When insecurity is impacting important areas in your life
Sometimes people happen to have grown up in a family environment where they learned to be insecure, not to trust themselves and their skills. At times school plays a crucial role, especially if you grow up with bad acne, braces, overweight, speech impediment and surrounded by people who are part of a popular group. Adolescents can be mean and generally don’t hesitate to put insecure people in a corner or even bully them.
Lack of self-esteem also comes from the inside. We are the ones that learn to tell ourselves that we need to be perfect in order not only to be accepted by peers but also to accept ourselves. People with a very low self-esteem tend to be very tough on themselves, with no regards to their achievements and qualities.
Of course, bad experiences that lie in the past are a constant reminder of the image we have of ourselves, but it’s not only that. Transactional analysis, a personality theory that integrates psychoanalysis with other humanistic approaches, suggests that early in life we decide (out of awareness) on a well defined course of action (called “script”) that we then carry on throughout our life even though it becomes dysfunctional when adults. Have you ever found yourself thinking “Why is this happening to me over and over again?”, that’s when most likely you are living your script, over and over again.
Attention plays also an important role in focusing on negative aspects of reality and of ourselves. Let’s first though define attention. “Attention is that which takes possession of our mind”, it is the focal point of our consciousness. If you have a low self-esteem this focal point is most likely negative. Researchers estimate that we each attend more or less 20.000 thoughts per day and our ancestral tendency is to pay more attention to the negative ones, which is a pure survival instinct. Most people with low self-esteem though are more prone to paying attention to the negative aspects of themselves, their lives and external inputs (such as people and situations). This is called “negative confirmation bias” and it’s quite like seeing the world and us in it through dark lenses, failing to pay attention to the positive. This has a tremendous impact on how we feel about ourselves, the meaningfulness we get out of our lives and, of course, our behaviors.
Think at the impact of a tunnel vision focus on the negative and how this can make matters worse than they are, creates more stress, increases insecurity and we end up engaging in behaviors that are ultimately disconnected from our values. Yes, a vicious circle!
It’s best to work on your self-esteem with a professional, somebody objective and with a well-structured plan that can guide you in looking at your insecurity differently.
How can we work together to increase your self-esteem?
What can you do yourself to increase your self-esteem?
Try and see insecurity from a different angle – Insecurity is humility, which is a great quality. With insecurity, we admit that it’s not all about us, we learn to be more tolerant and accept others for who they are not how they look like or what they have achieved.
Engage in “attention training” activities – Purposely pay attentions to positive aspects of yourself, others and the environment. You basically need to re-wire pathways of your brain by engaging in these practices. Some of the techniques are for example: – force yourself to see the silver lining in apparently negative situations; – choose to become more open and gentle towards yourself as much as towards others, which means also stop judging yourself.
Practice gratitude – Try to see gratitude as a feeling of openness and kindness towards your achievements and not only what life gave you so far, but also what you gave to it. This will also increase your social functioning and psychological well-being.
Stop “mind reading” – Yes, because you are no super-hero, you have no responsibility in what somebody else’s must be thinking! ‘Mind reading’ happens when we assume that everybody knows what someone is thinking when we don’t. When you stop doing it, you really begin to respect someone’s privacy because everyone deserves the right to have space to think their own thoughts. Think that your insecurity is actually invisible. You figure everyone can see that you’re insecure, this is what actually makes you feel more insecure. But no one can see your insecurity. They are too worried about their own insecurity to notice your insecurity. No one can see your insides but you.