Focusing Your Talents to Avoid Depression
Depression arises when we internalize other peoples’ opinions of us while simultaneously attributing everything that’s happening around us to our own behavior.
As children, we learn to seek approval from our parents through our actions and achievements. As we grow older, this pattern continues as we pursue validation from friends, coworkers, authority figures, and other unknown members of society. Our accomplishments are defined by the approval of others, and our self-worth is determined by the judgment of strangers.
As part of this arrangement, we learn the importance of mastering skills that will contribute to greater societal and cultural institutions and garner us the respect and admiration of others. In turn, rather than find value in ourselves as individuals, our value comes to exist only when we receive external recognition and approval.
By participating in social and cultural institutions, like school, clubs, or team sports, we learn to become competitive with our peers. Although competition can be a useful part of learning, our success should not be determined by the success or failure of others. Because the fact is, no matter how skilled we become, when we allow our value to be determined by external forces, we will always find someone with more money, more friends, or more talent.
When we seek approval from others, we fail to appreciate our success on its own terms, and instead engage in a vicious game that is impossible to win.
So what’s the alternative?
The world is impersonal and indifferent to our needs, and it is impossible to control or master every negative comment or bad situation that we encounter. As a result, it is necessary for us to feel worthwhile and valuable regardless of what happens – because when we stop internalizing negativity, we are able to appreciate life unconditionally and accept the good with the bad.
Rather than search for approval from others, it is important to recognize that we have the power to determine our own self-worth. Because you cannot control everything that happens to you, there is no point in taking negativity personally. Instead, accept life for what it is, and appreciate the value that you have to offer.
What does this look like?
Don’t leave your emotional well-being in the hands of others, and remind yourself that you are worthy because of who you are, and not because of what you have done.
Instead of competing for mastery, master skills that matter to you and recognize and celebrate your strengths as an individual.
Focus your energy on the tasks that make you feel comfortable and confident. With effort, everyone can learn to master a set of important skills and develop a set of unique talents. However, it is impossible to “win” at every task, and it is not necessary to compete for your worth.
When you choose to focus your energy on the talents that make you feel good and successful, you are removing yourself from a competition with the world that is always going to be impossible to win.
Your attitude influences your self-esteem, and when you allow others to determine your worth you leave yourself vulnerable to feelings of anxiety and depression. When you concentrate on your talents as an individual – you remind yourself that you have control over your value, and that your self-worth is rooted in your own convictions and your unique strengths.