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Perfectionism and Self-Esteem

Perfectionism and Self-Esteem

Perfectionists walk an incredibly narrow road. There can be no deviation from the prescribed path, no sidetracks, and certainly no missteps. There can be no slowing or stopping for others, who are expected to keep up and keep straight, regardless. Perfectionists understand the road is going to be difficult and take great pride in navigating it successfully. They must be constantly on guard for any obstacle in the path, any breath of wind that might knock them off their course. Vigilance and an ongoing state of alertness are key.

With perfectionism, there is no standing down, no acceptable periods of relaxation. Perfectionism is, therefore, both exhausting and unattainable. Addiction can creep in and promise a form of momentary relief from the unrelenting anxiety of trying to be perfect. Addiction can also promise to numb those times when the reality of the unattainable becomes overwhelmingly hard to bear. Addiction promises you can spend a few hours looking away from the shame, blame, and guilt nipping at your heels unless you are perfect. Addiction promises to shield you temporarily from the fear that you are, sadly and tragically, like everyone else—flawed, imperfect, unworthy.

Self-Esteem

Angela felt she didn’t deserve to be happy. After more probing, I discovered she never had. Any success she’d experienced had been a sort of “cheat,” she said. If people really knew who she was or how much work she’d put into it or any number of factors, they would know she didn’t deserve success and it would be taken away. How could anything she did be worthy when she wasn’t worthy herself?

Angela grew up in a household where nothing she did was right. When she brought home good grades, it was assumed the teacher hadn’t applied the proper standards or she’d gotten away with something. Good things were suspect, but bad things were expected because of who she was. She knew who she was—the one who would “never amount to anything.” She was the one who would “never be like [her] sister.” The one who couldn’t “do anything right to save [her] life,” even though she always tried.

Angela was deeply ashamed of her addiction; part of her was also incredibly angry. She was angry because being trapped in the addiction proved she was weak and everything that had been said about her was true. All her life, Angela kept trying to “make up” for the mistakes she’d made, and the addiction kept putting her further and further behind. She’d never catch up, and with the weight of the addiction added in, catching up seemed to take more energy than she had. She’d been foolish to think she could ever do or be anything other than a failure. “What good is today,” she’d asked, “if I can’t have tomorrow?”

Angela’s addiction subverted the positive roles of shame, blame, and guilt and used them to convince her she wasn’t worth a positive tomorrow. She was especially susceptible to this tactic, since shame, blame, and guilt had always been used as weapons against her while she was growing up. Addiction strips away self-esteem. This can be particularly damaging when you started out with little or none in the first place, as Angela did.

For years, I’ve been speaking out against the tremendous damage done, especially to children, through the tactics of emotional abuse. My book Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse has been a pivotal resource in this effort for more than twenty years.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

Who Are You Without Your Addiction?

Who Are You Without Your Addiction?

Once you give up on the idea of a future where your addiction is “manageable,” you must contemplate a future without the addiction in any form. The question then becomes, “Who am I without this?” The addiction has been such an integral part of your life that you have difficulty imagining what life could be, who you could be, without it.

This point was brought home to me last year. I was working with a woman who was trying to overcome a prescription drug addiction. Amy was in the phase of recovery where she was ready to accept the negatives of her addiction but fearful of what life would mean without it. During this time, she got a card from an old friend. She said they’d drifted apart because they no longer lived in the same state. Their correspondences, Amy told me, were usually a yearly holiday missive giving a personal and family update. The midyear card came as a surprise and contained a picture of the two of them that was more than thirty years old. Amy showed me the candid shot of a group of teenagers and asked if I could pick her out.

As I struggled to avoid embarrassment by choosing the wrong person, Amy said it was a picture of her church youth group getting ready to take off for a day hike. When I didn’t pick her out right away, she gratefully let me off the hook and pointed herself out. She lamented how far she’d come from that young, smiling teenage girl. “I can’t remember who I was,” Amy said, “and if I give this up, I can’t imagine who I’ll be.”

I believe this question of who you’ll be without your addiction is a common one. Addiction has the power to co-opt the person you are and change you into someone different, altering your thoughts, actions, and behaviors. The person you were becomes a faded, distant memory. You may look in a mirror and feel unsure of who you were, ashamed of who you are, and fearful of becoming anyone else.

I think people are fearful of giving up an addiction because they believe they will be in pain without it. I’ve heard this sentiment expressed in different ways, though rarely will they use the word pain. Instead, they say without their addiction, they will be frustrated or bored, anxious or afraid. They tell me the addiction, whatever it is, helps them overcome being depressed or angry. In the deepest throes of my overworking, my pain might have carried the name unsuccessful or failure.

Are you struggling with addictive behaviors and feeling depressed?  Do you feel that your life is not in your control? The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and speak with a confidential specialist.  Begin the healing process and have confidence that there is hope, and that joy is attainable.

Ten Questions to Ask About Childhood Abuse

Ten Questions to Ask About Childhood Abuse

Resilient as children are, childhood abuse, in its various forms, can decimate a child’s sense of self.  Below are ten questions to consider when processing the struggles associated with childhood abuse.

  1. How would you feel about yourself if you grew up under the weight of unrealistic expectations from others?
  2. Would you get used to being a target for anger, rage, and hostility and think you deserved it?  Or would you last out at any hint of a repeat of such injustice?
  3. If you were constantly told you were to blame for what was wrong in the world, would you come to believe it?
  4. Would the humiliations you suffered cause you to think less of yourself?
  5. If your thoughts, actions, and opinions were always marginalized, would you assume you had nothing of value to contribute?
  6. If you spent vast amounts of time alone, isolated from peers or activities, would other people and social situations make you feel uncomfortable, unequipped, and nervous?
  7. If you were routinely yelled at, sworn at, insulted, and mocked, what would you learn about how one person speaks to another?
  8. If you grew up in a world where you were made to feel unsafe, threatened, and afraid, how easy would it be for you to relax as an adult?
  9. Would you trust the promises other people make if your experience growing up was that promises were spoken of but never delivered on?
  10. How would you think about others if the important people in your childhood sexually exploited you or physically harmed you or neglected your needs?

Childhood abuse has the very real capacity to damage a person’s sense of self.  A damaged sense of self creates complications in a person’s relationships with others.

If you have suffered from childhood abuse, you may need to work on the relationship with yourself before being ready to work on a relationship with anyone else.  The next person, or the next relationship, or the next marriage, is not going to “save” you.  First, you must work on liking who you are and feeling confident in being your best self.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, and author of 37 books. The Center creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

 

Journaling Your Story Has Great Power

Journaling Your Story Has Great Power

Some people are auditory processors—they think with their mouths. Other people just aren’t wired that way. If you’re one of the latter types, I suggest actually writing out your script. You could write out your script by hand or on a computer. Journaling your story has great power, especially your struggles between the negatives and the positives at conflict within you. Each time you take time to chronicle a struggle, you contribute to the handbook of how to overcome and succeed the next time. In essence, you write your own self-help book.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, I encourage you to try journaling, just once. Consider this a baby step. You needn’t write everything down in the moment, but you can choose a time—perhaps when things calm down—to write and reflect on your experience. Put aside any anxiety about penmanship or grammar. Put aside any anxiety about others reading what you’ve written or what you’ve written not being good enough. Put down anxiety and take that baby step!

Once you start the habit of writing your own script, I think you’ll be surprised at the effect of this simple tool. If you’ve been reading from anxiety’s script for a long time, you’ll hear negativity in your head for a time. Hearing that voice doesn’t mean you need to obey that voice. Once that negative script starts, you can, like Connie, stop it in its tracks and assert your own script, using your own voice.

Think about the type of character you’ve been playing with your anxiety as the director of your life. Then ask yourself the following question: Is that really the type of person you want to be?

Anxiety has written a script where you play the part of a frazzled, anxious, suspicious, irritable, short-tempered, and easily frustrated person. How would your life change if you could change the part you play into a character who is relaxed and not anxious, thoughtful and not reactive, seeing the good instead of pointing out the bad, approachable instead of putting up barriers? How do you want to be perceived by the other players on stage? When you take control of your own script, you determine the part you are going to play and then you act accordingly.

I think you will find that once you start changing your script and resetting your stage, others may find the freedom to change theirs. Every time friends or loved ones have stepped onto your stage in the past, they have entered a darkened, cluttered stage of fear, tripping and falling over your anxieties.

Not only will your stage be much more positive for you, but those who enter into your life will also find a much brighter place! Instead of being afraid of what you’ll say or how you’ll react, when you relax, others may relax. Instead of assuming you’ll say no, others may regain the courage to ask to see if you’ll say yes. You never know, but your courage to make such a radical and positive change may encourage someone else to do the same.

If you are struggling with anxiety, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Owning Up To Your Pessimism

Owning Up To Your Pessimism

If you are a pessimistic person, I want you to be able to proclaim it, to own up to it, and to accept it.  What I have found over my years in practice is that pessimistic people often don’t see themselves that way.  In fact, while they view everything else as being universally negative, they tend to view their pessimism as positive.

Instead of interpreting themselves as pessimistic, they instead see themselves as pragmatic, realistic, more informed and enlightened, and smarter.  For them, a pessimistic response to the world is seen as protective and even superior to the optimist.  Because they approach life believing the worst in circumstances and in people, they feel they are better prepared for whatever life throws at them.  They live a guarded, cautious, defensive life.  Problems, difficulties, inconveniences, and downright disasters are expected.

Pessimists have what I refer to as a critical spirit.  It refers to a person whose inner default mode is to be critical or negative.  Picking on people, jumping on their failures, and criticizing their faults appears to be a positive, proactive position for pessimists.  However, doing so says more about your own faults than the faults of others.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I have been in the counseling business too long to think that pessimists don’t have very specific reasons for being this way.  I have heard, literally, hours of reasons why a pessimist’s attitude is really a good thing in his or her life.  However, in my experience, I’ve found the reasons to spring from a deep well of pain, injury, abandonment, neglect, humiliation, abuse, and disappointment.  Is it any wonder, then, with this kind of well, that what bubbles up in the life of a pessimist is bitterness and negativity?

A pattern of pessimism can be very difficult to give up because it seems safe.  If you’ve been wounded, it appears smart to venture out cautiously, carefully, defensively.  Pessimism appears to be just the armor you need to engage a hostile world.  It can seem very right to the wounded person, but it leads to death, a death of optimism.  Pessimism becomes not an armor keeping the world out, but a prison keeping you in.  Pessimism is a world that says the worse thing that can happen to you is to be hurt by evil flourishes, where wrongs outweigh rights, where oppression is standard and disappointment is the order of the day.

There’s only one problem with this worldview; it’s a worldview.  It’s a view completely obscured by this world.  It presupposes that all there is or is ever going to be is this world, with all its faults and problems.  This is the type of world described in Ephesians 2:11-12.  It is a view “without hope and God in the world.”

But you do have hope, and God is in the world, so this worldview is a lie.  Since the underlying assumptions of your pessimism are a lie, it’s perfectly logical, rational, pragmatic, enlightened, and savvy to reject it and instead base your response to life on the truth.  And what is truth?  Instead of a worldview, have a God view.  With a God view, your response to life can change from pessimism to optimism.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

The Link Between Hypoglycemia and Depression

The Link Between Hypoglycemia and Depression

Helen came to The Center • A Place of HOPE suffering from anxiety and depression.  Her moods swung from hopelessness and lethargy to being stressed out and anxious.  If it wasn’t one, it was the other.  Both were taking their toll, and she wanted an end to them.

Helen was tired of never feeling settled.  She had become terrified she was bipolar because of her roller-coaster moods.  It was this fear that finally propelled her into counseling.  In addition to her therapy, Helen set up an appointment to see our nutritionist.  What was mysterious to her was obvious to him.  Helen had hypoglycemia, which was a major source of her depression and anxiety.

Over the course of her adult life, Helen developed a pattern based upon her eating habits and food choices.  She preferred quick, calorie-rich foods, eaten sporadically, with large amounts of caffeine throughout the day.  Because she worked for a newspaper, Helen’s duties were stressful and time sensitive.  Many times she put off eating, subsisting instead on high-caffeine beverages and sweets, consumed on the run.  The caffeine and sweets propelled her headlong into nervousness and anxiety as her blood sugar levels spiked.  The resulting crash of insulin to counter this massive sugar dump in her system brought feelings of depression and physical depletion.  At these low times, Helen doubted her abilities, fretted over her age, and raged over any mistake.  When Helen hit rock bottom, she questioned whether she was really capably of doing her high-stress, high-profile job.  Her body was playing right into her fears of unworthiness and inadequacy to handle her job.

Hypoglycemia is more commonly known as low blood sugar or the “sugar blues.”  The body’s main source of fuel is glucose, which is a form of sugar.  Glucose is produced by the body through the consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, and starches.  Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream during digestion.  Glucose that is not needed is stored in the liver as glycogen.  When the amount of sugar in the blood is insufficient to fuel the body’s activities, hypoglycemia occurs.  While this condition has been universally accepted as a cause of depression, even skeptics will agree that hypoglycemia can cause weakness, mental dullness, confusion, and fatigue.  All of these symptoms, when taken together, can exacerbate depression.

Some in the medical community, especially those schooled in holistic medicine, do make the connection between depression and hypoglycemia, including the U.S. National Library of Medicine of Medicine National Institutes of Health. [1]

Food and caffeine became Helen’s drugs of choice.  Food, so abundant in this country, is often used as a form of self-medication and comfort, especially high-sugar, high-fat foods.  These foods flood the bloodstream with an energy surge.  While using food to treat feelings of depression may prove temporarily effective, the resulting crash of low blood sugar can make you feel even worse.  As you look at your own cycles of depression, look for a connection between what you eat and how you feel.

Here are common signs of hypoglycemia:

  • headache
  • nervousness
  • confusion or disorientation
  • hunger
  • weakness
  • rapid heart beat
  • slurred speech
  • tingling lips
  • sweating

If you find yourself having feelings of hopelessness, stress, anxiety and depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

[1] M. J. Park, S. W. Yoo, B. S. Choe, R. Dantzer, and G. G. Freund, “Acute Hypoglycemia Causes Depressive-Like Behavior in Mice,” Metabolism 61, no. 2 (February 2012): 229-36, summarized at U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21820138