The Anxious Person’s Guide to Self-Confidence

“Anxiety” is a word with a broad spectrum of meaning.

For some, anxiety is a feeling of nervousness and worry that arises before job interviews, while awaiting test results at the doctor’s office, or when preparing for a first date.

But for others, anxiety is much more than an emotion– it is a pervasive, mind-consuming illness with physical, mental, and emotional aspects that can be triggered by even the most “normal” of daily activities.

Modern research tells us that anxiety and self-esteem are tightly interwoven.  Low self-esteem can arise as a result of anxiety; conversely, anxiety can appear as a side effect of low self-esteem.

According to Mel Schwartz of Psychology Today2, “A confident and secure relationship with your own self makes it less likely that you’ll suffer from [anxiety and depression] (but, of course, doesn’t guarantee it).  These afflictions can certainly exacerbate low self-esteem.”

Regardless of which end of the anxiety/self-esteem cause-and-effect spectrum you’re on, increasing your self-confidence will go a long way towards improving anxiety, depression, other mental health issues.

So what can you do to achieve this added measure of confidence?

First, says William Meek of Very Well Mind1, look at the amount of acceptance you actually have in your life.  “While we tend to focus on the negative, such as people who are rude to us or avoid us,” he says, “We usually have more people that care for us that we often overlook.”

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Particularly for people who battle General or Social Anxiety Disorder, any perceived rejection we experience can become the focus of our thoughts for hours and even days.  We analyze and over-analyze what happened and why, typically placing the bulk of the blame on ourselves.  The result is a dramatic drop in our self-esteem.

Although it’s undeniably easier said than done, “taking every thought captive” and being intentional about combating each negative thought with a positive one can be very beneficial.

Kaelin Tuell Poulin, fitness professional, author, and entrepreneur, recommends that her clients keep a journal in which they daily write down 5 positive affirmations.  Not only does she encourage writing these affirmations each day, she also recommends verbally speaking these affirmations aloud.  The more frequently you remind yourself of your positive attributes, the more deeply ingrained in your mind they will become.  This will result in a growth in self-confidence, as well as provide you with a list of “go-to’s” when you need to combat a negative thought with a positive one.

In addition to journaling your positive affirmations, making a point to daily write down all of the good things that happened will help prevent you from giving undue significance to the negatives.  It can be easy to forget the moments of happiness you experience throughout your day, causing you to mistakenly believe that your day was a total loss.  Journaling the positive aspects of your life will give you something to hang onto when anxiety attempts to convince you that everything is bad, and this will improve your confidence by serving as a constant reminder of all the good that comes from your life.

Meek also suggests being intentional about stepping outside your comfort zone.  “. . .Many people with lower self-esteem become paralyzed with inaction,” he says. “Finding the courage to branch out, make new friends, and increase the level of positive social engagement can be very impactful to your self-esteem.”

While you may be uncomfortable putting yourself out there, you will feel empowered and confident when you experience success at something you were previously hesitant to attempt.

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It’s important to recognize that sometimes, anxiety can become too much for you to handle on your own. There is never anything wrong with seeking help, and professional counsel can be an important factor in helping you work through some of the underlying causes of your anxiety.

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Amanda is an introvert who's experienced too many awkward moments (of her own making) to count. Amanda has a cat, a coffee obsession, and more books than one person should reasonably own. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Learning from the University of Memphis in Memphis, TN, where she did extensive study of lifespan psychology.

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