Taking your own life seems almost unfathomable to me, but in reality, it happens – a lot – all over the world. According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 5,821 registered suicides in 2017, in the UK alone. That’s nearly 15 people per day, ending their lives prematurely. Why is this happening, when our quality of life now is better than ever before?
Not Where She ‘Should’ Be
I feel compelled to address this sensitive topic after reading an article yesterday. The headline read: “Woman Commits Suicide After Struggling with Being Unmarried and Without Children by 30.” According to the post, she was not where she felt she should be in life, and felt other members of her family were “doing better than her.” This is such a tragic example of what can happen when you let your circumstances overwhelm you and judge your life based on societal norms. My heart goes out to this woman and her family. I can’t sit back and hear these kinds of stories without illuminating an alternative path that those in times of crisis might want to choose.
The truth is, this suicide and most others usually are preventable. The major difference between someone who chooses to end their own life and someone who lives happily is simply a matter of perception.
Societal expectations weighed heavily on the mind of the woman in this tragic story. Her perception was that “she was not where she should be in life,” meaning she was comparing herself to others and determining her self-worth based on what she didn’t have. Not being married with kids at age 30 isn’t good or bad, but we humans love attaching meaning to things based on what we believe.
It’s possible this woman was terrified of what might, or might not, happen in the future. She may never have kids or settle down, ending up old and alone. Obviously, not an inspiring vision for the future, but then again, nobody can predict what will happen a few days, weeks, months, or years from now.
By all accounts, it seemed like her life actually was going pretty well! She had a job, a place to live, and was in a relationship. Had she taken the time to question her beliefs and the assumptions that led her down the dark path to taking her life, perhaps she would still be alive today.
Is The Glass Half Full Or Half Empty?
We’ve all heard the philosophical question: Is the glass half full or half empty? Your answer offers insight into whether you’re an optimist, seeing things from a perspective of abundance, or a pessimist, seeing things from a perspective of lack. Two humans can have completely different perspectives on something that is objectively the same. It is the same way with beliefs and perceptions.
Without going too deeply into the psychology behind the formation of beliefs and perceptions, just know that all your early life experiences, usually up to around the age of seven, help shape and define how you see yourself and the world around you. Whenever we have a particularly intense emotional experience, our brains try to figure out what caused this trauma so we can avoid it in the future.
As a result, a new cause-and-effect belief is created. The experience is stored away so that when something similar happens again, you will unconsciously act in a way that allows you to avoid the traumatic result. If this doesn’t quite make sense, let me give you an example.
Let’s go way back to when you were four years old. You’re playing in the living room with your new train set that you got for your birthday. Your mum decides to invite a friend over for lunch. Your mum’s friend arrives and brings her daughter, who is also four years old. Naturally, she wants to come and play with your new train set, but when she tries to take the train you’re playing with out of your hands, you get upset and start crying.
From our adult perspective, this event seems like a non-issue, but from a young child’s perspective, this is a traumatic event. A new person arriving at your home and taking your new toy out of your hands is not an enjoyable experience for a four-year-old.
So, as a four-year-old, you have now formed the belief that all strangers are not friendly, and are likely to take things from you. This could easily lead to anxiety issues in the future, making you unable to trust new people, so you get overly protective of your possessions and hyper-vigilant whenever you’re around unfamiliar groups of people.
This, essentially, is how beliefs are formed. We all possess an array of beliefs, some of which limit and constrict our perception of possibility, while others expand our capacity for love, connection, and collaboration. It’s always the limiting beliefs that hold us back from living as the fucking awesome human beings we were born to be, and for some of us, our limiting beliefs can lead us to a dark, dark place.
Take a Moment To Reflect
Can you see why it’s so important to pause during moments of confusion and self-doubt to review our beliefs and perceptions that are behind the habitual thought patterns and behaviors that are making our lives miserable? While I feel particularly grateful that I’ve never had to deal with crushing depression or suicidal thoughts, I have endured incredibly tough periods in my life where my worries about the future consumed me day and night. There have been times when I would wake up, trudge through my day, and go back to bed, assuming that my next day was going to be exactly like the miserable day that came before it.
Fortunately, I started to develop the habit of self-reflection through my daily journaling practice. This allowed me to bring more awareness and attention to the areas of my life that were causing me stress, worry, and anxiety. When you start to learn about how the mind works, and the integral role your energy plays in shaping your reality, you come to the realization that anything is possible if only you can just get out of your own way.
The Problem With Society Today
Have you ever stopped to wonder about where the idea that living a “good” life means having a nice house, a good job, a car, a loving wife, and a couple of kids actually comes from? Sure, this kind of life is attractive to many, but those things are all just external circumstances.
True happiness comes from within, regardless of what’s going on in your life. This is why so many people today, who have all these superficial things, are still miserable, and even go to the extreme of taking their own lives.
Hollywood movies, corporate advertising and social media reach billions of people worldwide on a daily basis. Just stop and think about the messages that these institutions are putting out into the world.
Hollywood portrays unrealistic love stories and equates happiness with the attainment of materialistic wealth. Corporate advertising constantly reminds us we’re not good enough, and only through the purchase of a new cologne or watch will we become whole and happy again.
But, in my opinion, it is social media that is the biggest threat to mental health and happiness we see today. With so many young people scrolling Facebook and Instagram on a daily basis, constantly comparing their lives to those of celebrities or “successful” people, is it any real wonder that they start to believe that their lives are worthless?
The constant barrage of messages in the media telling us we’re not good enough, in one way or another, can be overwhelming, especially for the younger generations. There are no warning stickers on Facebook informing users how addictive the platform is and the damaging effects it can have on mental health.
We aren’t taught how to deal with stress, loneliness, and unrealistic expectations in school, and only rarely at home. Fortunately, things are starting to change. Schools in the UK now are introducing a new subject: Mindfulness. But what about the rest of us? How do we move beyond the unrealistic expectations of society and find peace and calm in the chaos of our lives, right here, right now, today?
Transcending The Bullshit
If you’re reading this and find yourself in a shitty situation, like you’re stuck in a hole and can’t dig yourself out, hang in there. There is one constant in this world: change. So, no matter what’s going on in your life, it’s not always going to be that way.
If your perception of your life and the world around you, however, stays fixed, then it may seem like nothing will ever change. This is why it’s so important to observe the lens through which you see the world so that you can remove any dirt blocking your view. I’ll get into how you can do this in a moment.
I think it’s also valuable to believe in the existence of something greater than yourself. Whether you believe in “god” or not, science now shows there is a field of energy that exists that connects our inner world and the outer world. From my perspective, it’s pretty logical to conclude that there is an intelligent force operating throughout our universe that pervades everything in existence. The fact that I’m sitting here writing this post reflecting upon the nature of reality, consciousness observing itself, is undeniable proof for me.
The reason why I want to bring your attention to this is simple. When you see yourself as part of something bigger, you can no longer feel lonely or isolated because you’re connected to everyone and everything. While it may be a tough pill to swallow right now, if you embrace this idea, you may start to see life as a gift and strangers will become like old friends.
Getting Back On Track
I appreciate that, if you’re not where you want to be in life, it can be hard to see a way out. If you’re working a job or running a business that drains your time and energy just to put food on the table and look after your family, your perception of what’s possible could well be limited. But it doesn’t have to stay that way forever.
Change starts with firm decisions to do whatever is necessary and not to give up. You must look inward and start to dissect and challenge the limiting beliefs that have been controlling your life until today. Trust that when you shift from a place of rigidity and separateness to a place of creativity and connectedness, anything becomes possible, given enough time and energy.
Have faith that no matter what happens, everything will be okay. Recognize and appreciate all the people and things in your life, because one day it will all be taken away from you. Life is a precious gift that we must cherish every single day. If all your days are merging into one relentless march, you know it’s time to shake things up.
If you are in a dark place right now, I’m giving you permission to talk to someone today. You are more than welcome to send me an email at [email protected] and I will try to assist as best as possible.
There seems to be a massive stigma in today’s society around having dark and suicidal thoughts. This is why it’s often so surprising when a friend or loved one takes their life. Nobody had any idea that they were in such a desperate situation, in such a dark state of mind.
Even if you feel you can’t talk to your friends or family, there are plenty of online counselling services available to help you talk through your situation and explore solutions. I recently worked with a therapist on TalkSpace and even just the act of sharing my struggles with another human was incredibly liberating and took a massive weight off my shoulders. I’d highly recommend their service, if that’s what you’re looking for.