The anxiety of self-esteem
“I felt useless, worthless, as though I had nothing of value to offer. I felt as if I existed rather than lived, as though my identity had been stripped from me. I felt as if I spoke it would be my fault when it went wrong, and it would go wrong.”
These words spoken by someone suffering from anxiety and a lack of self-belief will resonate with many. When suffering from anxiety, there is often a loss of confidence and self-belief and you feel powerless to change it. Yet difficult though it may seem, there are steps to be taken that will help you to recover.
Self-esteem changes as we hit the highs and lows of life, so improving your self-esteem and confidence is not a straight line getting better each day, but a trend upwards. Rather like an athlete training, they get better each day.
Often low self-esteem will have developed over a period in our lives where we have heard very negative messages about ourselves. For some this may have been in school or growing up, or in our teenage years. You may have found it difficult to live up to others expectations or your own dreams and somehow the idea that you are not good enough seeps in. Anxiety is the companion making you worried in situations where your weakness may be exposed.
There are many driving forces that may have brought you to this point, yet you can choose to do something different. The first and most positive thing you can do for yourself is to decide to try to value yourself, look for the positives and applaud yourself for those.
It is important that you learn to challenge the negative beliefs about yourself? “I am the worst mother in the world” - that's quite a claim! Try to examine the thought by looking for facts to support or deny it. When you start to challenge the thought, perhaps there are some things that you wouldn’t do as a mother but equally, perhaps there is something you do achieve (the fact that you are noticing suggests that you care and love your child). Perhaps there is a better thought that fits the facts better. "I am finding it hard to deal with the children today but I love them, they are safe and I am trying my best." By challenging your thoughts you are moving away from black and white thinking and acknowledging what you can do, not what you can't.
Often it is helpful to set up small challenges for yourself. But be careful to make sure that they are achievable. Perhaps you want to sort out that clothes drawer or do a charity run. The size of the challenge is not important, you are choosing something that you can work your way steadily through to have the sense of achievement at the end. (It’s always advisable to start small!).
Of course sometimes our anxiety and lack of self-esteem comes from traumatic experiences or beliefs. It can be helpful to talk through those to help to get started on moving forward. It’s always worth considering a counsellor to help you manage the stresses if you find yourself in that situation.
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