Love Yourself a Little More to Assuage Your Anxiousness
"Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world." Lucille Ball
This quote is 100% correct. Unless you love yourself and are kind enough to yourself to make peace with your mistakes, you cannot move on and get absolutely anything done in this world. This includes mitigating your anxiety issues and overcoming them for good. Yep, self-love is one of the best antidotes for anxiety, and if you want to dismiss anxiety from your life for good, you have to start practising self-love. But what exactly is self-love and how does it help you put your anxiety to rest?
How self-love helps you manage anxiety issues
Self-love refers to being kind to yourself and accepting yourself wholeheartedly and comprehensively. Now, don't get me wrong, this is favourite doesn't imply that you feel happy about your shortcomings and don't work on improving yourself. Nope, self-love never teaches you to be proud of your wrongdoings. However, it does teach you to stop lamenting over spilt milk and stop being too harsh on yourself all the time.
When you love yourself, you acknowledge the fact that you are only a human being and are bound to err now and then. This acceptance makes you a little flexible, and you stop criticising yourself every time you make a mistake. As a result, your anxiousness starts to decrease.
Most of the time, it is the rants of your inner critic that trigger your anxiety. Ever experienced a situation when you didn't do something as planned or when you made a fool of yourself? How did you react at that time? Were you kind with yourself and self-soothed yourself or were you harsh on yourself and kept condemning yourself? If you are prone to anxiety, it is likely you did the latter and what results did your self-criticism help you achieve? Naturally, you felt more tensed, upset and agitated than before and couldn't let go of that hurtful memory for a long time.
You see, that's precisely what self-criticism and a lack of self-love do to you: it activates your anxiousness by making you feel inferior and inadequate. A study conducted by the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS)1 shows that self-criticism is linked with social phobia, anxiety and mood disorders.
If you haven't been calm, gentle and compassionate to yourself in a long time and find your anxiety levels continuously escalating, a lack of self-love is one of the primary reasons behind your condition. To save yourself from the harms of anxiety and to assuage it, it's crucial you incorporate a little self-love in your life. Here's how you can achieve this goal easily.
Observe the way you treat yourself
Treatment of any sort first begins with acknowledging your problem. To practice self-love and use it to cure your anxiety, it is crucial to understand that you aren't treating yourself well. To accept that, start observing yourself and the way you behave with yourself. For about seven to ten days, pay close attention to how you behave with yourself and ask a trustworthy friend to do the same so you can understand whether or not you're unkind with yourself. Here are the signs and symptoms you need to look out for.
- Do you demean yourself when you do something undesirable?
- Do you belittle yourself in front of others instead of supporting yourself?
- Are you your biggest critic?
- Do you say things like ‘I cannot do it' or ‘I am a total failure' when things don't go your way or when you're faced with a challenge?
- Do you have a low value for yourself and think you don't have what it takes to fulfil your goals?
If you answered yes to at least two of these questions, it is likely you aren't happy with yourself and the constantly squabbling by your inner critic is precisely what stresses you out almost always.
Make a commitment to improve
Once you have figured out that you aren't kind to yourself, set a true intention to improve yourself. As Mark Twain said, ‘A man cannot be comfortable without his approval.' This means to be comfortable and happy with yourself, it's crucial you approve of yourself and to do that, you have first to make a commitment to start loving yourself so you can work on your problem.
According to Jeffrey Sumber who is a psychotherapist by profession, self-acceptance cannot be practised without setting an intention to do so. Self-acceptance refers to accepting yourself the way you are. Unless you accept your individuality, you cannot love yourself. Self-acceptance doesn't imply that you stop improving; it just means that you accept that you have issues and it is you alone who can help yourself. When you have this realisation, it becomes easier to work on yourself.
Hence when you have observed how poorly you are treating yourself and how it is aggravating your anxiety, make a commitment to work on this problem and eliminate it from your life for good by loving and accepting yourself. When you set an intention in your head, do write it down too. Written commitments are more substantial and help you remember your goals.
Your commitment can be anything from ‘From this day onwards, I am going to love myself more' or ‘I am working on my anxiety issues by loving and accepting myself.' Choose any words you like but ensure to stick to only positive words, so you focus on only the healthy, happy things.
Shun your inner critic by feeding positive thoughts to your subconscious
Your next task is to work on assuaging your inner critic, so you eliminate it from your system for good. Your inner critic is the pesky, little, negative voice inside you that pops up every time you do something wrong. It is this critic that spews venom in the form of thoughts like ‘You are a lost cause' or Do you think you can do this?' To overcome self-hate and anxiety, your inner critic needs to be dealt with.
Not only do you have to shun your inner critic but you also have to work on changing your negative mindset to a positive one. Unless you learn to think positively and encourage yourself each time you err, you won't find it easy to get rid of your inner critic. Hence to manage it for good, it's crucial to drill positive suggestions and thoughts into your subconscious. Practice the following steps to bid adieu to your inner critic and slowly develop a positive mindset.
Acknowledge the Voice of Your Negative Mindset: Start off by acknowledging how your inner critic talks to you. Sit somewhere quiet with a journal and a pen and recall a time when you weren't happy with yourself. Think of the thought your inner critic supplies you with and write them down. I know it won't be easy for you but trust me, this practice will help you so even if it brings you pain, do write down those thoughts.
Respond to them in the Voice of the Positive Mindset: Once you have let your inner critic pour its heart out, respond to everything it said but in the voice of the positive mindset. If a thought suggests ‘You made a fool of yourself, and everyone laughed at you', reply to it by saying something sweet and calming like ‘Although everyone did laugh at me it is alright, mistakes happen and if only, I learned a lot of good things from that incident.' If another thought suggests ‘You have failed at this before too, so it is best you don't embark on the same journey again' then say something hopeful like ‘Failure is when you give up. If I keep trying, I won't ever fail because I'll learn to get better at it each time.' Keep talking to your inner critic like this for a while, and within minutes, you'll find yourself feeling better.
Quickly Respond to Your Inner Critic Each Time it Strikes: Make sure to practice the first two steps at least twice every day. Soon you'll learn how to pinpoint an anxiety triggering thought spewed by your inner critic right on time before you let it wreak havoc in your mind. As soon as you spot an unhappy thought, replace it with something soothing. The more you do this, the more positive you'll become and the easier it will become for you to manage and slowly let go of the negativity stuck inside you along with the anxiety that comes with it.
Say Kind Things to Yourself All the Time: Similarly, make a habit of saying supportive and kind things to yourself each time you falter or feel upset about something, and you'll develop the habit of being kind and thinking positive.
Make Your Journal: Keep your journal and write down your feelings in it whenever you say something kind to yourself and even when you're harsh on yourself. Go through your journal entries daily and soon you'll understand the importance of being positive. This helps you track your performance and also encourages you to continue thinking positively.
Shunning your inner critic will do wonders for your self-esteem and self-confidence. You'll start to believe in yourself and acknowledge your potential which will consequently help you get over your mistakes and kerb your anxiousness. To augment the results, it is important to celebrate your accomplishments and polish your talents, so you keep improving and feel great about yourself.
Celebrate your strengths and improve your potential
"You are more than the mistakes you've made. You are the wisdom, love, strength and compassion you've gained from all you've been through." Karen Salmansohn
You cannot love yourself completely until you acknowledge your strengths and celebrate your accomplishments. Doing this helps you feel good about yourself which kerbs your feelings of self-pity and embarrassment. Whenever you spend some alone time together focusing on your thoughts, take out five minutes to identify your strengths and feel good about them.
Make a list of all the qualities and strengths you think you have. If you have trouble thinking of something positive yourself, recall a memory when somebody praised you for something nice. For instance, the time when your neighbour told you how helpful and compassionate you were or when your high school professor praised you for being good at algebra. Enlist all those little to big qualities and achievements and feel good about them.
Using the talents and strengths you just identified, try to understand your potential. Each one of us is gifted at something and has a unique quality. Find what your unique superpower is and then work on improving it. Often, anxiety comes from not being good at what you do and not fulfilling your dreams. When you start to improve yourself and take action, naturally you'll feel more accomplished and less stressed. So identify what you are good at and then work your way to becoming even better to minimise your anxiousness.
When was the last time you did something you love doing and took out time for just yourself? When was the last time you cared less about others and more about yourself? If self-love hasn't been a part of your life for a long time, it is likely that you have stopped paying attention to your needs too.
Not taking care of your needs and not doing things that matter to you is another reason why you feel deprived of joy. To truly love yourself, do things that bring you happiness. If dancing alone to your favorite jazz music soothes your stressed nerves, do it. If watching funny videos online puts a smile on your face, do it more often. Make a list of things that make you happy and make certain do at least one of those activities daily.
As you'll start showering affection on to yourself, you'll start to like yourself better which will consequently kick off anxiety from your life.
Self-love is the key to making peace with yourself and settle the issues that trigger your anxiety so follow the guidelines given above and say goodbye to your anxiety.
- Self esteem, dependency, self-efficacy and self-criticism in social anxiety disorder. Link.
- Therapists Spill: 12 Ways to Accept Yourself. Link.
- Self-Criticism Can Be Psychologically Devastating – How to Overcome It. Link.
- 10 Wonderful Ways To Practice Self-Love. Link.
Published 1 May 2017. Written by Samra Shah.
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Ricks Warren, Elke Smeets, Kristin Neff. Self-criticism and self-compassion. http://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Self-Criticism.pdf ↩︎