Five Character Strengths of People Living with Anxiety
Thursday, November 5 2015 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
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.