time nor do I expect it to be the last time I go down this line of thinking. There’s a familiar quote that rings loudly and truly on this occasion: “You can’t reason someone else out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into.” In our current context, it’s most often heard of in regards to how people hold certain political views, but to me it can be just as applicable to the momentum of negativity especially when that someone else is yourself.
Now upon writing this much, I have done a disservice to the title in that I haven’t actually forgiven myself formally in the “thoughts” because of how easily they get drowned out. I can’t even say it’s easy let alone possible to do so, but I have to believe one critical component behind these feelings is that it’s just one perspective of many for the same situation. The same train of thought for hopelessness can be matched with a hopeful attitude. Your feelings while valid and real don’t need to be the sole emotions that you experience and therein lies the path to forgiving yourself. Knowing that you can do so is the very first step, and with that you can approach tomorrow with renewed spirit.