BLOG ARTICLES - Page 2 of 4 - The Self-Worth Experiment
A liberating way to reduce anxiety quickly and naturally
Apr 24

A liberating way to reduce anxiety quickly and naturally

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

I had a sadistic teacher in high school who mocked and ridiculed every pupil who dared to attract attention. I was petrified of needing the toilet during his lessons because I knew he would verbally abuse me for asking permission.

So, I worried about German lessons all day in advance. And my body reacted to my anxiety with an overwhelming urge to pee as soon as the lesson started.

I suffered through those 50 minutes, digging my finger nails into the palm of my hand, so the pain would distract me from my screaming bladder. But too often, I was forced to raise my hand and face his derision because I couldn’t hold on any longer.

It made me feel pathetic. Like my body betrayed me. Worked against me.

I started to mistrust myself and my ability to control my actions (and bladder). As a consequence, I developed toilet anxiety, which haunted me during my teens and all the way through my twenties. Whenever I had no immediate toilet access (for example when travelling in the car, in the cinema or on hikes), I needed to go every 15 minutes.

And it wasn’t just in my mind. I really desperately, urgently had to pee! Every time.

Ashamed of my irrepressible bodily reactions, I tried to hide my anxiety from everybody else. When I was out with other people, it took all my strength to keep it together. To stop my anxiety from swallowing me whole and my body from humiliating me. All while maintaining a composed exterior.

So nobody would know how weak I was. How inadequate. How much of a failure.

But my mind was consumed by worries about the nearest facility access, absorbed by suppressing the feelings of panic, overwhelmed by the almost impossible task to act “normal”. And every outing was torture.

So, I avoided activities that involved other people whenever I could. Locked myself into my small flat where it was safe. Where I wasn’t at risk of humiliating myself and my bladder behaved.

For many years, I missed out on life. I merely existed. Imprisoned by my anxiety. Suffering in silence and isolation.

Until one liberating (but terrifying) step changed it all.

Read more
What's your purpose in life (and why it matters much less than you think)
Apr 11

What’s your purpose in life (and why it matters much less than you think)?

By Dr Berni Sewell | Discover your happiness

Yesterday I had an astonishing realisation while I watched my cats sleeping on the sofa.

They were snoozing away peacefully. Blissfully content to spend the majority of their days chilling, relaxing and dozing without a care in the world.

And it occurred to me that our perspectives of life are entirely different. While cats nap all day (only interrupted by eating, casual strolls around the garden, stalking the occasional bird and, from time to time, defending their estate against foreign intruders), us humans are constantly on the go.

We rush around, stressed, anxious and breathless. Hustling, slaving, burning ourselves out. Sacrificing our emotional, mental and physical health so we can achieve, accomplish and contribute to society. So we have purpose and our life means something.

We believe that purpose is a prerequisite for happiness. But observing my cats in their slumber, I realised that they were perfectly happy. Without the need to find purpose in their lives.

So why is purpose so important for us?

Read more
Why you never need to be ashamed of yourself
Mar 17

Why you never need to feel ashamed of yourself

By Dr Berni Sewell | Love yourself

I passed my driving test at first attempt when I was 18 years old. And didn’t sit on a driver’s seat again for the next 10 years.

The thought of driving a car made me feel sick with worry and anxiety. I was overwhelmed by all the actions that needed to be completed simultaneously. Clutch, accelerator, indicator, look left, right and back, use the side mirrors, watch pedestrians, traffic and stick to speed limits. It was just too much!

So, I avoided it. Convinced myself that a car in the city was impractical anyway. That the 3-hour journey to see my family on the train at weekends was more comfortable anyway. And that I enjoyed taking the bus.

But I always knew. Driving was my biggest failure.

Every time I found myself behind the steering wheel, I felt physically sick and froze, mind blank and petrified. Driving was my nemesis. An unsurmountable wall of shame I could never overcome.

Until my mind set started to change…

Read more
How I silenced my self-doubt and followed my dreams
Feb 25

How I silenced my self-doubt and followed my dreams

By Dr Berni Sewell | Transform your life

All my life, my self-doubt murdered my plans, strangled my enthusiasm and drowned my passions.

When I was 7 years old, my deepest desire was to become an author. But self-doubt convinced me that my sister was the creative genius in the family. I could never compare to her, why waste my life on silly phantasies and unrealistic ideas.

When I chose a sensible career in research instead, self-doubt insisted that I was an imposter in a ridiculous scientist disguise. I lived in constant fear of being exposed. Of somebody pointing a finger at me, shouting: “You know nothing, little girl”.

And now, as I dreamed of rekindling my love for writing, self-doubt vetoed again. And I believed its warnings, bought its objections. Again.

As always, I stuck with my familiar life, my stale routines devoid of challenges, excitement and adventures. Busy suppressing my passion and disregarding my need for creative expression, purpose and direction.

While my dreams simmered on the back burner, neglected, oppressed, out of reach. I thought I didn’t need them to be happy. But I was wrong.

Read more
A powerful way to stop worrying
Feb 15

A powerful way to stop worrying

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

My 4-year old has a little cuddly toy called Biff. Biff is a “worry eater”.

When she’s worried about starting school, scared of the dark or anxious about performing the ABC song in the nursery play, we write her worry on a piece of paper.

We put the piece of paper in Biff’s mouth, close the zip and put him in bed with her.

The next morning (with some Mummy assistance obviously) the worry is gone. All gobbled up. Or so she thinks.

The important thing is that she stops worrying. She surrendered the anxious thoughts to somebody else and trusts that the problems will be taken care of.

End of story. No more worry.

I guess now you think: “What a lovely way to stop worrying. For a pre-schooler. But how could this ever work for me?”

Well, the good news is that this tactic works at every age…

Read more
The only guaranteed way to transform your life
Jan 29

The only guaranteed way to transform your life

By Dr Berni Sewell | Transform your life

I hit rock-bottom at the age of 25.

Every aspect of my life was a struggle. I felt like I was serving a life sentence in a homemade prison.

Paralysed, stuck. And alone.

I couldn’t advance in my career because crippling self-doubt convinced me that I was a fraud in a ridiculous scientist disguise. I felt lucky I had a job at all! Considering my incompetence.

I was unable to go out with friends because I felt weak, anxious and vulnerable and was terrified of being mugged or killed on the way home alone.

I avoided meeting new people because the thought of social interactions made me feel sick. I believed that everybody I met would automatically judge me.

And I had given up on love and the prospect of a new relationship because I felt too flawed and damaged to deserve it. The only conceivable outcome was abandonment and the resulting unbearable pain. No, thank you!

So I sat at home. Day in, day out.

Wallowed in self-pity. Blamed myself, the Universe, other people for my misery. Drowned in negativity and self-loathing. Resented the people who had it all figured out, who were happy, confident and loved. And spent whole days in bed, in despair and hopelessness.

I would still be there now. Full of emptiness, hurt and envy.

But I was lucky. Because somehow I discovered the answers to the 3 most essential questions we will ask ourselves when we embark on the journey to a free, light-hearted and happier life.

Read more
The 3 eye-opening truths that will make you immune to criticism
Jan 16

The 3 eye-opening truths that will make you immune to criticism

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

Several years ago, I was working as part of a multidisciplinary team updating a national guideline for breast cancer detection and management.

I finished a presentation of the research plan to 20 leading oncologists and cancer geneticists, as one of them stood up, shook his head in disapproval and said: “This is all wrong! We are dealing with an important issue here. People’s lives are at stake. We can’t have your inexperience screw this up. What are you? A student? This is not up to scratch.”

And before he sat down, he added: “And, by the way, your accent doesn’t only sound horribly German, it is also terribly Welsh.”

As you can imagine I was stunned. Hurt. And angry. We had worked hard on the research plan and it was good.

A sharp, burning feeling spread through my throat as I suppressed tears. I wanted to defend myself and my work. Tell him what an ignorant, arrogant idiot he was. And kick him where it hurt most.

But instead, I mumbled: “Ok, we will revisit it until the next meeting”. And excused myself to cry in the toilet where nobody would see it.

At the time, his criticism crushed me. Made me doubt my abilities. For days I replayed the events in my mind. Overanalysed what had gone wrong, what I could have done better to avoid the inquisition. And beat myself up for stupid mistakes I made and for not standing up for myself.

If the same happened to me again now, I would react differently.

It wouldn’t offend and hurt me, or knock my confidence. Because I know 3 important truths about criticism today that could have spared me a lot of suffering, upset and heartache.

If only someone had told me 10 years ago…

Read more
Why your New Year's resolution is doomed to fail (and what to focus on instead in 2018)
Jan 07

Why your New Year’s resolution is doomed to fail (and what to focus on instead in 2018)

By Dr Berni Sewell | Transform your life

Since the birth of my little one I have tried to lose the weight I gained during pregnancy.

And every year I make a New Year’s resolution. With great hopes and motivation. This time I will succeed. I will do whatever it takes. I will stick to my diet and reclaim my body.

But, the truth is, I hate every minute of it. I crave carbs and chocolate, I detest kale and beat myself up for never making it to the gym. The constant feeling of hunger makes me grumpy and bitchy. And every minute of every day becomes a struggle to keep myself committed.

Usually, after a month (at the very most), I give up. Finding myself at the same weight I started within weeks.

Another failure. Well done me.

And I am not alone. Research has shown that, on average, 88% of New Year’s resolutions crash and burn. Most of them within the first month. And almost everybody cites “lack of willpower and control” as the reason.

Leaving millions of us to feel like failures. Believing that we just aren’t good enough to lose that weight, stop smoking and drinking, get that shopping habit under control or declutter the house.

The good intentions of the New Year’s resolution become more proof of our perceived worthlessness and weakness. The failed attempt to improve our lives makes us feel worse about ourselves than ever.

But it’s not us who is wrong, incapable or flawed. And it’s not willpower we need. It’s something else altogether…

Read more
How to overcome fear of judgement
Dec 27

How to overcome fear of judgement

By Dr Berni Sewell | Overcome your fears

My husband recently acquired a new Christmas jumper. Yes, this is him modelling it in the picture! He wears it everywhere. Dropping little one off at school, to shopping, to the cinema, at restaurants. EVERYWHERE!

And not only is the jumper visually…well, let’s say flamboyant, the eyes also light up and it plays the Darth Vader theme. I kid you not!

A few years ago, I would have been mortified. Incapable of walking alongside him while his belly was trumpeting the Imperial March.

A few years ago, I would have been so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl and hide in a hole somewhere. My face would have been bright red with shame. I would have looked around anxiously, horrified of the judgement in the eyes of the passers-by.

And I would have been furious with my husband for putting me through it all. Intentionally! I would have blamed him and resented him for my suffering.

But today, I think it’s hilarious. I am actually considering getting one for myself. Because I learned two crucial truths in the past 10 years that made all the difference.

Read more