There is no one right way to proceed from here. There are dozens of different psychological techniques for dealing with the problems we discussed on the previous page. Many of which can work. Each of us faces our own challenges, and we vary in which techniques we feel comfortable with.
However, I do believe there are foundational skills that are helpful for everyone. Actions that, when taken consistently, alone can make a profound shift in your emotional life and how you relate to yourself. As you do these things and build the skill, they can help you with any technique you choose to practice.
I believe that the most valuable skills in breaking the destructive cycle are mindfulness, gratitude, and self-compassion.
Mindfulness means an open and active focus on the present moment. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad.
Mindfulness is the difference between “I feel depressed, sad, and useless because of my skin” and “As I look at my skin, I notice feelings hopeless and depressed arise.”
Mindfulness creates space between you and the emotions you feel. It allows you to feel the emotion without identifying with it. Mindfulness creates awareness required to look at the beliefs and thoughts that caused the emotion.
I consider a certain degree of mindfulness to be the basic requirement for personal growth. Like, you have to be able to skate before you can play ice hockey. It’s the same thing with mindfulness and personal growth.
You can develop mindfulness through meditation and other awareness-building exercises, or it can be provided by a therapist asking questions and directing your focus.
See the mindfulness page for more on how to start cultivating it.
Gratitude/cultivating focus on positive
We are largely the architects of our own depression and suffering. We do this by constantly focusing on the negative.
Gratitude and conscious focus on the positive attempts to balance this by choosing to focus on positive things. A large amount of research shows that consciously taking the time to notice things you are grateful for makes people feel more optimistic and positive about their lives.
I’m not talking about the type of self-help where you pretend everything is positive, and that there’s a silver lining to everything. Not at all. Bad things happen. And it’s OK; they are a part of life.
People who struggle with depression and other emotional issues often dwell much more on the negatives as they do on the positives. Taking some time every day to also notice the positive just creates a healthier balance.
The Five Minute Journal is the best routine I’ve found for making gratitude and focus on the positive part of your daily life. See The Five Minute Journal page for more on how to get started.
Self-compassion is the act of feeling the same empathy for yourself that you extend toward others. Many of the world’s most empathetic people fail to see themselves as worthy of the same compassion they so willingly extend to others, viewing themselves as separate from the rest of humanity with regard to deserving empathy and compassion.
As we discussed on the previous page, people with acne often demand perfection from their skin. The importance of minor blemishes is blown wildly out of proportion. We could never even dare to say the things we tell ourselves to our friends. In fact, we would console friends in our situation. Self-compassion just means extending the same courtesy to yourself.
This isn’t the same as throwing a pity party for yourself.
In a way, practicing self-compassion is to give yourself permission to be just human. Let go of the unrealistic and rigid demand for perfection and remind yourself that you are just a human, flawed perhaps, but just as deserving of love and respect as anyone else.
I believe that you can’t truly be free from acne until you give yourself permission to have acne.
Practicing self-compassion is to acknowledge that life is sometimes hard and that we do suffer. Just life everyone else does.
Self-compassion can be hugely cathartic. Perhaps the first time in your life you acknowledge your suffering without blaming yourself.
See the art of self-compassion page for instructions on how to get started.
Identifying and changing the beliefs that cause suffering
You can find countless psychological treatments and self-help techniques for identifying and changing harmful beliefs. I can’t say which of them is the best. I like to use a form of cognitive behavior therapy called rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Despite being labeled as a therapy, it also works well as a self-help technique.
REBT offers a way to systematically identify, challenge, and change dysfunctional beliefs that lead to emotional suffering. See the REBT page for a more detailed explanation and how to get started.
With that being said, doing REBT as a self-help technique requires a certain degree of self-awareness and mindfulness; that’s one reason I listed mindfulness as one of the foundational skills.
Aside from cultivating mindfulness, there are other things you can do to bring awareness to your beliefs and the way you talk to yourself. Including:
Again, there are no right or wrong ways to approach this. I suggest that you read the above pages and try the one you are comfortable with. Or, if you know a technique that works for you, by all means go with that.