It happens to the best of us. Despite your education, work experience, or expertise, you feel insecure at the most inopportune of moments. You feel like you don’t belong there and that someone will soon expose you for what you truly are – an imposter destined to fail. This can wreak havoc on your mental health unless you learn how to confront your insecurities.
The troubling part is the timing of it all. Just when you need to feel confident and secure, your self-doubt takes control. It could be before an interview, an important presentation, a date, or even when someone asks your opinion in a public setting. Suddenly, you feel insecure and an internal monologue of negative self-talk begins.
What makes it troublesome is the difficulty in understanding it. There’s no benchmark that you can compare your insecurity to. Who’s to tell what’s normal and what needs a conscious intervention? How do you know if it’s something that affects everyone or if it’s just your personal insecurities at work?
To make sense of the problem, here are the three most common forms of insecurity. If you realize that you could be suffering from any of these, you should try out the accompanying tactics to confront and overcome them.
1. Insecurity due to rejection
The crux of mental health is how you see, value, respect, and love yourself. Put together, we refer to it as self-esteem. Fear of rejection is a serious challenge to developing formidable self-esteem.
It’s only natural that you feel insecure if you’ve had a breakup recently. But breakups aren’t the only reason for this. It could also be professional. You may have been rejected in an interview or turned down for a promotion. Whatever the cause, it left you feeling that you don’t deserve it.
That recent experience will cloud your judgment of events, opportunities, and individuals. Even if it didn’t happen a while ago, if it was an intensely unsettling event, the scars will still be fresh. It can hold you back from approaching people or putting your hand up for viable opportunities.
So, how do you stop carrying that insecurity around? How do you get rid of that recent memory and improve your self-confidence to take on new challenges?
How to beat it
- Understand that it’s natural: Even the greatest athletes have their bad days. Hollywood stars go through breakups. The only difference is that they don’t hold onto them. Everyone has a bad day and if there’s a particular instance of rejection that bothers you, take a bird’s eye view of the situation.
- Think of achievements: Depending on the situation, look back in your professional or personal life and think of an instance where you’d succeeded in similar circumstances. It doesn’t have to be big. But the sense of accomplishment should have been real.
- Involve friends: Talk to your friends or partners if you need a boost of morale. While it may seem awkward at first, they’ll usually remind you of your successes that you probably would’ve forgotten.
2. Insecurity from social anxiety
The fear of being socially judged is one of the most common forms of insecurity. Some people feel self-conscious, anxious, and fearful when in front of others. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a group of colleagues or family members. This can extend to even the smallest of social encounters like a date.
At the heart of this insecurity is a strongly rooted belief that you are not worth it. That you’ve nothing important to contribute or that anything you say or do can be used to mock you and will permanently be associated with you.
The reasons for this social anxiety could be traced to childhood or any other event that would make people highly uneasy about meeting and introducing themselves to others. Maybe your parents were overly critical or your schoolmates bullied you. That forced you to believe that it’s better to keep quiet and stay away from the limelight.
While at first others may classify it as an understandable social awkwardness, it can have profound impacts on an individual’s mental health. The more people see you avoid social situations, the less likely they’re to involve you in more such outings.
If you suffer from social anxiety, you wouldn’t raise your hand even if you know the answer in class. You wouldn’t give your opinion when your boss asks you in front of others. You’ll think of excuses to bail out of presentations and meetings. All these dramatically reduce your chances of both personal and professional exposure that are necessary for growth.
How to beat it
- Confront your inner critic: Nobody’s holding you back as strongly as the voice inside your head. Sadly, that voice mostly gives you false forecasts. The next time it tells you that it’s not going to end well, confidently reply that you can handle the situation. Be firm, affirmative, and relentless in talking back to that negative voice.
- Prepare: To increase your confidence and improve your mental health, before getting into any social situation, prepare for a couple of minutes. If you’ve got a meeting, think about topics that might interest others, from sports to entertainment.
- Start small: The shortest of interactions can boost your confidence. Before you start preparing for presentations, think about taking the initiative when you go out to a restaurant. When the waiter asks for your group’s order, be the first to respond. Suggest something to others and place the order.
3. Insecurity due to perfectionism
Some people set exceptionally high standards for themselves. If you’re one of those, you know that you constantly worry about falling short of those expectations. You worry that the meal you cook is far from perfect, the route that you’ve taken to work isn’t the best, and the way you signed off the last email wasn’t how it should have been.
You don’t like it because you have an imaginary scale that’s perfect and whatever you do doesn’t live up to those levels. This doesn’t bode well for your mental health.
This has profound implications, especially for your studies and career. The fear of falling short of perfection will force you to postpone finishing that term paper or writing that project report. Although you may have the skillsets to complete the job, you never end up completing projects on time.
While part of it is the internal standard of perfection, it could also be external. You may worry that your boss or partner may not like what you do because it’s not perfect. Along with this exaggerated fear of external assessment, there’ll be crippling self-doubt that will incrementally bring down both the quantity and quality of your output.
While the standards are unattainable, you’ll still feel that you should be able to achieve those because you see others doing so effortlessly. So, you losing 10 kilos in two months is nothing to be happy about since someone managed to lose 20 kilos.
This constant comparison is bad news for your mental health. Unfortunately, social media has only made it worse. Now you are regularly updated about others’ achievements which compared to yours are phenomenal, according to you. This feedback loop through smartphones is both addictive and dangerous.
How to beat it
- Know that perfectionism is an illusion: Even the greatest business solutions aren’t perfect. They go through several changes once they’re released. All great companies and successful individuals understand this.
- Focus on the efforts: The outcomes depend on several factors while the inputs are usually under your control. So, that’s what you should focus on. Stop obsessing about the fruits of your rewards and concentrate on your efforts.
- Get it out: An average product, project report, or blog piece that’s out in the open is exponentially better than their perfect versions in your mind. As they say in the world of startups, shipping beats perfection.
- Nobody cares: Specifically, nobody’s interested in the granular details of your work as much as the fact that it’s out there. People will appreciate you for the chances you take and not the chances you shy away from because of the fear of perfection. For proof, watch the highlights reel of any game.
The first step toward beating your insecurities is addressing the fact that they’re real. Once you know that any one of these is standing in your way, it’s easier to equip yourself with the tools to overcome them. Once you name it, you can beat it and significantly improve your mental health along the way.