Unconditional Positive Regard: Like Yourself, Reduce Anxiety
Unconditional positive regard is something that can reduce anxiety. Regarding ourselves positively and unconditionally involves, simply, treating ourselves nicely and with kind respect. When we live with anxiety we tend to magnify what we perceive to be our faults, shortcomings, and penchant for making mistakes. We also tend to focus on these and berate ourselves for them. When we stop beating ourselves up and, instead, treat ourselves with unconditional positive regard, we can actually reduce anxiety.
Anxiety Can Make Us Hate Ourselves, and That's Not Unconditional Positive Regard
Unconditional positive regard can, indeed, reduce anxiety, but it doesn't always seem natural when we live with anxiety. It can feel as though we are powerless to reduce anxiety when we don't have unconditional positive regard for ourselves. Those of us who have experienced anxiety, tend to be rather self-critical. A significant part of anxiety involves negative thoughts that manipulate the mind. With social anxiety, we anxiously worry about things we do or don't do, or say or don't say. Anxiety makes us feel that we're never good enough; there is a strong link between perfectionism and anxiety.
When anxiety makes us believe we are never good enough, it's common to berate ourselves, slapping harsh labels on ourselves ("I'm an idiot," "I'm so ridiculous," "I'm unworthy of this, that or the other thing," etc.). We tend to ruminate over our mistakes, day and night. When we're experiencing anxiety and self-loathing, our thoughts aren't always trustworthy.
Practice Unconditional Positive Regard -- Liking Yourself! -- to Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety is a bully, and it makes us pick on ourselves. The good news is that, no matter how intense anxiety feels, ultimately, we are stronger than our anxiety. We can regain control and pull away from anxiety's grasp.
A way to do this is to remove its power. When it bullies us, it's building its power. After all, the more it makes us believe the garbage that we are horrible and unworthy, the more anxiety we experience. The more anxiety we experience, the more we berate and belittle ourselves. And on the cycle goes.
To reduce anxiety's action of making us dislike ourselves and judge ourselves harshly, it's important to take the opposite action. Adopt an attitude of unconditional positive regard for yourself to reduce anxiety.
Unconditional positive regard is rather simple (but not always easy; it takes practice). It involves accepting yourself and all of your strengths and weaknesses. It also involves a nonjudgmental attitude toward yourself. Stop berating yourself for every mistake or goof. We all make them. A mistake is simply a mistake; it doesn't define who you are or brand you with a mark of shame. Regarding yourself positively and unconditionally also involves a healthy does of respect. Be kind rather than cruel and own what you do well.
Practicing unconditional regard can reduce anxiety. By seeing yourself in a realistic, positive light, you can question the truth of the thoughts anxiety is putting in your head. When you stop believing everything anxiety tells you, anxiety loses its hold on you.
Tune into the video for more on unconditional positive regard and reducing anxiety.
Peterson, T. (2015, April 30). Unconditional Positive Regard: Like Yourself, Reduce Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 6 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/04/unconditional-positive-regard-can-reduce-anxiety
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Thank you for this information. How can I get more information?
I'm glad that you would like more information. The concept of unconditional positive regard comes from a man named Carl Rogers (his unique approach to therapy is known as Rogerian or person-centered therapy as is part of humanistic psychology). For Rogers, this meant counselors should approach clients with unconditional positive regard. In my own experience (on both sides of "the couch") and what I have studied about anxiety, self-concept, and other things, I have found that it is very powerful and effective when we regard ourselves with unconditional positive regard (as much as, if not more than, when therapists regard their clients this way). Here is a very good starting point for reading a bit more about unconditional positive regard, Carl Rogers, and other concepts he developed: http://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html. Thanks for reading and for your comment!