Insecurity is such a basic-ass bitch, isn’t it? For something that’s just a concept, it sure can shape how we feel about ourselves. Therapy can help but in this economy? That’s not a quick or realistic solution for a lot of us. So rather than waiting until you can address some specific points of trauma/origin of your particular insecurities, there are some actions you can take today that could potentially help you feel a little better about yourself.
(Disclaimer: I am not advocating you skip therapy. If you have the option, take it! Everyone could benefit from therapy. But not everyone has access and they deserve to start now. )
I promise I’m not about to tell you to “just think positive!” because that’s some bullshit rhetoric that isn’t a long-term solution. I want to stress that there is no fix because you aren’t broken. There’s nothing wrong with you. You may have some crippling insecurities that affect every aspect of your life, but that’s something you experience, not something you are.
When it comes to my mental health, there has always been such a prominent disconnect between knowing The Thing and being able to do The Thing. I can say that some parts have gotten easier over the years, but it’s still hard. I’m not sure it will ever not be hard, and that’s something I really had to come to terms with, and still sometimes rage against. My path to self-love and self-acceptance will always be a rocky one, I think. And that’s okay. I have seen the progress. I’m not always able to appreciate it, but I cannot deny that I’ve made progress in areas that I focused on — maybe obsessed over is a more honest description.
I want to share because I know it’s possible to implement these changes because I, a former self-loathing, self-deprecating master, have experienced it. And when those moments occur, the moments where you realize, oh my god, I totally didn’t react to that thing the way I definitely would’ve in the past, it feels really good.
Love the one you’re with (or at least stop being a jerk)
For the love of all things cute and fuzzy please, please please be mindful of how you talk to and about yourself. The reason this one is so important is once we’ve said something over and over again, we believe it to be true. It becomes something that just is. And you are definitely not those things you call yourself.
Personally, starting with what I said out loud to other people was easier for me. I slowly stopped calling myself crazy and saying mean shit about myself out loud. Did I slip up? All the time. But I noticed it. And being aware of it every time made it easier to do it less. These days it’s much easier and I rarely catch myself saying things like “I’m just crazy” or “I’m so gross” out loud. I wish I could say I’ve made such definitive strides in my inner dialog, but that one is proving tougher for me. It’s harder to shut down the noises in your head than the ones you voice aloud. But, it’s better, and I will continue to work on it.
The important bit here to remember is not to fight fire with fire. When I first began learning about my mental health, I thought I could just bully myself through it. Very “what the fuck is wrong with you? Just do what you’re supposed to do!” Turns out that isn’t very effective. Who knew that being awful to yourself wasn’t a good way to stop being awful to yourself?
Being aware that you would never talk like that to someone else struggling with the same things is a good place to start. And then maybe lean into the inner child thing, talk to yourself like you were talking to a scared, hurt kid. You don’t have to goo-goo ga-ga, or talk down to yourself, (also please stop doing that to children) but just be kind and empathetic. Practice it. It might not come easy. You’ve likely been your own punching bag for as long as you can remember. I’ve found the phrase “I’m trying” to be incredibly helpful to say out loud when I lose patience with myself.
I got 99 problems but a comparison ain’t one
That Mark Twain fella was really on to something when he said “comparison is the death of joy.” Comparing myself to others for any reason can trip me up and have me feeling like a piece of trash like nothing else. It’s one of my worst superpowers, next to my ability to see the absolute worst-case scenario instantly in almost any situation, of course.
For the sake of transparency, I am going to be upfront and let you know I suck at this one. Like, really suck at it. As I mentioned before, I know it is something that helps, but it’s a challenge to apply it. So it’s not so much a do as I say, not as I do kind of deal, but rather a try doing this thing that I’m also trying suggestion.
I know that my path looks different than anyone else’s path. That is what I have to tell myself over and over again when I start to go down the comparison spiral. Which, ideally, I’d like to avoid altogether, because once I’m already defending where I am in comparison to someone else, it’s a slippery-ass slope.
Unfortunately, I’ve done it for so long that I start feeling shitty about a situation and myself before I even realize it’s because I’m subconsciously comparing myself to someone else. So it takes a conscious effort to create this truth in my brain that says my worth has nothing to do with anyone else. Period. Now, I can say that shit all day long, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I believe it, but I want to, and I think that’s the first step, just like quitting smoking or eating healthier. If you are going to change anything on your own, it’s gotta be because you want to (or because it’s actually beyond your control.)
Trying new things isn’t just important in the bedroom
This is the most fun one, it requires a little less active struggle and there’s often some delightful instant gratification. And who doesn’t need more of that in their lives? I’d always been guilty of being the type of person who will avoid doing something if I know I’m not going to be any good at it. It took me longer than I’m proud of to realize how truly absurd that is. And I think it took watching my oldest child struggle so much. I found myself heartbroken for him, watching him often miss out on things because he thought it wasn’t for him since he wasn’t magically gifted with the ability to do it perfectly the first time.
Almost no one is good at something they’ve never done before! Prodigies are a rare thing. Everyone has to start at the beginning. I’ve always been an artsy, creative person, but I’d never taken any art classes because I was intimidated by my inability to draw and paint. Accepting the fact that of course I wasn’t good at it, I’d never tried it before was a monumental breakthrough for me.
Once I got rid of that mental block, I’ve experimented with different types of paints and drawings. And I’ve found some I really enjoy, that feel good while I’m creating and I get to feel hella proud of what I accomplished when I’m done. I’ve even gotten to the point where I’m seeing improvement over the last year. That feels great! And it’s me, I did that. For me! It feels even better because I know it’s something I work hard at. I get to reap those feel-good rewards every once in a while that make me have to admit that okay, this is better, and it’s worth the work. It’s an opportunity to build confidence that you have control over.
It’s something you can start today. Yoga, pick up an instrument, sing a song, work through a Photoshop tutorial, take your camera out to shoot some nature shots, anything at all that you have ever thought “I’d like to try that thing” and never gave yourself the chance.
And just do it. Don’t be great at it. Don’t develop a masterpiece you sell for millions. Try some shit. Fuck up. Create something atrocious and admire that bad boy because you did it. Action is where it’s at, and pushing yourself out of some of those comfort zones through safe, innocuous activities will help you make some wholesale changes in the way you feel about yourself.
Fuck perfection. Practice makes progress.
Cheer yourself on, be a friend to yourself, be patient, and allow yourself some grace (and space.) If you can embrace any of that, even a little bit, you’re well on your way to some serious personal growth.
At the end of the day, I’m just throwing shit against a wall to see what sticks. There are no real rules, or guides, or instruction manuals to help us along our way, but I think as long as we are continuing to try, and learn new things about the world and ourselves, we are winning. And we all deserve a little more credit for that.
You are the you-iest you that ever you’d and that’s fucking beautiful.
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