Feeling insecure is a reasonable response to an conclusion we made early on: that we aren’t inherently lovable or acceptable, but that we need to be a certain way before those things are granted.
But seeking to overcome insecurity through endless self-betterment strategies doesn’t lastingly improve the situation. It’s cheesy, but change needs to happen internally. We need to change the way we see ourselves. After all, we’re all a perfect sympathy of lovely and unlovely at times. It isn’t realistic to try to be perfect.
Through honest self-discovery, we can become more comfortable in our own skins. We learn to understand ourselves better, and develop a greater self-compassion.
why self-discovery helps with insecurity
Throughout my twenties, I’d feel really insecure over my appearance. I’d compare myself unfavorably to other women. And I would give myself a hard time about gaining weight.
Unless I had male attention, I wouldn’t feel attractive; I couldn’t seem to get there on my own. Perhaps you can relate.
What I found once I started exploring my insecurity was that I was carrying around some emotional pain from a period in my teens, when I was going through some transitions. I had bad skin, braces, and had gained some weight, after eating my feelings over my parents divorce when I was 11. Although I was never bullied, I can remember overhearing some remarks made by the other kids at school. And because my home environment had become unstable – my mum and I fought a lot and things became personal at times- there was no safe haven.
They had made a profound impact on my psyche, those few years that I felt unattractive and unlovable. Such that years later, after the weight and spots and braces had gone, they still might as well have been there. I could appreciate intellectually that I was attractive to some people – but my feelings were a different story.
Through learning about my psyche, I began to have some compassion for my insecure responses, instead of feeling privately shameful about them. The more I have learned about me, the freer I have felt from insecurity.
developing a more secure sense of self
We begin to get a handle over insecurity by doing something counter-intuitive: by honestly appraising all of our shortcomings and our strengths.
I used to be extremely sensitive to criticism from my partner and my parents – anyone really, who had some feedback to offer. Now I happily accept feedback from friends – after of course running it by my own internal truth barometer – because really, who is perfect? I’m doing my best and that’s good enough.
Through careful introspection, I have had a long hard look at my flaws and it didn’t defeat me. If well meaning family and friends wish to highlight aspects of me that remain outside of my periphery vision, then frankly, I am grateful.
A self-discovery process for insecure feelings
Start to notice it
Sometimes, we only become aware of insecurity amidst a reaction to it. The last time I can recall feeling insecure, I was at a party with my date when his really pretty friend arrived. I couldn’t help myself from striking up a conversation with the girl – perhaps with the intention of covering up the insecurity she triggered, or purely with the intention of measuring up with her. And then I realized what I was doing.
Often, insecurity lies just beyond over-compensatory behaviour like mine above, as well as adulation, praise and flattery. The more often we can see what we are really doing, the better.
Peer beyond insecurity
I encourage you to not just accept feeling paralyzed by insecurity for the rest of life. Try to figure out the origin of the insecure feelings. And whether there is something painful from your past in there.
You could be doing the same thing I was doing, and feeling insecure based on things that happened a long time ago. Ask yourself whether that is the case.
Sometimes, we feel insecure because we aren’t doing what we know to be doing; our outer actions don’t measure up with our innermost thoughts and feelings. We might decide that actually, we would like to make some improvements to our appearance, or set some new goals in our career. Insecurity can be instructional.
Become particularly aware of envy
Feelings of envy are a great clue as to your inner longings. We tend to feel envious of others whose lives we’d actually like to be living. The problem is that usually, we are telling ourselves a defeating story that what they have isn’t a possibility for us. This is learned helplessness. We do all have the capacity to follow our dreams in some way.
Practice handling uncertainty
Life is uncertain. It is strange to think of it, but insecurity – as awful as it can feel – gives us something to focus on. When we are busy self-flagellating, we’ve no time to lean into the fear that everything is transient, and there are no guarantees that our partners won’t leave us or we won’t be made redundant. Rather than obsessing over our inadequacies, we can acknowledge and recognise the inherent pain in that.
Insecurity is a part of life, but it gets much better with the process of self-discovery.