Listening To Your Insecurities

Image Source: Joe Curtin

Everyone has at least one little voice in their head. Right now we’re going to talk about the one that tells you what you can and can’t do. I’m pretty sure most people are familiar with that one voice. It’s usually quiet when you’re doing something you’re already confident in knowing how to do, which can include a hobby like riding a bike, an academic essay or project with the guidelines written out for you, or a job that specifically tells you what you should and shouldn’t do. This voice tends to get a little louder when you try something new that gets you out of your comfort zone, like pursuing a new hobby that you have little to no experience or knowledge in, and it gets even louder when that pursuit can attract judgement from an audience.

Digging Deeper

From my observations, the consensus on dealing with insecurities seems to be dismissing them, which is an approach that appears to work for a lot of people, including myself for a while, but what I think we’re ignoring as a culture of the “fake it ‘till you make it” type confidence is that insecurities are a valuable part of your core being that can be used to find out more about yourself, your wants, needs, goals, values and ironically, turn it into something that motivates you.

Basically, when your insecurities talk to you, listen. Not in the way that you would listen to a boss giving orders, but in the way that a therapist listens to their client. Ask questions. Ask your voice, why? And do these things really matter?

A Personal Perspective

I have a lot of personal experiences with this voice. Recently, the narrative has been about my writing. I’m the type of person who aims to tackle everything with an organized approach (a huge fan of lists), so naturally, my voice does the same and gave me a mental list of all the reasons I shouldn’t write and definitely shouldn’t share it with an audience:

#1. Vulnerability:
My thoughts and desires are very comfortable doing nothing but hiding and floating around in the metaphysical space that is my mind. As soon as I express them in any way, they’re up for judgment whether I like it or not. That’s obviously something to avoid, to protect the emotions and confidence I work so hard to maintain.

#2. Perfectionism:
I have this built in need to almost always be perfect and when it comes to writing, I’ll be the first to admit I’m no F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is actually the main reason I procrastinate as well; basically, if I can’t do something perfectly, I almost don’t see the reason in doing it at all. I want to get better at writing before ever showing it to anybody so when I do debut my work, others can see the high standard that I hold myself up to.

#3. Individualism:
Along with perfectionism I also place value on being an individual and creating something as original as possible, but I had to be honest with myself, any opinion I have has most likely already been written about and it’s probably done with more eloquence and thesaurus words than any combination of letters and spaces I could come up with at my skill level. If it’s already been done, there’s really no point in doing it again.

#4. Literally what’s the point:
I could just type it up and keep it on my phone like I usually do. Is there an actual reason to share it with an audience and submit myself to all of that judgement from random people on the Internet?

At first, these thoughts seemed instinctual. I mean, unless I’m part of a “Fight Club” movie that I don’t know about, they seem to be coming from my own head and not a Tyler Durden, so naturally I should agree… with myself… right?

Except there was another force inside my mind. This one didn’t speak to me, this one just made me feel. What I felt wasn’t just a desire for an outlet of expression but an ache that grew the more I held it in.

I decided to look into where the voice was coming from. Instead of mindlessly listening, I decided it was time to mindfully listen. I questioned my own logic and asked myself why. After a lot of introspection and of course, inspiring Ted Talks, I came to the following conclusions:

#1. Vulnerability:
One of the most popular Ted Talks ever is about vulnerability. More specifically, the power of vulnerability. Dr. Brené Brown is one of the few people I look up to and she changed a lot of lives with this talk, including mine. During her talk, she mentions this:

“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

The contents of her talk, especially that quote, have resonated with me ever since I first watched it about 2 years ago, and her words echoing in the back of my mind were the perfect remedy to this roadblock of insecurity. In addition to that, I reminded myself that life isn’t about being comfortable. It’s been shown time and time again, with scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, you name it… none of them have ever improved or done great things by staying in their comfort zone and not taking risks. Emotions and confidence don’t need protecting and maintaining, they need strengthening, and the key to that is vulnerability.

#2. Perfectionism:
I still hold myself up to a standard, and that standard is no longer perfection, but self improvement. As a natural perfectionist, it took a lot of time to really internalize that there is no such thing as perfect. There is such a thing as better, and one of the best ways to get better is by following the wise words of Shia Labeouf and just doing it. Taking action is always the first step in turning an idea into a reality. Following that, as long as you keep going, it’s guaranteed you’ll learn something new that’ll contribute to your getting-better-ness along the way.

Thank you, Shia Labeouf, for always being you.

#3. Individualism:
The core of individualism is independence in thought, free from external interference and influence. After layers of epiphanies, I’ve come to realize that originality seems to be increasingly difficult to achieve the more you focus on it. When you think about creating or doing something “original”, you automatically focus on what’s already been done, thus, diverting the attention from where it should actually be, which is on the great things you can potentially create or do. I think the way that the individualist approach would encourage us to perceive it is that even if it’s been done a thousand times by everyone and their mothers, it hasn’t been done by you as an individual. That aspect is what adds value, because whatever comes directly from your existence, could not have come from anyone else.

#4. Literally what’s the point:
The point is that I’m doing this for me. I think I’ve actually reached a level where it just feels wrong not to express these thoughts. I could publish this and no one could read it or everyone could read it but either way it doesn’t matter because this is simply what I wanted to do, but one of the reasons I do choose to share my writing, was that after publishing my last article kind of on a whim and not expecting any reaction, I was surprised to get positive responses from people actually thanking me for sharing it, which felt pretty nice to have something I created as a form of expression also help someone else.

Although this was about my experience, I don’t think I’m alone in having these insecurities. This way of rethinking can also apply to different aspects of life, whether it be personal goals, professional endeavors, academic pursuits, or anything else that requires venturing into territories outside of your comfort zone.

Remind yourself to listen to that one voice mindfully and as cliché as it is, the only person capable of holding you back, is you.