Always flogging myself

  • Lifestyle
  • Sunday, 17 Jun 2012

FOR the past two years, I have excelled in my academic and professional careers. I get along well with immediate and extended family members, enjoy strong friendships with genuinely wonderful individuals, and have a blooming relationship with my current girlfriend.

In fact, I’m really contented with my life now. However, my problem lies with my tendency towards self-criticism and perfectionism, and I fear this will jeopardise my happiness.

Basically, I’m insecure with who I am as a human being. I have sought help through counselling therapy and by journal-writing and self-observation.

I am often dissatisfied with myself and this gets in the way of my interaction and communication with the people I care for and love, thus leading to anxious insecurity and, lately, anger. This recurring problem started after I recovered from depression two years ago.

I read books to better understand what I was going through and had regular counselling, and things improved. But in the last few weeks, I find myself overreacting to comments by my mother and girlfriend, reading too much into their words and causing unnecessary stress on both sides.

I keep asking my girlfriend if I bore her, and often say that I’m doubtful about our relationship. As for mum, whenever she advises me, I start reprimanding myself for not being a better son.

It’s not that I misunderstand their good intentions – I genuinely appreciate their words of wisdom. But I just take things too hard and use their words to start my vicious cycle of self-criticism.

I am trying to change, but it has not been easy. Some days I’m perfectly fine, other days I’m just so insecure. I’m trying by putting full trust in their actions – they actually do care about and love me – and these few days, my emotions have been under control.

I will need counselling to further sort things out at some point; for now, this is good enough. But is there anything else I can do?

I value the deep bond I share with the two most important women in my life and I want to be a better man for them. I want to give the best of myself to both of them, instead of letting them down with insecurity.

Deep in thought

ALL the issues you have described here are really manifestations of anxiety. The worrying thoughts, doubts, self-criticism, anger and even perfectionism are all the result of anxiety.

You are right in identifying that you will have to resume counselling. It will help you deal with the root of the problem and from there, manage your anxieties.

It will be good also for you to keep up your reading. Look up the Internet for appropriate titles that will suit you. When you get a counsellor, you can discuss suitable titles with him/her.

You say you have a history of depression. You have addressed this in the past, but often, depression accompanies anxiety. The main complaints you have presented here are related to anxiety but there are also signs of depression.

Research has shown that the best treatment for depression is counselling, combined with psychiatric medication. There is no shame in taking psychiatric medication. People often stay away from them for fear of addiction, but this is a fallacy. If taken according to your doctor’s advice, there should be no problem.

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