How do I Handle Insecurity?
Everyone, at many points in their lives, will have doubts about themselves. Whether it’s about how well they’re performing at their job or their relationship with their romantic partner, everyone has times where they wonder if they are “good enough”. For some of us, feelings of self-doubt can be pervasive and difficult to get rid of. As a result, it can seep into our everyday lives, affecting both our self-image and how we interact with others. Currently, I’m at a time of massive transition in my life where there have been plenty of reasons for self-doubt.
However, slowly but surely, I’ve been learning to control these moments of self-doubt by reorienting my self-perceptions and the expectations I have for myself. Personal insecurities are unique to each individual, and there are other people far more educated on the subject than I who have written about how to handle self-doubt. As is the case with many things, however, what works for one person may not work for another and it never hurts to have a few more tricks up your sleeve. As such, I want to share 5 tips that I have learned to handle my self-doubt through experience (and the advice of people a lot smarter than me!). Not as a professional therapist or trainer, but as an individual dealing with my own uncertainties in the hopes that my experiences may be useful to you as well.
#1. Remember: “Good Enough” Is About Improvement, Not Perfection.
One thing that seems to stand out about self-doubt is that it is often fueled by a fear of not being “good enough” at something. From worrying about failing a test to uncertainty about our ability to perform a difficult task, self-doubts quite often originate from an underlying fear that our best just won’t cut it. This feeling is derived from a concept of “good enough” as some kind of goal that can be achieved. It’s almost as if we believe that there will be some point in our lives when we reach a state of perfection and, from then on, we won’t be uncertain about anything and we’ll never make a mistake again. Yeah…now that I’ve said it (or wrote it rather), it seems silly to me too.
Rather than being thought of as a stagnant state of perfection that must be attained, I’m learning to think of being “good enough” as inherent to the continuous process of self-improvement. Let me explain. When we do something for the first time, like trying a new hobby or starting a new job, we’re not going to be very good at it. This is to be expected because we lack the knowledge and experience necessary to perform the task well. As we gain more knowledge and experience, our capabilities improve over time. Whether that’s learning how to walk as infants or learning how to master the nuances of a new job, continuously gaining the knowledge and experience necessary to improve is how we become better at everything we do. As such, the way we become “good enough” at anything is to consciously and continuously strive to improve by gaining more knowledge and experience. In dealing with my own doubts, I’ve found that if I keep this outlook in mind that I am far more forgiving of myself and I don’t linger on my mistakes until I start questioning my own capabilities.
#2. Remember: You Are Improving, You Will Improve.
Comparing to remembering that “good enough” is not about being perfect, another thing I keep in mind is that the process of self-improvement involves making mistakes and learning from them. This process is connected to our instinctual ability to adapt for survival through trial-and-error learning, so it often comes naturally to us.
I’ve found that a lot of my own improvements happen subconsciously, and I really don’t notice them until long after I’ve gotten better at something (or someone else points it out). Correspondingly, we learn to be more confident in our abilities as we gain experience and improve ourselves. I find that I am far less doubtful of my capabilities if I keep in mind that I can, and will, continue to improve. Rather than dreading the eventuality of making mistakes and questioning myself for them, I try more often to look at them as an opportunity to learn and grow, and to become more confident in doing so.
#3. Remember: You Are More Than Your Mistakes
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci is world-renowned as a beautiful masterpiece. Since the painting is over 500 years old, it is entirely likely that there are small cracks in the wood panel that have formed over time. However, the imperfections don’t detract from the beauty of the overall picture, does it? The same can be said for people, including ourselves. Imperfections are easy to see when they’re viewed up close. Because no one stands closer to us than we do, it’s easier for us to hyper-focus on our own imperfections and develop insecurities about them.
Lately, I’ve found that a great remedy to this is to step back and look at myself with a bird’s-eye view. This allows us to see ourselves as a whole: as individuals with goals and dreams, strengths and weaknesses. We are a tapestry of all we have endured and experienced, influenced by the people we treasure and defined by the ideals we uphold. Viewed in relation to that, it’s far easier to see that our capabilities and potential to succeed cannot be defined by our mistakes and current gaps in our knowledge. Taking this perspective not only allows us to stop obsessing over small imperfections, but it also lets us see which of our shortcomings (because we all have them) actually need our attention. For example, I found that when I stopped worrying so much about whether doing my best at my job was “good enough”, I noticed that I needed to get better about my time management skills outside of work and focused my energy on that.
#4. When In Doubt, Change Your Environment
Because the insecurities that we have about ourselves originate and exist inside of our own heads, changing our mentalities is crucial to learning how to handle self-doubt. However, I’ve learned that taking certain actions when we are overwhelmed by doubt can also help us deal with our insecurities. One of the main things I’ve learned that helps me is to change my environment, because although our doubts are in our heads, our environments can affect how prevalent they are and changing some aspect of that environment can help us deal with them.
Sometimes, this can involve changing what you are doing at the time. For example, if I’m getting frustrated at a project I’m doing and I find myself starting to question my capabilities, I’ll set it down and occupy myself mind with something else for 20-30 minutes such as completing an easier task or engaging in a hobby to relax. Other times, I’ve found that it’s helpful to change my immediate surroundings, such as going outside and breathing the fresh air for a minute or going for a 10-minute walk. Struggling with self-doubt is a case of being stuck inside our own heads. Changing what you’re doing or your physical environment forces you to pay attention to things outside of your head. I’ve found that this be an effective way to help you pull yourself out of the mental trap that is self-doubt. Of course, this isn’t always possible to do if you’re in the middle of something you can’t put down or walk away from, but it can really help when the situation allows.
I’ve also found that making permanent changes to your general environment, such as quitting a job in a toxic workplace or cutting a toxic person out of your life, can help with re-occurring self-doubts. This is because aspects of your life can contribute to your confidence in your abilities or exacerbate pre-existing doubts you may have.
#5. Speak Your Doubts But At The Right Time
I’ve found that part of having self-doubts includes being embarrassed about our thoughts or believing that having uncertainties means that we’re weak, so we keep these fears to ourselves. However, I’ve learned that one of the worst things we can do is to keep our doubts in, and a great way to prevent being overcome by our uncertainties is to express them to someone else. So far, I’ve found two main methods that seem to work well when vocalizing your insecurities: being direct and joking about it.
A common piece of advice for how to deal with a variety of problems is to confront them directly, and the same can be said about our own insecurities. Whether I’m concerned that someone is angry at me or I’m worried I just put my foot in my mouth during a conversation, I’m learning that it’s better to face the issue head-on rather than trying to avoid it and letting it linger in my head. More often than not, when I bring up something I’m uncertain about or that’s making me doubt myself to someone else, the responses I get reveal that the issue is not nearly as big as I thought it was, or that it was never an issue at all!
However, I’ve also found that it’s best to be selective about when you approach the subject and who you talk to about it. If you’re still angry or emotional about the situation when you bring it up, you’re more likely to come across the wrong way or misunderstand the responses you get (I’ve done it). As such, I’ve learned that it’s better to wait until you calm down so you can formulate how you approach the subject with a clear head. Similarly, it’s best to entrust your concerns to people who know you well, such as good friends or family members that you’re close to. They will be more likely you give you an honest answer about your insecurities that is in your best interest, and they will also be less likely misunderstand you.
Another way of vocalizing self-doubt that I’ve found to be effective is to joke about it. Everyone loves to laugh, and it has been a long-standing fact that comedy can be a great method for approaching sensitive topics in a non-threatening manner. Learning to laugh at your own shortcomings is also essential to developing a healthier self-image. I’ve found that making a joke out of something I’m insecure about transforms it from a source of shame to a source of humor I can use to make myself feel better! Other times, I’ve made a joke about something I did which I thought was embarrassing, only to find that I was the only one thought I had embarrassed myself!
However, as with directly vocalizing your self-doubts, I’ve found that it’s best to be selective about when and how you joke about it. If you go around telling self-depreciating jokes all the time, you could give an impression of being too insecure in situations where you really don’t want to (like a job interview). I’ve found it’s also best to joke about your self-doubts around people you trust, as their knowledge of you will make them more receptive to both the comedy and the underlying meaning of the joke. That said, I’ve learned that dealing with my uncertainties became a lot easier when I learned to laugh at them!
The Bottom Line…
Being uncertain about our own capabilities is something that everyone deals with and questioning ourselves every now and then can prevent us from becoming arrogant or narcissistic. However, our uncertainties should not control us to the point that they paralyze us. One of the few things we can control in life is the thoughts in our head and how they affect us, so we can choose to be defeated by our insecurities or we can decide to use them as a springboard for self-improvement.
I know my own strategies for dealing with self-doubt won’t work for everyone else, but more positive mentalities and tricks for controlling our doubts can help us to see ourselves as we are: complex individuals with infinite potential for growth and improvement. However, any process of self-improvement takes hard work, time, and patience with oneself, including the process of how to handle self-doubt. So keep working at it, and I will too!
Your wellbeing coach,