Self Esteem and Anxiety

Written by Karl Perera MA, DipLC.

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One of the major effects of low self esteem is anxiety (source: Sowislo and Orth, 2013) , and this can quickly get out of control because the two feed each other. Low self esteem causes self-doubt and lack of confidence which will naturally cause anxiety, especially when a person is faced with difficult challenges in life. Having suffered low self esteem myself, I can attest to being very anxious at that time. There are, however, a number of things that you can do to improve both self esteem and anxiety once you understand how they are connected.

Low self esteem and anxiety are closely connected (Rosenberg, 1962). A person becomes anxious when experiencing self-doubt or lack of confidence to face life’s difficult challenges. A person with low self esteem experiences such negative emotions and therefore suffer from anxiety in stressful situations.

Understanding that low self esteem and anxiety are closely related is the first step towards taking action to help yourself if you suffer from either of these negative emotions. It is possible to raise self esteem and work on anxiety so that both improve. Let’s take a look at how to do this.

How to Build Self Esteem and Reduce Anxiety

Improving self esteem results in less anxiety (source: Greenberg et al, 1992). So what techniques are there to raise self esteem that would also reduce anxiety?

Individuals suffering from low self esteem experience many negative symptoms such as lack of self confidence, self-doubt, poor communication and social skills, shyness, anxiety and even depression. These negative symptoms may lead to many negatives in life such as lack of career success, failure to reach life goals, poor relationships, lack of social skills and lack of academic achievement. So, any improvement in self esteem can have a very positive effect in the life of the average person.

Anxiety is a very negative and self-destructive emotion. It affects many areas of our life, and affects performance in key areas and also has a negative impact on our ability to cope with challenges in life (source: Pyszczynski, 2004). It is therefore essential to reduce anxiety to enable a person to achieve success in work and daily life. One of the best ways to do this is by building self esteem.

Boost Self Esteem and Confidence by Challenging Your Comfort Zone

If you remain in your comfort zone and avoid anything because it scares you or it is a bit difficult, you will never progress. In other words, you will be a prisoner of your fear.

“Comfort is your biggest trap and coming out of comfort zone your biggest challenge.”

― Manoj Arora, From the Rat Race to Financial Freedom

You have everything to gain by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and when you succeed you will see that the fear was exaggerated. In my experience most of the things I fear about a new situation or challenge exist only in my mind and don’t actually happen when I try something new.

Anxiety is fuelled by fear and if you can make that fear just a bit less then you will be less anxious next time. So take a step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to do something new. You will be glad you did!

Set Small Goals That Will Take You Closer to Where You Want to Be

You may have heard talk of the importance of goal setting, but here we shall focus on how important goals are for your self esteem and how they can actually help you with anxiety. SMART goals are helpful, that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Sensitive. But you should break goals into smaller achievable steps to build confidence after each steep as you move towards the bigger goal.

Practicing Daily Meditation Reduces Anxiety

There is a great deal of evidence and research that suggests regular meditation can reduce anxiety. Although this article questions how effective Mindfulness Meditation is in combating anxiety, it does state that regular meditation reduces repetitive negative thinking. It also suggests that this eases anxiety.

Meditation calms us down and gives us valuable time to relax and that alone would suggest that it should be good for anxiety. Of course, some forms of anxiety are very serious and most experts would agree that meditation might be only one part of a treatment, even a very small part. If we are dealing with social or stress-based anxiety mindfulness meditation might be more helpful.

So if you are facing stress and feel anxious, try meditating each day. It is highly recommended!

Self Hypnosis Can Help Reduce Feelings of Anxiety

Self hypnosis is being guided into a relaxed state where you are more open to suggestions. It can involve visualizing and imagining being in a place or situation that might be scary or challenging, and imagining experiencing it in a calmer state. With practice self hypnosis can work on your subconscious mind and affect your behaviour and feelings. It has been proved that this technique can help reduce anxiety as well as many other problems.

According to Hammond (2010), self hypnosis is safe and is an effective way to treat anxiety-related problems. As this is a such a problem in modern life, self hypnosis can be really helpful for stress, general anxiety and social anxiety. If you’d like to give it a try, please take a look at my guide to the use of self hypnosis and downloadable audios you can try for yourself.

Encourage Yourself with Positive Self Talk

That inner critic that we all have inside can be very cruel. If you constantly hear negative words and comments inside your head, or as it is called, negative self talk, you need to do something about this. Often we are our own worst judges and unless we encourage ourselves we are likely to fear new experiences and challenges.

Think of it this way, if you can’t rely on yourself for support, who can you rely on? Those who encourage themselves with positive self talk are more likely to have the self confidence to face life’s challenges. So, whatever you do, work on your self talk and stop sabotaging yourself before you even get started!

List Your Strengths and Decide Which Weaknesses You Can Develop

Listing your strengths is a very good exercise for boosting self esteem. So let’s do it. What are you good at? Make a list of all your strengths and then when you feel confident, make a list of things you could improve. This second list are things which are possibly weaknesses right now but that could become further strengths if you work on them.

Once you have these two lists, you can begin planning how you can work on some of your limits in the second list in order to convert them into strengths. Goal setting can help here as long as you prioritize your strengths according to which are most helpful to you.

Remember that trying to move forward, can make anxiety or stress worse. So, go easy and take small, manageable steps and decide what you can cope with now. Use self-compassion and do not drive yourself too hard. Goal-setting and working on your weaknesses can improve your self motivation, which is what we want. Driving yourself too hard will only tire you and add to your stress.

If you take this final step and combine what you have learnt above, encourage yourself with positive self talk and use meditation and self hypnosis, there is NO limit to what you can achieve, with renewed confidence!

5 Common Anxiety Triggers and How To Manage Them

Anxiety is a common condition that brings on extreme worry and fear. Although the causes can vary for many people, depending on genetics and environment, there are some triggers that are more common than others. 

Many triggers can be controlled if you know how to identify them. Therefore, here are some of the most common that you should look out for, and how to control them. 

Traumatic Incidents

Traumatic events can lead to an anxiety attack. Whether you suffered a traumatic accident in the past which left a mark on your memory, or you went through something recently, triggers can make you feel like you’re in the middle of the incident all over again.

For some people, it’s brought on my a similar set of circumstances, a song, or even a smell. By being honest with yourself about what starts to make you feel reminded of the trauma, you can avoid exposing yourself to it. 

Illness and anxiety

Finding out that you have a chronic illness can bring on a considerable amount of anxiety. You may start to worry that the end is near or fear pain and suffering. Fear can overcome you as you expect the worst to happen. This can manifest in several ways including self sabotage, where your fears begin to take you over so you stop yourself from succeeding.

In many cases, you may find that talking with a professional therapist is the best way to handle your emotions. They’ll be able to give you the tools to wrap your head around your diagnosis and handle the fear that it may be evoking. 

Caffeine Can Make You Feel Anxious

Although you may love your morning cup of coffee, it could be working against you. According to studies such as Boulenger, Uhde, Wolff and Post (1984) , people with an anxiety disorder are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than those who aren’t.

If you regularly suffer from anxiety attacks, then you should make sure that you limit your caffeine intake to no more than one cup of coffee a day. You may even want to consider cutting out caffeine entirely if you’re still regularly anxious.

Worrying About Finances

Money concerns can be one of the most anxiety-triggering circumstances because it brings on tangible concerns. Not being able to pay for your rent or put food on the table is deeply concerning.

Unexpected bills arriving may throw your plans for a loop and lead you to feel out of control. If financial woes are consistently bringing on anxiety, consider hiring a financial advisor, or taking action to remedy your money situation.  Sometimes small efforts can have a big pay off. 

Social Events Can cause Anxiety

Once you start to identify your triggers, you’ll be better equipped to control and avoid them coming on. Knowledge is power. Therefore, by knowing what may bring on an attack, you can equip yourself with coping strategies that will help during challenging moments. One of the best techniques in this case is relaxation.

Panic Attacks and Low Self Esteem

Panic attacks happen to a lot of people. According to the Cleveland Clinic up to 11% of Americans suffer from them. Most panic attacks last for between 5 and 10 minutes (NHS 2020) and cause symptoms similar to a heart attack. As well as getting treatment, there are things you can do to help yourself manage this problem, especially if low self esteem is part of the cause.

I have a great deal of experience of suffering from low self esteem and working with clients who need to build self esteem and confidence. Let’s start with a description of what panic attacks are and how they may be partly caused by low self esteem.

Low self esteem can cause anxiety, depression and stress. Panic attacks can result from extreme anxiety and sudden stress. Building self esteem and confidence can help reduce the fear that is often behind the attacks.

What Causes Panic Attacks?

A Traumatic Event 

Trauma is closely linked to panic attacks (Bryant and Panasetis, 2001).

If something traumatic happened to you, revisiting the memory of the occurrence could invite a panic attack. For example, if you get in a car accident, you may be extremely anxious whenever it’s time to drive again. Any time you face this situation the sudden stress can trigger a panic attack with symptoms that make you feel like you are having a heart attack.

Personal triggers such as these may happen unconsciously without you even realizing it. It’s essential to identify your triggers so that you can avoid them and know how to handle them without losing control. Getting medical advice about your possible triggers and what you can do about them is very important.

Traumatic events may take time to recover from, but you can begin the work you need to do as soon as you have guidance from a professional.

Stress and Anxiety Are Closely Related

Being susceptible to anxiety increases the probability of having panic attacks, according to this study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 1997. Anxiety is the fear you may feel as a result of stress (see Healthine.com), therefore stress can cause panic attacks.

Everyone experiences some stress from time to time. Between getting stuck in traffic or receiving a bill, most people feel stressed at some point. However, chronic stress on a daily basis can start to take its toll on your well being, both mental and physical. It’s important that you limit your exposure to stress as much as possible, especially if you’re frequently experiencing panic attacks. Letting it go on too long could cause a variety of health issues and even worsen your feelings of anxiety. 

Stress can be made worse by low self esteem. Negative thinking, lack of confidence and negative self talk can all increase your fears, anxiety and stress. Building your self esteem can have very positive effects on your mental health and stress levels.

Depending on how severe your level of stress is, it may be necessary to get help. See a professional or talk to your doctor for guidance how to ease your stress and manage it better. If your stress levels are not severe, and if you have checked with your doctor, you may find different forms of self help make you feel much better.

There is much more information on this page about dealing with anxiety.

Social Anxiety Can Lead to Panic

Some people get extremely worried of being around strangers. Social Anxiety Disorder is the fear of what others will say or think and the possibility of being embarrassed or judged by others (according to this article published in the Lancet in 2008).

The article goes on to explain that Social anxiety can cause full-fledged panic attacks due to the fear of social situations. If you notice problems when you’re in public situations, then perhaps social anxiety was triggering your attacks. 

Low self esteem can be one of the causes of Social Anxiety Disorder because it increases negative thoughts and self-criticism (this article published in Comprehensive Psychiatry, 2015).

The good news is that social anxiety is completely treatable over time. You can learn the necessary tools to control your feelings and navigate social situations without an anxiety attack. 

Low Self Esteem Can Cause Panic Attacks

Low self esteem has been discovered to be connected to panic attacks (see Boscarino and Adams, 2009). Another study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2010, found that those suffering from low self esteem had more frequent panic attacks.

One reason why low self esteem may cause panic attacks is that it increases stress in social situations, which can lead to social anxiety disorder, (as discussed above). I have experienced this first hand. At school I was extremely shy and lacking confidence, so much so that I was terrified of being asked a question in class or being put on the spot in front of others. I now realise that I was suffering from social anxiety though fortunately it didn’t cause panic attacks.

As I discovered, building self esteem was necessary to improve my confidence and feel better about social interactions. Nowadays I have transformed myself into a much more sociable person and I am much happier as a result.

Relationship Problems Can Be Very Stressful

If you are often experiencing arguments with family friends or your partner, then it’s likely a huge reason for your anxiety. Relationship problems can make you feel like you have no support system. If arguing is a common theme in your life, then consider talking to a therapist (Forbes.com) about how to improve your communication skills. 

Self esteem plays a role in your relationships and can have a positive or negative effect. Please check if you have relationship issues that may be caused by low self esteem.

Conclusion

Whatever triggers your anxiety is important to know. Anxiety can develop into more serious symptoms such as panic attacks. Low self esteem makes it worse so it is important to fix this.

By identifying and getting to know your triggers, you can learn how to cope with your anxiety rather than be a victim of it. Stay consistent and try to lead as healthy a lifestyle as possible. Over time you can build your self esteem and confidence and overcome your anxiety and ease your worries. Be sure to get advice first and use self help strategies to further help yourself to relax.

Self Help Strategies That May Help You With Low Self Esteem and Anxiety

Try the following to lesson your anxiety, stress and combat the causes of the fear that is behind panic attacks:

  • Build self esteem. There is so much advice on how to do this but you should start here.
  • Boost your self confidence. Download my audio “A More Confident You.” This will guide you on the path to supreme confidence!
  • Listen to positive inspirational audiobooks.
  • Try meditation. So much research proves that it truly works.
  • Make a challenge for yourself each week. Some may come up naturally, but if not think about something that will move you forward. Just a small positive step each week will soon make all the difference. Write about each success and challenge in your journal and build up a record of motivating successes!
  • Try self hypnosis. Again, thousands of visitors to this website, just like you, have found this immensely helpful.
  • Use positive affirmations.
  • Practice gratitude. Here’s a video on my YouTube Channel where I explain how to make this work for you.

How Effective is CBD Oil for Self Esteem or Anxiety?

After nearly a century of being unjustifiably classified as a dangerous substance and deemed illegal to grow in the United States, hemp has finally been legalized at the federal level.

This is a great leap forward in the treatment of a variety of chronic and acute health problems which have been shown to be alleviated with the use of certain cannabis-based products, particularly those which are infused with the cannabinoid known as cannabidiol, or CBD for short.

It’s no surprise the rate of hemp consumption in the U.S. has seen a steady increase in recent years and will see an almost exponential increase due to the recent push to make it legal to grow across all states.

The growing popularity of CBD oil-infused products – is welcomed by many as a positive change in medicine.

A natural compound found in cannabis, CBD oil has been shown to help reduce inflammation, manage stress, and provide relief for certain types of pain.

People also report using CBD for an energy boost to get through the day. While not conclusive, some research even suggests products infused with CBD oil can help improve heart health.

All these benefits come with virtually no negative side effects. In fact, no amount of CBD consumption has ever been shown to be lethal.

Used to treat and manage severe pain, prescription opioids have been prescribed to millions of Americans despite the high risk of addiction.

While not a treatment for opioid addiction, CBD oil can be used as a maintenance medication for those in the process of recovery. Both in terms of its potential painkilling properties and the psychological effect of consuming a substance meant to reduce stress and anxiety, using harmless CBD as a partial replacement for dangerous opioids is showing promise.

As the opioid addiction epidemic continues to grow in the U.S. and other developed nations, more and more heads are turning to cannabis-based treatments for pain, depression, and addiction recovery.

References

  • Batelaan, N. M., de Graaf, R., Spijker, J., Smit, J. H., van Balkom, A. J., Vollebergh, W. A., & Beekman, A. T. (2010). The course of panic attacks in individuals with panic disorder and subthreshold panic disorder: a population-based study. Journal of Affective Disorders121(1-2), 30-38.
  • Boscarino, J. A., & Adams, R. E. (2009). Peritraumatic panic attacks and health outcomes two years after psychological trauma: Implications for intervention and research. Psychiatry Research, 167(1-2), 139-150.
  • Cleveland Clinic Website. (2020). Panic Attacks: Panic Disorder. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4451-panic-disorder
  • Greenberg J, Solomon S, Pyszczynski T, et al. Why do people need self-esteem? Converging evidence that self-esteem serves an anxiety-buffering function. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1992 Dec;63(6):913-922. DOI: 10.1037//0022-3514.63.6.913.
  • Hammond DC. Hypnosis in the treatment of anxiety- and stress-related disorders. Expert Rev Neurother. 2010;10(2):263-273. doi:10.1586/ern.09.140
  • Healthline.com. (2020). Stress and Anxiety: Causes and Management. https://www.healthline.com/health/stress-and-anxiety
  • Iancu, I., Bodner, E., & Ben-Zion, I. Z. (2015). Self-esteem, dependency, self-efficacy and self-criticism in social anxiety disorder. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 58, 165-171.
  • NHS Website. (2020). Panic Disorder. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/panic-disorder/
  • T Pyszczynski, J Greenberg, S Solomon, J Arndt, J Schimel. (2004). Why do people need self-esteem? A theoretical and empirical review. Psychological bulletin. 130 (3), 435.
  • Rosenberg, M. (1962). The association between self-esteem and anxiety. Journal of Psychiatric Research.
  • Schmidt, N. B., Lerew, D. R., & Jackson, R. J. (1997). The role of anxiety sensitivity in the pathogenesis of panic: Prospective evaluation of spontaneous panic attacks during acute stress. Journal of abnormal psychology, 106(3), 355.
  • Stein, M. B., & Stein, D. J. (2008). Social anxiety disorder. The Lancet, 371(9618), 1115-1125.
  • Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological bulletin139(1), 213.

Website Author and Your Guide

Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.