Tag Archives: self acceptance

I don’t know…

8 Apr

In this blog we will look at why it is difficult for some people to say ‘I don’t know?’
The answer is simple, anxiety. Our feelings and emotions like anxiety and depression are determined not by events but by the way we think about these events. An event can be about all sorts of things including imagining saying ‘I don’t know’ or actually saying ‘I don’t know’. The specific triggers can vary from person to person.

At the heart of anxiety is irrational or unhealthy thinking or beliefs about the threat or risk of saying ‘I don’t know’ (be it real or perceived) to ourselves or to our personal domain (the things and people that matter to us). Rational or healthy thinking about this risk leads to what we call healthy concern or nervousness, different to anxiety or to panic.

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Anxiety about saying ‘I don’t know’ is commonly triggered by two things:

• A perfectionist internal demand to always know and viewing ‘not knowing’ as something catastrophic, unbearable or proof of worthlessness or of being a total failure. Not knowing is not just perceived as bad, it is perceived as ‘end of the world bad’.

• An internal demand to always be thought of in a positive way by others and viewing negative judgement as catastrophic, unbearable or proof of worthlessness or of being a total failure.

Irrational or unhealthy belief at the heart of ‘anxiety’ and avoidance:

I absolutely must know, if not it would be awful, catastrophic, I couldn’t bear it or tolerate it, it would prove I’m a total failure.

The above does not accept the possibility of not knowing, even though in reality the person may not know.

People must not judge me negatively, because it would be awful, I couldn’t bear it, it would prove I’m a failure.

The above does not accept the possibility of negative judgement, even though it exists for everyone. The worth is linked to other people’s opinions.

Rational or healthy belief at the heart of healthy ‘concern’ and non avoidance:

I would really like to know but I accept the possibility that I may not or don’t know. If I don’t know it would be bad but not the end of my world, I would find it difficult but I will tolerate and bear it, it would not mean I’m worthless. I accept myself as a fallible human being like everyone else.

The above attitude allows for the possibility of not knowing to exist without linking one’s worth to it.

I would prefer it if people always thought positively of me but I accept that some might not (when I say I don’t know). It would be bad but not the end of the world, I would find it difficult but I can stand it, it would not mean I’m worthless. I accept myself as fallible. My worth does not depend on whether people like me or not.

The above belief accepts that negative judgement exists without linking one’s worth to it.

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So how do you free yourself from the paralysis of anxiety about saying I don’t know?

1) Change your beliefs about not knowing. Accept that you are human and therefore fallible. None of us know all the time.

2) Keep the badness of not knowing in proportion. Of course not knowing something may be bad in some situations and may have negative consequences but nevertheless the world does not come to an end. So keep it bad but not the end of the world bad.

3) Develop resiliency to not knowing. Accept you will find it frustrating, difficult, uncomfortable, but the truth of the matter is that you do survive it. Telling yourself you can’t tolerate nor stand not knowing is simply not true but it does impact greatly on your feelings of anxiety. So tell the truth ‘it’s hard but bearable’.

4) Accept yourself as fallible. No one is perfect so not knowing something at times is human. Believing that you’re a total failure or a worthless person because of it is unhelpful and is at the heart of your anxiety.

5) Accept uncertainty. Accept that at times you are unsure.

6) Put it into practice and say ‘I don’t know’, ‘I’m not sure at the moment’, ‘Let me think about it and I’ll come back to you’, ‘I don’t know but I will find out’. Then in your head repeat ‘I accept myself as fallible. My worth does not depend on whether I know or not or on whether people judge me or not.’

Accepting ourselves as worthwhile but fallible human beings frees us from the anxiety of saying ‘I don’t know’. As a consequence, we then can be free to find out and learn and improve and it also connects us to people as we come across as confident and happy in our own skin.

You may be interested in learning more about self acceptance and ego disturbance in our new Master Class Treating Ego Disturbance on 1st June 2013.

How do you rate your own Self Esteem?

8 Jun

The College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CCBH) has carried out a number of surveys into self esteem over the past 12 months, and what is constantly interesting to see and understand is how people rate their own self esteem; what they believe self esteem to be and of course, the factors in our lives that we feel influence our self esteem. There is currently a Self Esteem questionnaire running on the CCBH website right now, so please take just a few moments to complete it, and then come back to this blog post.

If you are a keen reader of this blog then you will already have read a few posts on Self Esteem. You can have a look at some of the findings of a previous questionnaire and read the corresponding blog post here. That post focuses on the male or female differences and similarities in terms of self esteem, however this post is more about how we rate our own self esteem, and the factors we believe that influence it.

Solving Self Esteem: It's actually about Self Acceptance

Solving Self Esteem: It’s actually about Self Acceptance

How do I measure my Self Esteem?

Many of us believe we know what self esteem is, but can we actually describe it? Do we actually know how to measure our self esteem?

Self esteem is influenced by our beliefs.  It is based on beliefs that evaluate the self based on certain conditions like success, failure, negative judgement and so on.   For example if someone judges themselves as worthless or a failure because they failed at something then they will have self esteem problems.  This means that they only rate themselves as worthwhile if they succeed.  This all or nothing measurement of the self is at the heart of self esteem problems.  Can you legitimately measure the human self?


In the College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy’s latest questionnaire on Self Esteem a number of key questions were asked to find out what impacts on our self esteem. 

Interestingly, there were 2 statements that had the biggest impact on self esteem, and these were the same for both males and females.

  • If I was wrong or made mistakes at work
  • When I am criticised or unappreciated

This means that many people put themselves down if they got things wrong or made mistakes at work and when they get criticised or were unappreciated.   Understanding these factors allows us to deal with problems of self esteem.

Self Esteem Problems

Low self esteem can lead to a host of mental health issues. Often low self esteem is linked to depression, self imposed isolation, feelings of rejection, insignificance and detachment, even a dissatisfaction with current social relationships.

It’s important to recognise low self esteem in oneself, but also in our friends and family members. A person with low self esteem may show some of the following characteristics:

  • Heavy self criticism and dissatisfaction
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism with resentment against critics and feelings of being attacked
  • Chronic indecision and an exaggerated fear of mistakes
  • Excessive will to please and unwillingness to displease others
  • Perfectionism, which can lead to frustration when perfection is not achieved
  • Neurotic guilt, dwelling on and exaggerating the magnitude of past mistakes
  • Floating hostility and general defensiveness
  • Pessimism and a general negative outlook
  • Envy

Solving Self Esteem: It’s about Self Acceptance

The concept of self esteem is psychologically harmful and wrong, striving for enhanced self esteem is quite unsound, and instead, we should strive for self acceptance. With this in mind, treating and solving self esteem problems is very possible by changing our responses to the factors that may influence our self esteem.  This is a concept that the College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy has been instructing on in Master Classes over the past 18 months. These Master Classes are open to anyone with an interest in solving self esteem problems, and they help provide the tools that allow us as individuals to move to self acceptance.