One of the biggest issues we face, as individuals with borderline personality disorder, is not knowing who we really are. Many of us find ourselves feeling completely lost, with no sense of self or self-direction; and while we may find some sense of identity through our borderline side, our true identity remains undiscovered. In general our emotions are intense and unstable, our thoughts alternate between idealization and devaluation, and our behaviour is often self-damaging and impulsive.
However, if we pause for a moment and reflect on how we’re feeling, how we’re thinking and what we’re doing, it is possible to uncover our true individual identity.
Our emotions are driven by what makes us who we are; our interests, beliefs and/or values.
For example. I can’t begin to explain the rage I feel when my S.O. refuses to do the dishes. Why do I get so angry? Because I believe that men and women should share household duties equally. I value equality.
When your emotions are aroused, think about what triggered them; why did the event, situation or person make you feel the way you do. You’ll see that behind every emotion is a fragment of your personality. And once you are able to fully understand your emotions, you can start to put the pieces of your personality together and begin to develop a stable sense of self.
Our thoughts strongly influence how we view ourselves; they have the capacity to make or break us.
For example. When my thoughts are positive, I have a positive self-image and feel like I can achieve anything. But when my thoughts are negative, I hate who I am, how I look and eventually I’m left thinking, “fuck it”.
When you find yourself lost in your thoughts, stop and think about how they are affecting your mental state. You’ll see that positive thoughts are powerful; they motivate you to believe in yourself. While in contrast, negative thoughts are very harmful; they stop you from moving forward. By keeping your thoughts positive, you allow yourself to maintain a stable self-image and make room for personal growth.
Our behaviour reveals our character traits through how we choose to respond to different situations.
For example. If someone insults me, I have feelings of anger and worthlessness. I usually end up thinking the individual is an
asshole insensitive person with serious issues, and I’d love to tell them that. But I don’t let my hostile thoughts and feelings influence how I react. Instead, I just pretend I didn’t hear them as I prefer to avoid confrontations out of fear.
When you act on your thoughts and emotions, think about what you’re doing. You’ll see that your behaviour is a reflection of your strengths and weaknesses. When you recognise your weaknesses, you can focus on finding a way to overcome them. Like in my example, I need to overcome my fear of confrontations and learn to stand up for myself. Through working on your weaknesses, you develop your personality and become the best version of yourself.
While we navigate our way through our emotions, thoughts and behaviour, we should be aware of how our personality disorder may interfere with our self-perception. The intensity of our emotions can overwhelm us to the point where we cannot think clearly, our black and white thinking can negatively affect how we view ourselves, and our resulting behaviour can stop us from fully uncovering the mentally healthy identity we seek to gain.
You and I are well aware of how agonising extreme emotions can be. The more extreme they are, the more they cloud your judgement, and the harder it is to overcome them. But if you use an object or area as a source of security to help you calm down, over time you’ll find it easier to manage your emotional experiences and mood changes.
Whenever you’re feeling good, be it about your appearance or characteristic(s), write your thoughts down somewhere that’s easily accessible. Then when you find yourself being excessively self-critical, recognise that you’re experiencing psychological splitting (black and white thinking), and read what you wrote about yourself when you were feeling good. Reminding yourself of your positive qualities can help bring you out of a negative mental state.
Risk taking and impulsivity are two borderline traits that can result in self-damaging behaviour. So before you choose to act on how you’re thinking and feeling, you should consider the possible outcomes of your potential actions and ask yourself, “will my actions negatively affect my wellbeing?” When you’re able to make healthy decisions, you’re less likely to behave in a manner that may cause you harm.
We all have an individual identity that makes us more than borderline. Once we are able to separate the disorder from our personality and fully understand ourselves, we’ll discover who we truly are.