I am seeing so many children, teens and adults with high levels of stress and anxious feelings. I was someone who experienced high anxiety for many years, so it is very humbling to be able to support people as they overcome these powerful, destructive feelings and transform into the naturally confident human beings we are all born to be.
Children, who are experiencing highly anxious feelings and thoughts, may be “doing well” in terms of say academic achievement as an example, but often they are hiding a deep emotional wounding with a “mask of perfection”. This pursuit of perfectionism is one of the behaviours driven by fear.
On the outside, they will say that everything is fine. Even if you ask them directly, they will not reveal their inner turmoil. But, maintaining this mask of perfection eventually takes its toll. Signs of stress such as disturbed sleep patterns, unexpected anger, excessive screen time, social withdrawal, people pleasing and even food issues eventually surface.
If this is resonating with you, the most important questions to ask are, “What is the deeper emotional pain they must be feeling? Where is it coming from?”
All human beings have this internal drive to seek connection and avoid rejection. This is wired into us and goes right back throughout our human history. When a child is feeling strong emotional pain, one of the subconscious beliefs will be “there is something wrong with me. In some way I feel different”. This belief drives the thinking that they cannot connect in a meaningful way.
They may not feel “good enough” at some skill or ability – getting good grades at school, in sporting activities, in social situations. However it shows up for them.
They may have body image issues – “my body is not strong enough, pretty enough, thin enough…”
They could be feeling that they will only be loved if they act or behave in a certain way to meet other peoples (often parents and carers) expectations. A child may feel they will only get love if they change themselves.
Because of this inherent drive to connect, where a child experiences a feeling that they are loved “only if” something else, they begin to believe they are simply not lovable on their own. For all human beings, young or old, this is one of the deepest sources of emotional pain.
If this is not recognised, the belief challenged and corrected, it leads to feelings of low self-worth, lack of confidence, resentment, frustration, anger and low mood. Anxious types of behaviour are a common sign of these feelings.
The feeling of being loved “only if” usually comes from one’s parents or carers. It is not their fault. It is the result of a simple misunderstanding between parents and children.
Children idealise their parents. That’s a fact. Our survival is linked with our parents loving us. If they love us, they will nurture us. If we are nurtured, we live, we can thrive. Again, we are wired this way and our subconscious drives these fundamental behaviours.
Our total belief in our parents at a young age can also cause pain and hurt. As children believe their parents are always right, even when they act in ways that appear to a child as hurtful, angry or unloving, a child is left to assume that there is something wrong with them. It becomes a deeply held belief that they are at fault, not the parent.
Thankfully, it can also be fixed and healed. Children and adults who have carried this feeling of being loved “only if” can learn to internalise and reinstall these positive emotional feelings simply and quickly. Then they can move on to enjoy productive, fulfilling lives, unencumbered by the past.