Are your insecurities holding you back? Do you sometimes feel as though you have all the potential in the world, but for one reason or another you keep holding yourself back?
What it means to feel insecure
You have a vivid imagination and can visualise endless possibilities. In your mind’s eye, no goal is seemingly out of reach. But for some reason, in the real world, you just can’t seem to get yourself to do all the things you imagine. It’s as if something is holding you back from living life in an optimal way. So, what is it? What is this thing that holds us back from tapping into our full potential? Well, it’s actually often not one single thing, but a multitude of things that come together to form the total bedrock of all our insecurities.
When we feel insecure about something, we are unable to fully trust ourselves at that moment. And without trust, there’s a shadow of uncertainty. This leads to hesitant behaviour where we struggle to take decisive action toward a desired outcome. Because of our insecurities, we tend to live with excessive anxiety and paranoia. We avoid taking proactive action and judge ourselves harshly when our lofty expectations are not realised.
While riddled with insecurity, we form unhealthy attachments to others. We use people as a platform to boost our own self-esteem. We rely on them to build our self-worth. Moreover, we secretly hope and pray that they will bring the best out of us. But time and again people let us down, and this just plunges us deeper down our insecurity spiral.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
You feel insecure because you make irrational interpretations about yourself or about your ability to get something done. These interpretations stem from irrational beliefs that create a false reality about how you or things ought to be in particular situations.
You might, for instance, expect perfection from yourself. However, the actual reality is very different from imagined reality. You simply cannot live up to those kinds of expectations, and you, therefore, succumb to the fact that you’re just not good enough.
When you feel ‘not good enough’ this leads to a lack of trust. You just don’t trust yourself. You feel unworthy and incapable of fully being yourself when around other people. You worry about being judged, rejected or criticised. This paranoia holds you back from reaching your full potential. You struggle with low self-esteem and cannot live the life you actually want.
However, as insecure as you are, you certainly don’t want the entire world to know about it. And so you compensate in other ways to hide your flaws and shortcomings.
For instance, because you lack confidence you naturally compensate by acting cocky and arrogant in social settings. You might, for example, be excessively competitive, or maybe incredibly selfish, or even overly critical of others. These behaviours are, of course, not the real you. The only reason you indulge in these kinds of behaviours is to hide your insecurities and flaws behind a veil of arrogance. However, inside you are desperately crying out for help.
If, however, arrogance doesn’t drive your behaviour, then you might come across as being very defensive and combatant. In such instances, you tend to blame people for your problems, or you may simply judge them unfairly. Furthermore, you’re very aggressive and get aroused by jealousy very easily.
Again, all these behaviours are not the real you. You are simply acting out to hide your insecurities. You don’t want the world to see the ‘flawed’ you, and so you act out in these ridiculous ways to compensate for all your inadequacies.
You can’t spend a lifetime living behind a veil trying to cover up your true authentic self. Yes, you possibly have several shortcomings and flaws, but we all do. Some people have even learned to embrace their insecurities. In other words, they haven’t allowed their insecurities to hold them back from being their true selves.
It’s, however, not always easy to work through our insecurities. They are susceptible and fragile things. But there is actually a process you can follow that will help you to progressively overcome your insecurities.
Guidelines for overcoming your insecurities
- Practise self-acceptance. Practising self-acceptance means fully accepting yourself despite your flaws, imperfections, and limitations. Nobody is perfect, and expecting to be perfect will just lead to disappointment. We are all flawed in our own personal way. Instead of trying to hide those flaws, just accept how you are and embrace the person you have become. Change the things you can by committing yourself to self-improvement.
- However, for the things you can’t change, work on self-acceptance. The same applies to any situation, problem or dilemma you face. There will be things you can change, and there will be other things that you must learn to accept. Understanding this difference is one of the keys to long-term happiness. Give yourself a little serving of self-compassion each day and do the best you can with what you have.
- Accept that everything is subjective. We all have our own personal views about how things are and how they ought to be. How you feel about something is probably different to how I feel about something, and vice versa. Everything is subjective. We interpret things our own way based on our past experiences, beliefs, values, and expectations. It’s therefore not so much what happens to us that matters, but how we interpret those experiences.
- Let’s try something. The next time you’re overcome with insecurity, get another opinion. Ask someone you trust to provide his/her perspective and interpretation of the situation. Ask them how they would respond in your shoes.
- Tame your inner critic. One of the reasons we struggle to overcome our insecurities is because our critical voice opens a shop in our brain. It pitches a tent in the brain and starts selling us rubbish that we subscribe to without a question. When this inner critic takes over, it convinces us that we’re just not good enough and that making mistakes will hurt us. But are these really truths? Well, it just depends. Our experience is after all subjective. It’s how we interpret things that matter, right? So, it, therefore, could be your truth, but at the same time, you have the power to create a new reality.
- Say ‘yes’ more often. The process of overcoming your insecurities is very much akin to flexing a muscle. As you continue to flex this muscle it strengthens and grows over time. One of the best ways to overcome your insecurities is to say ‘yes’ more often. Say ‘yes’ to things that make you feel insecure. Say ‘yes’ to new experiences and opportunities that force you to step out beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. And say ‘yes’ to all the things you feel uncertain about. Ask yourself: ‘What’s the worst that could happen if I say yes?’ or ‘What’s the best that could happen if I say yes?’
- The more often you say YES to all these things, the more you strengthen your insecurity muscle. And the stronger it becomes, the more comfortable you will feel doing unfamiliar things that push you beyond what you thought was possible.
- Focus on becoming more spontaneous. One of the best ways to train that “insecurity” muscle is to challenge yourself to live more spontaneously. To live spontaneously means embracing a light-hearted nature, it means being more curious and adventurous. However, to live this way requires that you stop taking life so seriously. Embrace joy, laughter, excitement and commit yourself to have fun.
- In fact, from time to time, why not make a fool of yourself? Embarrass yourself silly and learn to laugh at your goof-ups and mistakes. And then encourage others to do the same. Living life in this way will allow you the freedom to be yourself – to be your true authentic self. And living this way will provide you with the platform you need to overcome your insecurities.
- Live by your own rules and standards. We often fall into the insecurity trap when we’re living by other people’s rules, standards, and expectations. We do this to impress others – to win them over. However, by trying to win other people over, we lose touch with what truly makes us happy. Instead of living a life dictated by others, choose to write your own script. Set your own rules and personal standards for living, and then clearly define your personal boundaries.
- Use these boundaries as a deterrent that keeps people at a safe distance, so they don’t intrude on your happiness. Ask yourself: ‘How do I want to be treated by others?’ ‘What will I accept and won’t I accept?’ ‘What personal boundaries will I set that will give me the freedom to be myself?’ You are the one who gets to choose how to set and when to set these boundaries. They are there to give you the personal space you need to be your true authentic self. They are also there to protect you from those people who constantly make you feel inadequate and insecure.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. One of the major obstacles you will face that will prevent you from overcoming your insecurities is the fact that you constantly keep comparing yourself to others. Comparing yourself to other people isn’t healthy. Everyone has their own unique set of experiences, skills, talents, abilities, and knowledge. Their strengths may not be your strengths. Likewise, your strengths may not be their strengths. It’s like comparing apples and bananas. They’re two different types of fruits. There are no comparisons that go beyond that. OK, so let’s say you stop comparing yourself to others. That’s a great start. You will immediately find that a lot of your insecurities will wash away.
- But what now? How about making comparisons to ourselves, or to past performance? Well, that too can very quickly lead to insecurity phobia. The key to letting go of all your insecurities is to make no comparisons. Just accept how you are and how things are at this very moment. Commit to doing your very best in every situation, and leave it at that. Remember, that your best will be different every time and is affected by your state of mind and unique circumstances.
- Therefore, don’t measure your best by what you did or failed to do in the past. The past no longer matters. What counts is what you did today. Measure what you’re capable of doing right now, and leave it at that.
- Commit to consistently developing yourself. One of the most effective ways for overcoming insecurity is to commit yourself to become a lifelong learner. This, of course, isn’t a quick fix for your insecurities. However, it is something that will play in your favour over the long run. When you commit yourself to become a lifelong learner, you take responsibility for developing your skills, growing your knowledge, and improving various aspects of your life.
- As you learn and grow in this way, you naturally start feeling more confident, competent, and capable. And as you develop yourself in these key areas your insecurities typically begin to fade away without much effort. However, this process takes time, and you may not see visible results for a while. But as long as you stay committed, things will eventually pay off in the long run.
Overcoming your insecurities is not an easy process, and it could take a considerable amount of time. However, you have to start somewhere. Begin by focusing on one single area of your life that you feel insecure about. Walk yourself through the five-step process and then begin incorporating some of the guidelines we discussed above. However, your long-term success hinges on how committed you are to follow through with this till the very end.
Be very careful though not to approach this half-heartedly. You need to be fully committed to making these changes. Only in this way will you progressively break free from all your insecurities, and just maybe begin living to the fullest.
Trishna Patnaik is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one-to-one basis in Mumbai.
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