“Over and over again, we’ve seen how hard it is to make insecurity go away. Facts & logic don’t work. Insecure people often go extraordinary lengths for some goal they hope will make them feel better – they’ll lose some weight, get an advanced degree, work 24-7 to win a promotion. But every time, the sense of insecurity returns; insecurity seems to have a life of its own”.- Phil Stutz and Barry Michels in their book, The Tools
“Dealing with insecurity.” There – I said it. It’s what this blog’s about. To a great extent it’s what I’M about. I haven’t been as intentional about it in the past, but that’s really the point of this page as far as I know.
What I’ve noticed lately is that it’s been a common thread throughout my life: I’ve joined a Powerlifting team, taken Improv classes, transferred to a more well-known school, etc. – all for the sake of trying to be comfortable in my own skin. After doing reasonably well in each endeavor, I’d still deflect any compliments I got for reaching those goals. Facts and logic really didn’t work, so what would?
This post will be a short (and probably over-simplified) guide exploring some of the things that I found most useful when dealing with this problem. Note – I still struggle with this and in no way claim to know what THE Answer is for everyone. I just don’t like being two-faced myself, and I hope this helps whoever feels the same.
So here it goes, step one.
Awareness: You don’t have to look very hard to know the need to impress people is pretty rampant. It’s the motive behind a lot of our actions and leads us to do things we’re really not proud of. For me, it’s also impeded my sense of connection to others and my self-worth. It took me a long time to become aware that I was hiding something. I think it was psychologist Carl Jung that came up with the idea of the “Shadow,” that part of ourselves that we go to great lengths to hide from the world. Everyone has one, few people acknowledge it.
Acceptance: There’s a certain comfort you can feel once you know that everyone carries this with them. There’s less tendency to repress this shadow once you know it’s just a part of you. Some people are less affected by this than others (by the way if you don’t struggle with this, this website’s probably not for you). Once you feel there’s no duality in your nature, you know you’re onto something good.
Embrace your perceived flaws and act as if the people you’re interacting with can already see them – because they can. Sorry to break the news to you, but I would have been better off if I had realized that sooner. A good example of this is how I used to try really hard to be more talkative, and hated my tendency to be quiet (part of my “Shadow”). At the end of my third year in college, I ended up getting an award for being the “Shyest Club Member.” Go figure. I know it’s difficult to talk about (and that there are far more shameful things to be embarrassed about), but chances are the things you’re embarrassed about are common, and not too unique to you.
Change your environment: Some might actually say this should come first. I’m not sure there really is a particular order to do these things. In short, be around people that allow you to open up. It’s hard to look for like-minded people, but the common trait I feel around the people I relate to the most is that I don’t feel any competitive energy or the need to impress them. For whatever reason, I always used to avoid doing this. I tried to find company with a lot of people that wouldn’t really “get” me to begin with. Later on I learned how important this step is: there’s nothing like knowing you’re not alone in the things you struggle with the most. If it weren’t for my friends and mentors, I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing most of my posts on this site.
The thing is, that once I stopped trying to impress people I really felt a lot more liberated to express what it is that I actually think and feel. Not that it happens all the time, but dropping that need to perform feels good enough on its own (whether or not people like you for it). You’ll like yourself a little more and that’s what matters.
I think that’s all for now. I’ll be going into more depth on each of these. If you have any questions on how I could help, email me at:
Thanks for reading,
ps. I’ve just opened up an email newsletter for updates to the blog. Just to be clear, though: if this site doesn’t help you, don’t sign up! You probably get enough mail as it is 🙂