Anxiety and Self-Worth
No wonder by the time we are in our 30's and 40's we suddenly start to feel anxiety that we never experienced before! The snowball has grown!!!
Last week I shared a blog about how Self-Worth (SW) is, to me, at the core of so much of who we are. It can have such a positive or negative impact on our lives, depending on how we see our worth and how that leads us to show up in every aspect of our lives. Over the next few weeks I’m going to share some thoughts on how the problem of not developing your SW shows up in so many different ways, for many different people.
Today we’re starting with ANXIETY because that is surely something most of us know at least a little bit about! (I also wrote about anxiety a few weeks back if you want to take a look at different symptoms and how it shows up for everyone differently).
So, how could Self-Worth be impacting your anxiety levels?
Here’s my theory: Anxiety is a snowball- not a single event. That means every time in life that you have been given the message that something, whether physically or emotionally, could be dangerous or potentially hurtful, your brain sends you a message to be aware, concerned, or ready to implement that fight-flight-freeze response if necessary. Anxiety is your brain’s alarm system that something could hurt you.
When events that have caused the alarm to go off aren’t properly processed, your brain ties those feelings to the memory forever because it doesn’t know what else to do with them. It just stockpiles the emotion. It starts a snowball. Properly processing the events means that by the end of the day, you have accepted that you are safe, you aren’t at fault, and that your worth hasn’t changed based on the day’s events.
I’m not just talking about severely traumatic events (although those definitely contribute here). I’m talking about tripping on stage in front of the entire elementary school, middle school mean girl run-ins, subtle messages from family that you are worthless, boyfriends cheating, failing tests. All of these experiences are emotionally unsafe.
Our brains are wired to protect us. Unfortunately, sometimes we hold on to emotions that we need to let go of. As the emotions build from each of these events they cause “Negative Core Beliefs” to form about yourself such as:
I’m not good enough (probably the most common I see in women)
It’s unsafe to share emotions
I’m a failure
Once we establish a negative core belief, every time something happens (again, big or small) that sets off our alarm and FEELS similar, it gets added to the anxiety snowball. So in the moment when you are sitting in your boss’ office, getting a bad annual review and you can feel your breathing get shallow and your hands start to sweat- you aren’t just experiencing the stress from that moment. You are feeling the emotion from every unprocessed memory that has given you the feeling of your negative core belief (say in this case, “I’m being told I’m not good enough”). No wonder by the time we are in our 30’s and 40’s we suddenly start to feel anxiety that we never experienced before! The snowball has grown!!!
How does SW fit into this equation? Because your self-worth has been grounded in a serious belief that you aren’t good enough (or any of the others I listed above and countless others). That is where you are operating from on a daily basis now because of all these messages you have been given.
One of the things I work with clients on in therapy is revisiting some of those major events that have contributed to the negative core belief and we reprocess them from a different lens- one of reclaiming your SW in that moment. You can look back on those moments and rewrite what you tell yourself you are worth on that day. As we go through and define your SW for yourself (not by what others told you on that day), the snowball diminishes. The anxiety melts away.
It’s absolutely possible to redefine your self-worth and undo what was planted, even at a young age. If this sounds like the work you are finally interested in doing, I challenge you today to make the call. Contact me so we can start the journey of increasing your self-worth so we can get rid of that anxiety, once and for all!
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