Five Character Strengths of People Living with Anxiety
If you are living with anxiety, chances are you scoff at the idea of anxiety and character strengths. A particularly nasty effect of anxiety is self-doubt and sometimes self-hatred (Anxiety and Negative Thoughts: How To Get Rid of Them). Having any type of anxiety disorder often, over time, leads people to to believe that anxiety defines who they are. That's an understandable thought given how overpowering anxiety can be, but it's a faulty one. People living with anxiety have many character strengths that truly are part of who they are.
Anxiety can take control of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to such a degree that we don't see or believe in all of the positive character strengths we have. Anxiety, though, is only one small piece of who someone is. Finding and embracing our character strengths is a powerful way to rise above anxiety and loosen its grip on our lives. Here are five of the many character strengths of people living with anxiety:
Living with Anxiety Hones These 5 Character Strengths
1. Courage: It takes a great amount of bravery and persistence to live and function in the world despite anxiety. Sometimes people living with anxiety can't leave the house, but that doesn't diminish their courage (The Silencing of Agoraphobia). They're up and trying and doing what they can to overcome debilitating anxiety. No matter the type of anxiety, it is courageous to persist rather than give up.
2. Moderation: Often, when living with panic disorder or anxiety attacks, people feel that they are losing control or going crazy. Additionally, the what-ifs and imagined scenarios that can plague people living with anxiety can make inner and outer life feel out of control. I say that's not the case at all.
To be sure, the feelings and the thoughts are real. But rather than being out of control, people living with anxiety have a high degree of control, which falls under the umbrella of the character strength moderation. It takes a high degree of self-control to survive a panic attack, especially in public. It takes an inhuman amount of self-control to resist what-ifs, fears, and worries. People living with anxiety definitely are high in the character strengths of moderation and self-control.
3. Transcendence: This character strength includes a sense of hope. People living with anxiety tend to be hopeful. Hopeful? When everything seems lost and hopeless? Yes. Transcendence and hope are indeed character strengths of people living with anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are wearing. Sometimes it feels like it won't end. That doesn't mean that someone is hopeless. It means they're frustrated. Those are two different things. As with courage and persistence, when someone with anxiety keeps seeking information, keeps reading books and visiting websites like HealthyPlace, when he or she takes little steps every day and picks themselves, dusts themselves off, and starts all over again, this person living with anxiety has hope (Hope, The Foundation Of Mental Health Recovery).
4. Curiosity: When anxiety is in our head, our brain, we are using the character strength curiosity. Those what-ifs and imagined scenarios, those racing thoughts, are signs of intelligence, creativity, and curiosity. Granted, anxiety takes them and uses them against us, often stopping us in our tracks. This doesn't change the fact that people living with anxiety have the character strength of curiosity. This means, too, that we can use this strength in beating anxiety; we can take one of anxiety's thoughts and turn it around properly.
5. Kindness: Anxiety, social anxiety disorder in particular, can make people afraid of being judged (Anxiety Says Everyone Hates Me). Whether it's fear of judgment, fear of "what-ifs" coming true, fear of panicking in public, or other anxieties, sometimes people living with anxiety avoid people and places. That is an action of anxiety rather than an aloofness, indifference, or uncaring nature. Anxiety can stem from caring too much. The character strength of kindness is often found in people living with anxiety.
Living with Anxiety is Something You Do; Character Strengths are Who You Are
Anxiety disorders are something someone lives with and deals with. Character strengths, on the other hand, are part of who someone is. Living with anxiety doesn't take away character strengths. What are your strengths? Find them, embrace them, and live well with them.
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Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
You raise a very good point. Anxiety has many causes and consequences For example, you mention perfectionism; that seems to act as both a cause and a consequence. The thought process and subsequent emotions and behaviors underlying perfectionism contribute to anxiety. Then, the anxiety around being unfit, feeling judged as inadequate, etc. fuels that need for perfection. Psychiatric treatment is important in overcoming the negative aspects of anxiety. Addressing the negative alone isn't enough to help overcome anxiety. Identifying and building on the positive character strengths and personality traits will go far in helping one manage and even overcome anxiety.
Thank you for sharing your story. The part that you shared is beautiful. How wonderful that you decided to see a therapist and that he has helped you see that your husband, who gave you the gift of self-confidence, didn't take it back. It doesn't sound like he would do that to you. It's very normal to feel stuck. You don't have to accept being stuck. In doing what you're doing, you will be able to gradually move forward and your husband will always remain part of you.
My sister is nearing the end of her battle with cancer, my grandmother is struggling with dementia, and my brother is getting married on Saturday. Of course there's also the high-stress job and a potential job change on the horizon as well as a first home purchase lurking in the wings to boot. All these things, good or bad, have driven me into a corner. Finally, my anxiety and depression have teamed up and are kicking my butt. That hasn't stopped me though.
Sure I cry most mornings for too many reasons to count, and I suffer from debilitating migraine headaches that last for days and cause me nausea and sensitivity to light, but I can't give up. With the help of my spouse I went to my yearly physical this year and for once told the doctor that I might seem average on all their scales, but I have a problem. That was a double edged sword as he prescribed me many many drugs to handle my symptoms. Do you think that would cause someone with anxiety that doesn't like to take meds (even over the counter ones) to "freak out"? It did.
Nothing has scared me more than seeing it in black & white that I have several disorders, that I am in fact "out of order" to a degree. Before I just thought it was all in my head. Maybe I was just a little neurotic perhaps. Now I know that I have an issue. My anxiety is realized as an actual fear in itself which is a never-ending circle.
I'm afraid that the medicine will alter me as a person. That it will take away my kindness, block my creativity (I am a musician first and foremost), and generally just make me someone I am not. I'm worried about dependency on these pills and their interaction with other substances I enjoy (I am a homebrewer, more creativity I'm fearful of losing).
I am nearly totally overwhelmed, but not yet. This article and things like it are reasons why I can't give up. My wife and family are reasons I can't give up. I'm searching, scratching, pleading for a way out of this pit and I won't stop until I find it. My next stop is a psychologist because I won't take any of those medications until I'm sure that is what multiple doctors agree upon, and maybe not even then. There has to be another way to deal with my condition than jamming a bunch of pills down my throat. At least I'm hopeful there is, and anxiety and depression cannot take that away from me.
Sorry for the long post. Thank you for the article above it though. I needed that today.
I appreciate your post a great deal. It wasn't too long -- no apologies are necessary. To say that you have a lot on your plate is a huge understatement. Any one of these life events and changes could lead to anxiety even in someone who doesn't have a disorder. (I like your "out-of-order" comment, by the way. To me, it means that there's something that can be "fixed" and that the anxiety and depression are temporary). Situational anxiety can be very difficult and uncomfortable, but because it's tied to outer circumstances, it really won't last forever. Deeper anxiety can be more insidious and disruptive, but that, too, can be overcome with work and support. It's not a character flaw! It's something that someone deals with, but because it isn't an integral part of who you are, it can diminish and eventually disappear. You're wise to question whether or not medication is right for you. Medication can be very helpful for some, but for others it's either ineffective or causes new problems (or both). Your idea of seeing a psychologist is a very good one. Psychologists can help you process your anxiety and work through it (there are many ways to do that, and each psychologist/counselor/therapist/etc. takes a slightly different approach. If you find that one psychologist isn't a good fit, it's okay to seek others until you find one that fits with you). And as you begin the journey toward overcoming anxiety and depression, remember that you do have strengths and aren't at all weak!
You make a great point. There are so many ways to manage anxiety other than with medication. Everyone is unique and responds (or doesn't respond) differently to various treatments. Medication is great for some but not for others. I think addressing anxiety from many different approaches can be very effective. Everything you mentioned is a legitimate treatment. Again, not all will work for every person, and that's okay. The important thing is to keep trying until you find the combination that works for you. And something will work!
Anxiety definitely doesn't make you weak! It just tend to make us think we are. Focus on the many strengths you have -- you do have them.
Thank you so much for sharing this part of your story with everyone here. Ann Landers was indeed inspiring and had a great deal of wisdom to share. Your story will surely inspire many. You have transcended very difficult obstacles, and you're part of the proof that anxiety can be overcome, even when it's not easy. I wish you a lifetime of continued success (and I'm confident that you'll have it).