Speaking Mental Health
Forward Times Mental Health Advisors
There are many adjectives that can be used to describe people. Some of my favorites are brave, resilient, innovative, and considerate; I enjoy when people refer to me using such terms and I love to use positive describing words as these to inform others just how highly I regard them. As good as it may feel to share kind or encouraging words with others to help uplift or reinforce their sense of worth, a major factor that will ultimately help determine how well those words will be received is how the recipient views themself. Essentially, what matters most is not what others feel or think about a person, rather its what that person feels and thinks about self.
One of my favorite biblical passages, which I believe has some value here is the scripture that states, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (James 1:23,24, NIV) Of course, the “word” in the referenced passage is speaking to the word or instruction of God, however, there is application that supports the importance of self-perception when we consider that with Christianity, “God’s word” is centered on the theme of His extreme love for mankind and the emphasis He places on humans seeing themselves as He sees them, His most prized possession. The analogy used in the passage takes a physical example to make a spiritual point, which is about moving beyond observation and perception to application and integration. In other words, until a person makes the transition from taking a momentary glimpse of self, to believing in, accepting, and loving self, that person is at risk of either forgetting or never really knowing who they are. When people don’t know who they are, they are subject to being defined by others.
As ironic as it may appear, society has a way of reinforcing this fleeting self-image idea. A great deal of effort is placed on buying the very many available products that often support avoidance rather than acceptance. Beauty products, gym and workout equipment subscriptions, meal prep companies, modified clothing, etc., which are often craftily marketed, tend to steal the spotlight, and diminish the efforts aimed at identifying and overcoming problems that are often psychologically rooted. Why are the cosmetic/beauty and pharmaceutical industries so profitable? I believe it’s because it’s easier and more convenient for individuals to “cover-up” or take medicine, regardless of the potential side effects, that pacify than it is to “behold their face in the mirror”, understand the problems and underlying root causes that are identified, than address them. The next time you see an advertisement for a product or service, regardless of the platform, I challenge you to take a moment to decipher for yourself whether the product or service advertised is designed to mask issues or address actual problems.
There isn’t enough Mary Kay, Maybelline, or CoverGirl in production to make over the scars left by unresolved psychological trauma. There aren’t enough sports, workout facilities, or customizable objects to eradicate the emotions and feelings tied to abandonment issues, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence. Now is the time for us to shift our focus to our mental health, which is the source of true peace in life. By investing more time, energy, and resources into your mental health, one is better positioned to identify the source of their internal struggles, not just key symptoms targeted by media, and address those. I must warn you that time spent in therapy may not look or feel as appealing as the latest hot items and trends, but rarely are the things that require real work to accomplish or complete totally comfortable. By investing in mental health, especially through counseling and learning skills, strategies, and techniques that truly support self-improvement, one is able to see oneself for the unique, dynamic, and intricate being that they are. I assert, it is only when you face yourself that you can see and know just how amazing and attractive you are, even without the accessories.
Michael Dangerfield, LPC, NCC
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