Insecure? Reclaim the Joy of Being of You

Enjoying the sun

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”  ~Vincent Van Gogh

Listen up dear friend — if you feel insecure about yourself, you are not alone.

A few months ago, I surveyed my readers about their most common fears and worries. Feeling insecure was a recurring theme. We tiptoe about on the eggshells of life, afraid that others will see our flaws, our ugliness, our failures. We sell ourselves short. We hold ourselves back, because we just don’t know — “Will it work, will I look stupid, am I capable? Will they like me?”

Insecurities entangle us for a variety of reasons. Most of them start when we are children. Perhaps you couldn’t live up to your parent’s expectations. Maybe you were shy or unpopular in school. Maybe there was dysfunction or even tragedy in your younger years. These are all legitimate, understandable reasons for feeling insecure.

But now you are an adult, and these reasons don’t have to define you. You can untangle yourself from insecurity and self-doubt.

You do have something beautiful to offer the world. It’s time to rejoice and be glad in it.

If you’ve felt insecure for years, untangling yourself from it may seem easier said than done. Insecurity can feel like a sodden cloak around you that is too heavy to push off. In fact, as uncomfortable as it feels, it is safe and familiar. If you define yourself as insecure, then you have good reason for not doing, not growing, not stretching.

Let’s examine insecurity for a moment. Let’ s put it under a microscope and cut into it. If you look closely, you will see that insecurity is a mass of tangled thoughts and feelings that are triggered by the past. But look, if I take my scalpel and cut away those past experiences and beliefs, insecurity goes into remission. And if you follow up this procedure with a regular dose of re-focus, you can beat insecurity and reclaim the joy of being you.

Overcoming insecurity and liking yourself again requires patience and practice, but it can be done. There are two distinct parts to the process.

Overcoming Insecurity

Create perspective. Whatever your particular insecurities happen to be, take some time to look at the rest of the human race. Imperfection is abounding. Really, how many beautiful, talented, brilliant, perfect people are there? We may see them in the media, but that’s because they are aberrations. Here are some interesting statistics on our media-based perceptions. Even those you think are beautiful and confident have their own insecurities.

Challenge outdated beliefs. Many insecurities linger on long after the original “cause ” is irrelevant or non-existent. Write down your insecurities. Now, find solid evidence in your current life to challenge these old beliefs and feelings. You may shock yourself to find you’ve been clinging to a belief that has absolutely no truth to it.

Take action on what you can. Just the act of taking action gives you a sense of confidence, control, and security. If you can do something about it, then take an action toward change. If you are insecure about your appearance, and you can take healthy action toward improvement, then do it. (I’m not suggesting surgery or drastic measures.) If you are insecure about your skills in an area, take a class, read a book, start practicing. Don’t dwell on it. Do something.

Stop focusing on the unchangeable. There are some things we simply can’t change about ourselves. We can’t change the past. We can’t change aspects of our appearance. We can’t change other people. So simply remove your focus from those things. Stop the head-banging. When you find yourself cogitating on the unchangeable, visualize a mental barricade dropping down to prevent the thoughts from entering. Sing a song, read a book, do anything to distract yourself from these useless and counter-productive thoughts.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”  ~Reinhold Niebuhr

Let go of people pleasing. First, recognize that no one is paying as much attention to you as you fear they are. They are too involved in themselves. If your goal in life is to always “look good” in front of others, I’m sorry to say you will never achieve it. Please yourself first. Create your own standards for who you want to be and then work toward that. If you mess up, fail, look silly, recognize that as a natural part of the human condition and move on. Laugh about it if you can.

As you begin to untangle your insecurities, realize that you cannot leave a vacuum or the insecurities will return. You want to replace them with healthy, positive beliefs and thinking about yourself.

Reclaim the Joy of Being You

Strengthen your strengths. Focus on what you like about yourself and what you do well. Become an expert in those things — draw attention to your strengths. If you’re not sure about your strengths, ask other people who know you well to help you define them. These aren’t just skills, they can be personality traits, attitudes, relational abilities. What you might take for granted, others perceive as amazing. Keep a journal in which you write down your strengths, achievements, and accomplishments. Look at it daily to remind yourself of the many wonderful things about you!

Lighten up. When you’ve lived in insecurity for a long time, you constantly feel hyper-vigilant, managing yourself lest others perceive your flaws. Practice cutting loose and having fun. Let go. Let yourself look silly. A relaxed, light, and fun person is so much fun to be around. Your lightness will attract others, which will make you feel far more secure than constantly guarding yourself.

Immerse yourself in positivity. Take a bath in it. Wallow in it. Read positive thought books. Write affirmations. Turn off bad news or shallow, appearance or money-focused programs. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Minimize time with those who pull you down. Soak your brain and emotions in the beauty of life as much as possible.

Get out of your head and do what makes you happy. Stop thinking and start doing. Do what brings you joy. Do what is fun. Do what is meaningful. Do what is helpful and giving. Do what is loving. These are the actions that make you feel good about yourself. In truth, we are what we do — not what we think.

You will have to practice these mind shifts to begin moving away from insecurity and toward really liking yourself. It doesn’t happen overnight.  But if you are aware of what you can do, and then start putting these actions into daily practice, within weeks you will feel more secure and happy in yourself.

Being a secure person is a lifestyle choice. It happens from the inside out. It won’t land on you from above. Every day, practice the steps outlined above. Don’t allow yourself the indulgence of dwelling on your insecurities, which is like stepping into quicksand. Reclaim the glorious gift of being alive and living in a world full of beauty and opportunity. All is well.

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Comments

  1. Hi Barrie,

    I love the suggestions you offer here, and I’d also like to add that our insecurities often come wrapped in a different problem. For instance, a little while back, I noticed I had become a bit insecure about my body image, which was unusual for me. It was later when I realized it was stemming from a larger problem that was taking place with my husband. Once we started working on that problem, the insecurities started melting away. I guess what I’m saying is that it can help to look at the root of our insecurities and try to get at them that way as well.

    Thanks for your insights,

    Adrienne

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Adrienne,
      Oh you are so right — if you can get to the root of your insecurities and deal with that, it will be so much easier to “retrain” your brain out of insecure reactions and behaviors. In fact, sometimes getting to the root of it is all we have to do — as in your example. Thank you for adding that important point. :)

  2. Great post, Barrie!

    Getting perspective can be extremely helpful — especially when we start thinking we’re the only one who falls short in some area of life. Gaining some perspective can be very helpful by considering the rest of humanity, as you say.

    But we can go a step further as well. So often, we see the “perfect marriage” or the “perfect genius” and compare ourselves against that ideal. The only problem is that the ideal is rarely truly as ideal as it appears from the outside looking in. We rarely are privy to all the imperfections behind closed doors. That too is an important part of the perspective we come to view our own shortcoming against.

    Important insights!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I agree wholeheartedly Ken — very few “perfect” situations are truly as they appear to be. And perfect is far to stressful anyway!

  3. I think that there is no reason for us to feel insecure because we are beautiful in our ways… we just have to believe in ourselves and avoid comparing ourselves from other people

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      We are beautiful in our own ways, but sadly we’ve all been “trained” to believe we aren’t. For some, that’s hard to overcome. But I believe you can overcome it, or at least make it markedly better, with practice. You are so right, comparisons with other people is the worst thing you can do for your self-confidence.

  4. Barrie,

    Thank you for these ideas. They are exactly what I needed to read first thing this morning.

    Although the term “transparency” has almost become a cliche, it is extremely helpful when others are open, authentic, truthful and transparent about their ups and downs rather than hiding behind “perfect” masks. When we and others disclose, it helps us all to loosen up, accept ourselves, see our strengths and beauty, and then reclaim our joy. Best of all, when we do all this we can see our blessings and be grateful for them.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Dear Flora,
      Beautifully stated! I took my perfect mask off years ago, and I feel so much more relaxed. It was hard to breathe under there. :) Thank you for your lovely comments.

  5. Challenging outdated beliefs is outright terrifying Barrie. It’s like walking into that attic you haven’t been into for 20 years. You don’t know what’s in there but you know it’s not good. Identifying outdated beliefs and writing them down is like walking into the attic and confronting ghosts of your past.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Yes Vishnu, that may be true. But ghosts can’t harm you. They just scare you. Once you confront them, you may see that they have no power over you any longer. :)

  6. Great post. Loving yourself is the key to a wonderful, successful and blissful life. Sometimes we are so critical of ourselves and others….wanting to be better, wanting to please, wanting to be the best, etc. that we lose site of our authenticity…ourselves. We then look to others for approval and lose track of our own internal tracking system…a system that always leads us on the correct path. If we trust…we will be lead to a wonderful life.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hello dear Cris,
      I love that description of our own “personal tracking system.” I think so many people fail to create that system for themselves, so they have no touchstone for how to conduct their lives. It is so important to define that for yourself and use it as a guide. You can’t depend on other people to be that for you. Thank you for your thoughtful comments Cris.

  7. Thanks for the inspiration to just go for it – and drop those insecurities that hold me back. It’s amazing that even after decades on the planet I find myself comparing my talent to others and holding myself in a negative light. This is so limiting! I like the point of ‘Let Go of People Pleasing.’ I would also say, “let go of caring about the judgments of others.”
    Time to get out of my head and do what makes me happy!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You go Sarah!! Yes, please let go of caring about the judgments of others. (Unless they are people whose judgments you’ve requested and respect.) Whenever I’m not sure about myself or a situation, I try to pretend that a friend is asking me for advise about the same situation, and then listen to what I’d tell them. Most of the time, we know exactly what we need for ourselves!

  8. hi Berrie,
    I love the suggestions given by you .Really very helpful.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Sushma,
      I am so glad they were useful. Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know!

  9. Betsy at Zen Mama says:

    Very well written Barrie! I love the quotes you chose. I’ve never heard the Van Gogh! Even if you’re not insecure, we always need reminders on how to reclaim our joy.
    Thanks!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Betsy. We do need reminders about loving ourselves and being joyful in who we are. It’s easy to take ourselves for granted as we deal with the day-to-day. But stop for a moment and think of all the good you have given the world. Now the world is a better place because of you! :)

  10. Cathy | Treatment Talk says:

    Great tips for how to let go of what other’s think. We spend so much time worrying about that, when it really seems to be a waste of our time. I, of course, love your Reinhold Niebuhr quote. Another life lesson from your wonderful blog.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Cathy. That Niebuhr quote is so lovely, and though it’s often associated with addiction programs, it should be tattooed on some part of all of us. Accepting that balanced between what you can change and what you can’t is the key to peace of mind.

  11. Katrinna says:

    Lately i am arguing with my boyfriend he keep telling me that i am beautiful until i found this and we read together, this is giving me and insight how to believe my self and other that is true we are beautiful in our ways.thank you so much in sharing this with us.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Katrina,
      How nice that you and your boyfriend read it together. Great communication is so good for your relationship. I’m so glad you found this post useful. It sounds like your boyfriend is telling you all the right things!

  12. I particularly like the part about perspective. I’m currently reading a book called A Mood Apart and it analyzes the various forms of depression that a person may stumble into throughout their lifetime and categorizes them through a series on anecdotes from people that went through though emotions. Anyhow, one specific type is Hypermania, which is what great minds such as Abraham Lincoln and Virginia Woolf would fall into and they weren’t perfect in the least, but it gives a bit of insight on just how despite whatever may going on within a person and in their minds, they are still capable of achieving great things so long as they have the determination to (: Beautiful post!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That sounds like a fascinating book Kim. Thank you for sharing. Depression does make it harder to accomplish things for most people, but I know that taking action and being immersed in something that is productive and enjoyable can help with depression and insecurity! Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  13. Leah McClellan says:

    Great advice, Barrie! So true that it’s a mass of tangled thoughts and feelings, as you put it. And even the most successful, talented people have all sorts of insecurities or other issues–Amy Winehouse comes to mind. I sure do, all the time. I was just thinking today that I’m almost painfully shy (believe it or not–I don’t think I give that impression online or off) and underneath that is a lot of insecurity, but I learned to focus on my strengths, accept that annoying little voice in the background, don’t think about it, and do what I want to anyway. Most of the time, at least. And when I flub up, I might be cringing and feel mortally embarrassed, but I know people aren’t judging me as harshly as I am, and they’ll forget all about it a lot sooner than I do! :)

    Definitely worth a share :)

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Leah,
      That’s so sad about Amy Winehouse. So much talent wrapped in a very insecure woman. Substance abuse didn’t help. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, I don’t have nearly as many insecurities. That is a great gift of time passing. You live long enough to know that most of it doesn’t matter. What people think of you just doesn’t matter all that much (except those who are closest to you, and then they should just accept you flaws and all!). Love your new haircut by the way!

      • Leah McClellan says:

        Definitely sad about Amy Winehouse, Barrie. And I’m with you on having fewer insecurities as we get older! That’s a good way to put it–it doesn’t matter. Maybe that’s why I’m pretty bold despite the feelings of insecurity left over from younger days. Thanks about the haircut :)

  14. I suppose this is a bit similar to your idea of keeping a journal of accomplishments but someone told me recently to start keeping a notebook just to write down compliments. So every time someone pays me a compliment, I write it in my little book.

    Whilst I think the healthiest thing is see myself in a positive way, it’s still lovely to be reminded that there are other people out there who see me in a positive way too!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I think that’s a fantastic idea Jen. We rarely remember the compliments — only the criticisms. People who take the time to genuinely compliment you are reflecting your truth back to you. So you need to remember it!

  15. sophia fernandes says:

    Dear Barrie,

    I truly loved what you stated in your article, The Joy of being you. its so true, Being our own true selves gives us much relaxation and our hearts remain at peace….infact i learned this much later, There were moments when i am not my true self, how restless and conscious i am that i fail to enjoy the beauty of the present …and then i realised that people around you like just the way you are . i am now learning to please myself and enjoy my well being by making efforts to take care of myself
    thank you Barrie for your insights.
    sophie

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That’s wonderful Sophia. Isn’t it nice to finally get to that stage when your heart can be at peace and self-consciousness melts away. Enjoy life! You are right, there is so much to love about the present moment.

  16. I actually believe that insecurities can kill good attitude. Better lose this character or will suffer for the rest of life

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Absolutely Kharie! Sometimes it’s hard to lose insecurities, but I know from experience that it can be done. :)

  17. I also experience this Barrie, but I decided to change for better and think that I am unique in some other ways.

  18. That Van Gogh quote is really resonating with me. I’m inspired to make it into a shirt. Taking action is really the solution to many things.

  19. Great, great quote! This post really resonates for me, a topic I truly believe in and one which the entire Jungian project is dedicated to, excellent post Barrie keep them coming :-)

  20. mohamad rza jafari says:

    I like it.thank you for all.

  21. Hi Barrie. Tears flooded my eyes as I read this wonderful piece. You know what? You’re right. I can’t please everybody because they’re too busy with themselves. Now I feel like I can sleep better tonight because tomorrow is another day to give myself a chance to do great things. Thanks so much, Barrie! You’re such a blessing!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Alex,
      I’m so glad this helped you. Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, every day is a new chance to do great things!

  22. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say
    that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll
    be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  23. Hello Barrie, I believe till you not embrace your emotions or insecurities, you won’t go nowhere. Emotions is not BAD, its natural, its part of us, its a message, so you must own them. You must not fight with emotions editing them or doing “make up”. This is not a change, superficially it gives temporal relieve, illusion and euphoria, but not a solution in long term goal. Embrace it, not rationalize. So cognitive approaches goes to secondary plan.

    • Hi Erna,
      Our emotions are often there to send us messages about what’s going on in our psyches. And sometimes emotions appear because of hormones, weather changes, or simple chemical fluctuations. Paying attention to your emotions and what triggers them can help you decide how to treat them. Sometimes ignoring them is the solution because there’s no obvious inner cause. Other times they are tied directly to past pain, worry, or fear. Being a good detective for yourself and how you respond to certain stimuli helps you heal and manage emotions.

      • Hi Barrie, Yes its true, but that’s common sense, its a normal way ‘to get’ to emotion, we not speak about chemical imbalance insecurities, is there any one ? You are claiming one aspect of the whole picture, or one side of the coin. People usually tend to think how they feel or even how should they feel, but less directly WHAT do they feel. Why ? Cause basically they are afraid to face emotions, which can be very painful and inadequate to carry on. Its better to rationalize everything. That’s natural thing to avoid being humans, but also we are taught to label emotions. So yep, we have many defenses, affirmations, beliefs and so on. The final thing and already ironic, but common ‘standard’ from so called secret books, people avoid recovery, which relies on self acceptance. Do kids are so insecure, do they need a high knowledge to be happy ? Probably bigger part of them are more freer than adults who rely on self help books. Its called LIFE, when you naturally learning and less worrying whats wrong with you. You can find the right limited belief or 2 or even 5 and do euphoric ‘homework’ in front of the mirror, but that won’t surpass your progression as the final destination, till you won’t accept your emotions, not suppressing them. Cognitive aspect is a tool to approach and read emotion if you are using it right, some using it to battle. That’s where it purpose finishes. Then comes embracing. Embracing is not equal to cognitive. Power wise its two different aspects in healing approach, but are all interconnected in reaching the same and one destination, healing insecurities and other stuff.

        • And by the way we are social animals, so we prone to be vulnerable, cause we are interconnected. That’s Ok I believe to be insecure at some levels, again not label it. Maybe we need connection and love ? That’s a message of insecurity regards unmet needs in many aspects behind the life force.

  24. Hi Barrie,

    I don’t understand myself most of the times. I am struggling getting rid of my insecurities. I feel insecure and inferior every time people I know like people in my church would like other friends of mine better than me. I mean I understood everybody is unique and special but I am struggling every time. I know not everybody in the world will not going to like me but why do I feel so insecure and inferior if for example I am with a friend and people we know from the church will like her better and talk to her more than me? I feel like I am left out.. I don’t have anything against that person who are better than me but why am I feeling this way? like why am I thinking that people don’t like me because they don’t talk to me… I know myself and most of the people I know would tell me I am an amazing person. But still struggles with insecurities.. :(

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