“What I am is good enough if I could only be it openly.”- Carl rogers
There are many things that shape our self-image and influence our behaviour from negative attitudes directed towards us to attitudes and opinions that come from the environment you live in- parents, teachers, peers and the attitudes they had towards themselves. As we get older, we internalise these points of views as our own and shape our inner critic that constantly scrutinises and criticises our every action based on our so formed beliefs. We all experience and encounter these self-critical thoughts making us insecure either in our personal or professional lives while we pursue our goals.
Insecurity is one of the root cause that impedes our ability to achieve success. We experience it in many forms like self-doubt, fear, distrust, uncertainty, skepticism, cynicism, indecisiveness, avoidance, ambiguity, or complacency. This inner-critic that accompanies our feelings of insecurity makes us compare, evaluate, and judge ourselves. This behaviour also results in over dependence, constant anger, jealously and vulnerability. To be insecure for a short period of time is natural. But when insecurity persists, it takes into a pattern of self-sabotage and/or underachieving or persistent indecisiveness. When you are insecure, you miss out on many opportunities and it can be quite damaging to your self-esteem and self-image. It not only holds you back from achieving your goals but also causes feelings of not being and doing good enough.
So, what it means to be insecure?
Insecurity is a tendency to lack confidence or certainty in oneself causing feelings of helplessness or inadequacy due to false self-perception. It is having negative thoughts about one’s ability to fit in with peers, reach goals, or find acceptance and support. These insecure thought patterns can exaggerate feelings of jealousy or possessiveness or might leave you feeling rejected and unworthy.
Our fears, inhibitions, and low self-confidence thrive when we don’t have clarity. It not only affects the confidence you need to be successful negatively, but also results in over dependence, social anxiety, and creates a self perception of inadequacy. Looking into your insecurity and its causes and what has shaped your feelings of insecurity can help you to deal with them constructively.
How it affects your productivity
We tend to express our deepest self-feelings in an inner voice that is at times heavily influenced with self-critical messages. For many, these pose a major hindrance to their productivity. Some self-critical thoughts can turn into workplace insecurities that can make you think as you are not quite as smart, informed or competent as you ought to be and create a constant concern about being judged. This might leave you dissatisfied, less creative and efficient. Our irrational interpretations about ourselves or our ability to get something done, makes us feel insecure about being judged, rejected or criticised.
Sometimes to compensate for all our inadequacies, we tend to indulge in defensive, selfish, excessively competitive or overly critical behaviours when around others. We might react to our critical inner voice by holding back from personal or professional relationships or project them onto the people around us. Insecurity not only limits your ability to form healthy relationships, but also makes it difficult to share your emotions. This perceived lack of ability creates unhelpful and limited perspectives in work and life. Chronic insecure thought patterns hold you back from living your life in an optimal way or from tapping your full potential.
Why are we insecure?
As human beings we must feel safe for who we are in order to feel secure. But our critical inner voice consciously adopts to and integrates the negative past experiences which we witnessed or experienced towards ourselves and others. And we keep these attitudes alive by believing in our insecurities as we go along in life. These insecurities can stem from childhood experiences, past failures,or genetic predisposition of worrying or fearing. Rejection and failure sometimes leads to seeing others and yourself more negatively at least for some time.
Also the other main reason of many people’s insecurity is because of social anxiety. Fear of being evaluated by others and found to be lacking can make you feel anxious and self-conscious. Past experiences can feed your sense of not belonging, not feeling important or just not being good enough. Growing up with critical people around can also make you sensitive to how others perceive you and create distorted beliefs about your self-worth. Some of us have high standards for everything we do. Such perfectionist attitude sometimes results in disappointment and self-blame for being anything less than perfect thereby making you feel insecure and unworthy. Other common causes include fear of disappointment or being discounted, broken trusts, conflict aversion, or dependency.
How to deal with fear of insecurity?
By understanding where your insecurity stems from and how this view point affects you, you can start to unpack your insecurities and work towards overcoming them. Here are some strategies that will help you to progressively deal with your insecurities.
Identify your insecurities
Evaluate and identify the origins and roots of your insecurities. How do you currently reinforce your negative self-image? Find ways to overcome a fear and be self-aware of how you have come to develop these insecurities. Often the root cause of our insecurities comes from irrational beliefs and unhelpful thoughts or behaviours we had held onto for many years. They may be the result of your interpretation of your past experiences. How effectively you can overcome them will depend on your ability and willingness to grow out of such limiting beliefs, habits and attitudes you had subscribed to. It’s perfectly natural to be afraid of failure or of not being perfect. Everybody has these fears from time to time. It’s unnatural, however, to be plagued with worry that holds you back from achieving your goals.
Identify the unhelpful beliefs, worries and fears that are behind your insecure thought patterns. Write down all of the things that you are insecure about. Ask yourself how many of them are rational, and how many are just a product of negative thinking. Take the time to really think of what’s at the root of your insecurities and what uncertainty exists that makes you feel insecure. whether it’s making a fool of yourself, disappointing someone dear to you, or not having the life you want. Once you have a better sense of where your insecurity comes from, and what your fears are, you can see how many of your fears you can tackle, and can come up with positive solutions.
Overcome failure or rejection based insecurity
Past failure or rejection creates distorted beliefs about your self-worth and can lead to wrong perceptions of how others are evaluating you by making your inner-critic much louder. Instead of focusing on all the times you failed at something, take a long hard look at all the times that you’ve done really well. Think of the success you’ve had in the past. Take into account the strengths that served you and the process you underwent to move through the uncertain moments that otherwise have held you back. Give yourself time to adopt to the new norm and engage more with your values, interests and curiosity.
Insecure thought patterns from past failures can make you conscious and resentful to social events or situations making you socially anxious. It become a driver for chronic efforts to prove yourself or to fit in as it’s linked with your work, ambition or perfectionism. Instead of avoiding social situations, try and engage with others to know more about them like their work, hobbies or skills. Try to evaluate yourself based on how much effort you put in, rather than on the outcome, which is dependent on external factors. Do not resort to all-or nothing thinking, instead look at a more compassionate and understanding way to view a situation. Take your circumstances into account when you evaluate yourself. There is always something to learn from even if the result wasn’t perfect.
Make realistic assessment of your circumstances
Most of our insecurities stem from wanting things in a certain way and we convince that some things are going to be the way we want them be. This makes you incapable of taking proactive action in worst-case scenarios. If you do new things and a few people don’t like it, then it’s unlikely that it is the end of the world. Similarly, if you are a perfectionist, often you have conditional self-esteem that makes you dislike yourself when things don’t go your way. Don’t let these worries stop you from trying something different. Once you realize that the worst isn’t really that bad, you’ll be more likely to be dynamic and to take risks.
Therefore a realistic assessment of your circumstances can help you prepare for a little uncertainty. What is the worst-case that could possibly happen if you take action despite your insecurities? What is the possible outcomes once you move beyond your insecurities? Falling back on your personal attributes and values can make you confident of working through uncertain circumstances if any in optimal ways. Having a realistic assessment of your circumstances can help you deal with your insecurities progressively.
Vocalise your inner-critical voice.
Our subjective experiences and interpretations makes our inner-critic get louder on convincing us in our limited beliefs thereby creating insecurities. In spite of these being just opinions and perspectives on the surface, we forget to look at them more objectively and let our inner-critic takeover. It is especially hard to notice negative self-talk if you have been doing it for a long time. If you’re always telling yourself that you’re a failure, or that you can’t do anything right, then you’re bound to feel victim to your insecurities forever. Instead, work on telling yourself positive things about yourself so you’re more likely to attack new tasks with a positive mindset and a desire to do well.
Voice your thoughts based on insecurity and answer back to your voice attacks expressing your real point of view. You can write down rational and realistic statements to expose the irrational nature of these beliefs. Does you inner-critical voice remind you of anyone or anything from your past? This process can help you uncover the relationship between these voice attacks and early life experiences that helped shape them. This will allow you to reject these insecurities as accurate reflections of who you are.
Shift to an objective perspective
Another effective way to deal with your insecurities is to bring back your objective awareness to the present moment. Paying attention to your present moment can get you out of your excessive unhelpful and limited beliefs and can ease you out of the internal noise so created. Bringing all your attention to your senses can calm your mind and grounds you in the present moment. In this way, little to no room is left in your attention for all that unwanted and unhelpful thoughts that are causing your insecurities. Being mindful of the present moment brings you back from mind wandering when you get lost in your old habits, beliefs, and negative reaction patterns. Through mindfulness, you build your capacity to change the contents of your thoughts to ‘present’ rather than about insecurities from a remembered past or anticipated future.
Do you find yourself feeling filled with insecurities and self-doubt despite your accomplishments?
What do you feel more insecure about?
What worries or fears are behind your insecurities?
Are there any unhelpful beliefs behind your insecurities?
How do they affect your work and personal goals?
What events triggers the insecurity?
In what areas is this insecurity most influential?
Are they based on your negative interpretations?
What is the evidence for and against for your insecurities?
How could things be different to the way you are perceiving?
How else can you interpret the areas you are insecure about?
Are you filtering out the positive and dwelling in more negative?
Are you being shaped by your inability to measure up to unreasonable expectations from outside yourself?
Answering the above questions can give you a right perspective of changing the insecure thought patterns. When you begin to think objectively, you can question the validity of your experiences and become more positive and realistic in your own abilities.
It is absolutely normal to experience insecurities from time time because as human beings, we have an inherent negativity bias, where our mind is skewed more towards the negative rather than positive. So, despite all the efforts, certain insecurities can continue to rise to the surface. They aren’t likely to vanish overnight. But instead of allowing them to make you anxious and hold you back from achieving your full potential- by practicing the above mentioned strategies, you can be perseverant in your efforts to take the required action-steps to stand up and deal with them constructively. With practice, you can achieve this worthy transition from being controlled to overcoming your fears.
“Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. Believe in yourself. Do what you love. And most importantly, be kind to others, even if you don’t like them.”– Stacy London