Do you know what it’s like to feel safe? If so, you’re very lucky. Feeling safe allows you to be who you are, however that is. It seems that the opportunities to feel safe are incredibly limited. We can work in organisations which expect us to perform. We can believe that it would be frowned on if we said things like, we feel vulnerable, or that we need a bit more support. And who knows, it might be. We can grow up in families which seem to go from one drama to the next. Childhood may have felt like something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Perhaps we never even glimpsed safety. Is it a surprise then, that to be offered safety can feel sometimes feel threatening and unfamiliar? It can make you want to run a mile. No wonder people who have never known safety avoid so much or drop out of therapy.
Stress and Anxiety
Isn’t it funny how we can go through life being told what to do by other people. Parents, teachers, bosses, partners and even people who claim to be our friends. At some point most of us decide that we can make our own decisions and stop deferring to others. We learn to say what we need. We stop believing that other people have all the answers. We start to believe in ourselves and realise that even if we get it wrong we can learn from the experience and repair damage if necessary.
Unfortunately not everyone reaches this stage and I often work with clients who have no belief or confidence in themselves. It becomes obvious when they realise that counselling is not about being told what to do and that even though I’m a Counsellor I am not going to make their decisions for them. I love the phrase ‘why don’t you work on your own story.’ It says so much about opportunities, potential, choices and responsibility. It is not about trying to control others or about trying to live your life through others or blaming others. It’s about realising that it’s up to you.
Mind you saying ‘why don’t you work on your own story’ is really assuming that you are able to. That you have an awareness that other people may be pulling the strings in your life. I don’t want to diminish the fact that many people have few choices. Poverty is one of the biggest causes of mental health problems. You may feel oppressed and stuck in a job you hate. You may feel trapped in a bad relationship. You may feel you have to do what your family tells you otherwise you will be rejected. I can’t change any of these things. I can’t change society for you. I can’t make life fairer for you. I can work on my story though and do my bit and maybe that means working with you. Helping you to find a way to cope with the things you cannot change while working on the things you can change.
Have you ever wondered whether other people are going to declare that you are a fake and simply not up to it….whether it be a job or some studies….or a relationship….or something else that matters to you. If not, that’s great. It sounds like you feel confident about yourself. If on the other hand you go through life feeling like this, then it sounds like you may have low self-esteem. Or a critical voice inside your head which says you are not good enough, never have been and never will. And it’s only a matter of time before everyone else finds out and rejects you.
I don’t want to start trying to analyse why you might have low self-esteem. It’s not really my style. However, I do think it can help to understand where it comes from. Mainly because you can start to challenge some of the assumptions you might be making. If you can remember feeling like this when you were growing up then it’s probably no surprise that you feel like this now. Big people seem to be very good at telling little people about all their shortcomings. Over and over.
Feeling like you are going to be ‘found out’ adds another layer of stress to a situation that might be stressful enough. Imagine what your life would be like if you started to trust in yourself and your abilities. Let go of the beliefs that you are inadequate or not good enough. Who’s voice are you hearing? Who is it that is telling you don’t add up to very much.
I think that counselling can really help if you feel like this. I promise you that if you decide to work with me I won’t ask you to write down a list of all the things you are good at. I can’t imagine anything worse. If someone tried to work with me like that I’d run a mile. After all, if you knew that stuff you wouldn’t need me in the first place.
Have you noticed that when you are feeling tired that the world doesn’t seem to be such a nice place? Things start to get on your nerves and other people seem to become rather irritating. We just don’t cope so well with day to day problems when we are exhausted. We can get into a vicious circle where not sleeping well makes us feel depressed and angry. Does this sound familiar? It sounds familiar to me as a Counsellor. Not because I feel like that all the time (although I’m human too and feeling tired impacts on me and how I am) but because clients often come for counselling and feel lost and don’t know how to get their lives back on track.
Sometimes not sleeping well becomes a habit and we start to get anxious about this. So letting go of that can be helpful. There is a lot of good information on the internet about sleeping problems and I’ve included some links below. If nothing seems to be working you can always see your GP and they might be able to offer you some medication to help you if you think that’s the right choice for you. Alternatively you could try some counselling to help you figure out what might be keeping you awake at nights…..your thoughts…..your conscience…….your regrets……your past……your future…..your worries……..and this might help you to gain some perspective on your troubles and make some changes in your life.
I know what it’s like not to sleep well. It’s made me miserable in the past. Ok it still does sometimes! One thing I found so helpful was to stop looking at the clock every time I woke up. It felt like the kiss of death every time I did look because then I would become preoccupied by how little time I had left to get a good night’s sleep. Why not try?
Have you ever felt that the world is well and truly against you? That no matter what you do you seem to mess up or get things wrong or that you ruin your relationships. Do you beat yourself up about all the times you weren’t perfect? It’s so easy to disregard all the great stuff you do in life if you suffer from underlying low confidence or low self-esteem. Guess what. Most of us have days when we feel like this. I know I do. And I know lots of other people who feel like this sometimes too. The problem is if you feel like this all the time. It’s really important to get a perspective and talking things over can help you to decide on the things that you would like to change in your life. The things which stop you feeling like the world is against you.
In my work as a Counsellor I never fail to be surprised at the extent to which people make assumptions. It is probably one of the most unhelpful and toxic things we can do to ourselves. Imagine if you stopped making assumptions. You could let go of continually worrying what others thought of you. You could learn to trust your own judgment. You could stop beating yourself up about the things which didn’t go well. And you could stop thinking that everyone else has got life figured out and knows all the answers. The only thing I can know is what I think and feel. If I want to know about anyone else then I’d have to ask them. Try it. You might be surprised.
On my way home last night the traffic was slow and I noticed a young woman near my car shouting angrily at a man on the other side of the road. She looked so angry and upset and she had tears running down her face. I couldn’t understand all her words but her language was colourful. I glanced across the road. The young man she was addressing had his head down and looked embarrassed. There was something about the whole incident which touched me deep inside. A real sense that two people were hurting. One didn’t care who knew and the other cared very much.
I wondered about the other people witnessing this. I suspect that some people felt the same as I did and maybe others felt a bit embarrassed themselves. Perhaps others were judgmental and thought that the woman was behaving inappropriately in public. The thing is we just don’t know what is going on for other people. All I knew from this situation was that someone was hurting and a kind word makes all the difference. Being compassionate to people we know and love is easy. It’s being like that to those we don’t know that’s the hard bit in life.