Anxiety - Building self-esteem and self-confidence
Anxious thoughts - What do others think about you?
I took a brave step and decided to ask some relatives and close friends the following question: “what are my positive qualities/characteristics?” I ask clients to do this exercise after we’ve been working together for a couple of weeks, especially when the issues centre around depression, anxiety and stress. I find that it helps to kick-start the journey towards rebuilding healthy self-esteem, and self-confidence.
Automatic negative thoughts
Secretly, deep down inside, confronting opinions from others is one of my worst nightmares! Despite some uncomfortable feelings, and a range of negative automatic thoughts, I also realised how important it was for me to understand what my clients might be experiencing when I send them away with action tasks.
Risk, courage and thought management
The exercise involved risk, courage and the ability to manage the stream of anxious thoughts. When working with CBT ideas (cognitive behavioural therapy), this exercise highlights the under-pinning theory that it’s not the event or feelings that are the problem - but it’s the jam between the bread - the distorted and unhelpful thoughts and meaning we give it.
Negative thinking traps
Perhaps I was expecting the worst, and bracing myself for negative and hurtful responses (despite specifically asking for positive comments). What if they said I was ‘hopeless, worthless and not good enough’ - I imagined the ground opening up and swallowing me, because I have such a vivid imagination.
I educate my clients about the thinking style traps they can fall into, because when you know what they are, you experience less anxiety and more relaxed relationships. One of my traps is jumping to conclusions, I have a tendency to peer into my crystal ball and predict doom and gloom.
Well you’ll be pleased to know, I did it anyway and I survived. Despite having lots of scary thoughts, and butterflies in my tummy. The main question that pulled me through was “what’s the worst possible thing that could happen? The answer was nothing, yes I might feel uncomfortable but I certainly wouldn’t die.
Try the exercise at home
Take a deep breath and ask a parent, brother or sister, or a friend whose opinion you trust ‘what are your positive qualities/characteristics?’ You might be pleasantly surprised by the answers and experience a boost to your self-esteem and self-confidence. Plus make a note of what automatic negative thoughts are triggered, what feelings you experience and whether you feel any uncomfortable physical sensations.
Anxiety, depression and stress are manageable once you find the right therapist to support you. So remember you never have to suffer alone or in silence.
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