I have two things on the forefront of my mind that I am compelled to share, so I’m going to go in two directions with this post. First, this news headline caught my eye this week, and struck a chord with me: Suicides Prompt State Of Emergency On Navajo Nation.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the suicide rate for Native American youth ages 15 to 24 is nearly four times higher than the national average.
In light of this, it is important to note that
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old Americans.
The highest suicide rates in the US are among Whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives.
— American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
My heart is heavy with this knowledge. I know what it feels like to be that sad, to feel that isolated; to have lost all of my light. I also know what it is like to be on the opposite end; to see someone else be that sad, feel that isolated; to see someone who has lost all of their light. My heart is broken with this loss — my own and others.
In my reading and writing on the topic of suicide, I’ve focused primarily on the factors that surrounded the suicide that specifically effected me — my father was an older adult and in poor physical health. I do believe that these factors play in important role in someone’s decision to end their own life, in addition to the mental health situations that are associated with suicide. For example, we have the current Right to Die debate, which specifically addresses suicide among the terminally ill. But what about those that are young, sad and lost?
We, as humans, cannot continue to neglect to nurture one another.
The words we choose to say to one another, and to ourselves, are so very important. If only we knew the turmoil within the minds of people around us, would we speak to them differently? Would we be inclined to act with kindness always? Would we ensure that each of us felt included and important?
If you, dear reader, read no further, I implore you to read the below quote and I encourage you to remember it, print it, post in on your wall, put it in your phone, and to always remember what a strong impact that your thoughts can create.
Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive, because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.
Secondly, on a much deeper personal, yet related, note, I had a revelation this week. In fact, this revelation was so powerful that I suspect there are others that might feel this way, and that I, being lost in my own head, would never have known — I suddenly, and so powerfully, realized how important my thoughts and words are to my own self-esteem. In my mind, my negative thoughts are truth, and there is little to counter these truths, to flip the negative into the positive. I have simply not been allowing it. I dashed away my own self-esteem with my thoughts, creating unwarranted insecurities that have very prominently been influencing my journey through life.
I have experienced a growing dependency on reassurances from outside sources — allowing any gain in confidence to be gleaned from random compliments, which I fight to believe are sincere in the first place. I find myself attached to my cell phone, waiting eagerly for replies to messages only so I can be assured that someone finds communicating with me to be an activity of worth. When someone is busy, I find myself translating it as, “I don’t want to spend time with you.” I have been feeling broken and waiting for someone to fix me.
And then I reached a breaking point — I finally (and painfully) admitted to myself that I let my confidence wither away to a non-existent wisp that was quickly evading my loose grip. I have been fighting dependence on external sources of confidence boosting, however, I removed my expectations for others, and did not replace them with any expectations for myself. I don’t want to rely on other people to make me feel good — that’s a crutch; a false security and a false confidence. I want to rely on myself, to build a stable, confident foundation of positive thoughts and feelings. But how?
It is extremely painful and frustrating to realize that I don’t allow myself to think and feel positive things about myself. I never really thought about it, but I noticed that when I say, “I’m hard on myself,” what I really, deeply mean is, “I believe that if I have any positive thoughts about myself, that I am being selfish.”
Why can’t I think positive thoughts about myself? Others do. Why don’t I feel that I am deserving? I am seeing someone who is quite possibly one of the nicest people I have ever met — always calm, patient and fair. I asked him, not expecting an answer, “why are you so sweet to me?” He told me I deserved it. I deserved it? A foreign concept. The old me does not deserve anything; the old me has not “earned” the privilege of having people be nice to me. The old me believes that anything good in life is handed to you because you worked harder than I will ever be capable of working, and if it wasn’t earned, it was because someone felt pity. This is the most ridiculous belief ever. How is it even possible that I allowed myself to think this way?!
The new me knows that it is okay to feel good about myself. The new me believes that I am a likable person, that people enjoy my company and that the man I am dating continues to do so because he actually likes me. The new me is learning that I am intelligent, attractive, active and fun. My friends are my friends because they like who I am and we have fun together; we are adults and we don’t spend our valuable time with each other out of obligation (yes there are exceptions to the rule, but we’ll not go there today).
The new me knows that this is a difficult mind change, but this is the right mind change. The new me is learning to feel good and positive things about myself, without feeling guilty or selfish. I have been feeling broken and now I know I am the one who can fix me.
Dear readers, go forth and be kind to one another– and to yourself. You deserve it.