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Everyday Life,  Mental Health

Motivation and Willpower: How Practicing Self-Care and Having a Support System Can Help You

The internet is filled with “50 Ways to get Motivated!” and other headlines just like that one, but what exactly is motivation and how do we get it? Will it even help us to reach our goals? These are the important questions that we should be asking ourselves as we scour the internet for a reason to get out of bed.

I’ll just say this: life is hard. It’s hard for everyone. Despite what social media would have you believe, no one is living the perfect life. No one wakes up every single day in the perfect mood.

Most of us just do our best, and sometimes our best feels like absolute trash.

So how do we stay motivated? How do we build up valuable willpower to keep pushing ourselves forward.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about motivation throughout my years of depression, anxiety, struggles, and failings, it is that no man truly is an island. I romanticized that idea so often in my head.

You say, “No man is an island.” Well, watch me. I can handle this alone. I’m strong, and I’m stubborn. No one believes in me or my dreams? That’s fine. I can do this all myself.

This thinking pattern has caused me so much heartache throughout the years – self-inflicted heartache. The false notion that I can do everything on my own is probably what led to so many of my past failings. I don’t think I’ve ever admitted that to myself before now. You guys are really getting all of me in this post.

How Do You Change?

You first have to realize that yes, your dreams are your own. You have to want them. You have to want some goals, and your goals are your own. But, and I’m still processing this myself, you absolutely should share your dreams until you find genuine support. Reach out to friends, family, and strangers, even though you’re scared. Trust me on this one, I completely understand how terrifying reaching out can be. I am at my very core an introvert.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

The internet is my go-to tool for this, because I grew up with chat rooms and forums before social media was the beast that it is today. I also live in an area where many people tend to have a limited mindset, and this can make finding those with similar struggles difficult. I felt so alone as a teenager, especially when I truly realized how different I was from my classmates. That was the time in my life that I discovered NOAH and its forums for teens with albinism. Anyone else grow up in those chat rooms and forums?

Speaking of which, Facebook has a group for everything and #everything has a hashtag. You dream about an around the world trip? Youtube, Facebook, and Reddit all have you covered. You want to move? There are articles, Instagram hashtags, and Facebook groups for that. You struggle with chronic illness? Same. The groups and hashtags and communities are endless. Keep looking until you feel less alone. Leave that “no man is an island” feeling in your wake. The internet is even more invaluable if you are an introvert like me.

Willpower and Self-Control

So, most of us have been told, “you just lack willpower,” or, “learn some self-control.” What are these two anyone? To me, they are one and the same. They are a resource, a limited one. We can build up our willpower, we can practice it, but it is still a finite resource. When we feel the stresses of daily life and then place the added stress of having to do everything alone, we use that resource even more quickly. It eventually runs out, and we feel as though we’ve run out of motivation. It’s that point where you can’t drag yourself off the couch after work to do hobbies or work toward your other goals.

Depression can also be intertwined with motivation and willpower. Constant stress depletes our body’s defenses and its own ability to self-sustain. It essentially runs out of gas.

So, how do we fill up the meter?

Self-care and support. To refill our willpower and motivation meters, we have to learn some new good habits. The warm conversation from a good friend and some self-care could solve many problems. It has become more of a focus in the past few years, but self-care and connection could both use more attention.


Danielle, from a hike with a close friend

So, what is self-care? Self-care can be absolutely anything that is healthy and refreshing to you. It is a very individual concept. It can be as simple as learning some deep breathing techniques or as complex as taking a day trip and going for a hike in nature (as pictured here). It can be exercise, a long bath with your favorite candles or oils, reading a book in a quiet room, a night out with friends (for you extraverts out there), and so many things. It needs to be something that enriches your life and your sense of self, though. So, no drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol or other self-destructive behaviors.

You have to choose something that makes you feel alive and present and that allows you to recharge. I know; those two don’t sound like they’re mutually exclusive. They can be, or they don’t have to be. This part truly is up to you. Below are my own personal guidelines for self-care.

Major Guidelines for Self-Care Activities:

  • It needs to focus on you and making you feel most like yourself; though, it can involve other people, especially if you’re an extravert.
  • No mindless entertainment. The point is to be engaged in yourself or something that makes you feel recharged. This can certainly include a stimulating movie or TV show, but an eight-hour binge is a bit outside the scope of self-care (a reminder as much for myself as for others).
  • No self-destructive behaviors: drugs, excessive alcohol, self-harm, unprotected sexual contact, gambling or betting, or anything else that may cause negative consequences. The goal is to enrich your life, not create more stress.

This post focuses on small steps, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has an entire booklet on self-care from a much broader perspective. I recommend checking it out and implementing self-care throughout each day.


Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Reach out for that deeper connection. Some of my closest friends are friends I met through the internet ten years ago. Despite what some members of the older generations say, you can in fact have a deep meaningful conversation and relationship from a distance and over the internet/phone. Source? Personal experience.

Other close friends of mine include friends from grad school. We all struggled through similar circumstances and formed deep bonds. Shared experience makes for quick bonding.

The point is to find your people. They’re not supposed to like everything you do or have every experience you do, but you find the connections you do have and then embrace your differences. That ability to embrace each other’s differences is what truly builds the foundation of a strong relationship. This lesson is also one that I’ve learned through experience.

Sometimes the differences between us can threaten a relationship, but if we shift our perspectives, differences can actually strengthen a relationship. Rather than seeing your differences as faults in the paint, try thinking of them as a new color that you’ve never seen before. Just because you haven’t seen that color or taken that perspective or experienced that experience does not mean that it is wrong. It is new.

Every difference we encounter should be embraced as a chance to grow ourselves. Your friend follows a different belief system than you? Take a genuine interest rather than an interest with the goal to change his or her mind. When we focus on how we can change someone’s mind, we stop truly listening to what he or she is saying. When we do this, we are shutting ourselves off from an entire experience and maybe even an entire person.

So, what is your favorite self-care activity? What is your closest, deepest connection? Are you leaving yourself open to new perspectives, experiences, and people? Let yourself live. Be present, and stay curious. Until next time.

I have Albinism and am legally blind. I have a Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I'm currently pursuing my passion of writing through this blog and for the Albinism InSight magazine.

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