Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion

Are your anxieties and fears are based on real threats? Here’s how to find out..

When faced with a threat our reptilian brain kicks in and throws us into flight fight or freeze mode. This is an automatic and instinctive response built into us from millennia ago when we had to scavenge for food and fight off lions to survive. The problem today is that this response still exists in us even though we very seldom need it. Don’t get me wrong, if someone is mugged in the street it is a very useful reaction – essential for survival even – but often this fight, flight or freeze response is activated when we perceive a threat, regardless whether one exists or not.


For example, if I am at a party and I don’t know anyone, a fight, flight or freeze response isn’t really helpful. Likewise if someone makes a joke and I think it’s about me and jump straight into fight mode, what happens if it comes to light the joke was actually nothing to do with me? What happens when the treat that we perceive isn’t real?


Below are some questions to help you assess whether your anxieties and fears are based on real threats or not:


  • Is it possible that I have misinterpreted the situation?
  • Is it possible that I have misunderstood what has been said?
  • Is it possible that my perceived threat actually doesn’t exist in this circumstance? (E.g. everyone I don’t know at the party is welcoming and friendly)
  • If there is danger have reasonable precautions been taken to limit it? Do I find these precautions acceptable? Are there any facts that will ease my concern? (E.g. rollercoaster ride safety standards)


If there is any chance that your anxieties and fears are not based on real threats then you can try to avoid jumping into fight, flight or freeze mode by rationalizing that your fears are probably exaggerated. You can also limit your anxieties and fears by making a contingency plan for how you would react if your anxieties and fears surfaced. To construct such a plan, aim to answer the questions below but remember not to dwell on the contingency plan as this may feed into your fears, simply make one and then refocus on the task at hand.


  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • How could I deal with this if it happens?
  • What could I do that I haven’t done in the past in response to my fears?
  • How can I limit my anxiety if the worst were to happen? (I.e. bring a friend)


How do you usually tell if your anxieties and fears are based on real threats? Have you ever thought about it before? What are your anxieties and fears? Will you ask yourself any of the questions above? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community.

Feeling guilty? How to use guilt to your advantage!

Like anyone I’ve felt guilty from time to time. Interestingly I have a long standing history of confusing guilt for shame. When researching for this month’s series article on self-compassion I had an aha moment when I realized guilt was very different to shame. Shame by its very nature tells us that we are something wrong – a very destructive way of thinking and not helpful at all – whilst guilt signals that we’ve done something wrong, which incentivizes us to make amends and put the situation right. Guilt can also guide us to make better choices, serving as a barometer towards correcting our behavior in future.


To tell the difference between guilt and shame ask yourself the following questions, remembering that it is possible to be both guilty and ashamed.


  • Am I labeling myself in my head as a direct result of my behavior? (E.g. I’m a failure, I’m horrible, I’m incompetent)
  • Do I feel like I’m a horrible person as a direct result of my behavior?
  • Do I feel like a failure / incompetent / worthless as a direct result of my behavior?
  • Do I feel fatalistic, as if I will always be this way?


  • Do I feel a deep sense that I have behaved in the wrong way?
  • Do I feel as though I have made a mistake?
  • Do I feel as though I have used poor judgment?
  • Do I feel that I want to make amends for my behavior?
  • Do I feel bad for the person my behavior has effected?


If you answered yes to any of the top four questions you are likely in a state of shame and need to talk through what happened with a trusted and supportive friend who can reassure you that you are not what you may be labeling yourself to be.


As Brene Brown says…


“If you put shame in a Petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially, secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and you douse it with empathy you create an environment that’s hostile to shame.”


If you answered yes to any of the last five questions you are probably experiencing guilt. Although uncomfortable, feeling guilty can be a very good thing because it gives you the opportunity to make amends for and correct your behavior. Think about what you can do to make things right and then act on it, remembering that some people will not be receptive to an apology but that the most important thing by far is that you have done everything you can to say sorry and rectify your behavior so that it isn’t repeated.


Have you ever felt guilty and did it serve as a motivator to correct your behavior? Can you relate to feeling ashamed and how destructive an emotion it is? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, support and insight from our community.

Angry much? The critical message our anger is sending us (and why you need to hear it)

Like anyone, I’ve had my angry moments. One of the things I learnt in treatment was that often our anger comes from when our rights have been violated. For example, I have the right to my own opinions and beliefs. Has anyone ever imposed their opinion on you, said you were wrong or foolish and made you angry? That’s because they violated your rights!


Being angry is often a strong indication that our rights are being violated and knowing our rights is critical if we are to protect ourselves against others abusing them whilst creating healthy boundaries for our lives.


Below is a list of rights we all have that can be protected if we assert ourselves in a non aggressive manner:


1)      I have the right to state my own needs and set my own priorities as a person, independent from any roles that I may assume in my life.

2)      I have the right to be treated with respect as an intelligent, capable and equal human being.

3)      I have the right to express my feelings.

4)      I have the right to express my opinions and values.

5)      I have the right to say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ for myself.

6)      I have the right to make mistakes and forgive myself.

7)      I have the right to change my mind.

8)      I have the right to say ‘I don’t understand’ and ask for more information.

9)      I have the right to ask for what I want.

10)   I have the right to decline responsibility for other peoples problems.

11)    I have the right to deal with others without being dependent on them for approval.


If you would like to know about your rights and why they are important in depth please read my article titled ‘How to Free Yourself and Assert Your Rights’ and if you’d like to know more about creating healthy boundaries please read ‘Assertiveness: A Journey Worth Taking’.


So the next time you are angry ask yourself – is someone abusing your rights and crossing a personal boundary?


Did you know your rights? Can you recall a time when you got angry as a result of someone abusing your rights? In future do you plan to assert your rights and create healthy boundaries in a non aggressive way? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain support, encouragement and insight from our community.

Depressed? Why depression could be your biggest breakthrough yet!

Goodness knows I have had my fair share of depression. It is a dark and often very lonely place to be and when I was depressed myself I certainly recognized no redemptive features of it. My personal breakthrough came when I realized that it was within my control to change my life if it wasn’t serving me well and I didn’t like it. It was one of the biggest breakthroughs I ever had. I’m not for one second suggesting it was easy – I had to build my self-esteem back up, work on my recovery and then (and only then) change my life circumstances like filing for divorce and changing careers.


The reason depression can actually be a blessing in disguise is that once we realize it is telling us something important we can learn to listen to what it is trying to teach us. Essentially whenever anyone is depressed it is a sign that the conditions for our lives are no longer working for us and need to change. Of course there are exceptions, losing a parent or loved one can certainly send one into depression but it still serves as a gentle reminder that how we are grieving may not be entirely constructive.


It is important to emphasize that the very first thing anyone should do if they are depressed is seek help from a doctor and possibly go on medication and / or to therapy. The first step in the process of building your life back up following depression is to build your self-esteem, your social support network of close friends, and find your equilibrium again. Once you are feeling stronger you can delve into the cause of your depression and start to assess what you could possibly do differently which would make for a happier life.

Below I have listed some examples to get you thinking about what life conditions you may find helpful to change.


  • Are you friends toxic? It may be time to end the friendship
  • Do you have enough friendships? If not, join a meet up group!
  • Do you like where you live? If not, look for somewhere better that you can afford
  • Do you have any fulfilling hobbies? Try things out and find out what you are passionate about
  • Family issues? Consider seeing a therapist with your family to talk things through
  • Do you like your job? It may be time to investigate what other career paths you would find more fulfilling or ask for that pay rise or promotion


Do you suffer from depression? Do you currently have life conditions you would like to change? Have you thought about how you could change them? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community.

Need a hug? Why compassionate self talk works!

I have to admit, the first time I used compassionate self talk I was totally embarrassed and self-conscious. Even though I said it in my head I couldn’t help but feel silly. And then the strangest thing happened. I actually felt soothed, I felt understood and cared for. If you are anything like me you may think it is silly to comfort yourself as you would a friend in your own head but there is no doubt in my mind that it does indeed work, in fact, it’s very effective.


The next time you are feeling down, stressed anxious or are just going through a tough time try saying to yourself phrases like those you would say to a friend. I have listed some below to help you get started and give yourself that all important emotional hug!


“I know you are struggling right now but I want you to know you are loved and I care about you and I will support you through this”


“Trust me that even though it may not seem as if things will get better they will”


“You are a wonderfully strong person and your inner strength will get you through this”


“You have all the skills you need to become stronger and more resilient as a result of this experience”


“It’s ok that you’re feeling upset, confused, hurt, lonely… I am going to be here so you won’t have to go through this alone”


What soothing words would impact you the most when you are next feeling upset or hurt? Have you ever used compassionate self talk before? Are you planning to use it in future? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community.