On Perception and Self-Image
Updated: Sep 22
Earlier this year I started seeking external help for my OCD.
While it’s something I’ve been silently battling for as long as I can remember, I realized that I was letting some of my different obsessions pull me under. Despite coping with my mental health through traveling, running, burying my nose in self-help books and even having a palm reading and past life regression done, I would still have days where I felt absolutely powerless to my own perpetuated thoughts.
Through all of the methods of coping listed above, I’ve experienced a lot of self-growth. While I thought for years I’ve been focusing on myself, I’ve come to realize I’ve only been focusing on the image of myself. This much was evident in a session with my therapist a few weeks ago, when he pointed out that I refer to myself from a defective point of view. No matter how much love and support other people would give me, and how much I would try and muster these feelings from within myself, they would be crushed under the weight of my obsessions and over-thinking. It wasn’t so much my environment that needed to change, it was my self-image and perception.
With the generally poor self-image I had for myself, I would naturally try and seek approval and satisfaction from peers. While I’ve come to realize that I have a wonderful support system from friends and family, these would sadly not be the thoughts I would obsessive over. The compliments and kind words just wouldn’t stick, because I had a hard time believing them myself. Rather than focusing on the positive, I would constantly fall back to the negative, and would even contort silence into something negative. While I would love to claim myself as an optimist, I’ve learned that I have an odd and nasty addiction to the feeling of being broken, and tend to hold onto sadness like a crutch.
The funny thing about obsessions is that they’re completely illogical. People suffering from OCD know they’re illogical. However, that doesn’t make the weight of their presence any lighter, and it doesn’t make the voice of the thoughts any quieter. The critic takes over, and every past mistake makes one feel like a terrible person. Every “what if” scenario turns toward the darkest possibility, and memories are twisted so much in over-analysis it becomes hard to separate imagination from reality.
These obsessions have no off switch, some days are just easier to handle than others. Keeping my mind and body busy are the ways that I cope with them. On the good days, I’ll cross a ton of items off my to-do list, get a nice run in and maybe even be social and spend some time with good company. On the not-so-good days, I’ll feel light-headed and completely drained of energy. My evening will consist of re-watching The Office for the 17th time and falling asleep on my hardwood floor, only to wake up with a sore back and the taste of Cheetos and stale beer in my mouth.
I’ve come to realize that spending all day worrying about certain outcomes and situations is both mentally and physically exhausting, and no way to live a fulfilling life. Even though the intrusive thoughts and obsessions haven’t been getting any quieter for me, my ability to handle them as they come has been getting drastically better. I’ve been getting my motivation back, and have been taking time for the things that make me happy. Most important of all, I’ve been starting to feel love for the person staring back at me in the mirror every day. Instead of just seeing all my faults and forcing a smile, the smile has been starting to become a little more genuine.
In my last session with my therapist, he told me four words he obtained from a book on OCD that have since stuck in my head: dare to be average. The words carry the most weight for perfectionists, which is also a trait I can be guilty of. I’ve come to realize the true importance of self-care and self-image. I’ve unfortunately had a few friends in the last year who have lost the war with their mental health, and took their own life. One was as recent as last week.
While we all have our own demons we battle, and there’s not exactly a one size fits all method for improving mental health, being confident in your own skin doesn’t exactly hurt.
Perception plays a vital role in overcoming life’s obstacles. I’ve come to learn that nothing in life is good or bad. Rather, they’re nothing more than stigmas we attach to ideas and situations. Life is chaotic, and the sooner it’s realized that nothing is eternal or absolute, the easier it is to handle any situation that arises. It’s better to simply view everything as an experience, and whether they build or destroy our outlook is entirely up to us.