There are many symptoms that accompany a diagnosis of major depression. For me personally my loss of self confidence and self esteem became a constant hurdle that I could not seem to conquer. What exaggerated the problem even more, is that in dealing with the emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental distress of major depression, it became increasingly difficult for me to recognize who I was as a person. When my self esteem became so desperately affected, to protect myself from further experiences that might hurt me, I built up a wall of defense. This in turn caused me to withdraw from others, to not participate in things, to not trust in those who sincerely cared; after all I knew how worthless I really was, and besides that it was just out of duty or obligation that someone would truly care about me; or so I thought at times. This turned into a vicious cycle for me. The more I struggled with my self confidence, the more I withdrew from others and built up that wall of defense, which in turn only validated in my mind, my worthlessness, continually sending me spiraling down.
There are several things that I have had to strive to learn, understand, ponder upon, and relearn, in my quest to rebuild my self esteem and confidence. Comparing ourselves to others is one that I believe we all struggle with from time to time. We compare beauty, body size, knowledge, personality, clothes, talents, cars, houses, financial success, etc. All of these things can become very detrimental to our personal well being.
"[A] distraction that can destroy joy is comparing our talents and blessings with others. the growth in our own talents is the best measure of personal progress. In recent years the concept of "personal best" has become widely accepted. This has great merit. Remember we often judge others at their best and ourselves at our worst." (Elder Quentin L. Cook)
I know of many who have qualities that I would love to emulate. There are those who are giving, compassionate, funny, knowledgeable, personable, spiritual, musically talented, athletically talented and so on and so forth. I have found myself on more occasions than I can remember, comparing my traits, abilities, and talents to those of others, forgetting that I too had value and worth.
I once sat in a meeting where a very respected lady was the guest speaker. She said something that I thought had great wisdom behind it. She said: "Have a correct understanding of who you are, or you will always be choosing someone else's idea of beautiful."
I can't imagine a world in which we all were exactly alike, where everyone had the same qualities and talents. How would we learn, grow, and become better? Take for instance two women - one woman is an excellent seamstress who can whip out a dress in no time at all. The other lady can barely sew a straight line, but she can plan great activities, and has a special connection with the youth. Is one better than the other? Not necessarily - they are just different. The Lord has blessed us each with individual gifts and talents, and needs us and uses us accordingly. So does that mean we are bound to a life of just select abilities and talents? Absolutely not. As part of our journey here on earth we are all encouraged to continue to learn, grow, and better ourselves. In doing this, we are opening up opportunities to gain new abilities and talents which we then can incorporate with our divinely inherited traits.
When I was 25 years old my husband was called to serve as the Bishop of our ward. I was young and inexperienced, so I created in my mind an expectation of how I thought I should be as the Bishop's wife, based on others who had previously been in that same position. I am a great advocate of learning from others examples and experience. However, when the learning turns into comparing, then what could have been a positive experience for growth, can suddenly turn negative.
While my husband served as the Bishop I experienced my first bout of major depression. I did not want anyone to find out. I felt so humiliated and weak. The wife of other Bishop's seemed to be so strong. At the current time, I was not aware of any who had to go to counseling and who had struggles like mine. What was my problem?
What I didn't realize to begin with, is that depression didn't mean I was weak or inadequate, it meant that I was dealing with the trial of a mental disorder.
This trial soon became such a difficult burden for me, that I secretly hoped that the Stake Presidency would learn of my struggles and extend a release to my husband. However, that did not happen. The Lord needed him to continue to serve in that calling, which he did so faithfully for almost 5 1/2 years.
Because of how much I was struggling, it definitely started to take a toll on our family, particularly my husband. He knew of the seemingly black hole that I was in and he felt torn between the sacred role of a husband and the important role of a Bishop. He recognized that we needed some additional help to get our family through this trial. He told the Relief Society presidency of my struggles and they were so kind, loving, understanding, and were very instrumental in helping me make it through the darkness of that bout of depression.
That was a very humbling experience for me, but one that marked the beginning of my willingness to begin to share with others my trial of mental illness, recognizing that we are all different, but we are all the same in the fact that we all have something to offer and contribute to others.
I was once told by my counselor at LDS Family Services that "when you betray yourself, you lose all power." This made a deep impression on my mind, and is one that I think can be applied to the idea of not comparing ourselves to others. We've all been blessed with different and unique qualities and talents for a reason. When we forget about the person that the Lord intends for us to become, because we are striving to obtain someone else's idea of beautiful, or capable, or talented, then we begin to betray ourselves; in doing so we are surrendering our power to someone else.
I can't say that I've conquered the ability to no longer compare myself to others. I think this is something I will continually have to strive to overcome. However, through my personal experiences, I have learned how detrimental comparing myself to others can be to my own well being. I hope that I personally can continue to recognize the qualities and talents the Lord has blessed me with, and work on strengthening and sharing those with others. In addition I hope to hold onto the truth and understating that I can develop other strengths and abilities in a positive, productive way without negatively comparing myself to those around me.
I hope that we can all recognize our individual value and have the knowledge that we have all been endowed with special gifts given to us by a loving Father in Heaven. He created us, loves us, and understands each of our own personal gifts, given by Him, to make each of us the valuable individual that He intends for us to become.