Tracey’s Bottom Line was ‘ I am a failure She grew up in an achievement – oriented family , who sent her to a highly competitive school where acadmic success was paramount. Tracey was intelligent , but relentless oressure stopped her from performing at her best. She compensated by working extras hard , and this became her Rule. ‘ I must always perform 110 per cent or I will surely fail.’ So long as she could obey the Rule, she felt more or lessOkay about herself.
But if for some reason she could not obey it-she was ill , or exhausted , or simply had too much on her plate – then she was in trouble . Sticking to her Rule was not optional – she had to do it , no matter what : if not, it just proved she was right : she really was a failure.
WHAT KEEPS LOW SELF-ESTEEM GOING?
Let’s turn now to how the Bottom Line is activated and explore the vicious circle that keeps it alive. We will follow Tracey’s story to illustrate how it works.
Activation of the Bottom Line
Two kinds of situations activate the Bottom Line
1- Situation where your Rules for living might be broken . In this case , what happens next will have an uncertain , anxious flavour.
2-Situation where you think the Rules definitely have been broken . In this case , what happens next will have a low, depressing feel to it.
1- Situation where the Rules might be broken .
One day Tracey faced a major challenge . She had to give an important presentation at work , in front of a new client and her line manager. She was afraid that she would make a mess of it, in front of everybody. It had not happened yet, but it might . Everything that might go wrong raced through her mind- predictions ,’ what ifs’, and’supposings’. She saw in her mind ‘s eye an image of herself, stammering, red in the face, every-one-staring with disapproval.
Not surprisingly, Tracey’s oredictions sparked off anxiety . Her heart was pounding , her mouth dry , her mind in a whirl. This prompted even more predictions .
What could she do to stop her predictions from coming true?
She was tempted to call in sick and avoid the whole thing.In the end, she decided she had to do it but took precautions to avert disaster , and stayed up half the night trying to make the presentation perfect in every detail.
Supposing in fact all went well? Rather than feeling pleased, Tracey would probably feel she had had a near miss: had she not taken those precautions , what she feared would certainly have happened. So her attempts to protect herself would actually stop her from discovering whether her predictions were valid, thus preventing her from updating her Bottom Line. On the other hand, supposing she was too tired to think straight and things went badly? Once again, her worst fears would seem justified . She really was a failure , confirming her Bottom Line.
At this point, anxiety would change to something heavier, gloomier, self-criticism might follow the sense falure (‘Typical.I always make a mess of things.And if I don’t , it’s by the skin of my teeth.’) Then would come hopelessness.
(it’s always going to be this way.) . With thoughts like these, naturally her mood would dip. She might just feel down for a while or, particularly if she had experienced serious depression in the past gloom and dependency could persist , and even spiral down into serious depression. Self-crotocism , hopelessness and low mood keep the negative Bottom Line active, and so the vicious circle closes.
2- Situations where the Rules defintely have been broken.
The Bottom Line can also be activated when it seems your Rules definitely have been broken . You did fail, someone did disapprove of you, your feelings did get the better of you-or whatever . Because there is no uncertainty , anxiety is not part of the picture. As far as you are concerned , the worst has already happened: the Bottom Line has been activated and confirmed in the same moment, and you may find yourself heading straight for self-criticism , hopelessness and low mood.
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