If you are feeling insecure about things in your life, you are not alone. Everyone holds on to something from the past that makes them question themselves or impacts their self-esteem. Even as a psychotherapist, I too can feel insecure in particular situations. The problem is that many people are unaware of how much their negative self-talk–the root of your insecure feelings–impacts their health and self-esteem. Many who suffer from feeling insecure are consumed by these thoughts and don’t have the tools or awareness to get rid of them. Insecurities and negative self-talk impact overall self-esteem and few of us are immune.
The difference between those who struggle from feeling insecure occasionally versus those who are consumed by their negative self-talk is imperative to take note of. The former know that these thoughts come up for everyone, but they don’t beat themselves up for it. They were tired of living a life filed with fear and feeling less than–they did the work to change their thoughts. They are aware that the negative self-talk isn’t serving them; it’s holding them back from happiness and living a healthy life.
Insecure thinking and low self-esteem affect your health in a profound way. Research shows that positive thinking has been scientifically linked to longer lives, lower rates of depression, increased immunity, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. On the contrary, if you’re feeling "less than" or worried about what others think, it’s less likely you’ll reach out to your doctor, get moving at the gym, or be willing to make the changes necessary to have a fulfilled life. The insecure thoughts can hijack your mind, which leads to feeling unmotivated and depressed.
Another common problem for those who suffer from insecurities is avoiding their own health care to put those in their life first. People-pleasing prevents you from focusing on yourself and your needs. It may seem like it’s the selfless thing to do–caring more for your family and friends than yourself–but here’s the problem: Ignoring your own health and wellness in the attempt to satisfy others leads to chronic stress–your body and brain never get a rest, which leads to a myriad of other issues, including autoimmune disorders, ulcers, IBS and GI health complications, and mental health diagnoses (among others).
Here are some simple steps that can help you turn insecurity into confidence.
Step 1: Listen to Your Body
When you become aware of your insecure thoughts and how they manifest, you gain so much control. Most of us can feel insecure even after a seemingly harmless scroll through social media. Unconsciously, we all make comparisons—someone you haven’t seen since high school comes up, and you focus on what appears to be her “flawless” life, then the negative self-talk and insecure thoughts seem to flood your mind.
First, take some time to become aware of how your body is feeling when you start to head down this road; tense muscles, stomach aches, heart palpitations, anxiety symptoms, identify the physical sensations. Often, your body alerts you before the negative thought hits you. This is an opportunity to pick a different path, and find an activity that doesn’t leave you feeling less than.
Step 2: Become Mindful of Your Triggers
Triggers can be people, places, or things that make your insecure thoughts skyrocket. If you’re comparing yourself to the friend on social media that has the “perfect life,” stop following her. If you notice that the gym makes you feel worse about yourself, find a workout program that doesn’t fill you with fear and anxiety. Stop engaging in the activities that make you feel worse about yourself. Instead, validate your feelings and get proactive. Subtle shifts such as filling your newsfeed with positive people, organizations, and friends who lift you up will leave you feeling filled up instead of weighed down.
Step 3: Turn Down the Volume on Negative Self-Talk or Stop the Cycle of Negative Thinking
The bully in your brain is your negative voice, the self-talk that comes from mistaken beliefs you’ve acquired over time. Negative self-talk is the root of insecurity. Once you become aware of it and start to talk back to it, you can overcome it. Try this simple exercise: For every negative thought counteract it with one positive. “I look like a whale in that outfit” can be replaced with, “I really like the way my hair looks today.” As silly as it may sound, this practice trains your brain to switch to a positive mind-set. Positive thoughts will create more positive actions, too.
You can even go a bit further to challenge the negative statement. Make a list of as many things as you can think of to contradict the negative statement (choose one statement at a time) such as, “That mom is in such good shape, I’m so lazy, and I’ll never look like that.” Why is this not the case? Play devil’s advocate. What would your best friend say to you? The more you turn your mind away from the bully brain, the more power you have. This allows you to change your thinking pattern into a more positive state of mind. Stopping the dreaded downward spiral of negative thinking is possible, as long as you have the focus and desire to want a better relationship with yourself.
Step 4: Make Daily Self-Care a Priority
If you don’t fit in some time for your own daily renewal, you can’t do your best and continue to provide others with what they need. Whether it’s your family or your colleagues, if you’re too busy putting others first, they will actually suffer because you are not your best self. As a parent, the family unit depends on you. No discussion of a healthy family unit can take place without considering the well-being of the parent or parents. The same is true with work. The challenge for many parents, though, is twofold: giving themselves permission to take time for themselves, and talking back to the guilt that may arise. Make yourself a priority by fitting in time for your own daily renewal.
For more information on Emily Roberts, MA, LPC, visit www.theguidancegirl.com.