From Overcare for Others’ Opinions, to Self Discovery.

One of my unhealthy patterns, throughout life thus far, has been to care about what other’s think of me way too much. All the time.

I think many, many people do this: dare I say- particularly women?! But I guess there are those that just worry a little about what everyone will think of their new outfit, and those who care so much about what others think that it affects their life decision-making process, and causes great anxiety (possibly Social Phobia), even shame.

I fall into the latter category.

There are many ways I’ve allowed this anxiety over the opinions of others to affect me, but two really stand out.

Jobs

I’ve allowed my care for what other people think of me to push me into many unsuitable jobs. Jobs that I got just to prove to others that yes I could work and that I wasn’t just going to “sponge off the government”. This usually led to barely controllable Bipolar symptoms.

(I don’t believe it is sponging off the government now. I know I truly was ill with Bipolar and had a genuine need for that financial support. There are many who genuinely need this support).

Body Image

Caring so much for the opinions of others led me to a fairly appalling view of my body- I think I thought this kept me slim and healthy. It did for a while, but not anymore. My self esteem was, and still is, massively affected by how I think others perceive my body. I worried about what other people thought about what I ate. In fact I still have issues about eating in front of other people.

Not Knowing or Trusting Myself

With my mind constantly obsessing and analysing myself from the perspective of how others perceived me, I lost that real sense of knowing who I am. I still don’t trust myself to make good decisions (someone once said to me that there is no right or wrong decision- only the effects of that decision to deal with). Lack of Identity is a core feature of Borderline Personality Disorder and I believe present in Bipolar too (see Bipolar/Borderline Sensitivity & Loss of Identity)

What do I want from life? This is such a tough question to answer. I’m so used to thinking I must follow the set path laid out for me by society: school, university, career, marriage, babies. Anything less would be a failure right?

But Bipolar has made me reframe my perspective. It prevented me from progressing further down this pre-determined social path. I had to reassess what I believed success to be.

Does it really matter that I’m not going to be a doctor or teacher? I might never be married or have children. Does this matter? Was this really what I wanted in the first place? I don’t know!!! I don’t know what I want. I’m in the process of finding out.

Self Discovery 

Self Discovery is a term I really like. It makes the whole process sound more subjective and a bit of an adventure. There is room for expansion and exploration.

Self Discovery also requires that we are mindful of our thoughts and feelings towards things. You can’t discover what you like or don’t like unless you pay attention to your own reactions. This may sound simplistic but, believe me, I’ve been studying everybody else’s reactions for so long it can really be a challenge to listen to myself.

(Mindfulness is a well known tool in managing depression and anxiety, so allowing this process of self discovery can only be a positive thing).

Individual Needs

I’m enjoying exploring my innate NEED to write, to learn and to analyse things in a psychological way (sometimes this is a good thing, other times it can lead to rumination on the negative). I have a lot of passion in me- for art, music, causes, people, animals, many things.

Everyone has needs that I never knew existed and are completely different from one person to the next. My partner has a need for physical exertion, for engaging in sports like football and cycling. His method of relaxing is through challenges and using skill, for example he loves playing pool.

I’ve never really viewed these things as NEEDS before, more as indulgence and a luxury. I’m learning they are actually essential to our health as a “whole” being-: physical, mental and at a soul-level. All these facets are important in creating a balance in our lives.

I’m learning that I have many sides to myself that all need equal attention: there’s Rachel the artist, Rachel the writer, Rachel the philosopher, Rachel the musician, Rachel the student, Rachel the child who needs to play, laugh and have fun, Rachel the explorer who needs to be out there trying new things and going to new places.

Managing These Needs

These are all needs that I never really knew I had in me. They all need attention which sometimes feels completely overwhelming.

I think organisation might be the key here, which, when you’re a creative person, feels a bit boring and sensible as there is also that yearning for spontaneous creative flow. But I’m learning that you need to put in the structure, discipline and work before you even get to the creative flow. I have to put in the time playing scales on the piano to allow my fingers to work with skill and efficiency when playing the more desirable pieces of music.

Motivation Through Inspiration

I also need to devote time to inspiration. This comes to me when I’m watching ballet, listening to music or out in nature. I always used to view spending time on these things as selfish. But I now know I NEED them!!

Whilst watching the Olympic Gymnasts I was inspired by their beauty, grace and power, but also by their total commitment and dedication to gruelling training, and hours and hours of hard graft in the gym. It is this discipline and mental strength in overcoming self-doubt and discomfort that I find so admirable. It is lacking from my character and something I would like to develop. They are great role models for me and provide motivation.

I’m learning that I do have control of my life- I don’t just have to let it happen to me. I can take it by the reins and steer it in the direction I want it to go, no matter whether other people approve of this direction or not.

Resources

How to Stop Worrying What Other People Think

Social Phobia

Bipolar: The Identity Thief

Who Am I? Borderline Personality Disorder and Identity Problems

How You See Yourself is What Matters (blog post in relation to the writer’s eating disorder and Complex-PTSD)

Photo Credits: Girl & Apple by Imagery Majestic; Cartwheel by Imagery Majestic via freedigitalphotos.net.

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18 thoughts on “From Overcare for Others’ Opinions, to Self Discovery.

  1. Chantal

    Wonderful post Rachel. Very inspiring! I so needed to read this. My BPD symptoms have been quite bad lately…really difficult to keep it together at times. I like the terminology “Self Discovery” and the resource on “Who am I? Borderline Personality Disorder and Identity Problems”.

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Aw, thanks Chantal- so glad you got something from it and liked the link. I know what you mean about difficulty keeping things together- this seems to come in waves for me, some times are easier than others. Hope your BPD symptoms subside soon xx

      Reply
  2. Sandy Sue

    Beautiful, thoughtful post. It’s so hard to trust or listen to ourselves when our brains lie to us so much of the time. I find it’s such a fine line between what I need and the next delusion telling me what to do. Sort of like all those outside opinions influencing our behavior.

    Reply
  3. projectwhitespace

    Why are we so hard on ourselves? Never ever think it’s sponging because you’ve used government money to help out. It’s not.
    Never ever let people push you into doing anything you don’t want to do, or that can be detrimental to your health. I guess you already know these things. Hard to pull ourselves out of the patterns, isn’t it?
    Sorry I’ve been away so long. Hope you don’t mind if I come back. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Bohemian Blonde Life

    thank you for your blog. i was recently diagnosed as bipolar ii and it is good to read about people successfully living with bipolar disorder because there is a lot of scary stuff on the internet. let me know if you have any good resources, books, or blogs you follow that may be helpful for me. thanks ❤

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Hi there,

      Thanks so much for visiting the site and I’m really glad you got something from it. Bipolar is a tough diagnosis to be given and I hope you have lots of great support. A great website that I enjoy is:

      http://www.mcmanweb.com/

      Some books I’ve found useful are:

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Break-Bipolar-Cycle-Living-Disorder/dp/0071481532/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1346921500&sr=8-9
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Bipolar-Disorder-Survival-Guide/dp/1572305258/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1346921500&sr=8-12
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Depressed-Recognizing-Managing-Bipolar-Disorder/dp/0071462376/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1346921500&sr=8-10

      Hope you find them useful too.

      Rachel

      Reply
  5. Hello from me to you

    Hey Missus this is brilliant!, I’ve been on a path of self discovery recently. And a lot of what you said has been happening to me. I know yours is a bigger battle and I shouldn’t compare. I have a lot of admiration for you and reading this does make me think I’m not alone. Love you to bits x

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Can’t believe I’ve only just found this message- thank you lovely!! Not a bigger battle at all- just different!! Glad you like and hope you had a great Christmas and New Year!! xx

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Being Honest With Myself | Working Through Emotional Disorder

  7. Jane

    I understand exactly what you mean. I was a teacher for 5 years, and hated every minute of it. My parents thought I’d be a good teacher. I eventually had an emotional breakdown from the severe anxiety this caused me, and have been recovering for the past year and a half. I am now in a psychology program (which is what I started with after college, before the switch to education) and am better. My blog is called Seize the Reins, and what you wrote in that last paragraph is exactly what I hope to convey. That you can take life by the reins and stop just drifting around living your life for other people. I’m glad I found this blog!

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Hello again Jane- thanks very much for taking the time to read a few posts. I hope your recovery is going well. Sometimes I think it is a brave thing to accept that what you’ve been doing is making you ill, and then get in tune with what you really want to do.
      What a coincidence that your blog is called Seize the Reins! Great title!!
      I’m glad you found my blog too and that I can now have a look around yours!!

      Rachel
      xxx

      Reply
  8. Pingback: Body Image & Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’ | Working Through Emotional Disorder

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