The times we are living in is known as a “narcissistic time”. According to many, social media and unlimited access to technology give us an elevated sense of self. However, when I talk to people, it looks more like most people don’t walk throughout their life feeling all that great and that the most experience some insecurities. In many cases, these impair the ability to experience life to its full extent.
Some people seem to lack the ability to be unbiased toward what they have accomplished. Either they feel like they do not deserve what they achieved or feel like they did not attain enough.
The underlying emotion responsible for these feelings, which influences our self-image and our behaviour, is insecurity.
We cultivate our insecurities with self-criticism and negative thoughts about ourselves daily. Negative self-talk is common, and what social media actually deliver is the possibility to compare ourselves in a very extended way. We no longer measure ourselves just against people we know personally; we also measure ourselves with total strangers, with apparent perfect lives, and no opportunity to get to really know them in the real world. This way, our expected standard becomes higher.
“Pretending to be someone that you are not is hurting yourself.
It’s telling yourself that the real you is worthless. – Ritu Ghatourey”
Everyone naturally possess the instinct to compare and strive for better. Before introducing social media, we already compared ourselves with others in our appearance, job, house, and kids. Social media simply allow us to expand comparisons to the extreme.
What you are not, and what you don’t have is always available for you to see.
Understanding how insecurity works and where it comes from can help you work on yourself and overcome some of the challenges you face.
Insecurity can have different and mixed sources:
Innate personality trait
Insecurities learned from the primary caregivers
Difficult early childhood experiences
Complicated relationships between close family member
Challenging attitudes from peers in childhood and adolescence
Any past experience of shame, guilt, or not being worthy enough left a profound scar on your self-esteem.
Moreover, if these feelings are repeatedly presented, you unconsciously develop the assumption that they are true. When at a young age, you absorb everything that is said. Criticism does not necessarily need to be directed toward you, as you also learn from seeing people criticising themselves.
On the other side, an intrusive or too helpful attitude from others can leave you with the belief that you cannot accomplish things by yourself.
All these factors shape your critical inner voice, and you unknowingly begin to develop negative self-talk with yourself, and negative thoughts become your normality.
I never manage to do anything right.
I'm such a loser.
I'll never make friends.
No one will ever love me.
I’ll never accomplish anything.
What’s the point in even trying?
This voice becomes even louder as you get closer to what you would like to accomplish or when you finally decide to try to do something new or feel ready to take some risks. Your responses to these events happens mostly without you realising them. You merely find yourselves grow shy, end relationships abruptly, leave school, give up a job because you think you're not up to it or a project because there is no guarantee of success. And you keep asking yourself why this seems always happen to you.
“It's when we play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.” Dag Hammarskjold
Fortunately, there are ways out of this circle. Once you are aware of your insecurities and their impact on your life, you can begin to challenge them.
You can start by challenging negative self-talk and change old useless habit with new positive ones. But first, you need to do some self-exploration to understand how to overcome the issue.
Can you separate yourself from the feelings you are experiencing? Feeling sad and being a sad person are two completely different concepts.
Are you a perfectionist? Have these standards been set by you or by someone else? Are they still essential for you? Maybe it’s time to lower unreasonable expectations.
How is your self-talk? Notice the wording you are using toward yourself.
Try to go back to when the self-blaming started. Were you happy and outgoing before? What happened? Insignificant events may have had a big impact on the way you perceive yourself now.
When it comes to your beliefs, what is real and what is made up by your insecurities? Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs you have about yourself.
Do you spend time thinking about how others seem to have a better life than yourself? As challenging as it may sound, the only person you can and have to be is you, and believe it, or not everyone is carrying their own invisible burden.
Does your anxiety increase exponentially in social settings? But how do you feel when you are with just a few friends? Not everyone loves big parties.
Are there any specific occasions in which your negative beliefs seem to show up more frequently? Why do you think this happens?
“The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.”
Talking with someone you trust about these feelings can help you clarify some important aspects you might miss.
Being aware of the source of your insecurities will allow you to challenge negative self-talk and begin to have a more realistic view of yourself. To improve this situation even further:
Use the same talk toward yourself you would use with someone you love.
Analyse negative thoughts and transform them into positive or at least realistic ones.
Notice positive aspects about yourself, and keep them in mind.
When anxiety arises, turn down the struggle switch
Set up realistic goals for yourself, do little steps.
Be open to change your plan when necessary.
Allow family and friends to be a source of comforting feelings.
Letting go of what has been well established for years will not be easy. The dynamics you have created in the past may have been useful for you at some point, but it's clear that they aren’t anymore. The innate resistance to change will trigger some anxiety, and it can feel difficult to challenge it. When you get closer to the change, your resistance is likely to increase. Insecurities don't disappear so quickly, but they will begin to fade with the right amount of determination. By acknowledging your strengths and values, and by using self-compassion, you allow yourself to become the person you want to be.
Remind yourself that reaching out is ok. If you feel you have more questions, feel free to get in touch.