Insecurity is one of the major issues affecting interpersonal relationships and even more importantly, the relationships we have with ourselves. Feeling insecure, whether alone or with others, can lead to self-destruction from under use. When we are insecure it is impossible to express and enact our greatest potential and to take those small, everyday risks that lead us to new experiences and new possibilities. Feeling more secure initiates a profound transformation of self. The bravery and perseverance required to continue is well worth the invaluable gifts of trusting ourselves and the worlds we live in.
Approach your inner-critic.
Your inner-critic is that persistent voice or thought in your head that takes every possible opportunity to make you feel worse about even the smallest perceived faults, failures, and imperfections. Spend some time really listening to your inner-critic. Sometimes we are so intent on shutting out negative inner voices that we fail to hear exactly what’s being said.
Get to know your inner-critic better.
Try to listen to your inner-critic across different situations, and take notice of the themes and similarities that run through these critiques. Putting a face, character, or specific voice to your inner-critic will help you listen more deeply and get to the heart of the messages about yourself that your inner-critic is sending.
This may be difficult for some who are unable to concretely visualize a person or role that corresponds to the inner-critic. This can be a sign that the inner-critic is not someone who you must make amends with relationally, but your own expectations and values not being met.
Befriend your inner-critic.
Friendship does not mean that you accept what your inner-critic says, verbatim. A friend is someone who you feel comfortable challenging and will love you despite any transformations you may undergo. Accept the presence of your inner-critic and be willing to lovingly accept and challenge what it has to say. Your inner-critic may be expressing an important need that is going unmet, albeit in a distorted manner.
For example, if your inner-critic is telling you that you’re worthless, you might take from this that your legitimate need to feel worthy and valuable is being unmet. This is changing an unworkable sense of worthlessness to a renewed mission to meet your need of feeling worthy, which can be met by something as simple requesting affirmation from a loved one.
Tell your inner-critic when it’s time to take a hike.
As with all genuine relationships, it is important to recognize when we should heed warnings and objections. Once you have developed a good sense of what your inner-critic tends to focus on, you can decide to challenge your inner-critic and the negativity it brings to your life.
Making the decision conscientiously to change your inner-critic makes all the difference. You are sending a clear signal to that part of yourself that it is unproductive and critical.
Improving your posture is one of the greatest (though seemingly indirect) way to eliminate insecurity. By standing and sitting up straight, your body communicates to your mind that it is capable and ready for action.
Similarly, you’ll want to pay attention to what you’re wearing. Even if you work at home or in an informal setting, consider swapping your usual garb for outfits that make you feel a little more excited to go through your day.
Develop a simple, steady morning ritual.
Mornings can be some of the more stressful times of the day, especially if you have work to get to. This is when we are starting to become aware of all the things that we must do, provoking in ourselves fears and insecurities about not being able to get through the day. By developing a reliable morning ritual we can soothe these insecure waking thoughts with the security of counting on, for example, the brewed coffee fresh for when you get out of the shower.
Shift focus from critiques to compliments.
Have you ever noticed yourself paying attention to the one shred of criticism on an assignment and ignoring the praise that surrounds it? Living in a fix-it society, problems rather than positives tend to pull us in with greater force. Luckily it is up to you to choose the focus of evaluations, grades, and the like.
For example, if a superior tells you something like “you’ve been doing a great job so far, but I’d like to see the files you’re working on arranged differently”, you can respond with (1) gratitude for the acknowledgment, (2) a comment on what you’ve been enjoying about the work, (3) and then a response to their request for a modification to your existing good work. By assigning more weight to the compliments you receive, you will see how others can contribute positively to your increasing feelings of security.
Notice the difference weight assigned to the praise versus the problem, compared to a standard response of an apology and a promise to change in the required way.
Increase your competence in chosen areas.
Is there a skill or ability that you have always admired in others? Take time to learn to do something that you’ve always considered valuable. Speed reading? Latte making? Piano playing? Increasing competence will help you feel more secure because it amplifies your natural gifts and nurtures the concrete skills that you need to share them with the rest of the world.
Remember, only focus on things that really matter to you. You might know that you find this skill or ability valuable because you tend to put others who can do it on a pedestal. The idea is to ride off of the security of knowing that this is a skill that you truly find valuable. Otherwise the insecurity of your choice, “should I even learn this skill?”, will tamper with the confidence you are gaining by learning it.
Organize your desk.
By making your work tools more accessible, you are eliminating micro-moments of insecurity about not having things that you need ready at hand. These micro-moments can add up and come to haunt your bigger decisions and attitudes. Since your desk is something that you do definitively have control over, knowing that, for example, your paperclips are in the top left drawer with the stapler will provide a sense of flow and ease to your daily activities.
This, as well as other triumphs of day-to-day management (wiping the counters off, staying current on the news, etc.) all can and should be counted as small victories. To stay conscious of all your small victories, you can make a list of the things you do that you take for granted. Go ahead and praise yourself for all the small victories on your list by treating yourself however you see fit!
Choose your environment wisely.
Surround yourself with people who make you feel comfortable enough to be creative and explore yourself, insecurities and all.Because you are responsible for your own feelings of security, it is important to hold your ground socially. This often means being assertive about your needs and even choosing to distance yourself from those who are not supportive or compassionate.
Honestly ask yourself the questions: “Who makes me feel shrunken when I’m around them? Who makes me feel like my contributions are trivial?” You might be surprised (and shaken) to find that people who we love very much bring out tendencies of self-effacement and repression of our true feelings. It is quite common to be afraid of not being accepted for our intense feelings and needs, even though everybody has them!
Express requests and suggestions.
Becoming more secure means that you must learn to trust that you will be heard and not ignored. By formulating requests and suggestions well, others can get a sense of your unique contributions and perspectives without feeling that you are being demanding.
Say you are talking to your significant other about picking up groceries for dinner, and you feel too exhausted to make the run yourself. Instead of complaining that they do not run as many errands as you, or any other form of debating who the burden “rightly” falls upon, try expressing your exhaustion. You might express these feelings openly with an earnest, non-threatening request that they take over the duty tonight.
Remember not to blame your partner or evoke guilt, as this will only cause defensiveness and resistance. People do not respond well when they feel they are being manipulated to do something rather than acting of their own accord.
Adopt a conscious attitude of flexibility in social situations.
People who wish to feel more secure often experience a strong desire to please others, which often leads to self-denial and decreased sense of security. But, the same impulse to submit to others’ demand can lead you to willfully experiment outside of your comfort zone. Experimenting in different social settings will show you that you are capable of more than you think you are. It will also provide a powerful experience of the real security in your life–you.
It may seem surprising…how can continuing to try to please others make you more secure? The difference is in your own awareness. For instance, if a friend invites you to a new club that seems intimidating, you may decide to join because you are feeling insecure about your status in the eyes of that friend. However, you can easily view this impulse as your new attitude of flexibility, offering yourself another reminder that you are making yourself more capable of handling uncharted territory. Having an awareness of when you are trying to please others and when you are taking the opportunity to experience something new will boost your sense of security in your own actions.
Remind yourself of the invisibility of your insecurities.
In social situations do you get the sense that everyone can somehow see that you are looping nervous thoughts or worries? Luckily, no one has access to your thoughts except for you. You can rest a little easier knowing that you are your own harshest judge and chances are good that others around you are also concerned about making a good impression.
This idea coincides with that fact that, when push comes to shove, you are responsible for creating your own criteria for yourself. Being right or wrong by others’ standards can never align as closely with your sensibilities as your own perspective can.
Visualize a moment of extreme confidence.
Try to recall in as vivid detail as possible the way you felt in a time when lots of passion and motivation gave way to unshakeable confidence. Visualization can jump-start your ability to enter a frame of mind that sees your strengths, as well as possibilities in the world that might accommodate them
In addition to visualizing your confident self, you may also want to visualize a role model. By visualizing a role model who both supports and challenges you, it will be easier to envision and enter into a mental space of total motivation.
Get comfortable leaving your emotional side to the side.
When you really must consciously focus problems and failures in your life, it is important that you keep an emotional distance in order to protect yourself from becoming preoccupied. Inability to look at problems that may generate legitimate feelings of insecurity from a distance will cause a greater influx of insecure feelings to invade your time spent focusing on other things.
Be aware that emotional distancing can be a powerful tool for gaining more perspective on yourself and your situation, only when you have already explored the issue with your emotions. It is most beneficial to get the full range of perspectives, emotional and distanced. So, distancing will work best for those who tend to react emotionally to begin with.
Train yourself to see the positive aspects of failures and insecurities.
One man’s trash is another one’s treasure. Instead of trying to deny or change your imperfections, make an effort to explore what they can open up for you.
Remember, these won’t always be apparent and may involve some creative guesswork. For example, if you didn’t get the job you wanted, focus on the fact that you now have the opportunity to find a better long-term fit. If you’re preoccupied with how weird you look while jogging, consider that the right person may well find your gait your most endearing quality.