“I wish you could see yourself through my eyes.” This one sentence can help us support those with depression or who are struggling with internal demons, including ourselves.
We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve tried to reassure or comfort someone who is going through a hard time, where it’s causing them to doubt everything about themselves. And yet, despite our best efforts, nothing we seem to say makes any difference. Our reassurances don’t work. We tell our loved ones that they are good enough, smart enough, intelligent enough, funny enough, and that it will be okay. But despite our sincerity, all they hear are meaningless platitudes.
The person receiving these reassurances doesn’t see the truth in our words. They simply think, “Well, of course you would say that, you’d have to be some sort of massive twat to do anything other than say nice things whilst I’m here crying to you about how miserable I am.”
Supporting someone who has lost their self-confidence and is doubting everything about themselves—whether that is as a result of depression or just a specific situation in their lives—is hard. Whatever we try to say or do never seems to get through to them. The reassurances and compliments fall on deaf ears. The person receiving them doesn’t want to hear them, because they’ve already decided for themselves that they’re failing or lacking in some way.
I had depression years ago, in my late teens and also again in my early 20s. Both times it crippled me with self-doubt and insecurity about everything. I had some incredibly supportive friends who would try to help me and get me to articulate why I felt how I did. And when I’d tell them about all the things that were making me upset, about all the self-doubt and insecurity I was riddled with, they’d attempt to reassure me about those specific concerns.
They’d tell me that I was intelligent and likable and funny and loved—but all I heard were platitudes. Of course they’d say that. I appreciated the effort, but I didn’t believe anything they said, and it certainly didn’t lead to changing my perception of myself—until one day.
I’d had a conversation with a friend, who—instead of trying to reassure me, and tell me that I was certain things—just simply said: “I wish you could see yourself through my eyes.”
That was the only statement that ever broke through to me.
I felt the truth in it. By saying those words, she told me: “I know you won’t believe me when I tell you your worries are unfounded—but if, even just for a second, you could see what I see when I look at you, you’d know how amazing and worthy you are.”
That’s no platitude; I had no doubt she meant it. Her confidence that if I could see myself from someone else’s perceptive, then I would know that the negative things I was telling myself weren’t true, was transformational for me. It reminded me that my own perspective wasn’t the only one, and that it was possible that maybe all the negative things I was allowing myself to believe weren’t necessarily true.
What I didn’t realise until years later is that her words not only provided me with some much needed reassurance when I was going through a particularly difficult time, but that they can also provide all of us with a coping mechanism for anytime we find ourselves suffering from self-doubt—or worse still, being pulled toward depression.
These words can act as a constant reminder to look outside ourselves and not just at how things appear from our perspective. To think about what our best friend or partner or family sees—not what we see from inside, where our thoughts are clouded by our feelings, but what those who can see things more objectively think when they look at us. That awareness of how our thoughts about ourselves would be different if we were looking through someone else’s eyes is an invaluable tool in helping us tackle the problems life throws at us.
Even more importantly, we can also use her words to help those closest to us. Depression sucks. And it is so so incredibly horrible to be in a place where nothing anyone says can stop your feelings of isolation and inadequacy. But instead of having to make do with repeating the same old reassurances to those we care about, when they’re teetering on the edge—we can use these words to tell them that they are worthy, and get them to listen for once. We can give them the most sincere and meaningful compliment there is, by telling them:“I wish you could see yourself through my eyes.”
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina