I’ll start by listing my own answers to this interesting question. These three come to mind:
- Naturally being highly self-critical drives me. It drives me to perform well in school, business, and life. You could say that I am a perfectionist. I hold myself to very high standards. Some would say, those standards are unreasonable. The tricky part is, not letting failures crush me, or snowball my outlook in a negative way.
- Related to #1, my introspective nature – I am constantly holding a magnifying glass over my own behavior – forces me to be highly sensitive to the emotions of others. In almost everything I do, I wonder, “How will this make the other person feel?” There have been times that, I have been taken advantage of, or made naive choices. The other party doesn’t always care so deeply about me. There have been things that I never said or did that perhaps I should have, out of shyness. There was also a time when I used this knowledge with malcontent – specifically, telling others what I knew they wanted to hear. (Lying.) In the end though, the quality of empathy has been an overall positive factor in my life. It has brought me many friends, helped shaped my family, and earned success in business relationships.
- Always expecting the worst, but hoping for the best, facilitates realism. You might think I’m a pretty idealist guy from some of my posts. I guess I’m both, but generally, I never expect anything to go well. I assume that my customers’ orders will be delayed unexpectedly, that the guy driving next to me is about to swerve into me and cause a fiery inferno on the highway, and that all of New York City could be washed under by a tidal wave tomorrow. As a result, I’m usually prepared, cautious, and early. The catch is, never to get stuck in the unexpected or to think that these things are your fault – or worse, that they are a part of who you are. Bad things happen. Be ready and look for a solution when they do.
The qualities of self-criticism, empathy, and pessimism might not seem like part of being mentally ill. Trust me when I tell you that they most certainly can be. They can very quickly spiral out of control and lead towards debilitating disorder. One might find themselves down the rabbit hole, losing their job, getting divorced, failing out of school, and needing therapy or hospitalization – before one realized it.
Like many things in life, it’s about finding a healthy balance. In my case, I am talking about past experience with depression. There are many other conditions that I do not have firsthand knowledge of.
It’s important to end by saying that if you have a mental illness which is inhibiting your daily function in any way, you need help. You will have many years to reflect and extract any positive aspects of this later. You must get yourself help first, because the cons of a mental illness will continue to hold back from your best possible future until you do.