“I’ve struggled with anxiety and low self-esteem for most of my life. I constantly think that I’m not good enough. I think this stems from childhood trauma. I would love coping skills (J).”
What are some ways I can work on my confidence and insecurities?
Hi J! This is such a great question.
As a therapist I see a few different components here that I would want to look more into with you.
I want to know more about your anxiety and what specifically makes you anxious? I would like to hear some examples where you felt you weren’t good enough and lastly; I would want to begin looking at your childhood trauma.
They all intersect with each other and contribute to how you think and feel about yourself.
The following are some tips and action steps that you can do right now that may help lower your anxiety and increase the way you feel about yoursef and the situations where you feel as if you aren’t good enough.
The first action step you are going to want to work on is being able to decrease your anxious feelings, especially when they come on “full force.”
The best tool I have found that can help a person feel less anxious are deep breathing exercises. The one I like is called the “box breathing technique.”
The more you practice this technique, the easier and more natural it becomes.
1) Make sure that both of your feet are flat on the ground (literally grounding yourself).
2) Place your hands, palm side down, on each leg (connecting your body the ground). This can be done sitting down or standing up.
3) Try and relax and focus on your breath. Again, try and practice this when you aren’t anxious, so that when you do become anxious it is much more natural.
4) Take a deep breath and feel it as your back straightens out. Breath into your stomach for 4 seconds
5) Hold your breath for 4 seconds
6) Exhale evenly for 4 seconds
7) Hold your empty lungs for 4 seconds and repeat until you feel more relaxed. You will know this is working when your heart rate begins slowing down, your breathing becomes steadier and perhaps you feel some heaviness in your feet and arms.
The second item we want to tackle is your low self-esteem and the feeling that you aren’t good enough.
The first thing we want to do is check your feelings and perceptions against reality.
For example, are people telling you that you aren’t good enough (jobs, task, personal relationships) or are they saying that you did a good job (you are good enough)?
Many times, our thoughts and feelings do not match the reality. This is also where positive “self-talk” comes into the picture.
Many times, we have a “recording” in our head of someone saying we aren’t good enough. Over time it just becomes a part of who we are and how we see ourselves. In addition to the reality check, we also want to make affirmative and strong statements to ourselves – “I am good enough!” “I’m doing a great job!”
Practically any negative thought and feeling about yourself can be turned into a positive affirmation and statement. Odds are that in the beginning it won’t really work. The idea is that the more you do it, the stronger your self-affirmations become.
Over time this results in the silencing of the negative recording in your head.
My last tip/tool for you is with regard to your childhood trauma.
This is an area where a trauma-based therapist can really help you to begin healing and moving on from that experience.
One strategy, that can really be applied to this and everything else, is journaling.
Now, a big stumbling block for people when it comes to journaling is that they have pre-conceived ideas of what is supposed to go in the journal and how it is supposed to be written (complete sentences, spelling and so on).
The reality is that there are no rules to journaling because the only person that is going to see it is you. You can write in the margins, draw a picture, doodle, use one word to describe a feeling, whatever it is that is in your head that you want to “get out.”
The benefits of journaling are that it helps get rid of or lessen the repetitive and perseverating thoughts we have in our head. By putting them down into a journal, it is a way to stop that cycle and to calm you down. Plus, sometimes by putting our thoughts, feelings and experiences into a journal, we are able to see them from a different perspective.
Good luck J and hope some of these tips and tools help!