Yesterday I was helping Anna to write her online dating profile. When I asked her about herself, she was able to tell me what she is not and what she does not want. As we explored Anna’s interests, she was able to tell me what she does not like.
For Anna, thinking about what she does not want in life is a recurrence. As we spoke, she came to realise that her energy is always focused on the do nots rather than the desires. It may not be a surprise to hear that Anna spends a lot of her life battling with depressed feelings. Do the feelings of depression cause the focus to be on the negative? Or does the focus on the negative cause the depression?
A Negative Focus
Anna struggled when I asked her to describe how she would arrange her perfect evening with a new connection. She responded that she would ask the other person what they wanted to do. It took some back and forth for Anna to reach her aha moment as she recognised that she had no idea what she likes. Anna has a long-term goal for her life but struggles to accept that there is a journey to reaching that goal. As a result, self-loathing for having not yet reached the goal takes most of her attention. Anna does not spend any time thinking about what she wants – in the short term.
When you focus on what you do not want your thoughts are negative, your feelings are negative. When you focus on what you have not yet achieved in a critical way your thoughts are negative and your feelings are negative. It is possible to switch this so that you feel more positive about your life with a simple adaptation to your thoughts.
What do you love?
What do you really love? There are times when your feelings of depression are so strong that you cannot love anything. You may find that you are so unmotivated that you do not do anything and have no idea what you love.
Think back to the last time you did something you enjoyed. What was it? You might realise that what you really love is a daily activity that you believe you do for practical reasons but on reflection you enjoy and get pleasure from. I include the caveat that you should not depend on other people to do what you love. In this instance look at what you love doing alone and with others.
There are activities you love because you feel good in the moment. Here are some things I love and would rush away from a safe comfortable place to do,
- Being in water (when it is warm!) This includes jumping into water from safe places, water slides and relaxing in water.
- Reading a book that takes me into a different world.
- Being warm.
There are things that you love because you get satisfaction from them afterwards or sometimes during, even though it might feel a drag to get there initially. Some things that feel like this for me are,
- Reading a non-fiction book on a subject that interests me.
- My work
- Playing games (board games, children’s games)
Write down what you really love.
Keep in mind that it is ok to have a short list, finding one thing that you love is great. It can be easier to take a piece of paper and write in large letters at the top “THINGS I LOVE”. Leave it somewhere you will see it many times a day and add to it when a new thought comes to you. And remember … you must love the activity alone too!
What are you good at?
You do not always love what you are good at but doing things well increases confidence and self-worth. Write down what you are good at. You can use strategic thinking to incorporate what you are good at into your life so that it is enjoyable and beneficial. What you are good at can include positive qualities. When working with Anna, together we agreed that she is good at commitment, being loyal, working hard, is dependable, considerate, and thoughtful.
Focusing on the Dos
When you know what you love and what you are good at you can design your life around these things. When you write your online dating profile as Anna and I did, be sure to include the things you love and what you are good at. Attracting people that love the same as you is important for love and friendship. Finding people that appreciate your strengths is beneficial for your happiness.
Whilst Anna believed her self-description of “I’ll do anything you like” to be a positive trait showing adaptability. It leaves her spending much of her life without feelings of enjoyment. To the extent that she has forgotten what she enjoys. She has not drawn people towards her that appreciate her qualities so finds herself unappreciated and bored. With a knowledge of her likes and dislikes, and an awareness of what she is good at Anna can start to build a network of people around her that will join her for activities that they both enjoy. Conversations will be more fulfilling, and Anna’s self-worth and confidence will grow as she condenses her life and spends more time doing what she loves and what she is good at.
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