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How Self-Compassion and Vulnerability Can Soothe Anxiety and Feelings of Inadequacy Can Help (Part I

I provide individual psychotherapy services for adults in San Francisco, including college students, young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s, and CEO’s of successful companies. Interestingly, despite age or professional status, people across the spectrum report they don’t feel they are “good enough,” whether it be in their careers, dating life, or pursuit of health and personal interests (especially when comparing themselves to their peers.) Clients tell me that they believe they should just be able to “get over” or “push through” their anxiety and to cope better, which is what they imagine others are able to do more naturally and with little effort. Many people inaccurately assume that their coworkers and friends don’t suffer from feelings of inadequacy or anxiety themselves, and that there must be something wrong with them for feeling this way.

Often times, these individuals feel deficient because during their childhood and adolescence, they experienced a caregiver or other significant attachment figure (a teacher, coach, etc.) who may have wanted the best for the child, but unfortunately was driven by the belief that harsh criticism would motivate the child to make good decisions and perform well. These clients have internalized their caregivers’ critical voices, and now these voices are indistinguishable from their own.

Additionally, these clients may lack support, validation, and normalization from close others in their current relationships. They experience shame about their anxiety issues, and fear of judgement from others regarding their self-perceived shortcomings, which cause them to isolate themselves and internalize their emotional pain. When these clients feel safe enough in a relationship to display vulnerability, to share their emotions and needs for reassurance from others, they often find that they aren’t alone in their suffering, and that their partner, friends, or family members can relate. They may also receive the unconditional love and acceptance that they seek and need from their loved ones.

Aside from communication skills and vulnerability training, it is often beneficial for clients to learn self-compassion skills to provide themselves with the gentle comfort and reassurance they need. Self-compassion is a far more effective path to productivity than self-criticism. Beating ourselves up is not motivating; it’s quite the opposite. Self-criticism can lead to unwavering anxious thought spirals, paralyzing feelings of guilt and shame, and perfectionistic tendencies that result in procrastination. Please look for my next article on self-compassion strategies for anxiety relief to learn more.

*Coming Soon: Self-Compassion Strategies for Anxiety Relief (Part II)"