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Pride and Expectations
Friday, October 12, 2012
I've found that it's easier to get better at something when no one knows how hard you're working at it. In my other blog on 'Stigma' I talk about this but I'm going to expand upon it here.

One of the problems with constantly giving people updates on your recovery process is that you don't know how they're interpreting what you're talking about. When you're trying to get your life back together after your illness made it fall apart, things that may have seemed easier in the past suddenly become difficult. The problem is that the person you're talking to doesn't really understand how difficult what you're trying to do is. In their heads, they might be thinking "Oh, so you did well on your midterm... big deal.. so did I...' It's not a good feeling when you tell people about something you're very proud of but nobody seems to be proud of you.

However, if you hold off on telling someone about something you're proud of that you've actually completed, such as graduating with a 3.0 GPA after struggling in school, then someone will be really impressed. You don't have to tell people how well you're doing constantly--let your actions alone impress someone. Or maybe you're working a job and believe you've got a real shot at the promotion. Don't tell everyone about it--for your sake. Because if you don't get it, but you've told all these people you were almost certain you would be getting it, you'll end up embarrassed.

You can't really convince someone to be proud of you with words. For instance, When I was delusional, I thought I didn't need to finish college because I was about to become King of the World. My aunt tried to convince me to go back to school and said I was too smart to just drop out. I did go back to school and I ended up going from being on academic probation to graduating with a GPA above a 3.0. I didn't think finishing school was that big of a deal, but at my graduation party, I casually mentioned to my aunt that I graduated with a GPA above a 3.0. She got so excited and immediately stepped over to my uncle, interrupted the conversation he was having and told him about my GPA. That moment made me feel so proud of myself because I saw how impressed and enthusiastic my aunt was. Since I waited until I actually graduated to tell my family how I was doing in school, I got that reaction from my aunt and it was a great feeling because she didn't expect me to do that well.

The important part in that little story wasn't that I graduated with a GPA above a 3.0. The important part wasn't that my aunt was proud of me. The important part is how I felt after my aunt reacted like she did--she made me feel *proud of myself*. That's why it was a big deal. Before getting that reaction from my aunt, I didn't realize that I should have been proud of myself--so many bad things had happened that graduating couldn't erase those bad things.

The best thing you can do to build your confidence and self esteem back up is to always identify things you've done that should make you proud of yourself. Get that feeling of pride from yourself, because it doesn't really matter if others are proud of you. If you tell someone about something you've done that you're proud of, and expect them to be proud of you, and it doesn't seem like they are, it can bring your confidence and self esteem down a few notches.

Be proud of yourself for the little things but keep them to yourself. When all those little things add up and you've accomplished a goal, people will be impressed--especially if those people know you've had a mental illness. They'll figure it out on their own that what you accomplished--despite being dealt some bad breaks--is special.

A lot about this comes down to managing expectations. If you expect people to react to something positively, you could end up feeling let down and lose whatever amount of pride you had in your accomplishment before telling someone and expecting them to be impressed. On the other hand, if you don't expect anyone to think anything you've done is a big deal, it will feel so much better if someone does appreciate your accomplishment. That's why my aunt's enthusiasm made me feel so good--I wasn't expecting it.

There's another thing about expectations I want to note. At some point--usually early on--in our recovery from our mental illnesses, we all go through a period of time where it seems like nothing has gone right and nothing will ever go right. When we're going through a bad stretch like that, the only expectations we seem to have are those in which we expect to be let down. That kind of thinking is completely counter-productive. If we always expect things to go bad, or expect to be let down, odds are, things will go bad and we will be let down. You need to find a way to build up your confidence to the point where you expect things to go right. The best way to do that is to make a mental note of every little, tiny good thing that you come across and let all those tiny things add up over time. Before you know it, you'll feel like you have a lot more going for you than you used to. Don't rely on others to encourage you every step of the way. Sometimes they will, and that's great, but don't rely on them. The only person you can truly rely on is yourself. I should add that, if you are part of the right support group, that's the place where you have the best chance of getting the kind of encouragement you feel like you could really use.

And going back to the original point I made--if you keep all your hard work and dedication to yourself, when you finally accomplish your goal and tell someone about it, they'll be extra-impressed because they didn't see it coming. That's when you get the kind of enthusiastic reaction we all hope to get from others.

But the main point I want to stress in this blog comes down to this: get your validation from yourself--don't depend on others to validate you every step of the way to recovery.

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