The Counselling Space

Counselling

Counselling has shown to help many people through the struggles they face on a regular basis.

I have consolidated some thoughts on the most frequently seen problems we see at our counselling practice. More sections will be added in due course.

Low Self-Esteem

Social Anxiety

Scroll down to see our thoughts on some frequent areas of counselling.

Low Self-Esteem

How do I know if I have Low Self-Esteem?

You may feel a sense of low confidence and a lack of belief in your own abilities and strengths. These sensations often culminate in self-critical thoughts and a reluctance to try new things or meet new people.

Why does it happen?

Low self-esteem can often originate from past experiences. This could be early experiences such as being bullied, being compared to others, abuse from childhood or not meeting your parent’s high expectations. Feeling like you were the black sheep or a lack of affirmation as a child and into adulthood can lead to low self-esteem. Beyond childhood we can all experience situations that could lead to a sense of low self-esteem, these could include stress, bullying, abuse, unfavourable treatment or trauma. 

Symptoms

Typical thoughts

Often low self-esteem brings about thoughts of not being good enough. We might think that we are a failure, or even un-loveable. We may think to ourselves that others are better than us, or that others will judge us if we don’t attain a certain mark, or if we make mistakes.

To consider your own thoughts, ask yourself, ‘Am I compassionate towards myself, or do I put myself down? Do I have higher expectations of myself in comparison to others?’

Typical behaviours

Operating with a mindset where we expect bad things to happen or to happen to us, we will often

under or over compensate. This means we may decide that we are never going to be good enough so there is no point in trying (under compensating), alternatively we may decide that we must work so hard in order to ensure that what we do is perfect so that people can see that we are good enough (over compensating). 

These behaviours can take many forms. It could be doing copious amounts of overtime at work to ensure no mistake is made, or avoiding doing a project so that our manager cannot see how bad we would have done the project.

In a more informal setting this could be the situation when we are invited to a party, and spending extended periods of time getting ready and rehearsing what we might say so that we don’t let ourselves down in front of others. Potentially even not going to the party so that you can’t do anything stupid when you get there.

Low self-esteem can lead to us missing out on lots of activities in life, such as not being part of a community, and fearing the worst in situations. 

Low self-esteem can also be seen in our body. It can lead to tense muscles, being hunched over, looking down and not wanting to make eye contact. We can become tired and stressed, and lead to poor sleep.

Typical Feelings

When we start to think that we are not good at anything and expect bad stuff to happen, it can make us feel anxious, stressed and worried. Once our behaviour has led to us confirming that we really are un-loveable and we blame ourselves for it, it can lead to low mood, guilt and feelings of annoyance, blame, anger or shame.

How can counselling help?

Counselling can help you understand where these negative beliefs about yourself come from, and noticing the patterns in your thoughts and actions so that you can make small and progressive positive changes. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form or therapy which can be helpful for overcoming low self-esteem issues. It can help you to make small changes in what you are thinking or believing, as well as what you do in order to break the chain of low self-esteem.

What is one thing I can do now to help with improving my self-esteem?

My tip for helping to improve self-esteem is to keep a positivity diary. Start to notice the things in the day where you can be grateful. Notice the things that you do well, or pick out your characteristics that you can be proud of. Ask yourself what strength does this positive situation show about me?

Social Anxiety

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is characterised by worrying about bad things happening to oneself in a social situation. It may involve worrying about how others may perceive us and lead to unhelpful strategies for coping in social situations, such as avoiding the social situations altogether.

 

Why am I socially anxious?

Social anxiety can be produced by a mixture of different factors, it is not necessarily cause by other people. There can be biological factors such as our temperament i.e. we may be shy, or we may easily react in situations.

Environmental factors such as our childhood can lead to social anxiety. You may have felt criticised by others, or given less opportunities to interact with other children. You may have learned to cope by avoiding things. There may have been negative experiences in life such as bullying, or not feeling supported by care givers. Difficult experiences throughout various stages of life, and not being able to adapt well can also lead to social anxiety. 

Experiencing stress and demanding responsibilities can also lead to social anxiety.  

Symptoms

Typical thoughts

Often social anxiety can lead to thoughts where we perceive a social situation as bad and dangerous. E.g. ‘If I go to the event, no one will talk to me, it will be awkward, I won’t know what to do, people will think that I am an idiot.’ ‘I’ll make a mistake in this situation, I don’t fit in.’ 

Typical behaviours

Due to a negative evaluation of the environment and possible or existing social situations, social anxiety will cause someone to behave in an unhelpful way. Examples include, avoiding social situations so that they can’t go wrong, trying to put a barrier between them and others, e.g. avoiding to make eye contact, or making themselves really busy so there is no time to talk to others. People with social anxiety may rehearse what they plan to say. 

Physical sensations:

People who feel anxious, and are about to go into a social situation, or be contemplating a social situation may start to: shake, feel sweaty, thoughts racing, butterflies in stomach.

Typical Feelings

The rumination of thinking that something bad will happen in a social situation can lead to worry, anxiety, sadness, panic and stress. 

 

How can therapy help?

Counselling can help to understand how experiences led to social anxiety, and how patterns of behaviour keeps the anxiety going. Using Cognitive behavioural therapy, small changes can be made to the beliefs that one holds, in order to change the evaluation of a situation, and make small steps to being able to face social situations. This is done in a graded approach so that it does not feel overwhelming to the client.

 

What is one thing I can do now to help with reducing my social anxiety?

Is there are a way you can conduct an experiment to test out if a social situation would have led to your feared belief? For example, can you test out saying ‘hello, hope you have a nice day’, to someone you would have usually avoided? E.g to a shop assistant or a receptionist at work? Then rate the level of anxiety before and after, and ask yourself if your feared belief came true.