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.
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:
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.
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.
Featured photo credit: Morwen / Flickr via flickr.com