How to Build Self-Confidence and Eliminate Anxiety

Anxiety isn't uncommon, but it can take a toll on your mental health, particularly your self-confidence. Whether you're struggling with an anxiety disorder or experiencing sporadic feelings of anxiety, taking steps to deal with these symptoms head on, including consulting a professional, can help you cope with your emotions and boost your self-esteem.

(Image: Getty Images/ Thomas Barwick)

What Is Anxiety?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety is the most common form of mental illness in the country, affecting about 40 million adults. While anxiety disorders are a treatable condition, only 37 percent of people actually seek treatment.

There are many types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorders, phobia-related disorders, among others, according to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). General signs of anxiety include restlessness, difficulty sleeping, quick fatigue, difficulty concentrating and/or difficulty controlling feelings of worry.

Tips for Dealing With Anxiety and Low Self-Confidence

Those that struggle with anxiety may also experience emotions of low self-esteem, according to the Mayo Clinic. Social anxiety disorder, specifically, is often linked to low self-confidence.

Often, those with social anxiety feel high levels of concern with the way they are perceived by others. Social anxiety disorder can cause avoidance of social gatherings or social interactions in general. If that sounds like you, here are some constructive ways to combat these negative emotions.

1. Talk With a Therapist

Consulting a professional is a common method for treating anxiety and boosting confidence. A patient may choose to see a licensed psychotherapist or a psychiatrist (a psychotherapist that also has a medical degree and can prescribe medication). However, Dianne Chambless, Ph.D. recommends that people first try psychotherapy.

"It's effects are long lasting, whereas medication's effects tend to wear off once one stops taking it," Chambless says. "Moreover, nearly all medications have undesirable side effects."

If you choose to seek a psychotherapist, there are practical factors to consider, according to the ADAA. Search for professionals that work in-network with your health insurance. And look for a therapist that specializes in treating anxiety, Chambless says.

"It may be easier to take it in small steps while you build confidence, but keep taking those steps, even if your efforts don't always work out the way you'd like."

If you decide to consult a psychiatrist, they may prescribe medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, common medications recommended for anxiety include anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. Review possible side effects with your doctor and weigh them against the benefits of the medications.

2. Set Goals and Persist

Chambless recommends that those with anxiety make it a goal to face their fears. Confronting challenges, rather than avoiding them, will help you develop more confidence.

"Even if your progress is small, the key is to move in the right direction," she says. "It may be easier to take it in small steps while you build confidence, but keep taking those steps, even if your efforts don't always work out the way you'd like."

Echoing this advice, a May 2019 study published in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that those who persevered towards goals, while maintaining a positive outlook, experienced less anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Over a period of 18 years, 3,294 individuals were studied and asked to rate their goal persistence. Those that showed more tenacity were able to retain more optimism and confidence.

3. Reframe Your Anxiety

Reframing your mindset and daily habits can help build self-confidence in the face of anxiety. Examine and reframe your thought patterns, Chambless says. "Are you always thinking of the catastrophe that could happen rather than the less threatening outcome that probably will happen?" she asks. "Anxious thinking keeps the stress response revved up."

To flip the script on your anxiety, the ADAA recommends that you consider triggering scenarios, people or other factors. Then, make an effort to keep a positive outlook and accept that you can not control every situation. Put your stress in perspective, the ADAA advises. "Is it really as bad as you think?"

4. Look for Support

Chambless also recommends looking to family members for support in accomplishing your goals, rather than using them as a crutch. If, in the past, your tendency was to ask family or friends to help you avoid situations that incite anxiety, ask instead for support in confronting your fears.

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