By Tracy Clifford
“If you knew you were fully loved, if you knew that you were whole and worthy exactly as you are just for being intrinsically you, your anxiety would disappear.” – Sheryl Paul
Anxiety is often viewed as a fear based response to things you cannot control. One in five Americans suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder. Both biological and environmental factors can contribute to anxiety, and its close cousin, depression. But when I read Sheryl Paul’s thoughts on anxiety, I started to see it in an entirely new way. I always viewed anxiety, fear, and control as closely linked. But I never truly viewed anxiety as the deep fear that you are not truly loved. I’m now starting to understand the interdependent nature of high anxiety and low self-esteem.
At the root of most anxious feelings is the fear of loss. If you have relationship anxiety, you might fear that your partner will leave you. If you have health anxiety, you might imagine that you have an incurable disease that will lead you to a certain death. If you have social anxiety, you might avoid gatherings of people because you’re afraid you’ll do or say the wrong thing. Or maybe your anxiety is the more run of the mill, mundane kind. You might be worried about the security of your job. Or you might think you won’t meet a deadline for school. Or maybe your anxiety is just like a dull throb, always in the back of your mind, with a source and a presence you can’t name.
I would argue that most of our anxiety comes from a fear of being alone in this world. Some may feel this more urgently than others. Our culture seems preoccupied with finding ways to assuage anxiety. But I’d like to offer a different viewpoint. Anxiety is not something to be resisted, but rather, understood. When you acknowledge anxiety, you can diffuse it. When you call it out, it threatens you less.
How would it feel if you knew that even if you failed, you would still be loved? You would feel safe. Anxiety cannot survive in a secure heart. If you have healthy self-esteem, you are not afraid to be vulnerable. You are not afraid to make mistakes. You feel an unconditional sense of acceptance – from yourself, from your loved ones, and from your higher power (if you believe in one). While anxiety is a normal condition, it does not flourish in the life of a person who feels solidly grounded in love.
If you struggle with serious levels of anxiety, it’s likely you may have tried medication or cognitive behavioral therapy – today’s most common treatment plan. For most people it works. If it works for you, by all means continue. But if you find yourself still challenged by anxious thoughts, I’d suggest you ask yourself the following: Do you feel truly loved and accepted in this world? Do you know, even if the worst outcome befell you, that you would find the strength within yourself and in your loved ones to withstand it? Do you know that you are beautiful just the way you are?
Self-esteem means believing in yourself and trusting that you did what was best in any given situation. Keep in mind that your self-esteem is based on your belief system – which is a blend of the way you feel about yourself and the way you believe others see you. Your view of yourself influences your perception of what you can do, how you get along with others, and how you cope with problems.
If you’ve dealt with breakup and divorce, your self-esteem may be lowered for some time due to the situation. Learning to love yourself is an inner journey which involves examining your past from a fresh perspective. If you can’t believe you are good enough, how can you believe a new partner would choose you? Take the time to investigate any carry over from the past that might impact your current relationships. Make a commitment to get rid of self-sabotaging guilt and fear. You deserve to have your needs met and you are worthy of love.
People who suffer from anxiety live in a world they view to be unsafe and unpredictable. And quite frankly, they’re right. The world is unsafe and unpredictable, full of ways to break your heart. The treatment for anxiety is not to convince you that the world is wonderful and that everything will be okay. The quite terrific task, is instead, to show you that even if something bad happens, you can endure. When you believe in your own resilience, and when you know that you are fundamentally strong and worthy just because you’re you, you stop viewing the world as volatile and precarious. Instead, it seems like a place without limits.
I’d love to read your comments about your fears of finding or keeping love and how that ties into your self-worth. Thanks! Tracy
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