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Three Strong Steps to Combat Anxiety and Insecurity

How to stop feeling anxious about your "self."

Key points

  • Most people spend over half of their waking hours thinking about themselves.
  • People suffer from self-anxiety when they're too sensitive about their self-worth and emotional well-being.
  • A three-step technique—corrective questions, perspective, and reality thinking—helps people work through anxiety as well as prevent it.

Although what you dread is in the future, your feelings of anxiety are in the present moment. When these anxieties are parasitic, they drain your time and resources and offer no healthy benefits in return. In this world, your threats are more psychological than actual. Nevertheless, the feelings are real.

 The Tangled Self
Source: (C) Dr. Bill Knaus: The Tangled Self

In your parasitic moments of anxiety, you blow possible negative events out of proportion. You doubt yourself. You feel helpless. You feel vulnerable. However, the events you dread may not happen. If they do, they are not objectively threatening. But at the time, that doesn't matter. Perception is reality.

Your parasitic anxieties are normally about you. This self-anxiety may be the most common, yet underrated, parasitic anxiety. For example, if you dread appearing anxious in public, you’ve experienced one version of self-anxiety. If you worry too much about what's wrong with you, you experienced another.

When tangled in self-anxiety, you don’t believe that you can cope adequately enough. You feel stuck.

As you lessen your self-anxiety, you position yourself to make better choices. Your life can flow better. Let’s see what you can do if self-anxiety affects you, and how to free yourself.

When you feel anxious about your "self"

Most people spend over half of their waking hours thinking about themselves1. If this thinking includes beliefs that evoke self-anxiety, the odds are that those waking hours will include needless misery.

You suffer from self-anxiety when you’re too sensitive about your self-worth and emotional well-being. You magnify your imperfections. You doubt yourself. You feel insecure. You see threats in many places that roll off the backs of most others. You’ll avoid challenges unless you have a guarantee of success.

Self-anxiety affects the quality of the decisions that you make. You'll lower your expectations for yourself. By “playing it safe,” you’ll get less because you’ll meet fewer challenges. You’ll disadvantage yourself. For example, your more confident co-worker gets the promotion. Your more assertive friend finds the great mate. When your self-anxiety is excessive, you’ll often settle for less.

You can get the upper hand over self-anxiety with a three-step CPR psychological technique. You use this technique to work through your anxiety problems. By regularly following this emergency intervention, you may teach yourself to feel more confident in your “self.”

You may also use this CPR technique proactively to prevent self-anxiety. For example, you see an opportunity. Before you tangle yourself in self-anxiety, put yourself through the three steps as you act to meet the challenge. By routinely taking these three steps, you may add more worthy accomplishments to your life story.

Corrective questions

Here’s an example: “What do I hope to accomplish by facing my self-anxieties?" Your answer to this question establishes a goal(s). Goal setting is among the most powerful things that you can do to move forward in your life. However, you achieve your goals through a process or series of steps. Falter in this implementation phase, and you are likely to be behaviorally procrastinating2,3. This is where you start and then quit before you are done. Resist the temptation to stop mid-stream. Push yourself to follow through. You'll sooner learn what works and what doesn’t. You may discover that instead of stagnation, you experience momentum. Through this process, you can learn to substitute accomplishments for helplessness and self-anxiety.


You have many ways to build a realistic perspective about your “self.” For example, you can reduce needless negative thinking. That’s positive. You can increase productive actions. That’s positive. You can do short-term and long-term benefit analyses. That’s positive. For example, what do you gain by defaulting to self-anxiety? What do you gain by acting as if you can assert command over yourself and life? By taking positive actions, you can power a positive perspective. However, perspective-building ideas are only as useful as you make them useful. For example, rather than measure your self-worth (an arbitrary task), measure the results of your actions. By making this radical shift, you can shape your perspective based on what you can do compared to a perspective shaped by self-anxiety.

Reality thinking

What self-view would you prefer to have? Would you prefer to see yourself as a fragile, vulnerable, person who needs to avoid challenges in case you might fail? If you choose to see yourself as a confident, capable person, you have work to do. Rather than uncritically allowing your negative thoughts about yourself to flow without opposition, think about this thinking. What thoughts would hold up when reviewed by reasonable people? What won't? If your best friend had the same self-anxious thoughts as you do, could you help your friend get past them? How would you help? Now, think about what you can do to get to where you want to go. Act. Does that effort have a positive effect on your perspective and self-concept?

The brain has a self-system that includes a self-monitoring function4. This often semi-unconscious process is more general than localized.

You can use your natural ability to monitor yourself to improve yourself. For example, by monitoring your anxious thoughts you are in a position to revise them. Instead of reflexively dodging worthy challenges, you can learn to approach them. You can monitor what you do throughout this process. You can reflect on thoughts you can validate and thoughts that sound suspiciously like self-anxiety thinking. However, spending too much time thinking about your thinking is a form of procrastination. To avoid that trap, set limits on formal thought monitoring. Make time for action to test your thinking. Push yourself to cut through discomfort and inertia to get to the point where you become the more confident and capable you that you know you can be.

You may have to practice using the CPR technique until it is habitual. This takes time and effort. But aren't you worth the effort?

© Dr. Bill Knaus. 2015. All Rights Reserved


1 Morin. A. and B. Hamper (2012). Self-Reflection and the Inner Voice: Activation of the Left Inferior Frontal Gyrus During Perceptual and Conceptual Self-Referential Thinking. Open Neuroimaging Journal 6: 78–89.

2 Knaus, W. (1979). Do it Now: How to Stop Procrastinating. NJ: Prentice-Hall.

3 Knaus, W. (2010). End Procrastination Now. NY: McGraw-Hill.

4 Ham T. E., Bonnelle V., Hellyer P., Jilka S., Robertson I. H., Leech R. and Sharp D. J. (2013). The neural basis of impaired self-awareness after traumatic brain injury. Brain 137 (2): 586-97.

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