When illness hits your family

People have very different ways of responding to illness – for women particularly, there is a feeling, and sometimes an expectation, that they should be the main carers with society often reinforcing this.

However, whatever the expectations in your own family, when faced with a terminal or long-term diagnosis of a family member, whether that’s an adult or a child, people’s coping strategies often cause friction. In particular, the main carer can feel misunderstood by other family members or their partner and frustrated when others put an optimistic spin on the situation.

Keeping hopeful helps some people cope better, but for others it’s unrealistic and they prefer to be completely realistic and deal with the probable prognosis in their own way. Carers who are faced with a relative’s deteriorating health on a daily basis can feel frustrated when those who aren’t involved on a daily basis insist on putting a positive spin on the situation.

In the case of a very sick child, it’s not at all unusual for the worry to cause problems between the parents and they are less available to one another and probably less patient that they might usually be under different circumstances. In addition, one parent might be trying to deal with life on a day-to-day basis and attend to medical appointments, give medication and cook special meals whilst the other one might use their energies to research case-studies, alternative treatments and possible cures. If one, or both of them, are very tired, which is likely, understanding and patience aren’t going to be in abundance.

Most people who have had a child with a serious illness know the worry and anxiety associated with this. If they have any expectations, they will often be that at least their family will understand. Sadly, this isn’t always the case and people often find that those that they thought would be the most supportive, show little or no regard for the situation, still having expectations of the parent(s), even though everything has been turned upside down and they can no longer be as ‘available’ as they were previously. This is a particular sadness and a cause of long-term resentment – it’s also hard to work through those feelings when the people you thought you could rely on show a hardness of spirit that’s often devastating.

If a child is born with or develops a long-term condition, parents can feel that the demands upon them have no end and find it extremely difficult to cope. The questions they might want to ask are:

  • “Is it worth getting another medical opinion?”
  • “Is there a better medical regime for my child?”
  • “Could I be doing more?”

The same questions also apply if you are caring for an elderly parent, a sibling or other family member – most people want to do their best for the sick person but almost inevitably, it brings concerns and sadness, exacerbated by the tiredness involved in caring.

However, some families can and do thrive during difficult times, whether this is about caring for a child or an elderly parent with a chronic illness. It can actually bring people closer together as they find that they have to communicate more openly and this can provide them with a feeling of mission, pride and cohesiveness.

One important part of all this is that you alone cannot solve all the family problems associated with your child’s/family member’s illness and it’s crucial that you don’t isolate yourself. However caring you are, you will need time to yourself to relax, wind down and socialise.

There are social workers, family therapists and support groups who will hopefully be able to provide advice and, despite funding cuts, possibly put in some professional care at certain times. Social networks are forums are invaluable too as you can message people in the same situation. Although this can help you feel less alone, beware of not going down the road of getting into miracle ‘cures’ or negativity about the prognosis as neither of these is likely to help you in the long-term.

Try to access support from your extended family and friends (but remember, as I wrote above, they won’t always have the insight to understand)– don’t carry on and tell them that you’re “fine” as you’re not probably not; if you don’t tell them this, they often won’t know, even if you think it’s obvious. Being open and clear is the most honest way to progress here – most people will help you if they know that you need support at times. Friends are also invaluable at such a time and you can ‘let rip’ about the situation when it becomes too much at times.

This is when counselling can also be helpful, especially if you’ve found that your partner and family don’t really understand. To find out more about this, you can e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com or phone me on 07956 986 693.

 

Managing anxiety and stress

When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, these strategies will help you cope but before you look at them, try to remember that this feeling will pass. ACCEPT what’s happening and take ten seconds to recognise that. After that, try to do some of the following (they’re not all possible if you’re at work but some of them are. Others you can try at home)

  • Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
  • Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
  • Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
  • Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
  • Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
  • Welcome humour. A good laugh goes a long way.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
  • Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
  • Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you.

If you are finding that anxiety and stress are taking over large chunks of your life, counselling may well help in managing this. To find out more you can e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com or phone me on 97956 986 693

Gaslighting – what is it?

Gaslighting is a term that comes of the 1944 film Gaslight where a husband tried to convince his wife that she is going insane and eventually causes her to question herself and her whole life.

In a milder form, it’s now become a more focal term in counselling and psychotherapy and is usually to do with power and control in a relationship which can be from a partner, family member or work colleague. It is arguable that the ‘gaslighter’ (the one who perpetrates this situation) is also a narcissist but for the purpose of this blog I’m going to look at how the gaslighter often behaves and, if you’re a victim of this, you can deal with it.

It usually goes like this:

  • The gaslighter creates a narrative about the gaslightee which suggests that there’s something wrong and inadequate about them. This might be along the lines of “why do you always do that/say this – it’s unnecessary”. This can make the other person start to question themselves.
  • Repetition – this type of conversation is repeated over and over again, sometimes in front of other people but more often when the target is alone with the gaslighter.
  • Escalation – if questioned, the gaslighter refutes evidence and attempts to make their lies and exaggerations look reasonable.
  • Wearing down the victim – often the gaslighter wears down the victim who becomes fearful, self-doubting, resigned and pessimistic.
  • The gaslighter appears to have the power – they will grant acceptance, respect and approval only if it suits them to do so (often in front of other people).
  • They will occasionally give false hope – they will treat the victim with superficial kindness so that the victim thinks ‘maybe things will get better now’.
  • They use people close to you as ammunition – one of the things that they use will be people that you’re close to, whom they’ll try to get onside in their subtle attacks on you.

So what can you do about it if you feel that you are the victim of a gaslighter?

  • First of all, don’t take the bait and when you feel that they’re trying to undermine you, don’t fall into the trap of questioning yourself about what’s happened.
  • Set some boundaries for yourself and them – you don’t have to answer all their questions if you find them intrusive and you can walk away if you want to.
  • Keep your life as personal as possible – they’ll want to know every detail if you let them. Make sure that your journals and phone are out of their reach so that they can’t pry.
  • Don’t introduce your friends to them – they’ll probably charm them and make you out to be the weird one. If you’re part of the same friendship group, keep your thoughts about the gaslighter to yourself unless you have absolute proof of what they’re doing.
    Don’t argue or discuss personal things with them – they have to ‘win’ at all costs.
  • Walk away as much as possible – you can say ‘no’ and not engage in every conversation that the gaslighter wants to have with you.

If  you feel that you’re the victim of a gaslighter and are finding it hard to cope, counselling may well be of help in this situation. To find out more, e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com or phone me on 07956986693

Happy New Year!

New Year’s resolutions

Did you make a New Year’s resolution on Monday? A lot of us will do so, maybe to stop smoking, drink less or lose weight but it seems that only one in 10 of us will achieve our goal.  Here are a few tips to make sure that this year you succeed with your resolution. It helps if you were able to take some time a few days beforehand to reflect about what you’re really hoping to achieve but if you didn’t have time to think about it properly before now, here are a few tips to help things along:

  1. Make only one resolution – your chances of success are greater when you channel your energy into changing just one aspect of your behaviour.
  2. By breaking down your resolutions into smaller goals, you’re more likely to succeed.
  3. Tell your family and friends what you’re hoping to do – they may well support you when you feel like giving up.
  4. Keep reminding yourself about the benefits of achieving your goal. This will help you to keep going. Write down these benefits to look at when you’re tempted to go back to your old ways.
  5. Whatever resolution you’ve chosen, try to accept that you may need help and support with it. If you want to stop smoking, visit your GP Surgery for help and guidance from a Stop Smoking Clinic, nicotine patches, lozenges or you could try hypnosis. If you want to lose weight, join a slimming club (you can do this on-line as well as attending classes). There is usually some support available whatever your resolution happens to be.
  6. Don’t focus on the downside of what you’re doing. For instance, if you’re hoping to lose weight try not to think about the foods you can’t eat but focus instead on how, in six weeks’ time, you’ll be able to buy clothes that are a size smaller.
  7. Expect to revert back to your old habits sometimes but treat it as a temporary setback rather than a reason to give up altogether.
  8. If you feel that your success might be hampered by low self-esteem or lack of assertiveness, consider counselling to help you overcome this.

Good luck with your resolutions and if you want to talk about any issues that arise or may have occurred over the past few weeks, please e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com or phone me on 07956986693. Alternatively, visit my website: annhogancounselling.co.uk.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Now that the clocks have gone back, many people are filled with dread because they know that their symptoms of SAD (sometimes called “Winter Blues”) will usually start around now.

If you hate the long winter evenings, feel exhausted, depressed and anxious, feel like hibernating and crave sunlight, you could be a sufferer.  Most of us are affected to some extent by the changes in light, as well as preferring to eat stodgier comfort foods but for some people the longer, dark nights have far more of an effect.

For these people, they feel very low in mood, have negative thoughts and feelings resulting in a loss of self-esteem. Rather than just feel lethargic, they feel fatigue where they have an almost irresistible urge to sleep for several hours during the day. Their feelings of tension increase and their ability to deal with stress decreases.

Other symptoms may include increased irritability and a reduced interest in sex and physical contact.

SAD can begin at any age and may be triggered by other factors such as a change in environment, childbirth or illness. It occurs throughout the northern and southern hemispheres but is rare within 30 degrees of the equator.

The theory is that lack of sunlight may stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly which may affect the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher levels); the production of serotonin which is another hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels; when the hypothalamus isn’t working properly it also affects the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) and this impacts on various functions such as when you wake up. The lower light levels in winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to the symptoms above.

Most sufferers find that their symptoms improve and then disappear during the spring and summer, only to return again in the autumn and winter in a repetitive pattern. It may be that some people are more susceptible than others to SAD.

If you find that you’re experiencing the above symptoms, you should consider seeing your GP if you feel that you might have SAD and you’re struggling to cope. You may be asked about your lifestyle, eating and sleeping patterns, and any change in mood or behaviour. Your GP will then recommend the most suitable treatment option for you, based on the nature and severity of your symptoms. A combination of treatments may be used to get the best results.

A number of treatments are available for SAD including cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressants, lifestyle measures and light therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been found to be helpful in treating SAD symptoms. CBT is based on the idea that we way we think and behave affects the way we feel. Changing the way you think about situations and what you can do about them can help you to feel better.
  • Antidepressant medication may be prescribed – these are usually selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Lifestyle measures such as getting as much natural sunlight as possible (a short walk at lunchtime can help), managing stress and exercising regularly may well be helpful.
  • Light therapy – a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight. This involves sitting by a special lamp called a light box, usually for around 30 minutes each morning. The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA) have specific guidelines for light boxes which may help. The recommended light boxes have filters to remove harmful ultraviolet rays.

The things that you can try for yourself include the lifestyle measures above, making your work and home environments as light and airy as possible as well as sitting near windows when you’re indoors. Eat a balanced diet, even though it’s tempting to eat a lot of carbohydrates.

By recognising the symptoms associated with SAD it is possible to then access treatment and hopefully this will help to alleviate the worst effects so that you can look forward to the winter months without trepidation.

If you would like to access counselling for SAD symptoms, or talk about the effect that it has on you, please visit my website www.annhogancounselling.co.uk or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com.

 

Anorexia in the elderly

Do you have an elderly person in your family who seems to have stopped eating or perhaps a neighbour who seems to have lost a lot of weight recently? This might be due to illness or because they can no longer be bothered to prepare food but it can also be due to an eating disorder, either anorexia or bulimia.

This is something that we usually associate with young people but in fact, issues from the past, depression and adjustment to a lower income can also cause eating disorders in an older age group. It can also be a form of control or a way of protesting against the person’s family because of sadness through lack of family visits.

The road to recovery starts with the person admitting that they have a problem and this is hard for a lot of people to understand. The good thing is that the habits learned can still be unlearned, even if someone is elderly. However, it’s more than overcoming an eating disorder – it’s also about rediscovering who you are. As people get older, it’s easy for them to feel ‘invisible’ and it’s a complaint that elderly counselling clients often voice in the counselling room.

Recovery from anorexia and bulimia means learning to:

  • Accepting yourself
  • Listening to your feelings
  • Listening to your body
  • Trusting yourself and who you are
  • Enjoying life again

Actually admitting that you have a problem and asking for help can be one of the hardest things for an older person to do, especially if they’ve always ‘soldiered on’ and ‘got on with things’. Whoever you choose to confide in, needs to provide you with a quiet and comfortable space with no distractions or interrruptions. This is why counselling can be helpful, because those aspects are already in place.

There are several different ways to help people with eating disorders and these include nutritional counselling, individual or group therapy, family therapy, eating disorder education and medical monitoring. The exact treatment-needs of an individual struggling with these disorders will vary according to each person but it’s important that a professional has input with a treatment plan. Because a sufferer’s health can be in danger, a full medical evaluation is important. If the evaluation reveals physical problems they need to be given priority.  It may be that no exact physical issues can be found but a nutritional therapist can be very helpful – although they can’t change eating habits overnight, eventually people can learn to develop healthier relationships with food. Also, although there will be slips along the way, with perseverance and understanding, people can get through this very distressing time.

If you have an elderly relative who’s suffering with an eating disorder, please get in touch to discuss this further. You can e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com or phone me on 07956986693.

Exclusivity in families

 

Have you ever got together with someone whose family seem to welcome you but in fact, often exclude you too?

This sometimes happens in very close, happy families where people want to keep to what they know and ideally they only want others to join them if they have the same ideas and ‘world views’. This perpetuates their own ideas and they don’t have to spend too long pondering why someone else hasn’t fitted in to that. It makes life easier if any in-laws think the same as them!

Other families, who aren’t necessarily ‘happy’ in the usual sense, still have ideas about who is acceptable to join their family and who isn’t. They might be a family who is different from others in their community and that might be due to economic, religious or cultural norms. Inviting someone who is different into their family can dilute all their beliefs.

These attitudes probably originated hundreds of years ago, sometimes due to economics and sometimes to religious views. Rich landowners ideally wanted their children to marry someone who was also rich and would bring financial security, in the form of owning land, into their own family. From a simplistic point of view, if a family belongs to a minority religion, it’s better if their children can marry someone with the same religious beliefs to ensure the survival of their religion.

However, those attitudes aren’t so important today, although they still exist in some circles. Most people want their children to be happy and make their own choices but if they’re hones, they also want their adult to make a choice that they too are happy with! It’s very easy to get into the “we’re the Smiths and we do things this way”, forgetting that there are other ways to do things; not necessarily better or worse, just different.

So if you’re part of a close family that always sits together at a table at weddings, parties and get-togethers, try socialising with some of the other people there too.  It might be interesting and help you to meet new friends.

If you’re feeling on the ‘outside’ of such a group, try to push yourself forward and enjoy their company – who knows, they might eventually realise that ‘different’ can be very positive!

It may be that you’re feeling lonely or isolated, either within a partner’s family, your own family or within your own friendship group. If this is the case, please contact me by e.mail at annhogancounselling@gmail.com or phone me on 07956986693.

In your thirties and finding life difficult?

When people reach their thirties they’re often told that they are in the prime of their lives but this isn’t the case for a lot of young adults.

In fact it can be a time of self-doubt and panic with many of the same feelings associated with the traditional symptoms of a mid-life crisis (usually occurring in the late forties and early fifties). For young adults struggling with many options now available to them and feeling indecisive about some of them, a lot of thirty-somethings can experience depression and anxiety.

With the opportunities to expand careers and travel the world more freely, the choices are more varied than in previous generations but the quest for ‘success’ is much higher too. As a society we put a lot of emphasis on ‘success’ which, for most people, means earning a lot of money and achieving some sort of status through doing so. However, as a counsellor and psychotherapist, but also in my private life, I’ve seen that this constant emphasis on these aspirations does not necessarily lead to happiness. In fact, quite the opposite is true because people get tired and stressed, often losing their motivation and then start to wonder what it’s all about. Constant striving for more can stop people ‘enjoying the moment’ because they’re always looking for the next goal to achieve.

Whilst achieving goals is a good way to enhance self-esteem and motivation, some balance needs to be achieved to feed our inner spirits as well.

However, although uncomfortable and worrying, if people feel stuck in a job or way of life, it can trigger an urge to change things, often for the better. It’s a time of reflection, of saying “is this what I really want?” and if the answer is “no”, this provides the impetus to make changes. This isn’t easy if you feel that you’re stuck in a relationship that doesn’t feel right but, because there are two people in the relationship, talking is the first key to changing things. We can all get stuck in a rut where relationships are concerned, particularly in our thirties when quite possibly there’s a mortgage or high rent combined with a small child and both partners working. However, we all need some time to relax and recuperate from the stresses of work and childcare and it’s important to factor in time for that. If you both want different things in life (and this may not have been the case when you set out together), it may be the time for relationship counselling to see how you can hopefully work things out together, rather than separating and losing a lot of what you’ve built up together, both emotionally and financially.

If it’s your job that’s now a problem because it’s not going the way you had anticipated or you’re not getting the promotions you’d hoped for, feeling ‘stuck’ can provide the stimulation you need to explore different options. This might be to look into re-training opportunities, moving to a different area either job-wise or geographically and generally thinking about where you want to be in five years’ time.

Even though the thirties are adulthood, many people still try to live up to their parents’ expectations of them. For some, this is a great way of seeing what else they can achieve, but for others it’s a burden that they don’t want. In these cases, it’s important to have a conversation (or more than one) with parents, along the lines of you’re not happy and want to make changes which you will make with their blessing.

This time during your thirties may also be a time when you re-evaluate friendships, some of which just aren’t working for you any more. Ask yourself why and whether you or your friend(s) can still make time for each other. It may also seem that you no longer have anything in common – however, one thing that you might have is a shared history and this is often an important part of friendship that we can’t put a price on. If that person, or people, have been there for you in difficult times, that’s quite a bond and worth thinking about before you decide to make permanent distance between you.

In the same way, you might have decided that you no longer want to be treated in a certain way by people you come into contact with – if you often feel ‘put down’ by others, it’s time to look at how you might be more assertive and not accept put-downs.

So, being in your thirties can be the time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be, making changes if you feel that’s right for you and setting goals to achieve that. It’s not easy to change but the rewards can be great and hopefully you’ll start living your life in a way that’s more fulfilling for you and those close to you.

If you feel that life has lost a lot of its meaning or you or a loved one is feeling tired and stressed, counselling can help you to look at this and start making some changes. To discuss this, please phone me on 07956986693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com.

When your partner’s been unfaithful

Discovering that your partner has been unfaithful is one of the worst feelings you can experience – it’s hard to explain how your heart drops and you feel completely betrayed. There are all sorts of emotions as well as feelings of numbness, disorientation (you’re part of the world but you don’t actually feel as if that’s the case), anger and depression.

You’ll probably have lots of questions too such as ‘why wasn’t I enough?’ and ‘how can you do this to me?’. Although you might have had suspicions that this had happened, actually having it confirmed makes it real. It also makes a difference whether your partner told you him/herself, you found out from someone else or discovered the awful truth in another way.

If, after weeks or months of questioning yourself and your partner (and maybe the other person concerned) you decide to try to stay and make things work, remember that it’s all going to take time to work through what’s happened and you can only do that if both of you learn from the experience.

Here are some things that you can think about and do to get beyond what’s happened and hopefully save your relationship:

  • There aren’t any right or wrong feelings – all the rage, possibly guilt (‘should I have done more to stop this happening?’), agitation, pain, confusion and shock are absolutely normal. Even not feeling much at all – that could be the numbness of shock which will wear off, or the fact that you’ve been half-expecting it for some time.
  • Start a journal – write down all your thoughts and feelings regarding what’s happened.
  • Don’t make any major decisions about ending your relationship right now – this is a time you could be used to reflect on what’s happened and how you might deal with it, either by yourself or as a couple.
  • Ask all the questions you want. Talk with your partner about the infidelity but you may have to accept that he or she doesn’t know why it happened. That may seem strange (and infuriating!) but is sometimes the case. However, the other thing is that they may not want to reveal this to you (again, infuriating!).
  • If you have children, they need to know that you’re going to be alright. It’s hard to keep what you’re going through a secret but if they’re old enough to suspect something’s wrong, they don’t need to be weighed down with the details. Whatever you decide, don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
  • Take it one day at a time. Ideally, both you and your partner should be tested for STDs before you have sex again although that may be a while.
  • Think about what boundaries you need in order for you to stay in the relationship and make them clear to your partner. More importantly, make sure that you stick to them, if only for your own self-respect.
  • Take care of yourself – physical reactions such as sleeplessness, nausea, breathlessness, shaking and either wanting to eat a lot or not at all are normal. Even if you were half-expecting it, you’ve had a shock and your body is reacting to it. Try to make sure you eat well, even if you don’t feel like it, do some exercise, don’t drink too much alcohol and take some time for yourself if at all possible.
  • It’s okay to laugh. Watch some funny films or TV shows. Spend some time with people who make you smile. ‘Life goes on’ is a cliché, but it’s also true – however much your heart is breaking, you still need to function.
  • It’s also okay to cry – it’s natural, for men and women. If you can’t cry yet, you will be able to at some point, probably about something else that doesn’t seem related to what’s happened to you.
  • This is a really hard one – try not to get into the blame game, including blaming the third person involved. It won’t change what’s happened. Also, tempting though it is, think about whether to tell your family or your partner’s family – they might hold a grudge for a long time, even when you’ve worked through it, either alone or with your partner.
  • You may have post-traumatic stress. If you still feel constantly ‘jumpy’, as if you’re walking on eggshells and shout at quite small things after four or five months, it’s probably time to seek outside help.
  • Get practical – look at how you’re going to cope with money in the future, where you will live if you decide to end your relationship and try to budget to see a solicitor about your situation. Some solicitors now offer twenty minutes’ free advice – that’s a good place to start.
  • It all takes time to get beyond the pain of having an unfaithful partner. Don’t expect the feelings, which probably include confusion as well as the inevitable mistrust, to fade quickly. It’s a big loss, even if you stay together, and is part of a grieving process. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship is over but it will be different, sometimes in a good way although that’s very hard to believe at the beginning of this process.
  • Seek counselling – this can help and support you, either as a couple or by yourself. Talking about it in a confidential environment can help you to come to terms with what’s happened. For example, was it a one-night stand or due to a life or work crisis? Did you cheating happen to make the end of the relationship happen? Understanding some of it can help a lot.

If you, your partner or both of you as a couple feel that counselling would help you at such a difficult time, please contact me by e.mail on annhogancounselling@gmail.com or by phone on 07956986693.

When you feel insecure

If someone is feeling insecure, it’s usually about experiencing a threat or inadequacy of some sort. Most people have felt it at one time or another and that’s pretty normal but when it starts to sabotage your relationship or success in your job, it starts to become very damaging. It stops peace of mind and prevents people from relaxing and being authentic and genuine – they will be asking for reassurance or be mistrusting of others’ motives and actions.

Whilst a lot of people think that the insecurity comes from something that their partner said, mostly it comes from within themselves. However, it probably started in childhood or early teens when someone was very hurt or threatened or perhaps couldn’t depend on what a parent said as they were always let down. If, growing up, children were judged harshly and criticised a lot, there’s usually a residual feeling of never being good enough.

If this is how you, or someone close to you, feels, here are some things that you can do:

  • First of all, try to build up your self-esteem – most people who feel insecure have low self-esteem and they look outside of themselves for validation. However, when you’re trying to feel good by getting approval from others, it doesn’t really address the issue and also puts a burden on your partner, friends and family. By working on your self-esteem by reading a book, doing an on-line course or having counselling can help a lot with feelings of insecurity.
  • With a partner, sometimes the feelings of insecurity are valid inasmuch as they’ve let you down before, lied to you or been unfaithfully. However, you mostly have a choice about how you deal with this and although you may not want to leave or can’t see a way to leave it because of other responsibilities, you can try to put down some boundaries and explain what the outcome will be if this continues. Although your partner may not be reliable, you can still feel secure in yourself as a good and caring human being.
  • Have some trust in yourself if the insecurity was there before you met your partner. Recognise that you don’t have to beautiful or rich to attract a good partner – your particular characteristics are the most important thing and this applies with friends and family members too. Remember the traits that you have that are valuable – this could be a good communicator, you’re funny, kind and generally a nice person. Focus on what you have to offer, rather than what you perceive as a lack of something.
  • Avoid people whom you feel insecure with – in other words, protect yourself. If a group of colleagues is very ‘cliquish’ and ‘excluding’, try to go out with them on a one-to-one basis and don’t socialise with them after work. They may feel that you’re unfriendly but this is about you, not them, and if you feel worse when you go out with them, avoid it.
  • That leads onto surrounding yourself with people who are supportive – not so that they can validate you in some way but because they ‘get’ you and you feel you have things in common and nothing to prove to them. In other words, they like you for who you are and you don’t have to pretend to be someone else in their company.
  • Remember, no-one can see your insecurity so sometimes imagining how you’d really like to be can help in actually being that person. Visualise how you’d be if you weren’t insecure and work towards that image.

If you’re feeling insecure or lonely or are finding things difficult, please contact me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com. or phone me on 07956986693 to discuss how counselling might help you.