Defeat. We all know the feeling in one sense or another. When we’ve tried our best but things still didn’t work out, bitter disappointment clings to us along with the scathing commentary of our inner critic. Why did I even bother trying? It’ll never work out. The reason that place of defeat is so powerful for us is because it separates us from the rest of our life, our world. It secedes us from the confidence we once had in a dream that we could overcome anxiety, depression, self-injury and our darkest struggles. I think the secret to disarming defeat’s potency lies in our ability to think and feel beyond the moment. We must find a way to guard the bridge between our present suffering and everything else we know to be true—our successes, our joys, those things that put smiles on our faces and our memories of more glorious times.
Anxiety, depression and self-injury have the unfortunate effect of magnifying our misery in the present moment at the expense of doing justice to everything outside at that moment. They leave us feeling trapped on an island all by ourselves with no means of escape. They make us forget that we have access to hope through our motivation to become healthier. The things that motivate us are what build the bridge away from our island of despair toward a hopeful place in our hearts. Perhaps you want to get better for the sake of a spouse or child or so you can live the wonderful life you’ve always imagined. Maybe you have a dream of finally telling your story or one day helping others who are going through similar struggles. Those are beautiful, golden hopes we must be attentive to and keep in the forefront of our minds in order to keep the bridge strong.
When you’re staring defeat in the face, don’t forget all the times where you danced arm-in-arm with victory. Maybe this wasn’t one of those times but that doesn’t mean they won’t happen again. If you have even one memory of accomplishing good you set out to do, you’ve proven to yourself and the world you have what it takes to make more of them. Your best efforts are meaningful. Even if they fall short sometimes, you can learn something valuable about what to do better next time. View it as an opportunity to plan for success, for a time to be proud of yourself in the future. Encouraging yourself in this fashion brings you a step closer to getting there.
We can also guard the bridge that lets us escape defeat and flee to more hopeful horizons by offering ourselves the same mercy we extend to others who share our problems. We are often quick to encourage them online, but those same things we say to support them we can’t seem to say ourselves. “You’re stronger than you think.” “Your life is precious.” “You can do it!” “I believe in you!” Can we drown out—or at the very least quiet—our inner critics by remembering that all of these statements apply to us as well? Why put ourselves beyond these soothing realities and be unnecessarily harsh on ourselves? After all, we’re imperfect beings just trying to make it through life.
In our darkest battles, let us strive to take into account everything we’ve got going for us…our wins, our personal strengths, the support of others who know what it’s like and our amazing, precious dreams. Believe that feelings of defeat are temporary setbacks and not the final verdict on our efforts or our very being. We are more than our struggles. We are more than our scars. Let’s keep the bridge to hope strong and help others to see it as well.