I remember feeling terribly depressed for a few years leading up to being 40. Perhaps I secretly dreaded the fleeting years and my looks changing. Suddenly I wanted to know who I was, and where I was heading. Being an education manager with lots of responsibilities did not appeal to me anymore. I wanted to express myself but was not sure of the form this would take or how I would get my thoughts to the great wide world. I became irritated, disorientated and in constant need of enlightened self-awareness. I went on various seminars, the really crappy types that claimed to show you how to 'boost your confidence' and were run by people who could do with some confidence-boosting themselves, which only depressed me more.
Yet, though I love the interaction with the kids at school, I felt unfulfilled and stifled within education. One morning, without really knowing why, and to my former partner's eternal consternation, I handed in my notice, took a supply post in another school and pondered my next move for the next three months before moving into my own magazine and the media. Though it made me very little money, more community than commercial in tone and operation, I did it for 14 years and I was supremely happy. The move was something I felt I had to do for my own development and sanity. Inexplicably, I felt driven towards that decision because, by then, I had learnt how not to do certain things, if nothing else.
In real terms, the transition to mid-life is gradual. There are no major landmarks or signals to one's entry into this new and uncharted domain. Personal perception becomes more important than actual age at this time of transition because a person's feelings about his/her life are more significant than any chronological timetable. It is a period marked by stress for some, by constraints for others and by freedom for the remainder. For men, health and job concerns may dominate. Near the peak of their careers, men are likely to view the encroachment of age and change with much fear. Perhaps that is why there is the public reassurance that 'life begins at 40', even though nothing of any significance actually happens on one's 40th birthday! However, the start of another decade does provide a visible symbol of a gradual ageing and maturing process with the promise of more excitement to come.
Failure in Personal Timetable
For example, it may be that a man is the chairman of a very successful company, but still feels a failure because his dream was to get a peerage, to go to the House of Lords. Or someone very athletic, who runs local marathons, may feel unfulfilled because his dream was to represent the US. Or a top saleswoman may feel inadequate because she wanted a family and cannot have kids. Those secret dreams all represent yardsticks of success which act as personal markers to our progress and loom large the moment we feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled.
Mid-life transition involves adapting to new roles and responsibilities, but with less self-confidence, as a direct consequence of this new self-awareness. Learning about the self always carries with it a realisation of the ways in which one is inadequate or immature. This is usually a painful and deeply personal process which involves some form of self-shame and which totally excludes others. Relationships tend to take the brunt of this angst because there is a strong desire to jettison the old life and 'start over' again, especially with new, exciting partners who are often perceived to be more encouraging and understanding. This state immediately changes perceptions, behaviour and the dynamics of any relationship, especially if the other party is unaware of the causes but can clearly see the symptoms reflected in the changed behaviour or a state of denial.
Q. I was diagnosed with social anxiety/ general anxiety / depression at 16 yrs old and have been taking anti-depressants ever since . I’ve been to a few cbt counselling sessions which haven’t helped me a lot. I’m 23 now and it’s been 7 years since I left school and I’m still in the same position with no job, girlfriend, social life, perhaps even worse now, because I’ve lost contact with all friends and nobody knows me anymore. I’ve never had a job because of my problems and I don’t know what to do. I feel trapped and rather be dead than suffer any longer.
A. I can really sympathise with you because it cannot be a nice emotional place to be, Without knowing your details I would say that, having been on suppressant drugs for so long, it is difficult for you to see the wood for the trees. However, it sounds as though you have no self belief, your confidence is at a low ebb and you need to start rebuilding your life, slowly, and hopefully, without any medication in the end, if you are going to have a fulfilling quality of life. To make matters worse, you have no social support and sound pretty isolated just now, which can’t be good for you.
Personal confidence is the most essential attribute for getting on in this world; a belief that anything is possible, especially at a young age. You need to get your enthusiasm for life back again and start to appreciate the wonderfully unique person you are, otherwise no one will recognise that either. But only you can do it by getting that positive perspective, self-value and confidence back. You also need to start joining activity clubs that will bring you in contact with like-minded people, or register for some courses that will help you towards getting employment, while also helping you to meet others, perhaps a possible girlfriend.
A good place to start the rebuilding is to ask yourself daily exactly what it is you fear? What causes your anxieties? And try to address them, one by one. Keep asking yourself questions until you get to the root of those fears because only by addressing their root cause will you ever find the faith, belief and confidence in yourself, or begin to feel comfortable in yourself to lead a different life.
My guess is that you have never been shown the value you seek; never felt worthwhile and significant as a child/teen and you have grown up in the detached, isolated way. However, you are an adult now and can change your life in fantastic ways, but you need that confidence and self esteem first in order to both relate to yourself and others. Perhaps my website, confidence-guide.com, might be of assistance. Otherwise, only a professional can help, while you say you are getting that already. Sounds like you need some kind of group therapy which will get you in touch with others like you to offer a different perspective and essential support. Do give it a try.
I remember asking my favourite question (how much someone would rate their looks out of 10) to a high achiever with nagging self-doubts. Back came the reply that it would be "Only six" because he is "not as good looking as Tom Cruise or Richard Gere".
But I did not compare him to those actors. He did. I asked him a simple question about his perception of himself. It was his own low perception of his value and his impossible standard of comparing himself to others with whom he has little connection, using a narrow standard of acceptability, which was keeping him from fully appreciating how wonderful he was too. When asked the same question, I am tempted to say "11" because I am not competing with anyone and I accept and love myself very much.
Many people of low esteem have a negative perception. This encourages them to live their lives comparing themselves to others in a futile and unrealistic way, instead of valuing themselves with all their imperfections and acknowledging their own uniqueness and strengths. Not surprisingly, they will never feel good about themselves against such impossible yardsticks, neither will others feel good around them too.
The Perception of Leadership
In short, if a person perceives a certain situation relating to him/her, that will be the only perception which will be initially accepted, not the perception of another, and this has huge implications for social interactions, workplaces and relationships. We cannot impose our own perception on others as their reality. That only leads to confusion, anger, resentment and a feeling of not being heard or valued. The truth of any situation has to be negotiated according to individual perceptions. To ignore the importance of this perceptual process in our lives is to ignore a major determinant of all behaviour which is at the root of much misunderstanding (in relationships), much prejudice (in interactions) and discrimination (in work and society).
Self-perception is very powerful because it leads to the perception of everything else in our live in a domino effect. Hence if we feel like crap, the world will appear as crap too, negative and threatening. And if we feel like winners, the world will appear as our oyster, full of opportunities and possibilities. It all starts from inside our heads so we have to watch the quality of those thoughts, especially when they have been shaped by both childhood and experiences. Are they positive or punitive, hopeless or hopeful? It is entirely up to us!
People talk a lot about wanting to know 'the truth' but is there such a straightforward thing? There seems to be only different versions of the truth, according to individual viewpoints. That is why there is so much problem with conflicting negotiations: each party wishes for their version of what they see as 'truth' to be recognised, but no one is prepared to acquiesce too easily because they both want to be 'right'. However, your reality is not mine and mine is not yours, so how can we share a universal 'truth', unless we both make the effort to actually alter our viewpoint to accommodate each other's truth?
The only universal truth here is that people spend their time trying to force their reality on one another. They seldom stop to ask how they can change other people's 'truths', if they find it so difficult to change their own! Human interaction is broadly a competitive one, where oneupmanship seems to dwarf everything else. It means the struggle for that 'truth' becomes even more intense as everyone tries to show that they are the ones privileged to have it.
But at the heart of human action is perception. We all perceive our lives in ways which have been influenced by our childhood, especially how we've been treated, adult experiences, the things we value and what we reject. It means that we will only ever share anything with others on a superficial level. It is impossible to share the exact reality of someone else because their whole life journey forms that perception, while their gender, culture and age regulate it. Hence why perception changes as we evolve.
Everyone is correct in their stated individual experience because it is unique to them. Each experience might share certain elements with others but no one can make sweeping statements about another, when they are merely speaking from their own limited perception, one they are fully entitled to hold, one which might be accurate for them and how they perceive their world, but which does not speak for other worlds and without the right to impose it on others.
Trying to convince one another of each other's point is so futile because each person's experience is valid and true for them. No one has a monopoly of what life means, or how to interpret the meaning we all seek from it. We perceive, so we are, and that is the only truth and reality we can subscribe to, unless we wish to SHARE that reality by modifying personal perceptions in some way and accepting the perception of another to either enhance, or limit, our own.
There is NOTHING wrong with this world at all, in my opinion. This is a beautiful, glorious world, full of things which we are enjoying as well as things which might not go to plan. The way we perceive the world is actually inside our heads, not outside of it. The way the world looks to us is entirely dependent on how we FEEL about it, our emotional happiness, not how it is in reality.
When we feel insecure, lacking in confidence, low in self-esteem and unable to cope with the crises that are meant to enrich us, and make us more resilient, we then see the world in an entirely negative light. Everything that is supposed to be 'bad' looms large, while the goodness pales into the background, especially when we cannot control it or impose our views and power upon it.
But whatever 'bad' is happening in the world forms a natural balance of two sides of the same coin: life and death. We cannot have one without the other. The seasons represent life in microcosm: spring is the vibrancy of our existence, the birth of all we desire and cherish while winter symbolises a kind of retreat, hibernation and death. Yet without winter ending we would not have spring and without spring ending we would not enjoy the glorious hot summer. Whatever happens in life reflects those extremes in both the 'bad' things and 'good' things. That is why there is always a good reason for something bad, even though it is not obvious at the time, because every bad occurrence makes room for something new. A jar has to be empty before it can be filled, so something has to die before a new life is possible.
If we lived in a world which simply had goodness at every step we would be deprived of the opportunity to develop ourselves through change. We would be weak, stagnant, apathetic people without diversity, without rebirth and without hope. Everything would remain exactly the same every day of their lives. It is the change in our world, the crises, the events and the natural disasters that regenerate our environment, develop our talents, educate our minds, bring out the best in us, hone our survival skills and make us more resilient.
This is a fantastic world and I give grateful thanks each new day that I am granted extra hours of life to be an exciting part of its birth, it's promise, it's awesome, unfolding existence and, inevitably, it's death.
Q. A young man who was billed to be married to his hearthrob of almost 5 years was found hanging from a rope in the middle of his parlour barely 3 days to his wedding, The girl went ahead and married him even in death, saying she cannot love anyone again. The guy left no note to indicate why he committed suicide. What kind of problem would really make people take their own lives?
A. This is a very sad case but it is not unusual. In the UK, the most suicides are committed by young men between the ages of 24 and 25. I don't think such suicides are caused by any one problem. I think this could be the time when lots of young people are low in emotional health (self love, confidence, esteem, relationships), and as they do not have the experience to see possible solutions to their negative feelings, they take their lives instead, which is so tragic.
The ages between 18 and 25, when the young person is a fully fledged adult can be pretty scary. From being quite carefree at university, perhaps, they are now in the wide world expected to get a job, to find a partner and to settle down. For youngsters with a good home grounding, big ambitions and the confidence to forge their way, this is not too difficult. But for many others who lack self love and self esteem, suddenly having all these responsibilities, in such a competitive arena which can make them feel inadequate, is very difficult to bear.
The biggest causes of their suicides are most likely to relate to relationships, which are at the heart of emotional health: both love partnerships and work relationships. The rules have changed dramatically between men and women over the years and many youngsters are not sure of those rules, can't handle rejection and don't know how to form meaningful relationships with women. Couple that with a career which is not doing very well, or aspirations which are not being fulfilled, and that person is likely to feel a sense of isolation and failure, especially if they do not have the strong family support behind them.
Our technological world has advanced us tremendously in some ways but it has made us more isolated, more competitive, more superficial in relationships and far more insecure. Many young people, especially young men, despite their knowledge of that technology, feel vulnerable and insecure, especially in people issues. When they are not sure how to bridge the gap between their home and their new life, how to have successful interactions, or how to achieve their desires, the world can look like a very grim place from which some cannot wait to escape.
I am not sure what the answers are to stem such tragic exodus, but it is something that needs addressing urgently, if only to save a few more lives each year.
I don't fear death at all. Perhaps it is because I am getting older and more contented about my life. Moreover, when we fear death, we spend so much time worrying and fretting about it, we might as well be dead, because we rob ourself of a life!
Death is inevitable, one essential part of the cycle of Nature and that cycle is: birth, growth, death and rebirth, in relentless movement every day and for every aspect of life. Nothing can be born unless there has been death. Like the seasons. If Spring did not die, we would not have summer, and if Winter did not die, we would not have Spring. Death is therefore a natural part of our existence. Yes, it is okay to fear how we die, as most of us fear pain, but if we keep focused on how we wish to die, we would probably die like that anyway. The best thing is to mentally accept everything we have in our existence as essential to it, and that includes death.
Because death is inevitable, the best way to deal with it is to face it squarely, say "Bring it on when you're ready, Mr Reaper!" and make the most of TODAY, of every single day you are then given. Don't take any day for granted as it could be your last. Having faced death in your head, you can then move on to enjoy the life you will have. But if you keep fearing it, you will keep fretting about it, you will not have a great quality of life because it will be constantly overshadowed by thoughts of death and you might even bring it on quicker through a self-fulfilling prophecy!
We ALL have to die at some point. Accept it fully and determine to then enjoy the precious life you will have and you will find that death holds no fears for you. I am 60 years old, I absolutely adore life, I look fabulous and I am not going anywhere in a hurry, so death will have to wait a long time for me to answer its call! But should today prove to be my last day, I will live it to the maximum, give thanks for it and die with a smile of satisfaction and achievement. Why on earth should I spend valuable time in life worrying about something that I cannot change, and something negative too, when I can do a lot to affect the quality of my life through other great thoughts? I cannot afford to waste a moment of it.
In fact, why worry about death while ignoring my life and its potential? That would be like a living death in itself. Trust in your own beliefs, religion or whatever you adhere to, and death will have no sting! That's the whole point of belief.
Life is fantastic. Live it in gratitude and death will hold no fears!
Are you approaching 40, or just past it? :o)
I ask because this is a very common question for people approaching mid-life and experiencing the dreaded midlife crisis where everything seems pointless, past actions are questionable, achievements seem to have come at a huge price, and the value of one's direction in life becomes subject to examination.
Many people, particularly men, go through life chasing particular dreams which become the be-all and end-all of their existence. They even sacrifice relationships and people to reach those desired objectives. Then they reach their anticipated destination, especially in their jobs and fortunes (or some might not) and find that life is no different at that point; that life perhaps feel even harder than before.
But worst of all, they might have lost a lot in the process of reaching that objective and that is the hardest for them to accept. They do not feel anything like they imagined they would feel. Success is tinged with much sadness and regret. What was it all for? What's the point of it? Was it really worth it? They might ask themselves. It happens to millions every year who focus on their development and growth to the exclusion of all else.
As to me, I tend to ask that question only when there is a crisis in my family , when someone is taken away, like my sister of 36 years old, who suddenly died without any warning leaving three young children and deprived of all her life ahead of her; or a real tragedy in the world, like the devastation in Haiti; the little seven year old boy who was chosen to lead the English football team on the pitch in the FIFA World Cup and whose mother is dying of Aids and his father already dead. He is left feeling bewildered by it and impotent to help his situation; or when I hear of young people being murdered with so much that they have been robbed of. Yes, at such times the question seems almost tangible!
However, being spiritual, I console myself with the thought that everything happens for a reason and we do not yet comprehend everything in our world, neither can we change anything except ourselves, while we strive to make a difference to others. And then I give thanks for me, my life, my children, my ex-partner, my relatives, my friends and all the people sent to accompany me on my journey, like the good folks I meet on these discussion forums, and for all my blessings.
Suddenly it all seems very precious - and infinitely worth it! :o)
(Photo images used on EmotionalHealthGuide.com courtesy of dreamstime free photos).
(Photo images used on EmotionalHealthGuide.com courtesy of dreamstime free photos).