How does your “sense of self” affect your happiness (and depression)?

How does your “sense of self” affect your happiness (and depression)?

via Psychology Today by Srini Pillay

When you’re depressed, you may be tempted to focus on your symptoms, such as feeling down, being unable to eat or sleep, or difficulty concentrating. But a 2019 paper on depression suggests that “a sense of self” is what you should pay attention to.  

What is your sense of self? Why does it matter? And what can you do about it to feel less depressed? In this post, I will focus on one of the theories that explain why people get depressed. This premise is called the “self-discrepancy theory.” 

According to psychology professor Edward Higgins, the “self” has three aspects: an actual, ideal, and ought self.

An “actual” self is who you think you are, and how you assess your characteristics such as talent, intelligence, and looks. An “ideal” self is what you wish you would or could be. And an “ought” self is what you or others think you should be.

Research indicates that when there is a mismatch between your “actual” and “ideal” selves, you are likely to get depressed.

Say, for example, you think of yourself as smart, hard-working, and successful. But in real life, your work situation limits your progress and starts to slow you down. When your “actual” self becomes a lower achieving version of your ideal self, depression will set in. So when you’re depressed, you should address the actual-ideal mismatch. A 2019 meta-analysisconfirmed the importance of actual-ideal mismatches in depression.

The degree of match between who you are and your ideal self also determines your self-esteem.  And low self-esteem contributes to depression.

People with low self-esteem have less gray matter in brain regionsresponsible for adapting to stress and feeling pride. They also have less gray matter in “theory of mind” brain regions—regions that help us infer what others are thinking. 

Based on the self-discrepancy theory, how can you help yourself if you are feeling depressed? Your internal narrative—the story you have about yourself and how others perceive you—will determine how your “actual” self can begin to approximate your “ideal” self.  To do this, you need to examine your depressed assumptions and change them based on what we know from psychology and brain research. The following assumptions should be changed…

…keep reading the full & original article HERE