For those who don’t know what a “schema” is, the best way to imagine it is as a cognitive framework or generalised concept of ideas around certain things. For example, a social schema while on a date at a restaurant would be to be respectful to each other, pay for the food or not to eat garlic. Today we are looking at self-schemas and why yours might well be broken or filled with misconceptions about yourself…
When you ask most people to list the things that make up their own self-schemas you will often find they list things like “smart”, “chatty”, “Loves Music”, “Enjoys Hanging With Friends”, all those sorts of things that make up themselves and their own inwards schema. But sadly it is more common for those with BPD to answer the same question with “I am unworthy”, “People Hate me”, I destroy Everything” or the very common line of “I feel empty”.
At this point in a 52-week course of therapy, I would often try and target negative schemas of my clients by challenging each negative opinion one by one, but of course, I can’t do that in this self-help guide. So instead of offering contradictory evidence for each of your own negative points, what I suggest is that you look at the flip side of them instead. If you are constantly having these negative thoughts and opinions about yourself you might never feel like you are getting better. In fact, they might even be making you feel worse by the day!
Going back to the restaurant situation the social schema of thoughts, just imagine how much that has changed in recent times. These days you have to think about so many covid safe things like ‘no sitting too close to people’, ‘remembering to wear your mask when moving about in that restaurant’ and also ‘remembering to use the hand sanitisers before entering the restaurant’. Just using that as an example you will note how things have changed to fit the current environment. My point is you can change your own self-schema if you want to simply by introducing new rules to yourself.
You don’t need to feel bad about yourself because you have a very serious mental health condition! It’s no good beating yourself up because you shouted at your best friend or partner. You have BPD and feared that they would abandon you. Yes, you feel empty and don’t know who you are because you suffer from an ever-changing self-image which means you are bound to be left feeling confused. There is no harm in surrounding yourself in positivity, so why not give it a go one day and try it on for size. Feeling good and positive about yourself will make you feel much better both inside and out and all you have to do to achieve this is change your own self-schema to something a little more realistic.
This Week’s Homework: For this weeks homework I would like you to ask a friend, family member or school friend to jot down a few thoughts about who you are. Then, do the same thing for yourself and you might well see what a difference perspective makes when it comes to self-schemes. You might use terms like “evil” while they think you are “good”. You might say “sad and introverted” but they might say “quiet and shy”. Just give this a go and if you are feeling really brave do consider sharing what they wrote about you in the comments below.