Fear and Self Esteem
Many people feel fear, anxiety or resistance when tackling their issues. This is normal because the process of change is often difficult. To help you become more comfortable starting your journey to build your self esteem, we have recorded the following Relaxation Audio. A relaxation audio requires you to do nothing more than sit comfortably with your eyes closed, with the recoding playing on stereo headphones. If your mind wanders, that is fine: there is no right or wrong to what your mind should be doing. However it is imperative that you do not listen to this recording while operating equipment or machinery, including whilst driving a vehicle:
Fear and anxiety are like a vice: they make us cling to things and people and zap the joy and happiness from our life. It is important to not only be aware of our fears, anxiety and insecurities, but also recognize if and when they prevent us from living life to the fullest. It takes a lot of courage to break free from fear, but it is worth it because the antithesis of fear is freedom.
When we are afraid, our fear becomes the focus of our attention. When this happens we are unable to fully see what else is going on in our world. Our fear actually short-circuits the more rational processing parts of our brain.
You are probably visiting the school of self esteem because you want to feel better about yourself, but are afraid to take the first step! That is normal.
You are beginning an exploration, looking for the answers on how to feel good and have unbridled energy for life. You may also be asking yourself questions like: Am I worthy and lovable? What is my life purpose? I understand that you want to satisfy a hunger that you have harbored for a long time—the desire to feel good, worthwhile, and truly loved. These questions are important, and the School of Self Esteem exists to help you figure out the answers.
To feel unsure about embarking on such a journey is understandable. You can’t really be sure where you will end up at the end of this. It is common to experience fear before taking that first step. Your inner need for change is facing off against your inner demon of self-doubt which may be saying, ‘I’m worthless’ or ‘Don’t let anyone see me fail.’ The first step is the hardest, and I am happy to inform you that you have already taken it: you’ve decided to search, you found the School of Self Esteem and you are reading this.
Need inspiration to take the next step?
It’s time to stop running!
I bet you have never been advised to stop running from your fears. Likewise, you have never been told to familiarize yourself with them either. Rather, you have probably been told to look on the bright side, smooth things over, brush it under the rug, take a pill, and/or distract yourself. In other words, do what you have to do to make it go away, so that you can talk about something else.
Most people desperately try to avoid pain. Have you ever tried to ignore a problem, forget about it, or pretend it doesn’t exist? Have you ever self-medicated with drugs and/or alcohol, exercise, or overeating? Did it work? Did it provide a solution to your problem?
Recognizing unhealthy coping mechanisms that prompt denial and avoidance is important. It is the starting point to developing a relationship with it. While using your coping mechanisms is understandable, your anxiety is preventing you from enjoying the present. You also lose the opportunity to face your problems and fears, as well as the opportunity to change yourself and/or the situation.
OK that is enough heavy stuff for now. Relieved? That’s understandable. Disappointed? Don’t be, there is plenty to make you think in our free course, Introduction to Self Esteem Course for Adults.
Self Sabotage: Why You Get in Your Own Way
I bet you have heard the phrase – you are your own worst enemy. This phrase has applied to everyone at one time or another. How many times have you kicked yourself for the self-destructive things that you have said or done? It is called self-sabotage. And, research suggests that it is quite common. Self-sabotaging behaviors are perpetuated by negative self-talk. Author, Robert Firestone, has labeled this negative self-talk as your “critical inner voice.”
According to Firestone, your “critical inner voice” is a cruel “anti-self,” that resides inside of yourself. It is not your friend. In fact, it can’t wait for you to fail. It casts doubt on your abilities, undermines your desires, and provokes paranoia and suspicion towards yourself and those closest to you. This evil “anti-self” fills your mind with self-sabotaging thoughts that hold you back, and/or steer you away from your desired goals.
Moreover, your “critical inner voice” or negative self-talk is typically formed during childhood and adolescence, but it can also be formed later in life. Now, this should sound familiar, as it fits with what has been covered in previous chapters. People tend to internalize attitudes that they learned early in life. For example, if your parent called you “stupid,” every time you made a mistake or failed something, then eventually you start to believe that you are “stupid,” whenever you are not successful.
As a result your self-esteem and self-confidence suffers. To prevent feeling inadequate and “stupid,” you work ten times harder than everyone else around you, often to the determinant to your relationships and health. Self-sabotaging behaviors can make you believe that you are worthy, and as a result you may resign to those negative thoughts.
In the 1970s, Steven Berglas and Edward E. Jones, psychologists, performed a study in which students could decide whether or not to take a drug that would inhibit (i.e. decrease) their academic performance on an exam. Would you take this drug? Probably not. Why would anybody take this? Surely, no rational students would agree to take a drug that would reduce their academic performance, or would they?
Before presenting the students with the choice, Jones and Berglas gave the students a problem-solving test, in which half of the test consisted of “easy” questions, and the other half consisted of “harder” ones. One group of students was instructed to answer the “easy” questions, and one group was instructed to answer the “harder” ones. Once the students completed the exam, they were given feedback, regardless of their actual performances. The students that were instructed to answer the “easy” questions were more likely to decline the “performance enhancer” (as you’d expect), while the students who were instructed to answer the “harder” questions were more likely to accept the drug. Wow! Really? Yes, really.
According to Jones and Berglas, the students, who were instructed to answer the “harder” problems accepted the drug because they believed that their performances where the result of chance. These students looked for an excuse, in case they performed poorly on the exam (i.e. “a crutch”). The students, who were told that they were brilliant, however, without knowing how they actually performed did significantly better on future exams, than those, who believed or were told that they performed poorly.
Recent research confirmed that people use self-handicaps, as a way to protect their self-esteems and egos. In the event of a failure, one can point to the handicap as the reason. Research has also shown that people often use a variety of strategies to self-handicap, including: withdrawing effort, listening to distracting music, and/or ingesting drugs or alcohol, prior to an important exam. Self-handicapping is more likely to occur when you feel uncertain about something.
It is also common to self-sabotage relationships. When you feel unlovable, you are more likely to choose a “bad” partner. Why? Well, deep down you feel that you are not worthy, and that a “good” partner would not want you. Therefore, you sabotage the “good” relationships. You disrespect your “good” partners because they love you. But, when they aren’t interested, you are attracted to them all over again. This attraction persists until you are bonded to the other person. Unfortunately, your low self-esteem creates a vicious cycle.
You also sabotage yourself when you are emotional. How many people get drunk the night before their wedding, then get married hung over? Quite a few. My self-sabotaging took a different form. The first couple of times that I was scheduled to see a therapist, I “forgot” the appointment – failing to show up. I guess I was worried about the turmoil that would arise during the session. The key, for me, at the time, was avoidance. Having done this with three other therapists over the years, I now know that it is systematic.
The urge to shoot yourself in the foot seems stronger in men than in women. Surveys have measured this tendency by asking people to rate how well a series of statements describes their own behaviors. For example, “I try not to get too intensely involved in competitive activities, so it won’t hurt so much if I lose or perform poorly.” Men tend to score higher on these measures, and as a result, handicap themselves more severely.
But, this tactic doesn’t fool many people. In fact, one study evaluated adults on behaviors commonly exhibited in the workplace. The participants’ impressions of certain co-workers began to sour after the second time they cited handicaps. According to Dr. McElroy, researcher, “What happens here is that, if you do it often, observers attribute your performance to you, but begin to view it as part of your disposition (i.e. you’re a whiner).”
Dr. Kegan of Harvard University shares an interesting story of a man, who was prescribed a life-saving medication needed for his heart condition. The patient did not take the medication. Why? When Dr. Kegan met the patient, he discovered that he associated the medication with his father, who he saw as frail, and in constant need of the medicine for his own heart condition. The patient did not take the lifesaving medication because he didn’t want to feel old.
Why have I shared this study on self-sabotage with you? Well, because I want you to discover how you can self-sabotage yourself! It will not be easy. In fact, that quiet little voice in your head will, at times, be hard to hear. But, it is there, and it will become omnipotent when the time comes to implement your personal changes!
So, how do you self-sabotage?