causes of anxiety

Anxiety is a topic that needs more awareness and understanding. There are currently 40 million adults and 4.4 million children who have anxiety disorders (cdc.gov, 2020). I discuss the definition of anxiety and its various symptoms here.  This article will focus on the causes of anxiety and different anxiety disorders in children and adults.

WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?

causes of anxiety

It is important to understand that people experience anxiety at various times throughout their lives. However, anxiety becomes problematic when it interferes with a person’s ability to function.

Genetics

There is a genetic factor to anxiety. Just as a person may have a history of cancer in the family, it is possible to inherit anxiety as well.

Learned Anxiety

Children can pick up on the behaviors and feelings of other people. As a result, they may inherit those feelings. For example, if a parent is afraid of dogs and reacts anxiously whenever a dog is present, the child may start feeling anxiety around dogs as well. “Children can pick up anxious behaviors from being around anxious people” (nhs.uk).

Pressure

If a child feels constant pressure to perform a certain way in school or sports, they may develop anxiety. Similarly, if an adult feels constant pressure (e.g., at work or financial), this can trigger anxiety.

School related issues

Bullying and a lack of friends in school may result in anxiety.

Loss

This includes the death of a loved one (person or animal), as well as divorce

Unstable environment

Examples include constant fighting in the home, lack of consistency due to frequent moving, and/or frequently changing schools

Abuse/trauma

This includes neglect, abuse, and/or witnessing or involvement in a traumatic event.

Health

Having a serious illness or injury in an accident can cause anxiety.

Comorbid conditions

“If a child has ADHD and/or autism, they are more likely to have problems with anxiety” (nhs.uk). The misuse or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol may also cause or increase anxiety. Additionally, “people with other mental health disorders, such as depression, often also have an anxiety disorder” (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

Unknown

There are simply some people whose personality makes it more likely that they will develop an anxiety disorder. For instance, some people have a higher tolerance to stress. On the contrary, others are more prone to anxiety.

TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS IN CHILDREN AND ADULTS

anxiety disorders in children and adults

There are various anxiety disorders in children and adults.  Additionally, each disorder has different characteristics. This information should give you a fuller understanding of anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

When someone talks about having chronic anxiety, this is what they are typically referring to. For instance, children and adults with GAD experience anxiety about a variety of things (e.g., performance in tasks, relationships with others, and daily life situations). As a result, it is anxiety “that is nearly constant and disproportionate to its causes” (additutdemag, 2018).

Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia

Intense fear about social situations is the hallmark of social anxiety. This includes avoiding social situations, worrying about an upcoming event, not participating in events, difficulty making friends, and avoiding or extreme discomfort when having conversations. It is important to note “some people might exhibit symptoms in only one type of situation, whereas others might experience multiple symptoms in various social situations” (additudemag.com, 2018).

Panic Disorder

Those with this disorder experience panic attacks and extreme terror that comes about unexpectedly. It is characterized by chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, feeling faint, and dizziness.  A child is diagnosed with panic disorder “if your child suffers at least two unexpected panic or anxiety attacks-which means they come on suddenly and for no reason- followed by at least one month of concern over having another attack, losing control, or ‘going crazy’” (adaa.org, 2015).

Separation Anxiety Disorder

It is part of typical development to feel anxiety when separating from a caregiver between the ages of 18 months-3 years. Additionally, children often feel anxious separating from a caregiver when getting dropped off at a new school or environment.  Separation anxiety disorder mostly presents in children between the ages of 7-9. It is characterized by intense and excessive anxiety about being away from home and/or being separated from a parent or caregiver. This can include anxiety that something is going to happen to their loved one while they are away.  

Selective Mutism

This anxiety disorder is associated with a consistent failure to speak in certain social situations. A person with this disorder will freeze around particular people or events, but will speak freely when not triggered.  “It usually starts in adulthood, and if left untreated, can persist into adulthood. A child or adult with selective mutism does not refuse or choose not to speak at certain times, they’re literally unable to speak” (nhs.uk, 2019).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

An anxiety disorder that involves constant thoughts, actions, or impulses that are in intrusive.  As a result, there is a need to perform certain rituals or routines to ease their anxiety. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

An extreme fear or anxiety after a traumatic or life-threatening event. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, being hyperalert/hypervigilant, and avoiding situations that are similar/reminders of the event.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

Although this is not an anxiety disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it is closely related to PTSD.  C-PTSD is a result of prolonged or repeated trauma, and it includes the symptoms of PTSD.  As a person who has C-PTSD and chronic anxiety as a result, I feel it is important to include this. I will address C-PTSD and its complexities in a future article.

Specific Phobia

An intense fear of a specific object, thing, or place. Examples include a fear of spiders, heights, or the dark.  A person with a specific phobia tends to avoid the source of their anxiety. “Unlike adults, they [children] do not usually recognize that their fear is irrational” (adaa.org).

When to Get Professional Help

when to get professional help

It is important to see a doctor if you or your child have anxiety that is interfering with any aspect of your life. Additionally, seek professional help if there are any other mental health or physical concerns. It is important to understand that anxiety can worsen without proper treatment.  Please do not assume that things will get better on their own. Being proactive is the best thing you can do for yourself or your child.

understanding anxiety in children and adults

We have all experienced the feeling of anxiousness. However, when does anxiety become a concern? The purpose of this article is to give a fuller understanding of anxiety in children and adults. It is important to clarify the symptoms of anxiety and recognize when anxiety is more than just a normal part of life.

Understanding anxiety versus worrying

Worrying and anxiety are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Worrying is usually more specific (e.g., worrying about getting a good grade on a test), and it often leads to problem solving (e.g., studying). Alternatively, anxiety is more of a general state of being (e.g., I feel anxious because my best isn’t good enough) that triggers a snowball effect.

A good way to decipher between anxiety and worrying is that, “when you worry, you’re typically thinking about an actual event that’s taking place or is going to take place. But when you’re dealing with anxiety, you tend to hyperfocus on events or ideas that your mind creates” (healthline.com, 2018).  Worrying varies in intensity and you feel a sense of control, whereas anxiety is much more difficult to control.

Another important distinction is where worrying and anxiety are felt. Worrying is something that happens only in your mind. Worrying are thoughts that may be negative or about something that can go wrong. Anxiety, on the other hand, “has a cognitive element (worry) and a physiological response (stress), which means that we experience anxiety in both our mind and our body” (NYTimes.com, 2020).

Understanding Anxiety in Children and Adults

anxiety in children

There is such a thing as anxiety that is healthy. It is a means of our brain and body responding to a perceived sense of danger. Therefore, it is a crucial part of our survival instinct. Anxiousness is something that is common and typical in development, especially as children deal with new experiences and situations. The unknown is frightening for many of us, adults as well as children.

However, there is cause for concern when anxiety is frequent and persistent. Anxiety is often hard to recognize in children because of its cognitive component. Often children have a hard time articulating their thoughts and feelings.  As a result, parents are only aware of the child’s physical and negative behaviors.  Additionally, anxiety may overlap with or present as symptoms of learning disabilities or  Attention Deficit Disorders  (anxiety.org).

There is stigma associated with anxiety.  Adults may resist admitting that anxiety is impacting their quality of life. As a result, they don’t seek professional help. This resistance is largely because of the lack of societal understanding about anxiety. Those with anxiety are often told to “suck it up” or “it isn’t a big deal.” This may cause someone who suffers with anxiety to feel intense shame and self-loathing, only exacerbating the problem.

There are a variety of symptoms that may be experienced by both adults and children with anxiety. When there is a greater understanding about anxiety, it allows for support, empathy, and proper treatment.

Physical/Psychosomatic Symptoms of Anxiety in Children and adults

Below is a list of physical signs of anxiety:

  • Headaches
  • Sleeplessness- this includes difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or frequent bad dreams
  • Stomach aches/cramps
  • Frequently using the bathroom (for bowel movements or urination)
  • Nausea
  • Lack/loss of appetite
  • A general sense of feeling unwell
  • Muscle tension or aches
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Racing heart/rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness/ jittery
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained sweating

This list of physical symptoms are things we have all experienced at some point. In other words, if your child complains of a tummy ache, that doesn’t mean your child has an anxiety disorder. That said, it is worth keeping in mind that there may be more going on than meets the eye if your child is complaining of stomach aches regularly or before/during particular situations.

As grownups, we tend to ignore physical symptoms and assume they will go away. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms frequently, it is probably something worth investigating. Our bodies are often sending us messages, if we are willing to listen to them.

Emotional/Behavioral Symptoms of Anxiety in children and adults

emotional symptoms of anxiety

Below are emotional/behavioral signs of anxiety:

  • Anger and irritability– this may present in children as meltdown, tantrums, and disruptive behavior such as aggression. Adults who experience anxiety may exhibit outbursts, fits of anger, agitation, and hostility. Anger is often overlooked as a symptom of anxiety, but feeling overwhelmed with anxiety can trigger those symptoms.
  • Neediness– children may be clingy, not want to leave their parent or caregiver, or are unable to sleep without a loved one. In both adults and children, they may seek constant reassurance, approval, and validation.
  • Avoidance/Lack of Interaction– examples of this may be a child who refuses to go to school or try out for a team. Specific things or events may cause a grownup or child extreme duress and therefore are avoided. In social situations, the person may appear shy, not speak with others, or avoid social situations entirely.
  • Lack of confidence– examples include repeatedly asking for help or demanding that others do things for them, even when capable of doing it correctly. Feeling inferior and inadequate to others may be due to anxiety.
  • Hypervigilance– frequently asks “what if?”, focuses on the negative sides of things, or always perceives a threat of danger. This person can come across as pessimistic or a complainer.
  • Perfectionism– They have high expectations for themselves in every aspect of their lives, whether it is school, a job, sports, responsibilities. It is great when a person strives to do their best, but there is a line between trying your best and demanding perfection from oneself. 
  • Procrastination– avoidance of things that cause anxiety result in procrastination of those things
  • Distracted/difficulty concentrating- this can be misinterpreted as a focusing issue, but it is excessive worrying and fear that is causing the inability to focus.
  • Controlling– may tell others what to say or do as a type of ritual or have persistent impulses (e.g., repetition of a certain behavior)

When It Is Necessary to Seek Professional Help

If you or your child experience anxiety that is excessive and/or interferes with relationships, other aspects of life, or daily functioning, please speak with a doctor or mental health provider. If you or a loved one are experiencing frequent or several physical symptoms, it is also crucial to seek medical attention.  “Physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be easily confused with other medical conditions…” (National Alliance on Mental Illness, Dec. 2017).

Anxiety is manageable with proper help and support. Recognizing the symptoms is the first step. I hope this article brings you one step closer to understanding anxiety and the many ways it can rear its ugly head. Anxiety is something you shouldn’t have to suffer with silently.

lessons i learned

I think if I had to sum up 2020 in one word, it would be “suffering”. It has been a year of various types of suffering, whether it be emotional, psychological, financial, or physical. It has also been a year where I learned several important lessons.

The world we live in is a world that I never imagined in my wildest dreams. I used to watch apocalyptic shows with my husband and roll my eyes at the outlandish plot…. a deadly virus wipes out everyone- ha! Who knew that would somewhat resemble our reality? 

There is nothing I could write about that would make this pandemic any easier, so I won’t even try to do so. What I will discuss, however, is that this year has made me truly reflect on life in a way that I had never done before. It is in that spirit that I will discuss the lessons that I’ve taken away from this year: 

The Biggest Lesson I Learned in 2020 

don't take the ones you love for granted

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to appreciate the people I have in my life. We are all overwhelmed with responsibilities and struggling to make it through the day. As a result, it is perfectly understandable that we sometimes take the ones we love for granted. That is, until we don’t have them anymore…

My husband’s grandmother unexpectedly passed away due to COVID, and both of my in-laws still struggle with their health daily since contracting the virus 9 months ago. These terrible circumstances forced me to realize a hard truth- the people we have today may not be there tomorrow.  

It is easy to forget that what matters most are the people we carry in our hearts. So often we say, “If only I would have known _____, I would have done________ differently.” There are times when we mean to call but get distracted, where we could have said “I love you” one more time, but didn’t, where we could have reached out to check on a friend or loved one to see how they were feeling, but forgot. Life gets in the way; it happens to all of us.  

This year is different though. We now have a constant reminder that time is fleeting. We cannot turn on a computer or watch the news without seeing the latest death count. The clock is ticking, and now, more than ever, we need to seize the moment so we don’t look back and wish we had done things differently. 

Moving into 2021, I am going to try to remember to focus my attention on prioritizing the people in my life over my to-do list. I will leave the dishes in the sink a little longer, go a few days extra without doing the laundry, and even let my husband get away with not putting his dirty clothes in the hamper. 

At the end of the day, my clean house is not what matters. I still have responsibilities that I need to fulfill as a grown-up, but I want to spend as much of my time as I can on having no regrets. What matters most is my daughter’s infectious laugh, my husband’s embrace, and the people that I love.   

Putting Yourself First: Finding Worth and Validation Inside

validating myself

Although somewhat pandemic related, this lesson I learned is more related to my unique circumstances.  

I started this blog only five months ago. I had no idea what to expect when I first started putting my stories out there. The initial outburst of support was unexpected and meant the world to me. Knowing that my words were helping others warmed my heart and gave me a new purpose besides being a Stay-at-Home-Mom, homeschool teacher, and a wife (all roles which I treasure).  

Things moved more rapidly than I expected, and then came to a halt. Facebook deactivated my profile, which was a huge source of my traffic. My other sources of traffic weren’t consistent and the comments and feedback I was getting weren’t nearly as frequent as they were at the beginning.  

I started a new website hoping that creating better optimization would increase my traffic. It didn’t. Instead, I received a notification that someone unsubscribed. It was like a slap in the face. 

I felt defeated. People no longer cared. I was old news. My content must stink. I guess I’m not a good writer after all. I’m not helping anyone. I put my heart and soul into this, and it was for nothing. My blog is a failure. I’m a failure 

Despite the number of well-known publications that have featured my writing, all I could see were my failures. With each subsequent low traffic post, my self-esteem lowered with it. I had a few more people unsubscribe. This only confirmed the stories I was now telling myself, not only about my blog, but about what it reflected about me as a person. 

It is not easy to write personal, gut wrenching posts and not get the feedback you hope you’d receive. However, this situation taught me a very valuable lesson. 

I spent most of my life relying on others to feel good about myself.  On the flip side, if someone said or did something that I found hurtful, didn’t want to be my friend, or didn’t validate my feelings, I felt worthless. My feelings and my opinion of myself only had merit if others validated them. 

I thought I had improved my codependent ways, and I have made huge strides. However, this blog caused a huge relapse, and I realized that I was relying on this blog to feel valued. My blog was no longer just about helping people; it was about proving to myself that I was good enough as a person and a writer. 

I had two choices: The first was to stop writing the blog and throw in the towel. The other option was to keep writing from my heart and be proud of my hard work, content, and writing no matter what others said or did. I decided to go with option number 2. 

I learned that readers are fleeting, subscribers are fleeting, people’s opinions of me are fleeting. What should never be fleeting is what matters most- my belief in myself. I need to give myself the validation that I was seeking from others. 

No matter the viewers or feedback, my biggest fan always needs to be me. If others like what I’m writing, that is icing on the cake. I can’t convince others to read my words. What I can do is have faith in myself and stand by my words. Everything else is out of my hands. 

I think this is a lesson that we can all apply to our lives. We may not get the validation we seek from others, whether it be from our boss, our family, or our friends. That can cause us to feel that we aren’t good enough in those roles. Parenting is often a thankless job.  Our spouse may not verbalize appreciation for our hard work and effort; the list goes on and on. We can spiral down the rabbit hole of despair and insecurity, or we can remind ourselves that we will never feel good about ourselves if we outsource our feelings of self-worth.  

A painful lesson I learned from 2020 is that we cannot rely on other people to validate our roles and feelings.  It is our job to give that to ourselves.

The Importance Of Self-love and Self-care 

self care bingo

I do not know how to do something halfway. Anything I do, I do to the best of my ability, and I give it my all. Sometimes this can take on a life of its own, and it comes at a cost to myself. 

Blogging is a great example of my extremist mentality. Writing a blog while homeschooling and caring for a child full-time is challenging, to put it mildly. There are only so many hours in a day. Putting out constant content and taking care of a child that needs constant monitoring took a toll on me. My husband also has been working overtime, so I’ve needed take care of my daughter by myself into the night. I was exhausted physically, but also emotionally and psychologically from the topics I write about. Half the night I would stay up rewriting my posts so I could devote the other hours to homeschooling and spending time with Brielle. I also didn’t want the blog to take away time from spending time with my husband after Brielle goes to sleep.

It wasn’t a shock when I became run down. I’ve had cold symptoms on and off for the last month that I kept ignoring. I finally had a telemedicine appointment and was told I have a bad sinus infection and had to take antibiotics. I was running around with a fever and feeling crappy, but still didn’t slow down.  

The first lesson I learned that I discussed in this post was recognizing what is most important in your life. To me, that is the people I love, and that includes myself. I write posts about self-care and self-love, but I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I’ve allowed my mental and physical well-being to fall by the wayside. 

Doing my best means recognizing when to stop. There is only so much I can give and I can do. No matter the circumstances, I must prioritize myself.  

I will continue to blog but will limit the amount of time I do so. Posts are now put out twice a week instead of three times a week. I will incorporate blogging into my daily routine so I’m not up at all hours of the night writing. My self-care rituals will resume, and I will remember that loving and caring for myself cannot be taken for granted. 

 

 

Life is a series of compromises. 2020 is a great indicator of learning when to hold them and when to fold them. Others’ opinions of me and the dirt on the floor- not so much of a priority. Cherishing the ones I love and valuing myself? That is a non-negotiable. I hold the lessons I learned this year close to my heart and will take them with me into the new year.

new holiday traditions

The pandemic has changed the dynamic of the holidays and holiday traditions this year. There are many who are struggling financially and cannot afford gifts. There are those who are grieving over the loss of loved ones. Many are saddened by the lack of being around family and friends who are usually with them to celebrate. Whatever your set of circumstances, I want to share some traditions that I have incorporated during the last few years.

the power of giving and receiving 

I remember the first time Brielle was old enough to appreciate presents. We celebrate Chanukah, which means 8 days and nights of celebrating. In our case, we gave gifts to Brielle for each of those nights. The first few nights Brielle was visibly grateful for her new gifts. By the last few nights, she basically had her hand out expecting to receive something.  After the holiday ended, Brielle continued to ask for gifts. She thought the new holiday tradition was getting nightly presents. My husband and I were saddened that what she had taken away from the holiday was expecting gifts instead of appreciating the ones she was fortunate enough to get.

We decided giving large amounts of gifts was not the way to go. We wanted her to appreciate what she has and recognize that there are others who are not as fortunate.  It was important for us to instill in her that there was more to the holidays than getting materialistic things.

The following year, we implemented a holiday tradition of four days of giving and four days of receiving. That meant that of the 8 nights of Chanukah, she would get something for four of them.  The other four nights were about giving back and coming up with ways to show support for others. If you celebrate Christmas and do gift giving on Christmas Day, you can still have your kids give back as part of their holiday celebration.

places to give back

Some of the things Brielle has done over the years to give include: making cards and cookies for our local firehouse, volunteering at an animal shelter, donating toys and items to Goodwill, writing letters to people who work at hospitals to thank them, donating food at homeless shelters, and putting together packages of toiletry items for the homeless.

This year she was unable to volunteer anywhere because of COVID, but Brielle sent out letters and cards to various hospitals, assisted living and nursing homes, and to our fire department.  She also sent out a get well soon card to a teacher. She felt good knowing that she was bringing joy to others, and she valued the presents she received.

creating cherished holiday traditions

holiday traditions

Another holiday tradition we started incorporating was prioritizing making memories. I know that memories might have involved other people in past years, but memories can still be made. I notice that when I ask Brielle what she liked most or what stood out most to her, she will talk about the times we spend together.

Past memories included taking a road trip to NY while stopping at a hotel in Virginia to spend the night, going ice skating, and taking mini-vacations. Although we can’t have the same experiences this year, there are COVID friendly memories that can be created with your children.

An experience Brielle really enjoyed this Chanukah was watching “The Family Man” in matching pajamas while eating popcorn. Snuggling together in front of the TV was a great memory, and one that I think she will remember far more than any gift.

I also let her pick a dessert (she picked cookies) and we baked them together in our aprons. She made a mess, but she was so proud of herself when the cookies were ready. We also drank hot cocoa in front of the fire and sang Chanukah songs. Another thing Brielle loved was hours of playing dreidel (it is a spinning top). We play using pennies and depending on what side it lands on will determine if you give money, get all the money, get half the money, or everyone puts in money. We also played a TON of board games.

gifts can create memories also

gifts create memories too

The gifts we gave Brielle this year also involved creating memories. She received a jewelry box that she decorated herself using stickers and play dough. She designed in advance which color she would put on each side, which stickers she’d use, and what designs she’s use.  I made some of it with her, and we spend the whole time laughing and enjoying our time together. I also got her a rock painting kit, which had stickers on it that were kindness stickers. She painted them and put them on people’s mailboxes and by their yards. It was a very special activity.

Another memory that we create on the holidays is a scavenger hunt. I write short little clues (Dryer-I go here when I’m wet, I spin round and round, located in the laundry room is where I am found), and Brielle goes around the house collecting the clues. When she finishes she then gets a present. Brielle loves the scavenger hunts so much that the present is secondary.

I hope that when Brielle grows up, she will remember the holiday traditions and times we spent together.  Presents will come and go, but it is the time we spend with our children and the values that we instill in them that truly matters.

Self-Care

the importance of self-care

I touched upon the importance of self-care in my post about surviving motherhood. Self-care is the new buzz word nowadays. With the stress of the pandemic, taking time for our health and stress management is more essential than ever.

What is self-care? Self-care means different things to different people, but essentially it is doing things that support your well-being. Some things might make you happy in the moment (such as eating a box of chocolates of ordering some expensive shoes online); self-care makes you feel good in the long haul.

As I mentioned in my post about self-love, many of us (myself included) feel guilty when we do things for ourselves. However, I have learned that self-care is anything but selfish. It is impossible to pour from an empty cup. If time is not designated for caring for yourself and your well-being, you aren’t in a position to be the best version of yourself. You will feel emotionally and physically drained, overwhelmed, and stressed. A few minutes a day of time dedicated to yourself does wonders for your well-being.

There are many different types of self-care out there and deciding what you need to take care of yourself is different for everyone. The most important thing I can stress is that whatever form of self-care you choose (and it can vary daily), you must stick with it. Incorporate it into your daily routine to ensure that you allocate time for your health and stress management.

TIPS AND STRATEGIES

10 self care tips

Here are some examples of self-care:

1- Exercise– although I hate doing it in the moment, I always feel better about myself afterwards. I designate 4-5 days a week for about 15 minutes each time to do Pilates from the comfort of my own home. My daughter sometimes does it with me, as I feel it is important to teach her how essential it is to take care of your health. I often do this with my husband as well to motivate and encourage one another. You can run, do yoga, go to a gym, or do any type of physical activity. Caring for your physical health translates into improving your mental health as well.

2- Sleep– I vaguely remember what it felt like to get a good night’s sleep before I became a mom. Seriously though, sleep is essential for your physical and mental health. Try to implement a time that is realistic for you to go to sleep nightly, and make sure you follow through. There’s nothing like waking up from a restful sleep. I have several suggestions for improving your quality of sleep and your child’s here.

3- Journaling– I started incorporating 10 minutes a day to writing. Getting my thoughts and feelings onto paper is very therapeutic, and it is a great form of self-care. It also helps me to dig into some of the emotions I’m feeling and figure out the thoughts/story I am telling myself regarding those feelings. Sometimes it takes writing things down to see the false beliefs I am telling myself.

4- Breathing– There are many types of breathing exercises that are meant to calm the mind and the body. Here are a few:

  • 4-7-8: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds.
  • Deep belly breathing: Inhale while filling your stomach with air and then let the air leave your stomach while you exhale. You can do this while doing the 4-7-8.
  • Tensing and releasing your body from head to her toes:  Inhale while tensing/squeezing the body part, hold it for 8 seconds, and then exhale while relaxing/releasing the body part. I start with my feet, working my way upward to my calves, thighs, pelvis, stomach, chest/neck area, arms and hands, and face. At the end I tense everything at the same time, hold, and release. This is a favorite of mine for stress management, and one which I do daily.
  • Taking an inhale and then exhaling for as long as she can while vibrating your lips to make a “wwww” or “ommm” sound.  According to Neurosculpting Instititue, “The researchers found that the vibrations from ‘OM’ chanting stimulate the vagus nerve, which then sends out neurotransmitters and electrical signals that reduce activity to key areas of the brain like the amygdala, associated with our flight/fight/freeze response. In addition, the increased oxygenation of the blood from the vibration facilitates feelings of relaxation and release in the muscles and structure of the body.”

5- Meditation– there are several YouTube videos on how to meditate, but there is no right or wrong way. I meditate by repeating a phrase in my head while closing my eyes and concentrating on my breathing.

6- Reading– If you read my woman behind the blog article, you know that I am an avid reader. Curling up on the couch with a great book is priceless. Some people choose to read self-help books as a form of self-care, but any type of reading is helpful.

7- Coloring– Some people find coloring to be very soothing as it shuts off the noise in your mind as you focus on coloring. Coloring isn’t only for children. There are a number of adult coloring books that you can buy.

being bullied and the lessons i learned

my middle school discomfort

Middle school is not a time of my life that you could pay me to revisit. I think most adults would agree that those years are tough. Your bodies are changing, your hormones are wild, and you are starting to have a grown-up body while still having a child mind.  The potential for being bullied is extremely high.

Junior high school was particularly hard for me for a myriad of reasons. I was unhappy with who I was as a person, I didn’t have anyone I could turn to for support and comfort, and I felt no sense of safety. I felt hopeless, unloved, and felt very much alone. Although I was a bright girl and got accepted into a school for gifted kids based on my IQ and writing ability, I had absolutely no self-confidence.

my friend, the bully

say not to bullying

In truth, there were many kids in that school who were sweet and probably looking for a friend too. I had classmates whom I could (and should) have chosen to surround myself with. Instead, I gravitated towards a girl who did not treat me the way one treats a friend. She appeared confident, but in hindsight I think she lacked confidence as well. Just as moms will shame other moms to feel better about themselves, she verbally bullied me to feel better about herself.

She was friends with another girl as well, and the two of them would laugh together while she poked fun at me. One day I was told she didn’t like my bow and it was babyish. Another time I was ridiculed that I reminded her of Minnie Mouse because of my high voice. You name it, she teased at me about it. Whether it was the way I wore my eyeshadow (honestly, I still don’t think I wear it properly) or the clothes I wore, she never ceased an opportunity to tease me. 

In a nutshell, I was bullied by a girl who claimed she was my friend. Now this was in the 90s, when bullying was in a completely different form. This was long before the world of cyber bullying, where kids could taunt you behind the protection of a computer screen. No, this was the old-fashioned way; up close, personal, and fully standing by the words she chose to throw my way. 

being bullied by myself

don't be a bully it starts with me

Victims of verbal bullying are usually told to not give the bully any power. The advice given is to tell a teacher or ignore them because bullies are typically cowards. I was in a different situation. I had two bullies: this girl and myself.

My “friend” might have said hurtful things, but I did nothing to stop it. This is not a situation where I was powerless. She also was not hurting me physically. She used the power of her words to inflict pain upon me, and I chose to say and do nothing. I never once told her that I wouldn’t associate with her if she made those kinds of comments. When she laughed at me, I never walked away. In fact, I never even told her that her words bothered me. Instead, I often laughed it off. She might have been the one throwing the dagger, but I was the one stabbing it into my own heart.

why i didn’t walk away from being bullied

Looking back, I didn’t say anything for many reasons. For one, I had a complete lack of confidence in myself. My self-esteem was so low that I felt I deserved it. I didn’t believe that I should have someone in my life who valued my feelings and treated me well. I was already being abused for years by this point, and in some messed up way, being treated badly was my normal. It was all I knew, and all I believed I should know. It’s why I picked her in the first place. She reinforced my belief that I was not worthy or enough. In my mind, there must have been something wrong with me to be abused by my mother. Therefore, why shouldn’t this girl treat me badly as well?

Another reason I stuck around was because I convinced myself on some level that she was my friend. As I’ve mentioned before, what is even harder than being abused is admitting to yourself that you are being abused. The same applied here. I wanted to believe that this girl really was my friend, and that her actions were somehow justified.

Lastly, I was terrified of standing up to her and having nobody. I would rather associate with someone who was teasing me than be by myself.  Nothing was worse than feeling that. It didn’t occur to me that the moment I accepted that kind of treatment from her, I was alone.

I remember the last day of junior high school. I asked a few people to sign my yearbook, and she was one of them.  She actually wrote me a nice message that she hoped we’d always be friends. I then wandered around the hallways; I had nobody else to talk to and nobody asked me to sign their yearbooks. My confidence was non-existent, and I felt completely and utterly alone. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believed I didn’t deserve to have anyone, and that is exactly what I got. I spent three years at a school, and I left without a single true friend.

Insecurity Can be Felt at any Age and No Relationship Should Tolerate Bullying

insecurities are felt at any age

I don’t want you to think badly of this girl. In fact, we are friends on Facebook, and she occasionally likes my posts. I hold no ill will towards her whatsoever, not because I’m in denial, but because I think she was lost too.  I think she was a child who had her own struggles and made poor choices. Should she have teased me? No. However, if I didn’t speak up and show respect for myself, then how can I expect her to respect me?

There is a bigger lesson to this story then the teasing of a young, incredibly insecure girl. Those who lack confidence can be people of all ages.   We will all at some point inevitably have an encounter with someone who will say things at our expense. These people can be co-workers, romantic partners, friends, and even family. The same insecurities that prevented me from speaking up as a child prevents others from doing the same, regardless of age or relationship.

Some things cannot be prevented. I am not speaking of those situations where victims are truly powerless. There are some tragedies in life that confidence and assertiveness will not deter.

How We Stop Bullying Ourselves

When someone mistreats you, teases you, or says something that makes you feel badly about yourself, you have a choice. You can choose to allow those words to hammer away at your self-respect bit by bit, or you can choose yourself.

I don’t know what would have happened if I would have spoken up and said that her teasing was hurtful. I don’t know what she would have said, but I know I would have felt empowered. It took me many years to get to a place where I could defend myself. Today I have so much compassion for that little girl. I know that I simply didn’t have it within me to set those boundaries and believe that I deserved better. I cry for that little girl quite often because I know now how worthy she was and how unfair life was to her. In turn, I also know how cruel she was to herself.

I share this story not to elicit sympathy. I spill these sad words onto the page in hopes that someone who reads this will recognize that love and kindness are the most precious gifts you can give someone. They can save someone else, and they can save yourself. Give your children one more hug and remind them that you love them. Remember to be kind to yourself. Reach out to a friend and let them know you care. Boost confidence instead of tearing it down.

We cannot change how people treat one another, and there is much cruelty in this world.  However, if we can love wholeheartedly and remind those we love that they are worthy and deserve better, perhaps they will start to believe that for themselves. 

Our obligation to Speak Up

We also need to be cognizant that if we are being mistreated, it does not matter who the person is on the other side. We have an obligation to speak up. If we cannot do so for ourselves, we must do so for our children. Otherwise, we are sending the message to our children that they can treat others that way, and in turn, others can treat them that way. For the sakes of our children, it must stop with us.

My daughter was taught from a young age that teasing others and allowing others to tease you is never okay. She knows bullying comes in many forms, and that they all are painful.  I try to instill in her that she should treat herself and others with respect

I pray that she feels the love and safety that I didn’t feel as a child. If the day ever comes where she is bullied or disrespected, I hope she will have the courage and confidence to do what I wasn’t able to do.

 

how to love yourself

You can learn to love yourself. However, learning to love yourself is like learning to walk; it takes time, patience, and a lot of falling down and getting back up. The tips below are helpful in your pursuit of self-love. Give yourself a mental high five with each step, and remember that when we practice self-love, we are teaching our kids to love themselves too. 

You can learn to love and respect yourself enough to set boundaries

love yourself enough to set boundaries

I don’t know about you, but everywhere I look someone is talking about the “b” word.

I used to find the concept of boundaries very overwhelming.  In reality, boundaries aren’t as intimidating as they seem. What I now realize is that it is important to love yourself enough to set boundaries. The beauty is that there’s no one-size-fits-all boundary. They will vary from person to person because needs differ from person to person. 

Boundaries are a good thing; actually, they are a great thing.  Why? Boundaries mean determining what you need so you can feel secure in your relationships. Boundaries are necessary in all types of relationships, not just romantic ones. Whether it means letting your friend know that you won’t answer the phone after 11pm or telling your parents that certain topics are off-limits, they are meant to set clear expectations so that you can have healthy relationships with others. It is crucial to love yourself enough to set boundaries.

Making a list is often a great place to start. Write down some things that you would like to establish with the people in your life. Start with something small, and then you can work your way up towards bigger boundaries.

Share your boundaries is a loving, clear way. Remember that change takes time, and that you may have to restate your boundaries. Also understand that relationships are a two-way street, so healthy relationships mean giving boundaries as well as respecting the boundaries set by others.

At first it might feel awkward to set boundaries with others. You may not be used to expressing your feelings and needs to others. The important thing is to try to stand by the boundaries you set. Remember the importance of respecting and loving yourself enough to set boundaries. If you falter, that’s okay. You’re a work in progress, remember? The more you practice giving and sticking to your boundaries, the more comfortable you’ll feel. With time and consistency, you can learn to love yourself enough to set boundaries.

“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” (Anna Taylor, Goodreads).

sleep

A cranky, sleep-deprived person is not going to feel great about anything, let alone themselves. If your kids are keeping you up or you’re a troubled sleeper, try some of my sleep strategies.

You can learn to love yourself by Accepting your weaknesses along with your strengths 

accept your flaws

This one is a biggie for me. I tend to focus on my weaknesses and minimize my strengths.

At some point you realize that you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by repeatedly hitting your head against a brick wall (metaphorically speaking). No matter what, I am going to make mistakes. There will be times where I am going to do things wrong. I am going to be emotional and anxious and sometimes needy.

I am flawed. Deeply. Wishing it away and hating myself for it isn’t going to make it go away. The solution? Accept those flaws and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.

It might be that I may never love those parts of myself,  but I can love myself for WHO I am. I am not defined by my anxiety and my fears. I am defined by who I am as a person. My name is Randi and I feel anxious. That’s very different than thinking, “My name is Randi and I AM anxious.”

Try to show yourself compassion. When you feel badly or angry about something, argue with those negative thoughts. Remember you are trying and give yourself space to grow without forcing it.  You can learn to love yourself and accept yourself. It simply takes time.

As strange as it might seem, try embracing your imperfections. We are the sum of all of our parts, but our parts guide us rather than define us. Imperfections are what make us unique.

“Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. Instead, when you love yourself you accept your so-called weaknesses, appreciate those shortcomings as something that makes you who you are.” (Andrea Brandt)

Self-care 

Part of prioritizing your feelings is taking time to invest in your emotional well-being.

Read that book that got buried in your closet. Go for a run. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Listen to music. You can’t like or love yourself if you aren’t willing to invest time to care for yourself.

You can Learn to Love Yourself using daily affirmations

I’m a big believer in faking it until you make it. If you play a role long enough, you’ll can actually learn to love yourself.

Make a list of positive affirmations such as, “I am enough.” “I deserve love.” “I am worthy of happiness.” “I am proud of how hard I try.” You can make these lists with your children as well.

Write them on a piece of paper and read them aloud. Write them on a post-it and stick it on your mirror so you see it everyday. Whenever you are judging yourself or feel badly about yourself, grab that list.

love yourself and be your own friend

love yourself enough to set boundaries

Would you speak to your friends the way you speak to yourself? I’m going to guess not. Why is it easier to be kind to others than it is to be kind to ourselves?

This is something that comes up often with my daughter, especially around bedtime. I have to remind her that she should be kind to herself about her sleep issues and comfort herself as she would a friend.

When I am harsh with myself, I try to think about how I’d feel if the circumstances belonged to someone else. Most of the time, I would be far more compassionate and supportive than what I’m telling myself.

“When you are your own best friend, you don’t endlessly seek out relationships, friendships, and validation from the wrong sources because you realize that they only approval and validation you need is your own.” (Mandy Hale).

Rediscover your hobbies.

we get so enmeshed with our children and our loved-ones that we often forget what brings us joy. Not your kids, not your spouse, you. What are things that you like to do? What can you do for yourself to learn to love yourself?

Commit to spending even 5 minutes a day doing something just for you. Sometimes our hobbies are a form of self-care (such as journaling, listening to music). Sometimes hobbies are different than our self-care. Hobbies are meant for fun, whereas self-care is about focusing on your emotional well-being.

Prioritize your feelings and look out for yourself.

choose your own path

That is a frightening notion for some of us. If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your life focused on the well-being of others. My feelings fell by the wayside because I felt responsible for taking care of everyone else’s feelings.

It was a hard pill to swallow that I had to focus on myself first and foremost. That sounded incredibly selfish to me. People depended on me. I would be okay as long as I was taking care of my responsibilities, which meant making sure others were okay.

I didn’t realize how codependent that way of thinking was, and that I could never be the kind of mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and person I wanted to be unless I took care of myself. The truth is that all my best efforts can never fix/save others, and others aren’t responsible for my happiness either.

I want my daughter to stand up for herself, and that means I have to set the right example and do that for myself. I need to be my biggest supporter and cheerleader because if I don’t look out for myself, how can I expect others to respect my feelings?

You can’t be the best version of yourself if you are pouring from an empty cup. If you treat yourself as insignificant, it is not shocking if others treat you that way too.

Prioritizing your feelings may also mean taking time to calm down when you feel angry, stressed, or overwhelmed. Whether it’s telling your spouse, your child, or you friend that you need a moment, sometimes you need to simply walk away. If you can get outside and take a walk, great. Give yourself space to take some deep breaths and practice some relaxation exercises, even if it means putting your kids somewhere safe and locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes.

ask for help

Reach out to others if you feel overwhelmed and need to recharge. We put so much pressure on ourselves, and society puts so much pressure on us, that we feel like we are failures if we are struggling. Part of loving ourselves is accepting we cannot do it all, and there are times when we need the support of others.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling.

love yourself - its ok to be sad

It is okay to be sad, anxious, or angry. You are not a robot, so you will experience a whole spectrum of emotions. It is part of life, and burying those feelings or judging yourself for them is only going to make you feel worse.  It is okay to not be okay .

Self-love isn’t linear. You will likely take several steps forward and then several steps back. Some days you’ll feel on top of the world, and others you’ll feel like something that is getting scraped off the bottom of your shoe. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and new ways of thinking take time. You are going to make mistakes, but what matters is that you are trying.

“I gave myself permission to feel and experience all of my emotions. In order to do that, I had to stop being afraid to feel. In order to do that, I taught myself to believe that no matter what I felt or what happened when I felt it, I would be ok.” (Iyanla Vanzant).

The hard truth is that learning to love yourself is no easy achievement. However, the greatest achievements in life are meaningful because of the journey required to achieve it. The journey of self-love is filled with road blocks and hurdles, but it is a journey that is worth traveling.

*To help support your self-love journey, I’ve created a self-love workbook.  To print, click here: Self-Love Workbook: Support and Maintain Your Self-Love Journey

self love is so important

Self-Love and acceptance are keys to your mental and emotional wellness

We live in a culture that is obsessed with success. It is a never-ending hamster wheel of doing more, working harder, and being judged by our achievements. It’s no wonder that many of us feel like we are failures when the bar is set higher and higher. 
 

I know I felt like a failure when I made the decision to stay home with my daughter rather than work. I felt like I needed to provide some sort of explanation/justification as to why I was choosing not to pursue my career.

There’s also a revolution out there of increasing mental awareness. We are not only expected to do it all, we are expected to win the Olympics of mental fortitude.
 

The truth is, I used to get annoyed when I’d read articles about self-love, self-care, self-help, self-anything. I was barely hanging on by a thread trying to keep my mental faculties somewhat intact. I didn’t need a reminder of the things I wasn’t doing and didn’t feel capable of achieving.

It is the ultimate catch-22; we can’t love ourselves unless we are kind to ourselves, and we can’t be kind to ourselves unless we love ourselves.
 
This leads to the million dollar question: How can we learn to love and be kind to ourselves?
 
Answer: Accept that you are a work-in-progress.

we are all a work-in-progress

work in progress

“We’re all a work in progress, and I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t have it all together – I really don’t think anyone does.” (Adrienne Bailon).
 
We are flawed. Every single one of us. Some might hide it better than others, but there isn’t a single person on the planet who doesn’t struggle about something.
 

If we can admit we are flawed, then we are one step further in our goal towards self-love.

having a healthy relationship with yourself

love yourself

Self-love is essential because if we don’t have a healthy relationship with ourselves, that opens the door to dysfunctional relationships with others. Relationships with friends, spouses, parents, siblings, and even our children are impacted.
 

Codependency often is a byproduct of not loving ourselves. Lack of self-love can lead to looking for others to “complete us.” We can shut others out because we are afraid of getting hurt. Letting people in requires true intimacy, and that kind of vulnerability is difficult if we don’t love ourselves.

 
“You’ve got to love yourself first, and until you value yourself enough and love yourself enough to know that, you can’t really have a healthy relationship.” (Joyce Meyer).

When we don’t love ourselves, we are unable to teach our children how to love themselves. It is our job as parents to set a healthy example for our children. We need to learn how to love ourselves so that our children can love themselves.

self-love is being perfectly imperfect

imperfect

Self-love is looking at every flaw, every wrinkle, every extra pound, every trigger, every fear, every doubt, and every heartache and knowing that you are exactly who you need to be in that moment. You are perfectly imperfect, and that imperfection is what makes you loveable.
 
You see, my sweet friends, self-love isn’t about thinking you’ve got it all together, it’s about knowing THAT YOU DON’T.
 
“Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.” (Pema Chodron).
 
Learning how to love ourselves doesn’t happen overnight. Giving ourselves permission and space to try to love and accept ourselves is a huge first step. Take it day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.
 
Self-love and self-kindness are both works-in-progress and THAT IS OKAY. What is not okay is giving up on ourselves. Take a chance and invest in yourself. It is the best investment you will ever make.

*To help support your self-love journey, I’ve created a self-love workbook.  To print, click here:

Self-Love Workbook: Support and Maintain Your Self-Love Journey.

its ok to not be ok

I had a topic that I was all set to write about… and then life got in the way. It’s ok to not be okay.

Things were going well in my life. My husband and I were making our daughter nauseous with all of our PDAs, I was getting back into the groove of homeschooling Brielle, my daughter was miraculously complaining less and cooperating more, and I found out another article of mine was getting published in The MIGHTY. I was feeling pretty darn good, folks.

There is a Yiddish proverb, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, my plans went right out the window, and I wasn’t laughing. It’s ok to no be okay.

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” (Paolo Coelho).

On Wednesday I got a rejection letter from an agent I queried regarding the children’s book that I wrote. I really loved what this agent brought to the table, and I spent a month hoping that she would represent me.

i was not okay

My daughter didn’t get enough sleep on Wednesday night, and she acted like she was possessed all day on Thursday. By the end of the day, I was emotionally, psychologically, and physically exhausted.

i was not okay

facebook

On Friday, Facebook sent me a notification that they couldn’t recognize the device I was using. I had set up this notification after the last time someone hacked into my Facebook account. The problem was that the device in question was my own cell phone. I confirmed that my phone was an acceptable device. This action clearly annoyed Facebook, and next thing I knew, any comment I made flashed an exclamation mark saying it was denied. I tried to put something on my Surviving Mom Blog Facebook Group. That was also denied. It’s ok to not be okay.
 
Unlike the last time Facebook banned me, this time there was no message sent to my inbox to alert me that I was banned in any way. My account showed that I had full access to Facebook, yet I had restricted access to Facebook.

i was not okay

Social media is very important and necessary when you are in the early stages of creating a blog. I have a Facebook group that I post on nearly everyday to stay connected to my readers. Now what was I supposed to do? My husband had to post on my behalf.

i was not okay

On Saturday evening at approximately 11:45 pm, my husband jumped up and ran to the phone. He got an email from the Apple Store that someone had charged $2200 on our debit card to purchase a laptop. Spoiler Alert- neither one of us had made that purchase.

i was not okay

credit card theft

Two other fraudulent purchases were made to two different credit cards in the past three months. One was to purchase a Groupon, and one was a gas charge at the gas station we always use. Pretty creepy, right? We cancelled our credit cards and got replacements, but our debit account? How is that possible? It’s ok to not be okay.
 
Even creepier, the person who used our debit card put down my husband’s email address and my phone number when making the purchase online. You use our debit card, but keep our contact information? What kind of hacker does that?

i was not okay

I have talked about wellness in many of my posts. I’ve given tips on how to boost self-confidence in ourselves and our children, given numerous suggestions for self-care, and written about tools to help with regulating emotions. I have written about ways to improve our relationships  with our significant others through love languages, and given strategies for bedtime and parenting children with special needs.

Those strategies and tools, albeit helpful, were not going to give me a lobotomy. I was not able to alleviate my concerns and fears about someone being able to access thousands of dollars from our debit account by doing deep breathing and journaling.

i was not okay

This is the moment of truth, my friends.
 
Life is going to throw us a series of curveballs, often when we least expect it. As much as I am a believer of getting up when life throws us down, I am not going to pretend that everything is sunshine and roses.

it is ok to not be okay

crying

“Make room for all emotions – including negative ones. It’s ok not to be happy all the time. Give yourself time to be sad when you are sad, mad when you are mad.” (Heather Schumaker).
 
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn in life is that there are times when all we can do is hold space for whatever we are feeling and allow ourselves to feel it. Sometimes we need to ride the wave of messiness, anger, hurt, grief, and/or anxiety in order to get through it.
 

It is crucial to take care of our emotional well-being and implement  strategies and tools. I will use those tools to help me get through difficult moments, not to eradicate my feelings.

it is ok to not be okay

My daughter is not always going to see me smiling and carefree. I want her to understand that life is taking the good with the bad, the hard with the easy, the pain with the joy. She sees that I sometimes struggle, and that it is okay to struggle. I model the coping mechanisms I use to help me during those difficult times so that she can also use coping mechanisms when she is struggling. I will not hide the negatives from her because they are part of life, and to hide that would be doing a huge disservice to her.

she needs to know it is ok to not be okay

life is never perfect

For every mom who is struggling, for every person that is taking one step forward and two steps back, for every person that is feeling frazzled, this post is for you.
 
Sometimes life is learning how it’s ok not be okay. It is sitting with those negative feelings and accepting that it is okay to feel that way. There is so much pressure out there to do it all, and to be so much to so many, that somewhere along the line we forget that we are human, with feelings, emotions and hardships.
 
Sometimes we can’t laugh and smile our way through life. There are times when our children are going to frustrate us beyond belief, times when we will have an argument with our spouse, our coworker, or our friend, and times when we will feel sad or lost or unsure.
 
There will be hard hours, hard days, even hard months. We must give ourselves permission to feel badly and accept that we aren’t failures because of that. Accepting all parts of ourselves means accepting that sometimes we are going to feel like **it, and the only thing that isn’t okay is judging ourselves for it. It’s ok to not be okay.
 
“You don’t have to be brave all of the time. You are not damaged or defeated. Have patience. Give yourself permission to cry and to heal. Allow a bit of compassion, you’re doing the best that you can.” (Mike Bowman).
 
I am not okay, and I’m going to allow myself to not feel okay. I will take care of my responsibilities and also give myself the time I need to feel better.
 
I’m flawed, I’m imperfect, I’m emotional, and I feel deeply.

guess what? that’s okay.

Self-confidence is something we all want to build and something many of us are lacking. It isn’t surprising that we lack confidence as adults. Many of us were told as children that our best was not enough. Others didn’t get any motivation or encouragement to step out of their comfort zone or try something that was challenging. What was once our parents’ voices soon turned into our inner voice/critic. As a result, the story we believe as adults is that we aren’t good enough. The good news is that there are strategies to build self-confidence in yourself and your children.

my struggles with self-confidence

I grew up with a mom that expected perfection. When I was 5 years old, I had a small writing assignment for school. I was extremely proud of what I wrote and showed it to my mother. Her response was to rip it into pieces and instruct me to write it again. That experience rattled me and will forever be imprinted in my mind. The lesson I learned was that I should feel intense shame if my best wasn’t perfection.

My struggle with perfection crept into every facet of my life. In first grade there was a competition that whoever read the most books by the end of the month would get a box of crayons. I was determined to be the winner. So was another girl in the class. Eventually other classmates stopped participating in this contest, but neither me nor this girl would relent. Finally, the teacher stopped the contest and declared that we both were the winners.

I defined myself and my value based on how well I did in school. I would beat myself up over any mistake I made. In my mind, nothing other than an A was an option. Eventually my mother told me that I didn’t have to get top grades as long as I was trying. By this point her words rang on deaf ears; the bell could not be unrung. I was terrified of not getting the top grades in exams, was ridden with anxiety every time I had to write a report or do a presentation, and always agonized that I wasn’t good enough despite the number of times that was proven to be untrue.

Shame, not self-confidence, became my constant companion. I feared everything because I didn’t believe that trying was what was most important. In my mind, if the result was unsuccessful, the effort was worthless.

the inner critic that creates guilt and shame

ways to challenge your inner critic

Regardless of our childhood circumstances, I know that many of you live with that same inner critic. If we try something and it isn’t a success, we beat ourselves up over it rather than feel proud of ourselves for trying. It only reinforces that we shouldn’t put ourselves out there or reaffirms our belief that we are failures.

It is often easier to look at the laundry list of mistakes or flops rather than focus on how hard we tried or the things we did well. This way of thinking starts to take on a life of its own, and eventually we tell ourselves that we are failures instinctually.

When we speak and feel this way about ourselves, is it any wonder that our voice becomes the inner voice of our own children? It is an endless cycle of guilt, shame, and self-contempt. In order to teach our children to have self-confidence, flaws and all, we first have to believe that about ourselves.

What if we changed our inner voice? Told ourselves that we are enough just as we are? Applauded our efforts rather than our successes? What if we recognized that what matters most is putting ourselves out there? What if our determination and resiliency was how we judged ourselves rather than a tally of achievements?

ways to build self-confidence in ourselves

self confidence

Obviously, this is much easier said than done. Stopping and changing the story we have told ourselves constantly isn’t going to magically vanish. Luckily, there are ways of building self-confidence in ourselves and our children:

1- Change your inner dialogue. Our inner voice is determined to rear its ugly head any time we feel guilt or shame. We can counter those thoughts by putting new ones there. Each time that we try something, no matter what the outcome, we need to acknowledge that putting ourselves out there is an accomplishment in of itself. Showing up and trying is something to be proud of. Counter your thoughts of shame with thoughts of recognition for how hard you try.

This way of thinking applies to our children as well. Instead of commending our children for their grades on a test, applaud them when you see they are studying and taking it seriously. Acknowledge the effort, not the result. Success isn’t a guarantee, but it takes great courage to put oneself out there and try. Our children deserve recognition for the journey instead of the destination.

2- Fake it until you make it. This new message that you are telling yourself doesn’t align with the inner critic you’ve lived with for years. It takes time to truly feel what you are now saying. Reaffirm this new way of thinking with mantras such as “I am enough,” “I can do hard things,” and “I am brave,” and say them to yourself and your child. Counter those shameful thoughts with confident ones.

Make a list of these affirmations with your child. Explain that this list is to be used daily and when we feel badly about ourselves or are afraid to try. Let your children see that you are using this list and encourage them to use it as well.

3- Don’t give up. I remind myself and my daughter that no matter how many times we get knocked down, all we can do is keep picking ourselves up. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes. What we do with those mistakes is what matters.

I wrote a children’s book, and the road to getting an agent is far harder than what I anticipated. My daughter has seen me send query letter after query letter. She has asked me why I don’t give up. I told her that some of my greatest accomplishments are the ones I had to work at the most to achieve. My hope is that my daughter sees that what truly matters is perseverance and believing in yourself.

4- Instead of focusing on your failures, make a list of the things you accomplished despite feeling afraid or self-conscious. Ask your child to make a list of things he/she worked hard to achieve. The next time you or your child feel badly about yourself, look at the list of reminders of how brave you are. Remind yourself and your children that it takes great courage to put yourself out there.

stay confident and be your own kind of beautiful

5- We all have strengths and weaknesses. We are human, so we are flawed. It is inevitable that there will always be someone that is able to do something better than us. As a recovering perfectionist, I remind myself and my daughter that all we can strive for is to be the best versions of ourselves. Perfection isn’t the goal, but courage and strength of conviction is everything.

6-  Self-care is necessary to incorporate into our life and our routine. Encourage your children to explore what they enjoy and to devote time to it. Our emotional well-being is the foundation for learning to love ourselves.

7-  Don’t rely on others to validate you and feel proud of you. Feel proud of yourself for trying regardless of what others say and do. Remind yourself and your children that there are people that will try to say and do things to make you feel badly about yourself. It is imperative to be your own supporter and cheerleader.

I remind my daughter often that she is not defined by any labels. She is defined by who she is as a person. That means that she should strive for inner beauty instead of focusing on her appearance. My hope is that she believes in herself as much as I believe in her.

8- Be your own friend. When I feel shame or guilt, I often ask myself what I would say to my friend if the same thing was happening to her. I tend to give others far more support and understanding than I give to myself.

When I notice my daughter is being hard on herself, I ask her what she would say to her friend if that person was in the same situation. I then ask her to say those words to herself. That often helps her to put things into perspective.

Giving kindness and compassion to ourselves is crucial in building self-confidence. We need a gentle reminder that we deserve better than how we are treating ourselves.

 

 

The journey to building self-confidence is a long and difficult one. There will be easier days as well as days that are more challenging. Be mindful of the story you tell yourself and the example you are setting for your children. It is inevitable that we will fall down along the way, but like everything in life, we must pick ourselves up and try again. You are enough. We are enough just as we are.