It can be common to experience lowered self-esteem around Valentine’s Day, in particular. Based on your past experiences and what you have learned to emphasize on your life, you have certain aspects of life that you value and which heavily impact self-esteem. For many young women, appearance and being seen as desirable or being in a relationship both strongly influence self-esteem. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can put you at the mercy of others and at risk of feeling terrible simply if the wind blows the wrong way, so to speak. Even if those aren’t the most important areas from which you derive your sense of self-worth, the barrage of Valentine’s Day commercialization and media will take a hit on you. After all, how can you read and watch and hear about relationships being the be all end all and not be affected? It is certainly possible to overcome this, but you must be aware that it is happening. If it is happening for you then you may want to consider making some changes to how you think about your sense of self-worth that way it can be both more stable and more in your control as opposed to in others'.
6 Tips for Boosting Your Self-Esteem Right Now
1. Take some time to make a list of the factors that play a role in your self-esteem, such as being seen as desirable by others, being accomplished at work, being physically fit, being a good friend, being a good partner, or whatever else may be there. Be honest with yourself. If how much money you have or how much recognition you get at work is really important, that is necessary information to know. Once you have outlined the factors influencing your self-esteem, note the following things: you do not want it to be all coming from one place. Remember the adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If you do that, then if one area of your life goes wrong, you will have a major problem and your self-esteem will actually be quite flimsy. Try to think about other factors, factors that are within you, and well within your control, that you value, such as being knowledgeable about world events or having a healthy relationship with food. Emphasize building up those areas in your life.
2. Try to think about other things you value like education or health or having fun. The more the better. And then come up with some measurable and realistic, small ways to move toward those goals. If you are all about physical fitness, make a specific goal for yourself. Next, give yourself credit! Having a sense of accomplishment can go a long way and chances are you do many things each day that you could give yourself a pat on the back for, and which you do not. Look for things that you would give others credit for doing. That can give you some of the distance you may need to see just how much you are doing.
3. Notice negative self-talk and thoughts and be skeptical of it/them. Even just acknowledging that this is your negative self-talk speaking and is not necessarily true can be very helpful. Of course, the goal is to replace the thought with something more accurate and more adaptive, but that can come later.
4. Self-validation is key. Notice how you’re feeling and validate why that might be. Tell yourself that it make perfect sense that x, y, and z. Self care carries implicit self-validation so it is important to focus on that at any time when your self-esteem could use a boost. Some examples might be getting a massage, taking time for you, journaling, taking a relaxing shower or bath and making that a priority, or getting plenty of sleep.
5. Limit your exposure to social media and media outlets that emphasize appearance and relationships. Try to dial down the time on social media during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. What good will it do to reach everyone’s mushy love note status updates on Facebook and pictures on Instagram. The same goes for limiting unhelpful magazines, shows, or movies. Romantic comedies may not be the way to go here, but rather, if you know of a comedy that doesn’t revolve around a relationship or a feel good movie about self-empowerment, take some time to give that a look.
6. Spend extra time with friends and reach out for support. If you tell others you are struggling then you already are one step closer to feeling better. It can be helpful to get into a regular habit of checking in with friends instead of putting on a facade all the time that everything is ok.
The best treatments for anxiety focus on increasing insight into the anxiety that people are experiencing. Through establishing an understanding of the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, people can begin the process of interrupting the cycle of anxiety. In cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) which is the gold standard treatment for anxiety disorders, individuals learn how to break the cycle of anxiety at each level. They learn how their thoughts can become more accurate instead of catastrophic or worry focused. They also learn what behaviors promote anxiety, such as avoidance. Lastly, they learn about the way their feelings and the physiological experience of them like a racing heart or sweating can lead to more anxiety because many people become anxious about their anxiety or believe they are in physical danger. This phenomenon is called interoceptive sensitivity. In treatment for panic disorder, for example, people learn that the physiological experience of anxiety and anxiety itself is not dangerous and this breaks the snowball effect of panic symptoms during a panic attack. Lastly, with regard to behavior, people learn how avoidance through thought suppression, procrastination, or substance use to escape feelings all lead to increased levels of anxiety.
However, many people do not know what therapy for anxiety actually entails or they are put off by how intimidating it sounds. Here are the four most common misconceptions about anxiety treatment.
The Four Most Common Myths About Anxiety Treatment
1. I’ll never have anxiety again. You need anxiety, just as you need all your emotions. All emotions serve the functions of motivating individuals to take action, communicating to yourself something important about a situation, and communicating to others. When you experience anxiety, for example, it communicates to you that there is something dangerous in your environment, it motivates you to take action, and it will communicate to others that they should also take action. Anxiety is a completely adaptive evolutionary response that made survival possible for our ancestors. Anxiety enabled our ancestors to hunt without getting eaten by predators. Even today, living without any anxiety would be detrimental.
If while crossing the street you saw an oncoming car headed right for you, instead of experiencing anxiety to motivate you to get out of the way, you would undoubtedly get hit. Similarly, a complete absence of anxiety would leave people directionless and unmotivated to prepare for exams or work. It would also lead to many individuals making poor decisions and putting themselves in risky situations or would lead people to engage in dangerous or violent behaviors because they lack the normal amount of anxiety that motivates them to follow social mores and rules.
Research has shown that there is an optimal level of anxiety that one should experience in order to prepare for an exam, for example. Too much anxiety can lead to paralysis and catastrophic thinking and even the generalization of anxiety to all facets of one’s life, prompting people to avoid situations they believe are dangerous when in actuality they are completely safe. This is when anxiety crosses the line from adaptive, functional, and “normal” to pathological and a psychiatric disorder. In fact, interference in one’s life is the main criterion for the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.
2. I’m going to have to talk about my childhood or my mother the whole time. Cognitive behavioral therapy will focus on the here and now and helping you learn how your current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are perpetuating your anxiety. In therapy, you will actually learn how to change your thoughts to more adaptive ones and stop behaving in ways that perpetuate your anxiety. Eventually, you will likely address long-standing beliefs or where your current beliefs are coming from, but you don’t need to focus on the distant past to address anxiety in therapy.
3. I will need to take medication. Some SSRIs have research support for improving anxiety, but benzodiazepines like Ativan and Xanax which people typically associate with treating anxiety can actually perpetuate anxiety and make it worse. Taking benzodiazepines can lead to rebound anxiety and also can perpetuate anxiety by the associates people make to them. For example, if someone becomes reliant on having their medication with them at all times “in case,” then they will end up making their anxiety worse even if they are exposing themselves to anxiety provoking situations because they never learn they can handle the situations on their own. They attribute their success or survival to the medication.
4. Therapy will help me learn to stop having “bad” thoughts. Cognitive therapy does address thoughts that are unhelpful and which perpetuate anxiety but a good therapist will never tell you to “just stop having the thoughts.” Minimizing your anxiety and invalidating yourself is harmful. Often people decide that if they talk themselves through anxiety and somehow convince themselves that whatever they’re fearing is not a realistic fear, they will get over it. What you are doing, in essence, if you are minimizing or invalidating your own feelings is failing to acknowledge them. That itself will perpetuate your anxiety. It is also harmful to chronically invalidate yourself. Instead, in cognitive therapy you will learn how to be skeptical of your thoughts that are contributing to your anxiety and making it worse while still validating your concerns/beliefs. You will learn how to evaluate the evidence for and against your thoughts and replace your thought with a more accurate and helpful thought. It will take some time, but your thought patterns will change and your anxiety will decrease.
Let's say you are not currently in therapy and you are trying to manage your anxiety based on what you have read about treatment for anxiety disorders. Research and self-help can be great, but sometimes the application is not as simple as it seems.
1. It is human nature to avoid what we fear and so often the very things that help us feel better in the moment end up perpetuating and exacerbating your anxiety. If you either do not know how to manage your anxiety or if you think you are doing the right things but your anxiety is negatively impacting you and not decreasing, it may be time to seek therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be especially helpful for the treatment of anxiety.
2. Engaging in what cognitive behavioral therapists call “safety behaviors” will perpetuate the problem. Let’s say you learn through trial and error or through some research or advice that if you do deep breathing, your anxiety will decrease. Another safety behavior would be fearing enclosed spaces like elevators but being able to manage them as long as you have your cell phone with you.
3. Avoidance through the use of substances. Plenty of people try to manage their anxiety through substance use like having a few drinks to manage an otherwise overwhelming social situation or using other substances like marijuana to calm down before a big event. Substance use to manage your anxiety, even if it isn’t excessive or problematic in and of itself, will only lead to more anxiety in the future because you never confront the situation and learn that you can get through it on your own.
4. White knuckling to get through a situation. Let’s say you have a fear of flying or public speaking and you understand that exposure is helpful in treating your anxiety so you just push through it. That should help, in theory, right? Actually, just forcing yourself to do something you are afraid of while not attending to your feelings or taking deliberate steps to ensure you aren’t doing any subtle things to avoid your anxiety.
5. Minimizing your anxiety and invalidating yourself. Often people decide that if they talk themselves through anxiety and somehow convince themselves that whatever they’re fearing is not a realistic fear, they will get over it. What you are doing, in essence, if you are minimizing or invalidating your own feelings is failing to acknowledge them. That itself will perpetuate your anxiety. It is also harmful to chronically invalidate yourself and demean your own feelings.