“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.
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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