If we could only read minds, we would notice that insecurity is everywhere. It’s a trendy commodity, apparently. Learning how to get over insecurity, however, takes more than a misery-loves-company search for empathizers.
It’s important to understand how insecurity comes into play in the first place, and how it becomes so ingrained in the psyche.
Why do some people with average looks and talent exude such confidence and have such success? And why do others with seemingly star power struggle to find their place in the world?
Perhaps schools should be teaching children how to overcome insecurity alongside reading, writing and arithmetic. Imagine the mindset and optimistic ambition of young adults entering college with a healthy sense of self instead of a negative inner critic!
Sadly, insecurity is rooted in a toxic shame that starts in childhood. When a child isn’t seen for who s/he is, or is criticized and judged at a “core” level, toxic shame results.
“You’re stupid,” “You’re too emotional,” “You’re fat,” “You were an accident….” It’s a frightening statistic that 7 out of 10 girls believe they are not good enough in some way. They don’t feel good about their bodies, and they don’t feel they measure up in school or relationships.
What they yearn for is the opportunity to come alive — to be seen for who they are and supported in their uniqueness.
When they witness or experience negative attitudes toward them, they internalize those scripts and keep them alive as they grow.
Learning how to overcome insecurity doesn’t have to involve years of therapy or a scapegoat to blame so you can feel better. If you recognize yourself in the above scenario, start with these tips for improving your sense of self.
- Interrupt the critical inner voice.
Easier said than done, obviously. But sometimes you have to put the conscious voice in charge — and sometimes out loud. “Stop!” “That’s not true.” “That’s just insecurity blabbing!” You can’t turn the pattern around if you don’t stop it first.
- Challenge your long-held beliefs and insecurities with rational, realistic statements.
“I take very good care of my body so that I can be healthy and naturally beautiful.” “I have reached my quota every month of my first year here. Obviously I can succeed in this job.” “People come to me with their problems, so they must value my thoughts.” Talk to and about yourself the way you would talk to a friend feeling the same way.
- Work on your optimism.
A study by Yuan and Wang found that, when subjects shifted their view of events with potential negative outcomes, threat value of those events was reduced. Subjects made that shift by “attributing” the cause of the negative outcome to something outside themselves. By taking the blame off themselves and externalizing it, they were better able to carry a positive self-esteem into the next risky situation.
Of course, there are healthy limits to this practice. The objective isn’t to blame someone or something else when self-accountability is warranted. It’s simply to reserve space for belief in the probability of a positive outcome.
- Keep a self-esteem file.
Think about the way you choose what photos to keep. You build a favorites file with those snapshots and selfies that make you feel good about yourself.
A self-esteem file is similar, but is comprised of affirmations of your qualities, skills and behaviors. Did someone write you a thank-you note and rave about your kindness? Keep it. Did your boss send out a memo bragging about the stellar job you did on a project? Into the file.
Collect compliments, comments from social media, statements about your beauty/goodness/likeability. Anything that reminds you that you are awesome, valuable, wanted and needed goes into the file.
And when you need a shot of reality, tell your inner critic to take a hike, and pull out your self-esteem file.
- Surround yourself with supportive people.
It was precisely the unsupportive people in your upbringing who planted the seeds of insecurity in you. The supportive people will help you figure out how to overcome insecurity by affirming what is good and unique about you. They will be your “voices of truth.” Stay close to them.
Insecurity has deep roots and long history. And so much of it begins at such an early age that the child doesn’t know it’s happening. S/he doesn’t have the mental maturity or life experience to be critical of what s/he is experiencing and learning.
The tragedy is that the beautiful child grows up with a treasure chest of aptitude and boundless dreams shackled by toxic shame. S/he wanders through life with a hole of insecurity that leaks all that potential like helium draining from a rising balloon.
But there is always hope where there is awareness and a desire to break the shackles.
If you would like additional support in overcoming insecurity, please reach out to us here.