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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?
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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!
- 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//0022-35188.8.131.523.
- 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
- 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.
- Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological bulletin, 139(1), 213.
Website Author and Editor Bio
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA) and author of Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 and is an expert in Self Esteem and Self Confidence.