“If you really want to help yourself, you need to love yourself.” –Meir Ezra
About four years after I started experiencing mental health symptoms, my counselor asked if I wanted to sign up for peer support services. I thought it was a ridiculous idea because a licensed counselor was not even able to help me. How could someone who was just as messed up as me be any different? I was so desperate for change that I let her talk me into trying it despite my cynicism.
I was in the program about a month or so before my certified peer support specialist mentioned that she did not think I had ever said anything positive about myself. I was confused and annoyed because it was obvious that there was nothing positive about myself or my life. She told me that I could talk to myself however I wanted, but she wanted my permission to talk to me using strengths-based language. I agreed because I did not think how I spoke to myself mattered.
Something gradually changed when I realized how much better I felt when someone with lived experience refused to use deficit-based language when speaking about me. I also took note that I never heard her speak negatively about herself even though she also had lived experience. It made me think that I was closing myself off to all possibilities when I ridiculed myself so harshly. I started seeing how these limitations showed up in relationships with myself and others. My diagnoses had become who I was because they were all I ever focused on. Changing how I spoke to myself allowed me to develop what was strong within me rather than fixate on what I felt was wrong.
It was difficult to rewrite the hatred I had for myself for so long. To overcome this, I focused on shutting down negative self-talk. If I thought I was worthless, I’d notice the thought and challenge it. I’d think of evidence to support how I had to be worth something. I started telling myself I believed in myself even when I knew I was lying. I did this until I could confidently say I loved myself. Somewhere along the way, I was able to recover.
Elizabeth is a Recovery Coach at an RRC in Newark, DE. Her passion is to provide person-centered services and empower guests through strengths-based language.