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4 Ways Insecurity Hinders Personal Growth

4 Ways Insecurity Hinders Personal Growth

Every person struggles with insecurities of some kind. If you’ve met a person who looks and acts confident, get them away from the cameras, and they will tell you that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some people are good at dealing with their insecurities honestly, and others are good at hiding behind a facade of pseudo-confidence.

We worry about what people will think, how people will respond to us, or whether or not we’ll be accepted by a certain group. We obsess over whether we’re good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, tough enough, bright enough, strong enough, tall enough, shapely enough, athletic enough, or educated enough. Yet we don’t get anywhere beyond the mirror. Social media doesn’t help much either. Fighting for likes, retweets, views, and reposts only exacerbates the problem.

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And why do we struggle more with our insecurities instead of fighting to overcome them? Well, it’s very hard to deal with something that you won’t face. You can’t overcome something that you won’t acknowledge exists. This goes for anything including insecurities. Overcoming our struggles begins with an acknowledgement that we are struggling, and having the courage to face what we ultimately want to defeat.

Here are four ways insecurity hinders personal growth:

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1. We live for approval, acceptance, and affirmation

Many people live to hear someone say “good job,” “you look lovely,” or “you’re so smart.” Anything that approves of their behavior, actions, or looks makes them feel valued and worthy. There is nothing wrong with feeling this way. Every person has a healthy need to know they are loved and valued. When it becomes an obsession, however, it’s a real problem. When we don’t hear these lovely words about ourselves, we fear we have run out of favor with people, and then our self-image is stripped away. When our goals and dreams hinge upon the acceptance of other people, we will rarely ever reach what we are trying to aim for. Approval, acceptance, and affirmation are good only in healthy doses. Too much of it can leaves us smothered and stuck in a cycle where we crave approval so much that we question everything people do and say in both real life and social media.

2. We allow doubt to kill action

Everyone faces doubt at some point in their lives. Whether it is about our abilities or we don’t think we can come through on a deal, we face doubt on a regular basis. I am not too sure that is normal. Perhaps, research in the very near future will tell us if it is. Whatever the case, you and I must learn to overcome doubt every day in order to reach our goals. We can be said to be growing when we intentionally put a hand up to the voice of doubt. That little voice in your head that says “you can’t,” “you’re stupid,” “you’ll never succeed” will always be there. It is your job to fight it. Instead of focusing on what is the worst that could happen, think about how you can take action to bring about a desired outcome. Doubt kills action before it even begins. You must shut the door to doubt and its loud voice in order to succeed.

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3. We harbor a negative self-image

When people criticize us, we can begin to internalize what is being said against us or about us, and start to criticize ourselves. Harboring negative criticism while doubting our abilities and seeking out approval by the people around us leads us down a steep road of always comparing ourselves to other people and produces a negative image of ourselves. We can be the exact opposite of the criticism that is being leveled against us. We can be smart, gifted, and competent, but if we see ourselves as dumb, stupid, and a failure, that is how we will act. People act according to the belief they have about themselves. They may be the very best at something, but if they don’t see it and don’t believe it, they won’t act like it and will sabotage themselves.

4. We don’t accept ourselves (or anybody else) as we are

This is one of the biggest obstacles to overcoming insecurity. Acceptance. Sure, we are not perfect, and we know it. But trying to be perfect looks on the surface to be a lofty goal, but it isn’t helping us very much. The result of trying to have the perfect shape, the perfect body, the perfect hair, the perfect look, is that we end up rejecting ourselves — the real parts of us that matter. It is really weird because we envy other people for how they look but those people don’t like very many things about themselves either. They are just as insecure as we are. What good does it do to envy another insecure person? Externally, we reject ourselves because we’re overweight, we have too many curves, we have big ears, we have pimples and dark spots. Internally, we reject ourselves also because we don’t like the parts of us that are arrogant, lazy, dishonest, and hateful. Accepting ourselves doesn’t mean we let things go that are in our power to change. However, not accepting ourselves (and other people) is a major problem that only makes us more insecure, distrusting of others, and unhealthy physically, emotionally, and mentally.

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Featured photo credit: Morwen / Flickr via flickr.com

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Daniella Whyte

Psychology Researcher

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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