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Your co-worker is the perfect employee. She anticipates your boss’ every need and turns in creative, error-free work, every day. You, on the other hand, make loads of mistakes. And, you’re pretty sure your boss dislikes you.
Ah, insecurities strike again! Just when you think you’re crushing it, something happens to foster that doubt.
“Insecurities are a fear that you’re not enough, that you’re not going to get what you want, whether that is a promotion at work or a date with someone,” said Ann Kearney-Cooke, a psychologist at Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute. “It is just an underlying feeling of overall you’re not enough.”
Experiencing insecurities is a very human experience. Even confident, well-adjusted people sometimes feel inadequate.
But there are easy ways to not let insecurities get out of control. Experts shared a few proactive tips:
1. Learn from your insecurities.
Maybe you worry that your skin looks blotchy. Perhaps you feel you’re too stubborn or too nice. Consider facing those thoughts and examining why you feel that way.
“People try to push insecurities down or to forget them or ignore them. From a strength perspective, there is tremendous opportunity to grow from them,” said Jack Cahalane, chief of adult mood and anxiety services at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
That might mean spending some uncomfortable moments with your thoughts, exploring why you feel insecure. Is it because you still get acne? Are you stubborn because you're afraid to compromise? The answers could help you quash your insecurities.
“Try testing the situation to see if you are exaggerating your insecurities,” Cahalane said. “People can exaggerate them and magnify out of proportion.”
2. Ask yourself: Is that 100 percent true?
Kearney-Cooke noticed that when people discuss insecurities, their feelings often aren’t grounded in reality. To help them gain perspective, she asks them to consider if what they’re saying is absolutely true.
She recalls the story of a woman who met a man at a bar and enjoyed a conversation with him, but he never asked for her number. Kearney-Cooke inquired why the woman didn’t just ask for his number, and she said because she’d be a loser. The psychologist asked the woman if that was “100 percent true,” to which the woman admitted it was not.
“You step back and see that is not 100 percent true and there can be other things going on,” she said. “What happens when we believe insecurities? Well, we often feel bad, anxious, and don’t go after (what) we want in life.”
3. Keep a gratitude journal.
Often, insecurities stem from the very human trait of seeing the negative. That’s why Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist at the Center of Behavioral Health at Cleveland Clinic, recommended people keep a gratitude journal or write down what they do well.
“This gets our brain to notice the right thing,” said Bea. “It’s some systemic way to make awareness of what is right and what has always been right.”
4. Embrace your insecurities.
Insecurities have less power when people understand both their strengths and weaknesses work together to make them unique.
“One of the concepts is radical acceptance,” said Cahalane. “Do not blame yourself for being insecure.”
This also prevents people from being stuck in an unhealthy cycle where they realize they’re insecure and don’t want to be insecure, but keep focusing on this. Simply accepting that you have some qualities you might not like and living with that can stop this unproductive thinking.
5. Don’t compare yourself to others.
From a distance, other people might seem happier, more successful, thinner or wealthier. But often, that is just how it looks. And sometimes social media makes people’s lives appear better — or worse — than they are. Comparing yourself to others just compounds insecurities.
“Nobody shows themselves screaming at their children on social media. It is sanitized and curated and people are going to portray themselves as perfect,” Bea said. “People are probably not as happy as they might portray themselves.”
6. Don't dwell on the past.
Insecurities often arise when people live in the future or the past. Can’t forget about when you said pubic instead of public during that big presentation? Afraid that woman might reject you if you ask her out, so you just don’t?
“Insecurities can frequently be the inability to be present in the moment. You are looking forward, you are worried about something,” said Cahalane. “Enjoy the current experience."
7. Share your feelings with someone else.
Telling a person who really loves you — a partner, best friend, parent or sibling — about insecurities can help. They can provide support and a different perspective.
“They might also be able to give you some healthy feedback. Sharing with them and feeling their acceptance and love can be useful,” said Kearney-Cooke. “They’re often very attuned to your signature strengths.”