There are many factors that contribute to someone's experience of anxiety and/or depression. But sometimes the disconnect between what we think we should do and what we actually want to do can add an unnecessary strain on our systems that results in increased anxiety, and if left unattended, can lead to depression.
Rules About What You Can & Cannot Want
Growing up we are all taught that it's okay to want or feel certain things and not okay to want or feel other things. This varies depending on the culture you grew up in, your gender identity, and your own family's internal culture. But everyone learns an unwritten set of rules the governs what they believe it's okay to want or feel and what it's not okay to want or feel.
These rules often govern how we believe it's appropriate for us to dress or act in certain situations, what kind of job we are supposed to want, and even how we are supposed to love. Anything and anyone that falls outside of these unwritten norms is often criticized, ostracized, or sometimes downright bullied.
Maybe you desire a job that your family doesn't think is good enough or your sexual preferences fall outside the norm. Maybe you grew up in one religious background but feel truly called to another. Or maybe you were raised to always be helpful, but you really just don't want to bake those damned cookies for your daughter's class bake sale tomorrow.
The Battle Between Social Self and Authentic Self
We all have different sides of ourselves and based on the unwritten rules we've learned, we often decide that some are acceptable to show to the world and some need to stay hidden away. The ones we choose to show to the world are what make up our Social Self, the ones we truly feel inside are our Authentic Self. When these two selves are at odds with one another, then there is often an uncomfortable internal power struggle as they play tug-o-war inside of us.
How the Disconnect Results in Anxiety & Depression
When our Social Self and Authentic Self are disconnected, it can manifest as a feeling of anxiety and indecision. The anxiety comes from the disconnect between what you think you're supposed to want and what you actually want. Let me give you some examples:
- A friend asks you to volunteer for a charity event they're hosting this weekend. You start to feel anxious and uncomfortable as you think about their request. You were planning to relax this weekend, but you feel like you should help your friend out. There is tension between what you want to say and what you feel like you ought to say to your friend.
- You get offered a job promotion that involves a change to a soul-crushing position and a hefty pay raise. As you consider it, you feel anxious and uncertain about what to do. Your Social Self feels like you should take it because the money is good and it's a prestigious job that others will respect, but deep down your Authentic Self doesn't want this new job.
- You're in a relationship that looks perfectly happy from the outside, but on the inside whenever you think about the future with your partner you start to feel anxious and uncomfortable. They are the "perfect match" for you by all external measures, but something on the inside tells you that it just isn't right.
In the short term, this disconnect between Social and Authentic Selves can cause anxiety and indecision. Over time, if we continually give in to the Social Self and deny the Authentic Self, our Authentic Self will eventually give up and start to spiral towards hopelessness and depression becauase it gives up on believing that its needs will ever be listened to or met.
If you could use some help living in greater alignment with your Authentic Self because your Social Self is running the show and you don't like the results, contact me for a free consult call to find out your best next steps and make a plan for getting you back on track.