Existential Anxiety, Self Image and Self Esteem

If you feel you are a complete and whole human being then skip this article.

This article is for those who doubt, who seek perfection, who judge, who struggle to avoid failure at all costs, for those who feel something is missing in them. This is for those who need to justify themselves, who struggle to find proof that they are a complete and good person.

In all your shortcomings, your lack, your inadequacies, your failings, did you know that you are perfect at being a human being? How could you be anything else?

Humour me in my therapy-speak, there might be something in this. These ideas are not new but have their uses.

Indulge me for a moment.

A rock is completely and totally a rock. It does not have to explain itself or prove itself, it can’t help but be wholly and truthfully a rock. This is the same for a flower or a cat, neither need to complete any procedure in order to be fully fledged flowers or cats. Whatever happens to them they are totally and fundamentally true and honest beings. Cats and flowers come in all shapes and sizes but they cannot be anything else but themselves.

Humans have consciences and have minds that strive and create and investigate. We have the ability and awareness to judge ourselves and compare ourselves to others or what we <em>could</em> be or feel we <em>should</em> be. However, conscience is another part of being human along with attributes like Origami, basket weaving or singing (OK, birds sing but you know what I mean).

The mind has the ability to think outside the box, to look in on itself and trash what it sees with self consciousness and self criticism. Like the hoover that sucks itself up into nothingness.

However, whatever we think, we are still being human, everything we do and think is human, it is inescapable. We cannot fail at being human.

You may say (and you will.. I know you) that being human is not enough, that we should strive for being more, that inadequacy and weakness is just not good enough and it is lazy to ‘just be human’ and we have no right to let ourselves off the hook. But this striving, this effort to be more than human is simply another aspect of being human.

A flower, however hard it tries, is always a flower, a dog is no less a dog however many rabbits it chases. A dog can be a bad dog but it’s still a dog.

Why am I saying all this?

Mental health is a big issue and how we think about our self-image, self-esteem and confidence is important for mental well-being. Finding ways to be more comfortable in ourselves, to be more at peace could provide an important step for many sufferers.

It is easy to use our minds destructively, to chip away at our true nature and wholeness. The mind is so active and searching and critical that it has the ability to undermine itself and put doubt and guilt and judgement where there could be innocence and wholeness.

Acceptance and forgiveness, new thinking and imagination are cornerstones of a healthy mind. And good therapy.

This article may fail to interest you but it cannot fail to be human.

Andrew Cunningham is director of <a href=”http://www.findinghelp.co.uk&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Finding Help Ltd</a> and runs the popular anxiety magazine site <a href=”http://www.modern-anxiety.com&#8221; target=”_hplink”>Modern Anxiety</a>

A Therapy business before Google and mobile phones

It’s hard to imagine life before Google and the mobile phone.

When I first started out as a hypnotherapist in 2001 I had the bright idea of getting a posh address. Harley St was the poshest address in London for the healing professions ( and still is)  so I dialled up the words Hypnotherapy and Harley St on a mysterious thing called a search engine.

Years before Google there were a collection of odd websites that you used to search the web. I can remember how disappointing and unappealing the experience was, is this the new world of web? Not very exciting. The early search engines would produce an odd array of results which were rarely matched to what you were looking for. But ‘going on the web’ everyone said, was going to be the future so get with the program Grandad.

I can remember walking around Oxford St in London’s West End and thinking how to promote myself. I had the idea of creating a website to promote myself as a therapist. This was an odd idea at the time. It seems odder now that it was odd then. Up till that point it was Yellow Pages or an advertisement in a paper.

The idea that punters would search ‘online’ for a therapist who had a ‘website’ was pretty novel. The privacy that web searching would give seemed attractive, a private search on a computer for help with your secret fear or worry.  However a website back then seemed a bit cheap, a slightly garish way of promoting a business. Flipping through the Yellow Pages is what people had been doing for so long, going on to a computer to find a professional was definitely odd.

Having a mobile phone back then was pretty unusual too. Business people had Blackberries but ordinary people wouldn’t have a mobile phone, it seemed a bit flash and pretentious. Like pretending to be something in the city, a bit Arthur Daley. I was a therapist not a city trader.

So each day I would check the answerphone in the office by dialling in a code to retrieve any new messages.

Because I was one of the first therapists to have a website and web searches were in their infancy, it was hard to imagine the future of business advertising. It was hard to predict the situation we have now where one click on a Stop Smoking Adwords link costs you £5.

I was lucky because I was early in the game and my site was top of the searches for not much outlay. As Google starting to come through and online searching became the thing to do, my website was well placed. I was king of the therapy pages.

And of course the web got busier and busier, Google got better and better. The ads got more and more expensive and the hoops to go through to get your website seen became more and more demanding. Long gone was a few keywords at the top of the page. Content became king, proper content, not a few links and a keyword in capitals.

In 2005 I had the bright idea of making therapy videos because there was not one informational therapy video on the web at that time!

I sold my first video download in the first minute of going live. However within 12 months Youtube had exploded and grown from a few skateboard clips to a massive free resource. Only the really business savvy would have guessed back then, that giving everything away on Youtube would become a business opportunity.

Giving it all away must still rankle for the world of print let alone the therapy world.

Time Out, the London listings magazine was king for years and was not cheap to buy. Now they pay people to give copies away at Charing Cross station.

How the mighty have fallen.

How Avoidance Creates Anxiety

Avoiding fear is the main way to maintain or increase anxiety. Annoying but true.

Each time you make a plan to avoid some fearful situation it may seem like a good idea or even a little victory, but the reality is your anxiety has won another battle. And you are left depleted.

Avoiding an uncomfortable situation starts out as quite a sensible move. It is logical to avoid discomfort and to make a plan to find the path of least resistance. However when you repeat the pattern a number of times your confidence is slowly but surely being eroded.

What starts out as a safety procedure slowly becomes a prison routine.

This pattern of avoidance can be developed in a thousand unintentional ways. From choosing one mode of transport over another because one is ‘safer’. To being ‘picky’ about what food you eat in order to reduce the chance of getting sick.

Almost any form of social embarrassment can be become an anxiety if practiced. From needing the toilet, to blushing or sweating or stomach noises. If it’s on your list of ‘must avoids’ then anxiety is close behind.

Modern times has produced Modern Anxiety not just because life is busier and more pressurised but also because we are offered so many opportunities to avoid what we don’t like.

As we plan ever more intricate ways of avoiding possible discomfort our self-esteem is taken down another notch.

How Avoidance Creates Anxiety