If I were forced to choose between feeling angry or sad, I’d opt for anger in an instant. Bring on the red mist, the white hot rage, the blind fury. I prefer the energy of anger. I love its sense of righteousness. The motivation it gives me to get things done, and its currency for converting into a good story. But various studies suggest I should be worried. Because there is a relationship between low self-esteem and the inability to control angry impulses.
Multiple research papers, over the years have found a correlation between low self-regard and poor anger management. The findings suggest both these feelings may come from the failure to emotionally regulate.
Further research which substantiates this theory came courtesy of Estrada-Fernandez et al (2023). Their study found a positive connection between their participants’ ability to regulate their anger and high self-esteem. The researchers recommended that schools offer students psycho-education, so they can learn the necessary skills.
So, if like me you’re well past school age, but still a slave to your anger, then here are some tips to help.
3 steps to manage your anger and self-esteem
1. Make friends with your fury
My peace with my inner red panda places me firmly in the minority. Anger is the emotion that makes women feel most uncomfortable. They neither like to see it in others or experience it in themselves. In fact many women will deny they even feel it. This is partly because it’s deemed unfeminine. The acceptable ways for women to express anger tend to be passive aggressive; ignoring, ostracising, spreading rumours.
But by avoiding or denying our anger, it’s more likely to bubble up and burst forth at the most inopportune time -the work meeting, while on the motorway or doing the morning school run. So own your anger. We all feel it, and that’s as it should be.
2. If your anger feels overwhelming, support is available
The researchers may have been on to something when they suggested psycho education for low self-esteem and anger. Luckily, there are plenty of courses available outside the classroom. Assertiveness training, can be a great starting point and groups are available both on line and in real life. Being assertive is simply being able to state your needs in a clear and polite manner. It sounds so simple, but it’s amazing how many of us struggle to do it.
If you feel your fury is beyond the scope of simple assertiveness strategies, then Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) may be for you. DBT will enable you to accept your feelings, while teaching you the skills to manage them. Ultimately, the techniques should better equip you to achieve what you want in life. Mind offer this great explanation of DBT.
3. Use your anger for the good
As a counsellor, I’m often aware just how fitting and appropriate my clients’ anger is. Awful, unfair, unjust things happen to people, and it would be more surprising if my clients didn’t react with fury. Anger protects us. When we feel it, we know our boundaries have been breached, and it fuels us for a fight.
Forgiveness isn’t always an option and forcing yourself to feel it won’t work. What can be helpful though, is finding an organisation that we can funnel our anger into. Thereby converting it in to something beautiful and useful. Or when we can advocate on behalf of others, and provide the support that was lacking when we were suffering. No one can change the past. But by lending your voice to an organisation you believe in, the future can become very different for others.
I love to hear from you. So if you have any thoughts on anger and self esteem, then just drop a comment below.