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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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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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