“Identity disturbance” is a benchmark symptom of BPD, characterized by “markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.” This sense of not knowing who you are can manifest in many ways, and many people with Dyslimbia struggle to cope. In this blog series, we’ve discussed the importance of directional thinking and coming to understand and predict your own behaviors. In this final part, I’m throwing together some of my miscellaneous thoughts about Sense of Self.
One of the best ways to continuously encourage and strengthen your sense of self is to affirm it. Self-affirmation means honestly complementing yourself. Some people struggle with this—myself included. It can feel so silly to self-affirm, and I have such a hard time believing what I’m saying, like that “I’m attractive” or “I’m a good person.” Most days I don’t really believe I’m worth anything. In order to combat this, first find a method of self-affirmation that you can live with, and then repeat it enough so that you slowly start to accept it.
Someone recommended that I look at myself in the mirror every day and say my self-affirmation aloud; I couldn’t stand doing this! Instead, what I try to do is write out examples of when I’ve done things worth being proud of; and in my journals, I frequently assure myself that I’m doing the right thing and that I’m a good person. Find a form of self-affirmation that works for you. Though you may have to force yourself to do it on most days, if you self-affirm enough, your mind will slowly start to believe the things it hears.
Friends and Family
You will never have a stable sense of self if you are not in a supportive environment. Even if you were self-affirming every day, if you are surrounded by toxic people, your mind won’t be able to accept the good things you’re telling it. Toxic people are people who cause you large amounts of stress or people who put you down or discourage you. It’s extremely important for people with Dyslimbia to have supportive people around them. If possible, try to make sure you have at least one friend or family member who will study your “sense of self” with you—somebody who knows and accepts you for who you are.
Directional Thinking: Using Objects
Directional thinking is the continued process of channeling your thoughts in one direction, or toward one theme or lesson. Making sense of self your “theme” to think on for a while can be very beneficial. In everything you do, try to draw things back to how they relate to self-understanding. My best friend came up with a great idea to aid this kind of directed thought.
Pick an object that is carried with you or is frequently within sight. This could be a bracelet or any form of jewelry, a clock, your favorite pen, your water bottle, or even your shoes. Then, every time you catch yourself looking at or touching the object (e.g., fidgeting with a bracelet), remind yourself of that day’s theme and think on it—consciously direct your thoughts. This use of objects seems like a great way to help directional thinking, and I’m excited to try it myself.
This Week’s Personal Example
This is an example from my life of how it can help you to have a good sense of self. I frequently battle with suicidal ideation, and due to certain circumstances, I knew that the suicidal thoughts were going to be worse in the next few days to weeks. Knowing this about myself, I then designed a plan; I made a list of ten things I can do to distract myself next time I start thinking suicidally. In order to make an effective list, I had to know exactly what kind of activities would work for me and which ones wouldn’t work. For example, I didn’t put “do chores” on the list, because that takes me a lot of energy and might make me feel worse in a crisis. Instead I listed more mindless activities, such as watching anime, playing my favorite card game, and reading a book.
I can’t stress this enough: unless you know yourself very well, coming up with effective coping strategies will be nearly impossible. So take some time, please, to develop your sense of self and battle the dangerous Identity Disturbance.