Self Esteem Answers

How do I gain a better sense of self?

How does one gain a better sense of self?  I understand that you are feeling like decisions of others are put before your own or you are accepting others' needs over your own and don't have clarity in regards to knowing if your feelings are your own.  There are several ways to gain a better sense of self, basically you will need to get to know yourself better and learn to be more in tune with your emotions and feelings.  There are several ways to do this.  These are some questions to help you get started on your self discovery journey.  What defines you?  What are your roles in life?  How do you perceive yourself?  How do others perceive you?  What is your purpose?  What are your goals?  How do you see yourself in one year, five years, ten years?  What are your most important values?  How have those values that you hold most important shown through in your decision making?  What helps you get through difficult times?  What experiences in your lifetime have made the most impact?  How do you feel when you are not sure that you are in control of your own decisions?  Perhaps one of the more important things to know about yourself is what is your belief system or moral code?  Do you live by these guiding principles or have you adopted those of the other people around you?  It is important to know what you stand for, what you believe in to define your sense of self.  Once you understand and can identify how you perceive yourself in this world, you may be in a better position to identify when you are putting the needs and thoughts of others above your own.  When you are more comfortable with who you are, and what you stand for, it may be easier to know when you are thinking for yourself or adopting the values, beliefs, and moral codes of others.  You may also find great satisfaction in identifying yourself as a person separate from those who surround you and knowing what you want rather than wondering if your decisions are based on others.  It may also be useful for you to keep track of how often you agree to things that you later regret or leave you wondering if you made a decision that was in your best interest.  You will find that others may value you more as an individual with your own self expression, thoughts, and needs as you will be able to offer more to relationships.  When you are not meeting your own individual needs, you will have less capacity to meet the needs of others.    
(LPC, NCC, SAC-IT)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How to feel wholesome from within yourself?

Hello! I am glad that you reached out! I am sorry to hear that you have struggled with self-esteem issues and have relied on validation from others. Professional support can be beneficial to assist you with correcting  any painful negative beliefs that you may have about yourself.  Therapy can assist with  building your self-worth. Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person can often make you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help. While it can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes you need help that the people around you aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist or counselor can help. While the support of friends and family is important, therapy is different. Therapists are professionally-trained listeners who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from therapy. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as a divorce. But in order to reap its benefits, it’s important to choose the right therapist—someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware. Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery. Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and ask questions when interviewing potential therapists. As you start to resolve your past and current issues you are more likely to gain clarity on life decisions, build your self-worth and be on a path to a healthier future. I wish you luck as you move ahead with seeking support!
Answered on 10/18/2021

I am in trouble about my social habits and weak communication skills being an introvert.

Hello Sashy Boy, I am glad you reached out for support at this time.  I am sorry you are struggling in this moment.  I would encourage you to start to work with a therapist to help you learn skills to help you overcome your struggles.  If we were to meet I would first talk to you about the counseling process through our site and how together we could help you obtain your goals going forward, how I work as a counselor and how I would try to help you through the counseling process.  I would also take the first session to get to know you by asking you a few questions to get a better understanding of your struggles, so that I am able to focus on a plan and goals to work on going forward. I want you to know that you are not alone during this time even through you may feel like you are alone at this time.  During the therapy process you can have support 100% of the time as you are able to reach out and talk to a therapist 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I am going to send you some skills and tools to help you during this time of struggle you are having.  If we were to work together we would be going over these and more tools to help you through our struggles and be able to ask for support from others. How to Start a Conversation …1. Memorize some conversation startersHere are several examples of good conversation starters for different social settings:Party conversation starters·         How do you know people here?·         What brought you here?·         Do you know [the name of the host]?·         Where are you from?·         I like your [part of their outfit], where did you get it?·         I believe we met before at [place where you met before]?·         Hello, my name is [name]. What’s your name?Dinner conversation starters·         Have you tried the [dish]?·         What’s your favorite type of cuisine?·         If you opened a restaurant, what kind of place would it be?·         What’s the most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?·         What’s your favorite comfort food?·         Are you a keen cook?·         What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?Work conversation starters·         What department do you work in?·         What projects have you been working on recently?·         Where did you work before you started this job?·         What do you like most about working here?·         Did you have to relocate for this job?·         How do you handle stress when work gets busy?·         I think the company’s new policy on [whatever the policy is about] is [give your opinion]. What do you think?Group conversation startersWhen you join a group conversation, avoid rehearsed conversation starters. Instead, listen in on what people are already talking about and contribute to the ongoing conversation. With that said, there are times where a topic dies out. Here are some ideas for how to start a new interesting group conversation.·         Have you heard the news about [news story]?·         Have any of you seen [recent movie release]? What did you think of it?·         What does everyone think of [latest episode of popular TV show]?·         Has anyone heard the new album by [artist]?·         Have any of you met before?·         What’s everyone’s dream vacation?Conversation starters for dating/asking a guy/girl/crush·         What’s your favorite thing to do when you have a day off work?·         What’s your family like?·         Do you have any cool hidden talents?·         When did you last go to the movies?·         Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it?·         When you and your best friend hang out, what do you like to do?·         When was the last time you felt really proud of yourself?Conversation starters for friends·         How’s it going with [something you’ve talked about before]?·         What’s your favorite memory?·         Would you ever like to be famous? If so, what would you like to be famous for?·         Do you ever think about what you’ll do when you retire?·         Have you ever been so embarrassed that you wanted the ground to swallow you up?·         When do you think we’ll be able to take day trips into space?·         Have you ever wanted to keep a rare or exotic pet, like a tarantula?For most situations, you’re better off starting a conversation based on the situation rather than using a memorized line. The remainder of this guide will cover how to do this.2. Ask something about the situationExamples of day-to-day situations where you might want to strike up a conversation·         At the lunch table with a random person from another job department or class.·         Standing with others in the hallway waiting for class to start.·         Sitting next to another traveler on a train or plane.Don’t ask direct questions in day-to-day lifeAt social events, which we talk about here, the norm is that strangers present themselves to each other. In day-to-day life, on the other hand, you can’t be so direct.Ask a simple question about the situation rather than the other personTo ease into a conversation, we can ask a question about the situation we’re in.That gives us a reason to start talking, and it’s not too direct.It helps to ask something that you already have on your mind. But if you don’t, you can use your surroundings or the situation for inspiration.An example of a day-to-day conversation from last weekLast week I ended up next to someone on the train.I’d been wondering if they served snacks on board. It was a natural conversation starter because it was already on my mind and related directly to my surroundings.I asked her, “Excuse me, do you know if they serve snacks here?”She responded with something like, “Hmm. Yeah, they should!”It was natural for me to ask a follow-up question: “Good, I forgot breakfast today.” (Both of us smiled) Me: “Do you take this train often?”Let’s go through some common worries about starting a conversation, and then I’ll talk more about follow-up questions.3. Know that you don’t have to be cleverYou don’t need to ask a deep or meaningful question. What you actually ask isn’t important.[1] You don’t have to try to come off as unique or smart in your first interaction. The best conversation starters are usually simple.Asking a question is a way to signal that you’re friendly and open to social interaction.[2]In reality, small talk is often mundane, and people are OK with that. Small talk is just a warm-up for more interesting conversation.4. Look at the direction of their feet and gazeWhen you know what to look for, you can tell from someone’s body language whether they want to talk to you. See this article for more tips: How to see if someone wants to talk to you.It’s normal to just get a short “yes” or “no” answer to your first question. It doesn’t mean that people don’t want to talk to you, just that you have to give them a few seconds to switch over to “social mode.”But if they only give short answers to your follow-up questions, it’s usually a good idea to say “Thanks” or “Nice chatting with you” and move on.Article continues below.A recommendationIf you want to improve your social skills, self-confidence, and ability to connect with someone, you can take our 1-minute quiz.You’ll get a 100% free custom report with the areas you need to improve.Start the quizLook at the direction of their feet and the direction of their gaze. If they look away from you a lot or point their feet away from you, it’s often a good sign that they want to end the conversation.[3] You might have lots of interesting things to talk about, but the other person might not be in the mood for social interaction. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, so try not to take it personally.Make sure your body language is friendly and openYour body language needs to match your words; it should signal that you are relaxed, trustworthy, and happy to talk.Remember to:·         Maintain good eye contact. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll come across as intimidating or creepy. This article will help you get the balance right.·         Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Avoid rocking or swaying because these movements make you appear nervous.·         Stand or sit up straight, but do not stiffen your back. Push your chest out slightly and keep your head up. Good posture signals confidence.·         Use a genuine smile. When we smile naturally, our eyes crease slightly at the corners. You can practice this in a mirror so it comes easily to you during conversations.For more advice on how to improve your body language, see this guide.5. Ask follow-up questionsTo signal that we’re interested in talking to someone, we can ask follow-up questions.In the example with the train, I asked: “Do you take this train often?” That’s a simple follow-up to my question about whether there were snacks available on board.Rather than asking a series of general questions like, “Where are you from?,” “How do you know people here?,” and “What do you do?,” you can use follow-up questions to dig deeper.For example:You could ask, “Where are you from?” followed by, “What was it like growing up there?” and then, “What do you miss the most about it?”Digging into a subject like this rather than asking superficial questions tends to make the conversation more interesting.6. Mix asking questions with sharing about yourselfWe don’t want to ask too many questions in a row or talk too much about ourselves. So how do you find the balance? Use the IFR method.Inquire: Ask a sincere questionFollow up: Ask a follow-up questionRelate: Share a little bit about yourself that relates to what they saidYou can then start the loop again by asking a new sincere question (Inquire).The other day I was talking to someone who turned out to be a filmmaker. Here’s how the conversation went:Inquire:Me: What kind of documentaries do you do?She: Right now, I’m doing a movie on bodegas in New York City.Follow up:Me: Oh, interesting. What’s your take away so far?She: That almost all bodegas seem to have cats!Relate:Me: Haha, I’ve noticed that. The one next to where I live has a cat who always sits on the counter.And then I inquire (IFR repeat):Me: Are you a cat person?You want to make the conversation go back and forth. They talk a little bit about themselves, we talk about ourselves, then let them talk again, and so on.[4]7. Use open-ended questionsAn open-ended question is a question that requires more than a “Yes” or “No” in response. By using open-ended questions, people often feel inspired to give a longer answer.Examples of closed-ended questions:Did you like school?What’s your job title?Are you going to take a vacation this year?Examples of open-ended questions:What was school like for you?What sort of things do you do at work?What would your ideal vacation be like?However, this doesn’t mean that all closed-ended questions are bad. For example, if you initiate a conversation in day-to-day life, an open-ended question can feel too abrupt, while a close-ended question is more natural:For example, “Are you done reading that magazine?” is more natural than “What did you think of that magazine?”Here’s a longer list of examples of closed and open-ended questions.8. Know that tone is more important than wordsThe impression you make on other people depends partly on what you say, but it mainly depends on how you say it.Many people focus too much on what to say rather than their delivery.You want to speak in a friendly and relaxed tone of voice. If you do, you don’t have to worry about the exact words you use.Examples of how to start a conversation in day to day lifeRather than fabricating questions, you can ask about things that are genuinely interesting or at least relevant to the situation (like I did on that train). Don’t worry about asking obvious questions. If you sound friendly and relaxed, the questions will sound natural.When sitting next to someone on a train or plane:You: “Do you know how to make the seats recline?” (Question about the situation)They: “You have to press the button to the right.”You: “Thanks! Are you also going to Denver?” (Closed follow up-question)They: “Yes, I am! I’m going to visit my family.”You: “Nice, me too. I haven’t been home in 6 months. Where do you live now?” (Sharing about yourself and asking an open follow-up question)When having to socialize during lunchtime with someone from another department at work:You: “What kind of fish is that?” (Question about the situation)They: “I don’t know actually.”You: “I’m no fish expert either, haha. But it looks good. What department do you work in?”(They explain where they work)You: “Okay, nice, I work at (explains). How do you like it over there?” (Sharing something about yourself and asking an open follow-up question)Waiting with someone else in the corridor for class to start:You: “Is this the physics lecture hall?” (Question about the situation)They: “Yeah.”You: “Great. How do you feel about the test?” (Open follow-up question)They: “I hope it’ll go well. I felt like I grasped the material better yesterday when I went through it again.”You: “Yeah, same here, even though I didn’t have time to check out the last chapter. How come you chose this course?” (Sharing something about yourself and asking an open follow-up question)9. Make a positive remarkThis is my go-to method with people I’ve only had short interactions with before, like a “Hi” or a “How are you?”Because you know each other a little bit, you can be a little bit more direct than you can be with complete strangers.Examples of situations where you can use this method:·         When sitting next to someone you barely know at a friend’s dinner.·         When you want to speak to someone from another class who you’ve previously exchanged nods with in the corridor.·         When you want to talk with the barista at the cafe where you get your morning coffee every morning.In these situations, I make a positive remark about something in the environment.Examples of positive remarks:“The salmon looks delicious!”“This place looks great since they renovated it!”“It smells wonderful in here! I love the smell of freshly roasted coffee.”(I don’t make positive remarks about them, e.g., “I like your dress,” because this type of remark can feel too personal if you are only acquaintances.)When you say something positive, you’ll come off as more friendly. After all, they don’t know you yet, so their first impression of you will be based on the first few words they hear.You can now continue the conversation, as I showed in these examples.10. Use your five sensesIt tends to be harder than usual to think in social situations, and sometimes it’s difficult to come up with anything to say about our surroundings.The five senses exercise can help. By tuning into your senses and noticing what is going on around you, you can get the inspiration you need to begin a conversation with anyone.It also acts as a grounding exercise that helps reduce your anxiety. Instead of focusing on your anxious thoughts, you’re fully present and living in the moment.[5]Use each of your five senses to notice things in your environment.See if there are things in your room that you can:·         See·         Hear·         Feel·         Taste·         SmellHave you found five things? Great!Can you choose one or two things and say something positive about them? Or, if you want a real challenge, can you find something positive to say about all five?You can use this method whenever you want to start a conversation.Here’s what I came up with when I did this exercise. They are all good examples of good questions to start a conversation:“I like indoor plants. It makes the room much nicer.”“That’s a great design for a kitchen.”“You can see really far from here.”“I love the coffee smell.”“I wonder if coffee tastes good just because it makes me feel good, or if I actually like the taste of the coffee itself?”“I like it when the evenings get a bit chillier.”But David, you might be thinking, these are just meaningless statements!What we’re doing here is signaling to people, “I’m not a threat, and I’m open to making conversation if you are.”It’s not about what you say – it’s about what you convey.[6]That’s why it’s important to make positive remarks. It shows that we’re friendly.[7] You can find more conversation openers here.11. Ask a few “Getting To Know You” questionsIn day-to-day life, we need to break the ice before we can start interacting with someone.But sometimes, we’re expected to talk to people. In these situations, you can start the conversation by asking a question about them. I call this the Getting To Know You method.Examples: Starting a conversation by asking these “Getting To Know You” questionsThese questions can be used to get to know someone new at work, in school, at a party, mingle, or dinner.“Hi, Nice to meet you! I’m David…”“… How do you know people here?”“… Where are you from?”“… What do you do?”Pro tip: I’ve memorized these questions, so I can fire one off if I run out of other things to say to start a conversation. Here are some examples that also illustrate how you can use follow-up questions to keep the conversation going:You, at a writing workshop: “How do you know people here?”They: “I know Becka over there.”You: “Nice, how do you know each other?”(They explain)You: “OK, I see. I know Jessica. She and I are friends from college. She loves writing, so she asked me to come, and now I’m very happy I did. How did you and Becka get into writing?”You, at a friend’s party: “Where are you from?”They: “I’m from upstate New York.”You: “Cool, do you live in NYC now, or do you commute?”(They explain)You: “I’m from Sweden originally but moved here a few years ago. How do you like it here?”You: “Hi, I’m David. Nice to meet you. What brings you here?”They: “I’m here because I always wanted to learn more about photography.”You: “Me too! What do you like most about photography?”(They explain)You can then tell them what you like most about photography, and then you can ask a follow-up question: “What’s it like shooting analog compared to digital?”As you can see in these examples, you want to share a little bit about yourself in between asking questions. How to Not Get Nervous Talking to People 1. Focus on getting to know peopleFocus on the conversation you’re having and try to get to know the person.This makes us more confident. Instead of focusing on every little thing we might be doing wrong, we’re able to be present with the other person. When we fully focus on the conversation, it can make us curious. Curiosity activates our “exploratory drive” and questions automatically start popping up in our heads. That makes it easier to know what to say. That’s part of why it’s so easy to talk to close friends. We don’t run out of things to say because we’re focused on the conversation or the surroundings rather than what they might think of us.If you walk into a room full of strangers, you can get the same results by focusing on those around you even if you’re not talking to someone. “I wonder what her job might be”. “That’s a nice T-shirt”, etc.2. Check-in on yourself occasionallySometimes we feel the need to check in on ourselves. For example, I came to think about my posture the other day in a conversation. I corrected my posture and then moved my attention back to the conversation.It’s OK to “check-in” on yourself like that. That can help us feel a little more in control. We just don’t want to get stuck thinking about ourselves.3. Accept your thoughts and feelingsIf you feel worried or have negative thoughts like “what will they think of me” – do the following:If you try to fight your feelings of nervousness or anxiety, that can make you feel worse about yourself. When you instead accept that you are nervous, you take control over those feelings. “I feel nervous right now and that’s OK”. After all, being nervous isn’t worse or more dangerous than being hungry or tired. They are all feelings.4. Practice focusing outward while watching moviesSometimes, the brain wants to do the opposite of what we want it to do. When we want to focus on others, it wants to worry about how others see us. You can teach your brain to focus outward (rather than worrying about you) by repeatedly moving your focus back to someone else. The next time you’re watching someone talking on Youtube or in a movie, you can practice re-focusing your attention.Move your attention from the person you’re watching (their appearance, manners, energy level, etc), to the topic they’re talking about (ask yourself questions about it, practice being curious about it), to yourself (how you feel, how others might view you), then back to the person, and repeat several times.Training your attention outside of social settings makes it easier to refocus in real social settings. 5. Practice being curious about othersLet’s say that right now, you meet this woman at an event:You ask her how she’s doing, and she replies:“I’m alright but jetlagged. I just came home from France”.If you’re like I used to be, your anxiety might kick in and say something like this:“Uh oh, she’ll think I’m a loser for never being to Europe. She looks skeptical, I can tell. Hmm, should I tell her about that time I was in Cancun? I mean, that shows I’ve traveled at least a bit. WHAT SHOULD I SAY?”Confident people focus on what she says, and are curious about it.“Oh, she’s been to France – how come? What did she do there? Did she like it? Where in France? What was the weather like? Has she been there before?”You shouldn’t ask all these questions. This is just to show your internal monologue. But – you can ask ANY of those questions. Focusing outward makes it EASIER to come up with things to say.Scroll back up at the photo and see if you can come up with some more questions about her, by focusing on what she said. That is a GREAT exercise to learn to refocus and be better at making conversation. If you can’t come up with anything, that’s fine! But that’s a sign that you want to practice focusing outward. Here, I’ve written about how to make interesting conversation by focusing outward.6. See nervousness as excitementWhen we do something new, we feel fear. But doing new things gives us experience and makes us feel happier with life.  In other words, fear and nervosity is a sign of something good about to happen!In fact, the body’s response to nervousness and excitement is exactly the same When you’re excited or scared you’re feeling the same feeling. It’s just that we tend to interpret anxiety as something bad and excitement as something good.You can say to yourself: What I feel is excitement for something good about to happen.7. Do things just slightly outside your comfort zoneThere’s no point in going way out of our comfort zone. We want to be in the sweet spot of it. We can only be in the terrifying part for a few minutes. We can be in the exciting zone regularly as a habit.Practicing terrifying things can help you do terrifying things in the future. You want to build your ability to do things that are meaningful to you, like meeting new, interesting people or having a relaxed conversation and form a connection.Here’s an example of what this can look like in real life:If you’re used to just nodding to the cashier in your supermarket, say “Hi”. If you’re used to just saying “Hi”, ask her how she’s doing. If you’re used to asking her how she’s doing, joke with her (And so on).LESSON LEARNED: Don’t do what’s dull. Don’t do what’s terrifying. Make it a habit to do things SLIGHTLY out of what you’re used to. That way, your comfort expands a little every day.(Therapists call this graded exposure. This is one of the methods that therapists use to treat social anxiety.[12] It’s something you can try on your own, but if you’d like extra support, you can find a therapist or counselor and they will give you expert guidance.)8. Understand how insecure other people areLook at these numbers. They might surprise you.·         1 in 10 have had social anxiety at some point in their lives. ·         1 in 3 millennials say they have no close friends. ·         5 out of 10 see themselves as shy. ·         5 out of 10 don’t like the way they look. (Only 4% of women feel comfortable describing themselves as beautiful.)[ ·         8 of 10 feel uncomfortable being the center of attention. ·         9 out of 10 have some type of body insecurity. Realizing this changed something in me.Let’s do an exercise that uses this realization to our advantage.Imagine that you’re at the outdoor meetup event above and don’t know anyone. How would you feel? Quite uncomfortable, I’d guess. Now, look at the image again but focus on how 9 out of 10 of them carry some kind of insecurity. Some might be loud and intimidating, others look calm, but that’s their way of looking confident.  In reality, they’re quite insecure!Therapists describe this as acquiring more realistic beliefs.   It’s when we crush the false idea that everyone is confident but us.Simply reminding us of this fact makes us less nervous around people  9. See talking to someone as helping them outWhen we carry negative beliefs about ourselves, we can behave in a way that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.If you believe that you’re the only one at the gathering who feels anxious or awkward, then maybe you’re going to stay silent or leave early, and that’s just going to make you feel more isolated from everyone else.If you instead can update your belief with the more realistic view that lots of other people at the party also feel anxious, you might realize that you can actually help someone else out by starting a conversation with them.Instead of choosing to withdraw you choose to engage.10. Speak to yourself as you would to a friendIf you fear that people will judge you, or think bad things about you, it can be a symptom that you are judging and thinking bad things about yourself. Psychologists call this projection: We project our own view of ourselves onto others. As long as we’ll judge ourselves, we’ll assume that others will judge us, too.With this in mind, the way to stop feeling judged by others is to stop judging yourself. So how do you do that? When we speak to ourselves in a different way, we can change the way we value ourselves. Instead of saying things like…“I’m so stupid/ugly/worthless”You can say…“I made a mistake, and that’s human. Everyone makes mistakes.”.Or, say that you judge yourself for not being good socially. You can remind yourself of a moment where you did do good socially.Some find it helpful to keep a journal where they write three positive things about themselves each day. The things can be as small as “I brushed my teeth today” or “I can be funny sometimes”. The important thing is to be consistent.By challenging your own judging voice, you slowly change the way you see yourself. As a result, you also change the way you assume that others see you. Sometimes it can be hard to break out of these thought patterns by yourself. In these cases, therapy can help.11. Dare to be friendly even when you’re nervousWhen I met new people, I was always cautious (To not risk being rejected). People saw me as aloof.Naturally, they responded by being aloof back. That reinforced my worldview that people didn’t like me.When I realized this, I decided to try to dare to be warm toward people FIRST. (Just as an experiment – I didn’t think it would even work.)But the results were amazing. When I dared to be warm toward people off the bat, they were warm toward me, too!Here are some examples of showing warmth: ·         Asking people a question or two about how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to. It’s effective because it signals that you care.·         If someone pulls a joke or tells a story, show appreciation by laughing or making a positive remark. It can be as little as “Haha, I love that story!”·         If you like what someone’s doing, let them know about it. “I liked what you said before regarding apartment designs”.·         If you tend to “play it cool” or restrict your facial expressions as a safety behavior, practice being more expressive. (Acting more like you do with people you are comfortable with).We dislike people who we think dislike us. We like people who we think like us. Here, I explain in more detail how to be more friendly. 12. Choose to accept your flawsI used to obsess that my nose was big. I decided to accept that it was part of me. I stopped trying to hide the fact that I had a big nose and owned it. I didn’t try to convince myself that my nose was small. Instead, I accepted the fact that my nose isn’t small. As a result, I stopped worrying about being judged for my nose. That made me more comfortable and likable.If we walk through life hoping that no one notices our insecurities or fears, we will always be afraid that someone might “find out”.We can choose to accept all our flaws. A friend of mine stopped being afraid to share that he was afraid and had insecurities. Something unexpected happened. When he stopped caring about those flaws, his nervosity faded away. This doesn’t mean that he walks up to people and tell them about his insecurities. It’s about accepting that it’s OK that people DO KNOW about our insecurities.If someone would walk up to you and say: Are you nervous? It’s a relief to not have to hide it, but to be able to say “Yes, I am.”Being completely accepting of ourselves likes this makes us less nervous.  13. Use your surroundings for inspirationFocus on your surroundings, the situation, and those you meet and use it as an inspiration for new conversation topics. Here are some examples of how to do this in practice.Topics inspired by the situationIf you’re, say, in the lunchroom at work or outside of the classroom in school, people aren’t always prepared to socialize. Here, you want to “ease in” by asking something regarding the situation first…“Excuse me, do you know when this class will start?”“Hi, where did you find the coke?”“Do you know if there’s another bathroom around here?”You’ll probably just get a short yes or no to this question, but a simple question like this is important as a warm-up to make your next question more natural and not as “out of the blue”.Now, you can ask a question based on the person – like, “Thanks. I’m David by the way. I started working here a few days ago. How do you find the place?”14. Practice coming up with statements in your headI made it a habit to make statements and ask questions in my head about stuff I saw when I walked down the street.After some time, I automatically started focusing outward instead of worrying as much about me.Here’s an exercise you can do right now to come up with these statements:1. Look around your room, and make statements in your head about things you see.“I like that lamp” “That plant needs water” “The sun really lights up this room” “The countertop is so messy” (And so on).2. When you go outside, ask yourself questions about those you see“I wonder where he’s from?” “I wonder what she’s doing for work?” “Is she nervous or is that how she always looks?”Notice how this makes you less self-conscious.When you practice this new way of thinking, coming up with new topics gets easier.When a topic dies out, you can naturally start a new one based on thoughts you already have in your head.“Is that a Samsung phone you got there? Happy with it? I’m thinking about ditching my iPhone.” 15. Return to earlier conversation topicsWhen a topic runs dry with someone you’ve talked with for a while, jump back to any of the things you’ve talked about before.Here’s an example from a conversation I had the other day:She: So yeah, that’s why I like Canon better than Sony because the second-hand market is much larger for Canon…Me: Interesting… (Conversation dies out)Me: You mentioned that you lived in Ukraine earlier. Did you make films there as well or what did you do?If this feels hard, it gets easier when you focus outward as I talked about at the beginning of this article.Think back to a conversation you had with someone:·         What topics did you cover?·         What could you ask about those topics?·         If you have a hard time coming up with questions, you want to focus more on the actual conversation. (Earlier in this guide I talked about how curiosity activates our “exploratory drive”.)·         When you watch a movie you like, questions pop up in your head all the time. “Who’s the murderer?” “Who took the gun?”. Why? Because focus leads to curiosity. In the same way, you want to focus on the conversation you’re having.16. Ask yourself whether mistakes really matterKnow that confident people say as many stupid things as nervous people do. It’s just not as big of a deal for them.I felt like I was always just one wrong word from losing everyone’s approval. I thought that I had to be PERFECT.It’s normal to have some fear of making mistakes – nobody wants to mess up. But the issue is having TOO MUCH fear of making mistakes.Psychologists call this Catastrophizing – when you believe that a social mistake means YOUR LIFE IS RUINED and PEOPLE HATE YOU and therefore YOU MUST AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS.[28]Meanwhile, a more realistic belief is that a social mistake would create a minor socially awkward moment that would be uncomfortable but would be forgotten in ten minutes.Fear of being judged, nervousness, and social anxiety, all boils down to being overly afraid of making mistakes.[29] In other words, anxious people overestimate the effect of social mistakes. We think that for people to like us, we have to be perfect. If we mess up, everyone will judge us.When you beat yourself up for something you said, ask yourself if you had cared if someone else had said it. Would you dislike the person? Or would you just find that person a bit more relatable?17. Ask what a confident person would have doneWhen you feel like you’ve messed up, ask yourself how a confident person would have reacted if they’d made the same mistake.Do you know a really confident person? If so, you can have that person as your point of reference. Or, you could have someone like The Rock or Jennifer Lawrence in mind. How would they have reacted if they’d made the same mistake you just made?Most often, we can assume that they would’ve just made a joke about it or wouldn’t care.18. Ask something slightly personalWhen I asked my readers what made you the most nervous in social settings, one issue that came up was the worry of not being interesting enough.You won’t get to know someone by talking about facts and opinions. When we switch over to talk about what’s personal, the conversation gets interesting. Maybe you talk about how rents are high. If we get stuck on this topic, most people get bored after a while. So, we want to switch the conversation into PERSONAL MODE.So, maybe you say “Yeah, the rents are ridiculous. I have this dream to move to the countryside one day and buy my own house instead. Where do you think you’ll be living in a few years?”Do you see what happened there?By sharing something slightly personal, the conversation feels more interesting!g an organization such as Toastmasters International, which is designed to help people get used to public speaking.Practice each speech as well. The more times you do it, the easier it can be to remember. Consider recording yourself. Each time you practice, pick out one thing that you want to work on and try to do that better next time. When you watch the recordings, make sure that you also notice all of the things that you have done right or gotten better at.4. If it goes wrong, pretend to be coolAs with everything else, public speaking can sometimes go wrong. You might forget what you’re about to say, your presentation might not load on the screen or you might get the microphone stuck in your hair. I’ve seen all of these happen in professional presentations and it’s been fine.The person who forgot what they were about to say took a sip of water and said “And this is why we bring notes”. The audience chuckled while she checked her notes and she carried on. Afterwards, she told me that she’d been cringing inside but she’d just tried to look cool about it. Honestly, we were all really impressed at how relaxed she’d seemed.Pretending to be relaxed about mistakes isn’t easy. Try having a prepared reaction to potential problems. You could say “Well, that wasn’t in my plan. Oh well. Let’s carry on anyway”. You might not feel relaxed to start with, but this really is an area where it’s worth trying to ‘fake it till you make it’. I hope that these skills have been helpful for you in your struggles you have been facing at this time. I am going to give you my information if you are wanting to start to process through and work on your struggles going forward, please reach out to Betterhelp and ask to be matched with Crystal Westman. If we were to work together we would work on more skills and tools to help you when you are struggling and get back to a positive space.  I encourage you to reach out for support at this time to help you get to the best version of yourself.
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can i improve my self confidence

Relationships that end abruptly or in an unhealthy way can often cause a lot of self-doubt and low self-esteem. The truth is people do not know how to love us, they learn how to love us through the boundaries that we set and the things that we will or will not tolerate.  The journey to healing and re-building our self-esteem is a holistic one: mind, body, and soul. We must spend time alone to begin to explore and really learn who we are and what we like (and don’t like). Go out for dinner alone, see a museum, visit an art gallery, or explore the city (safely of course) by yourself and make decisions that do not include the opinions of others, only your own opinion. Is there a place you have always wanted to visit, and your old partners were never interested or an activity that you have always wanted to do and never did? Now is the time to do those things. Get in touch with yourself and remember what set your soul on fire, what made you tick, what brought you passion and enthusiasm? We sometimes forget those things when we are in relationships, especially when they are unhealthy relationships or when we are trying to fulfil the expectations of others whether it be due to family or culture. When we learn about ourselves and our values, we learn to set boundaries with others so they love us the way we love ourselves and if they cannot we have the confidence to be able to call people out when they cross boundaries or leave when they cannot match the love, we have for ourselves. Be patient with yourself on the days that you maybe do not feel so well. Take time for self-care and on those "down" days be even more compassionate with yourself. Ask yourself "if someone I cared about came to me with these same issues, what would I say to them?" We often tend to be more compassionate with others than we are with ourselves, but we too deserve the love we give. Holistic healing and self-care are so important. Ask yourself have you had water, are you eating okay, are you eating at all, have you incorporated exercise into your day to day. All these things are forms of self-care and help remind us that we are worthy. The negative thoughts that we have are just thoughts and they are not the reality of the situation. Sometimes we must manage those thoughts by fact checking. For example, if we keep thinking "no one would notice if I was gone" and we do a fact check we often find that there are so many people in our life that would notice and in essence it dispels the thought as being a false narrative. Building yourself up after something traumatizing is hard because our self-esteem gets wrapped up in the experience. Remind yourself that you are resilient and unique and there will never be another one like you and in that you are so special and worthy. Take time to explore who you really are and what you want your life to look like. What steps can you start making today to get there? When you explore internally and create a whole person all your needs get met and anyone you welcome into your life is welcomed because you want them there, not because you need them there. You will be able to recognize more clearly when someone is worthy of your love and your time and through your journey of finding yourself you re-build your self-esteem. Use daily positive affirmations to remind yourself of that. When we think it, we feel it. I hope this helps and remember you are worthy!! 
Answered on 10/18/2021

I’m so lost in my life

Good day Nessa, and thank you for reaching out for help with regards to the distress you are experiencing as a result of feeling “lost” and lacking confidence. I can understand how distressing feeling worthless feels, and for what it’s worth, I assure you that you DO have worth. I am sure that your teenage children need you, even if they don’t always show it (as most teenagers tend to be more defiant and rebellious than affectionate and validating). The issues that you report experiencing can often be whittled down to low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can lead you to feel worthless, unlovable, and unwanted. Additionally, feelings of low self-esteem have been directly linked to aggression, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, eating disorders, and a general lower quality of life, as I’m sure you can identify or relate to at least some of these. By changing some of the things you do every day (how you dress, your posture, how you think of yourself), you can develop more confidence and higher levels of self-worth. It is important to know that while the way you are feeling did not all of the sudden happen overnight, nor is changing out of the “slump” that you are in, and simply by taking small actions each day you can surely improve your functioning and overall experience in life. Below are just a few tips and small actions that you can take that have been empirically shown to have a positive effect on increasing one’s self-esteem.    1) Wear black and invest in nice-smelling cologne or perfume. How you dress (and how you smell) can make a difference. According to a 2015 study that assessed what colors people associate with different personality traits, black was voted as a "confident" color that makes people think of attractiveness, intelligence, and confidence. Additionally, the clothes you wear can have an impact on self-esteem and self-perception. In another study, men were divided into three groups: one group dressed in suits, another in casual attire and the last group dressed in sweatpants. They were then asked to roleplay a negotiation scene for getting a raise at work. The results of this study prove the men dressed in suits (dressed for success) scored higher levels of dominance, job performance, and confidence, which ultimately resulted in them getting better negotiation deals in the roleplaying scenes. Another study has proved that how we smell greatly affects our self-confidence. Not only that but how we smell can also have an impact on how others view and treat us, which can also have a positive impact on our self-esteem.   2) Listen to bass-heavy music. Did you know that the type of music you most frequently listen to can subconsciously be driving your insecurity? Music with a louder baseline can make you feel more powerful, dominant, determined, and motivated.   3) Take more photos (including selfies). Researcher has shown that taking photos of yourself (or seeing yourself in a mirror, paying attention to the way you look) can actually raise your self-confidence. In the study, a group of 41 students took three types of photos every day: one of themselves smiling, a photo of something that made them happy that day, and a photo of something they believed could make someone else happy. Each type of photo had positive effects on the participant's self-esteem levels, but the photo they took of themselves reported the highest levels of increasing self-confidence.   4) Talking to yourself in the second person will help improve your confidence. While it's important to take note of how we think about ourselves (because this says a lot about our self-confidence), did you know that positive self-talk (actually talking out loud to yourself in a positive way) is scientifically proven to help with self-esteem? If you have ever tried to psych yourself up for a job interview with the phrase "you've got this!", you're on the right track, according to science.   5) Self-awareness and positive affirmations help. Confidence can come from being honest with yourself, but that is much harder to accomplish when your feelings of worthlessness are telling you there are no redeeming qualities about yourself. According to new brain-imaging studies published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, when people practice self-affirmations (positive self-statements), the brain's self-processing (medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex) and valuation cortex (ventral striatum and ventral medial prefrontal cortex) are both activated. The results of these scans highlight the positive neural processes that happen when we self-affirm, proving that self-affirmations work.   6) Identifying and challenging your self-criticism. We all speak to ourselves, and when we do it in encouraging ways we can feel pretty good. People with low self-esteem often have a harsh and critical inner voice though. Some therapists like to call this a ‘bully voice’. The psychologist Paul Gilbert often uses an analogy about the kind of teacher you would want for a young child: would you want one who is harsh and punitive or one who is kind and supportive? One way of overcoming low self-esteem is to change the way we speak to ourselves or to have a different relationship with our inner voice. Some of the techniques that psychologists teach include monitoring your self-critical thoughts using self-esteem worksheets like a self-critical thought monitoring record (can be found on the internet), challenging your negative thinking using thought records, and learning about your unhelpful thinking styles.   To get you started on your process of recovery and regaining a life of happiness, enjoyment, purpose, and more positive and pleasurable experiences, I recommend doing many, if not all, of the following coping skills and techniques once a day when experiencing any of the symptoms of low self-esteem you identified and I (hopefully) elaborated on and clarified from a clinical perspective. It’s important to know you probably won’t be motivated to do any of them at first because depression frequently saps motivation. In other words, know that it’s normal to feel unmotivated until you’re halfway done. Individuals who frequently practice these coping skills do get better. The seven techniques can be memorized with the acronym MY PEERS. 1. Meaning: Find small ways to be of service to others. Find personal meaning by serving something larger than yourself. Remember service doesn’t have to be big to count. Consider this, “Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” – Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning 2. Your goals: Find workable goals that give you a sense of accomplishment. Most people feel guilty when talking about goals because they set unreasonable or unworkable goals. A goal is workable if it’s: Something you can control (i.e., it doesn’t depend on others) Manageable (i.e., not overwhelming) Realistic for you (not for someone else) Measurable (i.e., you know whether or not it is done or getting done) If something goes wrong with your goal, adopt a “what can I learn from this?” attitude (versus a judgmental, “this is why I’m horrible” attitude). Also, be careful when comparing your progress with others. We usually compare our biggest weakness with another person’s biggest strength. This is unfair (and usually not accurate anyhow). 3. Pleasant Events: Schedule pleasant activities or events. Don’t wait for yourself to be “in the mood.” For example, give yourself permission for a 30-minute “vacation” or schedule a healthy hobby every day. Just remember to do these activities with the right attitude (see Engagement). Also, practice gratitude — take time to notice what went well today, not just what went wrong. Consider keeping a gratitude journal. Know that being grateful for your blessings doesn’t mean you have to discount your problems. 4. Engagement: Stay in the present. This practice is sometimes called mindfulness. As best you can, during activities try not to be in your head with self-judgment. You may not be able to turn off the self-judgment, but you can notice it and bring yourself gently back to the present. Research shows that people with higher self-compassion also have higher self-worth or self-confidence. For those who have difficulty with self-compassion or healthy engagement, you can find self-compassion exercises and Mindfulness Based Stress reduction courses online. 5. Exercise: And, eat right too. Doing moderate exercise about five times a week (30 minutes a pop) can dramatically help your mood. Moderate exercise is a level of activity where it is difficult to sing from your diaphragm while doing it. Also, pay attention to how the type of food or drink you’re eating influences your mood. You don’t have to do fad diets, but anyone will be depressed if they frequently binge on carbs, junk food, and energy drinks. Remember the virtue of moderation. Also, avoiding alcohol (a depressant) can also help reduce symptoms of depression. 6. Relationships: Focus on people who lift you up. Interact frequently with others that bring you up (not people that bring you down). While it’s OK to have some alone time, find a balance and don’t isolate yourself or the depression will linger. 7. Sleep Regularly: Try to keep a regular sleep schedule. Keep a balance with not too little and not too much sleep. Staying up late one night and then sleeping in excessively the next day is a sure-fire way to feed depression. Also, don’t try to solve problems late at night when your brain is half-asleep. As you practice these coping skills, know that you’re on the path to overcoming depression In contrast, depression tends to linger when patients make up a reason why they can’t do these things. No matter what medication you’re taking, doing several of these activities every day — especially when you don’t feel like it — is vital to the treatment of depression. These positive coping skills may take time and practice, but if we don’t take the time to be well now, the periods of “unwellness” may be forced upon us later. I hope this response provided you with some answers and hope in your desire to change your present experience, and please feel free to reach out to me should you wish to engage in individual talk psychotherapy or have any other question pertaining to the alleviation of depression and anxiety.
(LMHC, MCAP, TIRF)
Answered on 10/18/2021

I feel ugly. How do I get out of this mental pattern? What can I do to accept myself?

Hello Dana,   Thank you for reaching out and seeking help, it takes courage and strength to do so. in regards to the post you mentioned above, it sounds like you have some difficulties with your self-esteem and confidence. one of the biggest things i can recommend is practicing self-compassion and increasing your mindfulness. below I have included a write-up on mindfulness for you to read through. additionally, check out self-compassion.org it is a great website for you to review and practice some exercises to help increase your self-compassion and inner kindness. Practicing ways to identify and challenge your negative beliefs will also be a useful tool in combating these negative thinking patterns. you can do so by "putting your thoughts on trial" and helping yourself find "factual unbiased fact" about the situation. a good example would be " Jennifer feels that she is the worst at her job and they do not want her there." facts- she is still hired, if she was that bad and they did not want her, she wouldn't have the job. fact- she was chosen from several other candidates to fill the role and the position. fact- although she may have some areas she struggles with there are individuals who are at her same level and others who are just beginning with less knowledge and experience, therefore, debunking many of the thoughts about Jennifer being the worst and no one wanting her... with this example you would utilize your own thoughts and try to find evidence that can help you ground your thoughts and think more clearly through them. Lastly, i would recommend looking into grounding tools such as the stop sign through stopping method and the 54321 senses grounding techniques. these tools can help you ground yourself when you begin to have ruminating thoughts and become anxious or down and sad. it is a useful resource that allows you to be mindful and remain present in the moment.  I hope this information helps you and that you are able to find inner peace through this process. best wishes!   Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. This state is described as observing one's thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Understanding Mindfulness To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. To be mindful is to observe and label thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner. mindfulness can therefore be a tool to avoid self-criticism and judgment while identifying and managing difficult emotions. Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist and Hindu teachings. Buddhism includes a journey toward enlightenment, and the concept of "sati,"-which encompasses attention, awareness, and being present-is considered the first step toward enlightenment. The term was roughly translated from the ancient language Pali into the term "mindfulness." The emergence of mindfulness in Western culture can be attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn studied mindfulness under several Buddhist teachers, such as Philip Kapleau and Thich Nhat Hanh. As a professor at the University of Massachusetts medical school in the late 1970s, Kabat-Zinn developed a program called Mindfulness-Based StressReduction (MBSR) to treat chronic pain. He discovered that patients would often try to avoid pain-but that that avoidance would lead to deeper distress. Practicing mindfulness was a more successful approach. As mindfulness shifted into mainstream science and medicine, it became a pivotal therapeutic technique; it was integrated into Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, among others. What is mindfulness? Mindfulness encompasses two key ingredients: awareness and acceptance. Awareness is the knowledge and ability to focus attention on one's inner processes and experiences, such as the experience of the present moment. Acceptance is the ability to observe and accept-rather than judge or avoid-those streams of thought. What is the purpose of mindfulness? The goal of mindfulness is to cultivate perspective on one's consciousness andidentity that can bring greater peace mentally and relationally. Mindfulness may also be used in mindfulness-based therapies, to address stress, anxiety, or pain, and simply to become more relaxed.     Practicing Mindfulness     A person's experience of time tends to be subjective and heavily influenced by their emotional state. Fears and insecurities about the past and the future can make it difficult to fully appreciate the present. The key is learning how to pay attention. Mindfulness can take place through meditation sessions or smaller moments throughout the day. To cultivate a state of mindfulness, you can begin by sitting down and taking deep breaths. Focus on each breath and the sensations of the moment, such as sounds, scents, the temperature, and the feeling of air passing in and out of the body. Shift your attention, then, to the thoughts and emotions that you are experiencing. Allow each thought to exist without judging it or ascribing negativity to it. Sit with those thoughts. The experience may evoke a strong emotional reaction. Exploring that response can be an opportunity to address or resolve underlying challenges. How do I practice mindfulness?     To cultivate awareness, observe your thoughts and emotions and explore why those specific ideas might be surfacing. To cultivate acceptance, avoid judging or pushing away unpleasant thoughts. Emotions are natural and everyone has them-acknowledging them can help you understand yourself better and move forward. How can I be more mindful? Mindfulness can help bring you into the present moment throughout the day. As you wake up, you can focus on your breathing and the way your body gradually becomes more energized. You can incorporate a brief meditation into your workday, perhaps on your lunch break, and focus and appreciate the experience of eating during meals.     What is 5 Senses Mindfulness? Sometimes we feel like we are caught in a current of water and are unable to reach solid ground. This exercise is an easy way to find your grounding and feel more centered on a difficult day. During this exercise, you bring awareness to your 5 senses in a calming and soothing way. How do I practice the 5 senses? You can do this exercise anywhere: at home, on vacation, a busy street, a quiet place in nature or at a park. You just need 5 minutes available to yourself to practice this exercise. Step 1: Take a few minutes to sit quietly and tune into your body. Take a few relaxing, deep breaths, noticing the air as it passes through your nose and mouth. Step 2: You can choose to participate in all 5 senses, or just focus on one. Below are some examples of how to focus your energy on one sense at a time. Sight: Shift your concentration to noticing the world around you. Notice colors, changes in light, textures, and movement. Look at the nature around you, look at a picture on the wall, or notice the edge of a table or the pattern in the carpet. Pay attention to your surroundings and look for things you have not noticed before. Sound: Close your eyes and notice all the things you can hear. Listen to music, pay attention to the sounds of nature, the wind in the trees, or water dripping. Be mindful of any sounds that come your way, letting them go in one ear and out the other. Smell: Now, shift your concentration to noticing the smells of your environment. Is somebody cooking nearby? Are you able to notice the smell of perfume, flowers, or laundry? Mindfully breathe in the scents around you. Smell an orange, chocolate, or your favorite scented oils. Taste: Find something such as a small chocolate or fruit and really taste the food, noticing the flavor and intensity. Sip a drink slowly, savoring the taste. Try new foods, especially if they are sweet, sour, or bitter. Instead of judging the food as good or bad, simply notice how your taste buds respond. Touch: Notice your hands and where they are placed. Notice the pressure between your feet and the floor. Run your fingertips gently up the inside of your arm. Feel the air across your skin. Walk barefoot on grass, sand, or water, noticing how your feet feel. Pet your cat or dog, have a massage, or hug someone. Hot, cold, sharp, hard, soft-there are many textures to experience. When you are finished, breathe full and deep. Acknowledge your remarkable body that allows you to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. The Benefits of Mindfulness     Mindfulness is frequently used in meditation and certain kinds of therapy. Its benefits include lowering stress levels, reducing harmful ruminating, and protecting against depression and anxiety. Research even suggests that mindfulness can help people better cope with rejection and social isolation. Does mindfulness really work? Review studies suggest that mindfulness-based interventions can help reduce anxiety, depression, and pain. To a lesser extent, they can alleviate stress and improve quality of life. How does mindfulness help relieve anxiety? Mindfulness encompasses awareness and acceptance, which can help peopleunderstand and cope with uncomfortable emotions, allowing them to gain control and relief. To cultivate these skills, concentrate on breathing to lengthen and deepen your breaths. Foster an awareness of the five senses. Notice your thoughts and feelings, and practice curiosity and self-compassion.     Questions for consideration:     *How can you incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine? *How will you practice mindfulness? *What would you hope to achieve through mindfulness?  
(MS, LMHC, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How do I stop feeling paranoid that people are laughing at me all the time?

Hello! I am glad that you reached out. I am sorry to hear that you have been bullied and how much this has affected you. I encourage you to work on building your self-worth, with the help of professional support. You would need to meet with a therapist and have a thorough evaluation to know exactly what you are experiencing and to get the proper treatment. Therapy can be an effective treatment for a host of mental and emotional problems, including social anxiety and building confidence.Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person can often make you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help.While it can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes you need help that the people around you aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist or counselor can help. While the support of friends and family is important, therapy is different. Therapists are professionally-trained listeners who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life.You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from therapy. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as a divorce. But in order to reap its benefits, it’s important to choose the right therapist—someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware. Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery. Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and ask questions when interviewing potential therapists. I wish you the best as you seek out proper treatment for your specific situation.
Answered on 10/18/2021

How do I truly love myself and get over jealousy and insecurities that root from not loving myself?

Hello JD, What you are describing here is something that a lot of people go through regarding relationships. When we do not feel good about ourselves, the negativity spreads. Our feeling of fear (anxiety) and negative self-talk take off and begin to increase in their strength and also how often they occur and how long they stay with us.  These three measures are known as intensity (how strong something feels, let's say, on a scale of one through ten, frequency, which describes how often something happens, and duration, which is the word for how long it lasts for once it does happen) and by turning into these factors, we can become more aware of what is happening inside of us.  We can observe it all more objectively rather than just have it come and sweep over us. The goal is to be more able to witness these episodes of negativity almost as if seeing it from a distance or like you're watching a movie of someone else going through what you are experiencing, because that way, we engage our ability to think as well as to react to the feeling.  Emotions are very valuable information providers, indeed, however, they are very rarely accurate, as they are colored and shaded intensively and most of the time, we do ourselves an injustice and get into situations we regret, when we rely on them as the sole provider of our information. We have to find a way to "get our heads" back into the game so that we can also think more rationally than our strong feelings would allow us to. Also, with most negative emotions, it is very common for us to mentally eliminate a tremendous amount of options that may be available to us by something that is known as 'all or nothing thinking.' This is the thought habit/pattern of convincing ourselves that there is only one single way to do something or one answer to something. We then (most of the time inadvertently and deep below the surface of our conscious mind) put this amazing pressure on ourselves to  *Find THE right answer. *Do THE right thing.*Have THE right way to deal with things. That type of pressure is then something that fuels our sense of being less than and below an imaginary bar we set for ourselves when we compare ourselves to other people. And unless we have many people around us to contact the negative self-talk we have with all day long, every day of the week, then we are apt to start believing the awful things we are thinking day in and day out. By working with someone who can help us see how and where these negative and harmful self messages are playing out in our lives, we can do things to get involved more in that process and take back control over our negative emotions. We can regain our own inner voice that has been stifled by the ongoing negativity and start to reconnect with a sense of self-care and maybe even self-love.  
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can I gain some self trust, self esteem, courage to be myself?

Dear Celia,   Thank you very much for your courage in sharing.   Through your words I could feel how you have been wounded time and time again by those close to you, perhaps both intentionally and unintentionally during your upbringing. I agree with you that when we are constantly being told / reminded what we're wrong about, we become wounded and our self-image is sabotaged. That is not something that you would say to your friend nor you deserve to be treated that way. I acknowledge the pain that you have been enduring and I am grateful for your bravery in addressing them.   Your words on how you've believed that you're not good enough has particularly drawn my attention, perhaps it is true that these subtle experiences have shaped and influenced our core beliefs, resulting in a distorted self-image which we hold today focusing overly on the negatives?   When it comes to self-image, as you have said it is something that has been shaped by our past and how we have been treated by everyone around us. We can't control or change how we are being treated, meanwhile perhaps throughout all these times we have also forgotten how to be kind to ourselves. We don't feel like we deserve to be kind to because of what others have said about us, which could be the reason why it's difficult to have a positive self-image.   As we explore the roots of our insecurities and bring them to our awareness, it's also important to begin practice seeing ourselves differently and interacting with ourselves differently. I'll go into more details as we move along.   To change how we see ourselves, we must first begin by learning to be compassionate towards ourselves.    Remember self-compassion? Let's review it a bit and see how this approach can be applied in changing our core beliefs and self-image. Please forgive my language here if I sound like I'm trying to sell you this concept, I wish we can rather have a dialogue over this idea than a one way informative session. I'll do what I can here with the platform offered. Thanks for bearing with me. :)   Here I will explain more in details what that means:   You already know how to treat others as you would like to be treated. But are you treating yourself that way, too? Self-compassion, or self-kindness, is vital to our mental well-being and life satisfaction.    Self-compassion is actually more important than self-esteem. Self-esteem depends on feelings of superiority or accomplishment, while self-compassion doesn’t. When you compare yourself to others and come out on top, your self-esteem gets a boost. The problem is, when you fail, or when you feel like you’re only average, your self-esteem plummets. Self-compassion, on the other hand, doesn’t depend on feeling special—all it depends on is the ability to treat yourself like a human being who deserves love and care. In other words, all it takes to practice self-compassion is to start acting like your own best friend.    At this point, you can probably recognize the sound of your harsh inner critic—that awful voice that tells you you’re not good enough, not worthy... However we’re mistaken in thinking that this voice is driving you to do better. We’ve been taught that we need to be harsh with ourselves in order to get ourselves going, whereas the truth is just the opposite. When you attack yourself, you actually make it harder to succeed. That’s because self-criticism releases the stress hormone cortisol, sending you into a state of stress that’s similar to feeling physically threatened. A common reaction to constant self-imposed stress is depression, which kills your motivation.   That’s where self-compassion comes in. When you feel reassured that failure isn’t the end of the world and that you’re not alone in failing, you’re actually in a position to try harder. People who are more self-compassionate are actually more motivated and more likely to pick themselves up when they do fail.   The good news is that being a good friend to yourself is easier than it sounds. These are some of the strategies we can start thinking about, incorporating self-compassion into our everyday life:   Let yourself feel bad:   Self-compassion means recognizing that negative emotions, as much as they suck, are a normal part of being human. That means letting yourself feel them. You want to make yourself safe enough to have whatever your natural reaction is. If that means making your ugliest cry face and punching your pillow for an hour, go ahead. Self-compassion doesn’t mean wallowing in self-pity, however. It means always keeping your best interest at heart, and it’s in no one’s best interest for you to don your PJ’s and not leave your house for an entire week.    Tell your inner critic to move along:   Chances are, you wouldn’t say the same things to a friend that you say to yourself when you’re feeling down. (Examples: “stop being a baby,” “you always screw up,” or “why are you such a failure?”) It’s time to question why you continue to say those things to yourself. The next time a judgmental thought pops into your head, understand that your inner critic is just trying to help you. Unfortunately, it’s not helpful. Take the high road and thank that inner voice for trying to help. Then dismiss it and move on.    Write yourself a love letter:   A study at York University showed that writing yourself a comforting letter every day for a week can make you feel happier for up to six months. Pen yourself a pick-me-up, but write it from the perspective of a loving friend or relative. What would you say to yourself in this situation using a very kind, compassionate, and understanding voice? I'd recommend coming back and reading your letter from time to time to reinforce the effect.    Treat yourself:   Failure is not the time to punish yourself. Try the opposite approach and give yourself a small treat, like a bubble bath or a cup of frozen yogurt, instead. Giving yourself a boost can actually make failure less frightening, which means you’ll be more likely to take risks in the future. If you know that it’s safe to fail, you will be less afraid of failure. That means you’ll be quicker to dust yourself off and try again.    Invent a self-soothing gesture:   As mammals, we’ve actually evolved to respond to a gentle, warm touch with a lowering of cortisol and a release of soothing oxytocin. This happens even when the touch is our own. Use some sort of physical gesture to express care, compassion, and soothing. It could be anything from placing your hand over your heart to patting yourself on the leg. Once you’ve invented your gesture, you can whip it out in the middle of a stressful situation. Once you calm your body down, it’s actually easier for your mind to follow suit. When was the last time you gave yourself a hug, look at the mirror and send a wish of love to ourselves?   Be your own cheerleader:   Try speaking to yourself out loud the way you would to a close friend. When you verbally comfort yourself in the midst of a painful feeling, it’s simultaneously acknowledging and validating that you are feeling it.   Acknowledging your feeling keeps you safe from denial, and validating it reminds you that it’s totally normal to feel this way. If it feels awkward to mumble to yourself out loud, just say the comforting words in your head.   Please let me know if these words are helpful, looking forward to talking with you more. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

Feeling more submissive due to pornography

Dear Prabhu,   Thank you for your message and sharing with me honestly what you have been going through. I appreciate your courage in letting me know what you have been struggling with.   You mentioned that your primary goal is to address these sexual urges and addictive sexual activities, and understanding the roots to it. This prompted me to be thinking if we should do a exploration on what drew us into this habit at the first place? As you might already know, we cannot just force our way out of something without understanding why we got into it at the first place, otherwise what we're doing isn't really bringing closure to it, rather we're just trying to suppress it until it comes back to surface again.   Therefore if you truly want a closure to these urges, we might want to study a bit about it and the functions it serve in your life.   Behavior is what we humans do. Behavior is observable and measurable. Whether it is walk from one place to another or to crack our knuckles, behavior serves some "function" or the other.   Sexual addiction, is definitely a behavior that has functions.   Applied Behavior Analysis, the research based approach to modifying behavior, seeks to find the "function" of an inappropriate behavior in order to find a replacement behavior to replace it. Every behavior serves some function, and provides a consequence (reinforcement) for the behavior.   When we successfully identify the "function" of the behavior we can reinforce an alternate, acceptable behavior that will replace it. When we have that particular "need" or function fulfilled by an alternate means, the mal-adaptive or unacceptable behavior is less likely to reappear. Let say if someone needs attention, and we give them attention in an appropriate way because of appropriate behavior, we cement the appropriate behavior and make the inappropriate or unwanted behavior less likely to appear.    For instance we can teach someone to respect our boundaries by responding to them only when they respect our boundaries, and ignore them when they don't.   The reason why I am bringing up functions behind our behaviors is that if we are to change a certain behavior (let say cheating for example), we must understand what motivates us / drives us to cheat. That way if we understand the reward behind the cheating (for example, being listened to, the thrill of getting to know someone of the opposite sex, fulfilling our sexual desires...etc), then we can decide how to develop alternative strategies to meet these needs without engaging in unwanted behaviors.   To begin with, let's understand the 6 primary functions behind every behaviors:   1. To obtain a preferred item or activity. (For example, we engage in sexual activities in order to meet our sexual needs.)   2. Escape or avoidance. The behavior helps the us to escape from a setting or activity that we don't want. (For example, we lie so that we won't get caught)   3. To get attention from others. (For example, we choose what we wear thinking about how we want others to look at us.)   4. To communicate. (Similar to no.3, we when we get upset we raise our voice around so that people will know that we are upset)    5. Self Stimulation, when the behavior itself provides reinforcement. (For example, we engage in gambling because the process in itself gives us thrill and excitement).   6. Control or Power. Some of us feel particularly powerless and a problem behavior may give us a sense of power or control. (For example, we put others down so that we feel superior over them, in order to protect ourselves or have control over the other person).   The next step is to identify the function behind our behaviors:   Antecedent -- Behavior - Consequence   Antecedent: the environment in which the behavior occurs, the circumstances that surround the occurrence of the behavior or people in the environment when the behavior occurs.   Behavior: The behavior, what we actually do, needs to be defined.   Consequence:  Everything that happens after the behavior, including how people respond to the behavior, what happens to us after the behavior.   The clearest evidence of how a behavior functions for us is seen in the Antecedent (A) and the Consequence (C.)   The Antecedent is everything that happens immediately before the behavior occurs. It is sometimes also referred to as "the Setting Event" but a setting event may be part of the antecedent, but not the whole.    We would ask "Is there something in the environment that may lead to the behavior (let say we tend to cheat when we feel lonely or neglected by our partner)   "Is there something that happens in that environment that seems to have a causal relationship, like after fighting with our partner, or feeling rejected?   The Consequence part: The term consequence has a very specific meaning, which at the same time is broader than the use of "consequence," as it usually is, to mean "punishment." The consequence is what happens as the result of the behavior.   That consequence is usually the "reward" or "reinforcement" for the behavior. Do we enjoy getting away from our actions? Do we enjoy the secret part in keeping a cheating relationship? Do we enjoy seeing how attractive we are by cheating? It is usually in how the consequence interacts with the antecedent that we can find the function of the behavior.   This framework might give us something to think about in terms of why we do what we do.   Once we have some answers, then it'll be our choice to decide whether or not we want to change, and how if we do want to change.   What are your thoughts so far? I hope this approach can help you deepen your understanding regarding these behaviors you mentioned.   Meanwhile I would like you to reflect on this message and share the observations and reflections you now have regarding your behaviors and their functions. Your ability to go through this process and share your thoughts here is crucial to how well you will be able to bring closures.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can I find my true authentic self

Hello! I am glad that you reached out! It sounds like you have been through an emotional upbringing since you did not have your father around and your mother did not live with you throughout your childhood. Being raised to not express your emotions makes it harder to do so as an adult. It would be beneficial to process these emotion in therapy. Therapy can be an effective treatment for a host of mental and emotional problems. Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person can often make you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help. While it can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes you need help that the people around you aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist or counselor can help. While the support of friends and family is important, therapy is different. Therapists are professionally-trained listeners who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from therapy. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as healing from trauma. But in order to reap its benefits, it’s important to choose the right therapist—someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware. Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery. Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and ask questions when interviewing potential therapists. The good thing about Betterhelp is that you have so many qualified therapist to choose from.  As you start to process your past sad and painful experiences you are more likely to reduce feelings of fear and insecurity and gain self-confidence which will lead to you finding your true authentic self. I wish you the best as you seek support!
Answered on 10/18/2021

Why do I hate myself so much?

There are several potential reasons you feel hatred for yourself- these can include: All-or-nothing thinking You see yourself and your life as good or bad, without taking into account everything in between. If you make a mistake, or something bad happens, you feel as though everything is ruined or that your life is over. Journaling is a great way to expose this way of thinking and shifting this gear out of focusing on just the good and the bad. Having a cynical viewpoint You see the world in a very cynical way and hate the world that you live in. You feel as though people with a positive outlook are naive to the way that the world really works. You don’t see things getting any better and have a very bleak outlook on life. Focusing on the negative Even if you have a good day, you tend to focus on the bad things that happened or what went wrong instead of those positive things that occurred. This effectively ‘blinds’ you to the amazing things in life. Keeping a daily list of positive things that have occurred as you go can decrease this reason for self-hatred. Emotional reasoning You take your feelings as facts. If you notice that you are feeling bad or like a failure, then you assume that your feelings must reflect the truth of the situation and that something must be wrong. Stepping back from your emotions and realizing they are not necessarily true or the total basis of reality is a valuable skill to learn. Having low self-esteem You generally have low self-esteem and don’t feel as though you measure up when comparing yourself to others in daily life.  First, comparing yourself to others is an impossible task— you can truly only find contentment when you find happiness from within. Identifying your strengths and what you are good at can combat this self-hatred component. Constantly seeking approval You are constantly seeking outside approval from others to validate your self-worth. Your opinion of yourself changes depending on how others evaluate you or what they think of you. Self worth is another internal aspect that you have to develop for yourself. If you find yourself constantly seeking approval from others, there are many exercises that can decrease this. Taking criticism personally You have a hard time when someone offers criticism and tend to take it as a personal attack or think about it long after the fact. Sometimes, you must just step back and accept the criticism as something you need to improve, or something that is not beneficial to you and act on your values. Self- victimizing You may have a tendency to throw pity parties for yourself and feel as though you have been dealt a bad lot in life or that everything is stacked against you. Pity parties are self-victimizing behaviors that require a shift in the way you view your world and the control you have in it. Difficulties with dreaming big You may be afraid to have dreams and aspirations and feel as though you need to continue to live your life in a protected way. You may be afraid of failure, afraid of success, or look down on yourself regardless of what you achieve. Being hard on yourself If you make a mistake, you have a very hard time forgiving yourself. You may also have regrets about things you have done in the past or failed to do, or that you have trouble letting go of and moving past. A need to fit in You find that you always feel like an outsider and are always trying to fit in with others. You feel as though people dislike you and can’t understand why they would want to spend time with you or actually like you. This is an anxiety response and requires you to stop trying to read others minds, and instead, pay attention to their behaviors, while also asking questions to them and yourself about your perceptions. So besides challenging thoughts and emotions, practice self-compassion. Instead of disliking yourself, practice showing yourself kindness. This means seeing circumstances in a different light, seeing the good things that you have achieved and have the capacity to achieve. Your inner critic, and how you respond to this inner critic, will make all the difference in how you treat yourself.
(MS, LPC-MHSP)
Answered on 10/18/2021

I want to get happier an understand if I am doing the right thing

Hi J I'm glad you have reached out with your questions and to seek the help and support of others as you explore these challenges, thoughts and feelings that are coming up in your life. Hopefully, it will help you to know that you are not alone with the self doubt part.  This is something we all experience at some level or another and notably quite often it is with very creative, high functioning individuals and often referred to as Imposter Syndrome. To understand more about self doubt from this perspective, I recommend a book by a colleague, Dr. Valerie Young, named "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women " (and Men too)  Another thing to consider J , is that the pace of the world these days does not have to be our pace...your pace. It seems in so many places we look, via television, social media, internet, there are dominating social or cultural messages that can create a perception in the mind that everyone else is doing better than us... is happier then us.. is more healthy then us, has whiter teeth than us, etc. It can also contribute to a perception that something is work with us , that we are not as good as the rest or just simply not "good enough".  Cultivating mindful skills that help to strengthen our ability to notice the movement of our minds, to see our thoughts separate from ourselves can help create space to discern for ourselves how to respond to a given situation. To be able to "see" our thoughts, not "be" our thoughts. To be able to look "at" our thoughts" not "from" our thoughts. These same mindful skills can help us to be open to our emotions/ feelings without judgment and with self compassion and kindness toward self....even the painful and or distressing thoughts, and feelings.  I would also offer the importance of knowing your values, understanding what matters to you and clarifying them as you move more toward young adult life. Our values and what's important and matters to us are the compass that helps set a direction in life to move toward the sort of person you want to be and a better life. Values are personal and what is valued by you may not be valued by parents, religious groups, culture or society.  Having goals is also important and I see noted in your question that you have a number of them in mind. Reaching out for help and support can be very helpful and a sign of strength. When getting moving, it might be helpful to be mindful that getting started on a direction does not have to be BIG... sometimes a group of small steps is more easily attainable than trying to take one big step. As is said... "the journey of 10,000 miles begins with one step. "  Best of luck to you and take good care Dave  
Answered on 10/18/2021

Why do I always feel like I’m not good enough and how do I fix it?

Hi there! Feeling like you are not good enough often stems for deep-rooted issues.  Sometimes we have hidden core beliefs that are running the show and we don't even realize it. I would encourage you to work on becoming more aware of these beliefs so that you can work on challenging them.  It is normal to want others to like you but often times we put our self-worth in the hands of others. In your case, how your family, girlfriend, or boss feels about you decides how you feel about you. This can leave feeling like you can't win because you can't make them happy.  Sometimes we are so busy trying to please everyone else that we forget to really take care of ourselves.  I would encourage you to start loving and accepting yourself for who you are. Try talking to yourself like you would someone you love. Sometimes we are the biggest bully to ourselves. When you catch yourself judging yourself negatively, change up your inner dialogue to something supportive instead. Next you have to let go of trying always have the approval of others. Decide what makes you happy and live that life. You will never be able to make everyone happy.  Focus on your strengths and what you bring to the table. You can do daily activities such as keeping a gratitude journal and practicing mindfulness to help increase awareness of your strengths.  Don't get caught in the trap of comparing yourself to others. This is almost always destructive. Instead compare yourself to yourself. Looking at home much you have grown from the past or how much progressive you have made.  Lastly. make sure you are surrounding yourself with supportive people.  Sometimes we are in toxic relationships and don't even realize it.  If you have supportive people in your life they will encourage you to be the best version on of yourself without belittling you. Sometimes our loved ones are telling us things out of love and it really is our own negative thinking that leaves us feeling not good enough.  I hope that this information has been helpful to you. It is important that you know that YOU ARE ENOUGH! 
(LPC, MHSP)
Answered on 10/18/2021

What are some approaches for regaining self-confidence?

Hello,   You have taken a huge step in seeking services with BetterHelp and you pose a great question! I understand that you are struggling with feeling confident as a result of your work experiences and feeling this way is not atypical when unsure as to whether the job is a good fit for you. You could always review your skillsets to remind yourself what it is that you have to offer, or even practice some mock interviews. There are various approaches that can be taken to assist in working to increase self-confidence. I would say that it is important to have the courage and dedication to work toward increasing your self-confidence as the first step, followed by other small steps which ultimately contribute to the overall increase in how you feel about yourself. It is important to remember that small steps of progress are achievements to the desired outcome of becoming more self-confident. Set small, realistic goals for self-care and self-encouragement. You can start taking small steps by being intentional in focusing on the positive and your strengths rather than magnifying the weaknesses or mistakes. Mistakes are to be learned from to help us in the future; we all make them. You have the power to create intentional positive thoughts about things that you would like to see change in your life, thereby building upon your confidence by shifting your focus onto the positive. Positive affirmations are very helpful in creating the intentional positive thoughts. It may be helpful to start each day with a positive affirmation to meditate on, and focus on for that particular day or even for an entire week if that is more helpful to you (affirmations can be created by you or you can find lists of them online). Whenever you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk, remember your daily or weekly affirmation to shift your thoughts back to the positive.  In building self-confidence and self-esteem, it is important to remember that no one person is perfect and we each have strengths within us; which is more than likely why you were able to obtain the job to begin with. Sit with yourself and write down the things that you do well, have had positive experiences with in the past, or simply things you enjoy.  Try to dedicate some time to acknowledging and doing those particular things each day, even if for only a short time. This will also help bring you back to yourself and working toward internal transformation. As you're doing these things be sure to remember that it is important to celebrate even those small achievements that contribute to the larger goal or outcome. Some progress is better than no action toward progress.   I really hope that I was able to help facilitate some awareness for you on steps that you can take to increase your self confidence.
Answered on 10/18/2021

since 2019 everything in ny life has gone down hill/is at a pause , how do I recover?

It sounds like you have several concerns going on here.  I understand that since 2019, assumingly due in part to COVID-19 impact among other variables, you are having difficulty in several different aspects of your life.  I understand those difficulties to be financial concerns for yourself and your family, loneliness, fear of failure, decreased amount of friendships, lack of trust and empathy from friends, not fully able to identify what your passion in life is right now, body image issues, and not able to stick with healthy goals that you begin, such as your weight loss regimen.  I understand that you are not in a good place emotionally, and view your life as having gone "downhill" or being at a "pause" from moving forward due to these difficulties and concerns.  First of all, you are 18 years old and I want to commend and applaud you for identifying your need to reach out for help!  This is courageous and your first step in learning about your self identity and who you are in the world.  From there, beginning to learn how to cope with these distressing thoughts, feelings, and ultimately change your self perception and behavior to better succeed.  Fear of not making it big with your photography is reasonable but how can you participate in things that you enjoy while earning an income?  It is a good idea to identify what else you enjoy so that you won't feel let down if you don't make it as the next big, famous photographer.  That way, rather than being unproductive while you ponder the fear of not providing and being a huge success in photography, you can shift your focus to how being employed while still being an active photographer is empowering to you.  Recovering from the emotional stress can look different for different people, there is no one way to approach, all treatment should be individualized, as individuals are very unique, therefore treatment plans and goals should be tailored to each person.  However, I will provide some examples of tools or techniques that have helped others who have felt stuck or struggled with low self image and confidence.  It is important to first identify your strengths, I hear that your family is very important to you.  How can you use your closeness to family to how you approach other relationships such as friendships?  What makes you a valued member of your family?  I'm also hearing that you are brave enough to reach out and ask for help.  It is important to identify strengths so that you can move forward in your other expressed dilemma of how to succeed in a career and provide for your family.  What type of jobs would you feel challenged and rewarding?  What type of training or schooling is required?  There are lots of free resources out there to help determine what type of careers may interest you based on your interests and strengths.  Providing for a family and making a huge income at age 18 is not always very likely, so how can you start gaining income while you search what careers to pursue?  How can your strengths help you conquer some of the fears that you expressed?  There are tools such as mindful breathing to help slow down breathing, lower heart rate, and help to reduce discomfort so that you can begin to address the thoughts in your head.  For every negative thought, think of a positive thought to counterbalance the negative one.  It also may be helpful to understand and accept that difficult emotional times happen to everyone.  Rather than trying to stop the emotional conflicts from happening, look for ways to accept yourself as you are when you are experiencing them.  Allow yourself to accept negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions for a while, then let them pass.  It may feel like you don't know the way out of this, but no one knows you better than you know yourself.  The answers of how to cope are in there, quieting your mind, allowing all emotions and thoughts to come and go can help you listen.  Mindfulness, self-acceptance, identifying your strengths, and learning about possible career paths may be most helpful for you now.  Talking one on one to a therapist may also help you learn more about yourself and help build your self confidence.   
(LPC, NCC, SAC-IT)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can I cope with past trauma?

I can tell by your statement that you are in a lot of emotional pain due to a lack of engagement with your father while growing up. Also, you are correct with the connection between an absent father in a girl/young woman's life and low self esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and shame because we tend to blame ourselves for parental shortcomings rather than look into it deeper to see that a father or mother is not who we have thought they were or should be. The low self esteem usually comes from negative core beliefs we have about ourselves in relation to past trauma and past neglect. I would want to provide emotional support for you while gently challenging you to look at some of the negative core beliefs you have been carrying for many years, and to help you shift perspective into thinking highly of yourself. Addressing negative views of ourselves that are typically not very accurate to the real situation, or are generalized like thinking it is our fault that dad did not come as he promised he would. This can help you to feel an emotional separation between yourself and your father and learn that his behaviors are not a reflection of your level of importance, and how this is related to your father's mental space he was in during your formative years. We want to come up with a reason for why a dad would not show up in our lives and most children turn that anger and disappointment inward to try to make sense of things. The irrationality of blaming ourselves becomes ingrained in us over time, yet it is never too late to work on the way we view past trauma.    The trauma from having an absent father in your life does often become much more important and we feel the negative effects of this as we age. To say that you will never feel emotional pain as a result of his absence is not rational. However, seeing his actions as his own and not blaming yourself for his lack of engagement. So many kids start to believe that they are not good enough or there is something inherently wrong with them for the absence...as we all like to have some kind of reason for someone else's behaviors. If a child is not informed at that time why their parent is not around too much or at all, that it is problems within the father or mother and not the child, it can help to be a buffer and this usually leads the kid to be able to see it is not because of them. Leaning to other people for validation is normal to a degree, yet I am thinking you would do well with a therapist like myself as I like to get at the deeper issues, such as low self esteem and low self worth, core beliefs like I am not good enough. I would use cognitive behavior therapy with you to look into those core beliefs you may have held onto for many years. I hope I have the opportunity to work with you. 
Answered on 10/18/2021

Is being actively engaged in practicing my profession that is Counseling important or be a housewife

Thank you for reaching out! What if I told you that you can do both? There has been significant progression on having a career while still being a mother who experiences motherhood. Psychology and counseling are a broad topic that can easily be a career while at home. If this career brings you joy, excites you, and keeps you motivated, in turn, it will make you be a better parent. A lot of resentment grows when we constantly sacrifice ourselves unnecessarily. Below are some tips on how to balance motherhood and career. Many women happily pursue the careers of their choice. Then there are other women who take on a career due to financial constraints. They continue to work because their family needs their salary to survive. Not all of these women have glamorous jobs or phenomenal careers. They go to work each day to put food on the table, plain and simple. Then they go home and still perform all the household duties that the traditional housewife would do. They cook, they clean, they do laundry, and they tend to their children. Many women are fortunate to have a husband who helps in the home, but for those that do not, it is time to use your voice and realize it is okay to ask for help. It does not make you a “bad mom” to have help. It actually makes you a better mom because you are able to engage in the home without the burnout and exhaustion. So, who had it better, the women of yesterday or the women of today? Who has it better, the working woman or the full time mother? Honestly, there are pros and cons to every choice which is why there is no “one size fits all” answer, especially for those women who don’t have a choice in the matter. In today’s society, you are either a housewife, a career woman, or both. Choose a job that will still give you time for your family- a part time job is good to consider since it gives you more time with your family. Unlike a full time, job, this will consume less energy as well as time. This will be the start to reach for your goals. Family is always first- it is important to prioritize your family over your job. You shouldn’t miss out of the important milestones in your family’s life. Putting your family in first place means that you know how to weigh the situation. If your family’s welfare that is already at stake, it is better to compromise work first and don’t let others stand as the mother or wife in the house since this will bring worse results. Remember that they are the motivation to reach for your goals which is why they should be put first and not last. Leave work at the office- there are other far more important work at home anyway. It is important that you live the stresses and troubles in your office there because there will always be other worries to face at home. Same is true with housework which you should leave at home. Bringing your work at home will lessen your time with the people who really matters the most. Take good care of yourself- you should have a constant check of your own wellness since you are handling a lot of responsibilities now that you’ve decided to have outside work to help support your partner. It will be hard to fulfill your responsibility as a mother and an employee once your health fails. Once you fall sick, it may just add to your financial burdens since you will need to seek medical help from doctors as well as the medicines to be prescribed to you. Try applying for an online job- an online job is the perfect choice for mothers and housewives who still wants to stay at home and supervise their loved ones. Not only does it take away the stress of daily transportation and the travel time it consumes, it also cuts a lot of spending required since you don’t need to pay for the regular fare that you will need to spend. 6.    Acquire the balance that works for you – Some women will want a focus on their career, whilst others will want to maintain a focus on family. Both of these are perfectly acceptable results, and it’s likely that women will swing between the two depending on their aims and family demands. Find a balance that works for you and don’t be scared to adjust it when your circumstances or desires change. 7.   Educate yourself and others – Understand, retain and sometimes even re-educate your peers that this balance, including motherhood, is a central part of your success. That finding this balance you will thrive as a person, including in your career. Not everyone will have family demands or a knowledge of the toll they can take on you – make sure they are aware so that they can better understand and support your ways of working. 8.   Recognize societal boundaries – Be aware that the story of motherhood is based on history and inherited perceptions, as well as an established bias – something we can refer to as the maternal wall. You need to recognize these boundaries, as they may be something you come up against in your career. Equally, remember that ‘motherhood’ is a story and that you are writing your own version of it – it is up to you how you live your role as a working parent, and no one else.  
Answered on 10/18/2021

How to be more confident in myself?

In order to approach the topic of confidence at first we need to understand what it is. Simply put, confidence is knowing who you are and being ok with it, or, in other words, being comfortable in your own skin. It implies self-knowledge and self-acceptance, which can only be achieved by doing a lot of emotional work.   This is, probably, not the answer many people would like to hear. People often want to get clear instructions on how to resolve their problems, but, when it comes to emotions, there is no clear instruction manual to follow. There are many exercises, affirmations and other techniques designed to raise confidence. It’s fine to do all of those, but I don’t believe they are key to solving the problem. They could be used as a nice addition to your self-reflection and self-exploration, but, in and of themselves, they are not a solution.   I would say that if you are serious about raising your confidence, you would absolutely need to engage in the insight-oriented form of therapy or some other deep emotional work. This will be a long journey and there will be no shortcuts.   It’s important to remember that you will never get to a point where you will no longer experience any insecurity. A big part of being confident, as strange as it may sound, is accepting your insecurity as something natural, because it is.   Feeling insecure to some extent is a part of human nature, and so, in and of itself, it is not an indication that there is something wrong with you. It becomes a problem only when it reaches the level of becoming unmanageable and makes you unable to take initiative and other necessary actions. Accepting your insecurity as something normal will make it easier to manage it.   Another thing to remember when trying to gain confidence is that other people don't spend much time thinking about you (unless they are close to you), and so, even when they judge you one way or another, they don’t invest much of their emotional energy into their judgments. More often than not, their judgments aren’t strong, they are transient and fleeting and don’t play any role in how they treat you.   Last but not least, in your question you mentioned that fear governs your life, which is something that goes beyond just not being confident. When fear governs your life to a point where it affects your life decisions, this is a much deeper and more serious problem than just being insecure in social situations. The best way to address it is to get to the root of it, and for that you would need to get some professional help.
Answered on 10/18/2021

Why i feel difficult to call people out or to stand up for myself

Dear BlackUnicorn, First off let me say I am sorry that you are experiencing the disregard and disrespectful behavior of others. It has its own unique hurt if those behaviors are coming from others thought of as friends.  The awesome thing about you is that you are also talking about your own values and what is important you. What matters to you. The chosen qualities of action... of  "being and doing".  You might even consider that these things that have been occurring could be viewed as the "gift of the negative", in that the actions of these friends that are showing disregard, that are not being sensitive to or judging, might be helping you to understand better and forge the qualities of being and doing that are important and matter to you. Values are personal, values are not feelings, values are not about how people treat us... values are not goals but rather if goals are the destination values are the journey or a chosen direction. Values are the way in which you want to evolve toward.  That being said, it is also important to call out behaviors that disregard and judge another person or people especially if it has to do with their race, ethnicity, gender. It can be done in a manner that calls out the behaviors and not the person. It might also be a time to consider expanding the social circle to include like minded people who can have fun, disagree and also demonstrate kindness and nonjudgemental positive regard.  Another important aspect is to be kind to self and not become self aversive or judgmental on to yourself because you "didn't stand up for yourself". Sometimes we have to see and accept our humanness and that we make mistakes and that we can learn from our experiences.  Another strength in you is that you are noticing your thoughts and feelings and this can be important to cultivating a relationship with our minds so that we can see our thoughts and not be our thoughts.  Finding our own voice is a work in progress.  In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, "No mud, no Lotus"... in other words, without being rooted in the muck of our life, we wouldn't be able to blossom into our full potential or as another great wise person once told me ... "Life is like a bowl of cherries... with the pits still in" ... Keep partaking of the cherries Black Unicorn,  despite the "pits".  Unicorns are said to be powerful and feral, thwarting all brutish efforts to capture them. Be well... be safe... Thanks for reaching out for help and support with your question. I hope you have found something in my response that might be helpful.  Be well...  May you find your way safely through this period of time.  Warm regards Dave
Answered on 10/18/2021