Updated: Aug 31
Do you find yourself in a constant battle with insecurity and worry? It may come as no surprise to find out that when we struggle with anxiety, we often struggle with low self-esteem(1). Take a moment to think about it. If you struggle with anxiety, the central theme is worry. When we struggle with anxiety, we worry about the future, about things not going according to plan. We worry about being on time, about where to park. We worry about every little detail of our day until we go to bed – Hey, sometimes we even worry if we will be able to fall asleep, or if we will be up all night with insomnia. When we struggle with low self-esteem, a central theme can also be worry. We worry about how we look, how others think we look, which clothes to wear, the car we drive, the house we live in, the friends we make, the job we have, the school we attend, the way we act, what we say, the way others view us, the way we view ourselves… On and on we worry. Now, does it still seem like such a surprise that anxiety and low-self-esteem often coincide?
What is it and where does it come from?
A bigger question stands: Where does insecurity and worry come from and what can we do to overcome these worries?
First let's explore what self-esteem is. Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself(2). Low self-esteem can be characterized as being critical of yourself, downplaying or ignoring your positive qualities, thinking you are inferior to others, using negative adjectives to describe yourself, using negative self-talk, and being overly critical of yourself(2).
Now, you might be wondering what causes low self-esteem. Research shows low self-esteem can be caused by many things. It can be caused by being raised in an overly critical household, poor treatment by others, poor performance in life, disabilities, and mental illness(2).
It makes sense, right? If we grow up in a household that is overly critical, or receive constant poor treatment by others, that can easily rub off on us, causing us to not only be self-conscious of criticism from others, but to become a harsh critic of ourselves.
The National Institute for Mental Health describes anxiety symptoms as: feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge, being easily fatigued, having difficulty concentrating, being irritable, having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains, difficulty controlling feelings of worry, and having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep(3). These are all common symptoms of anxiety, but where does the anxiety itself come from? Well, both genetics and environment can affect anxiety symptoms. Some symptoms can be caused by: shyness and distress in your upbringing, exposure to stressful events, history of mental illness in your family, health conditions, and even things such as the intake of caffeine(3). Have you ever noticed feeling a little more antsy after having a cup of coffee, or is that just me? Caffeine can increase our anxiety symptoms, so if you experience anxiety it may be beneficial to lower your caffeine intake occasionally.
How can I help?
I know you’re still sitting there asking yourself, okay, I understand a little better why I may be feeling this way, but how can I make it better? I have good news for you – there is hope for improvement! There are a variety of coping skills that have been found to both improve our confidence and improve symptoms of anxiety. These coping skills can include having a support system, meditating and exercising regularly, and more. Check out my next blog, “Coping Skills for Anxiety and Low Self-Esteem” for a more in-depth look at different coping skills.
Katelyn Winslow, AMFT