Talking Down About Yourself
“It’s not attractive to be talking down about yourself all the time. All you continue to do to yourself is pull yourself further down into a deeper place of depression and sadness and insecurity and fear and hopelessness, so it’s like, having God in your life is important, accepting who you are is important, regardless of what you look like.” — Lamman Rucker
We all have times when we experience insecurities, such as, a remark somebody makes that catch us off guard and we don’t know what to say or we get embarrassed. Most of us get insecure when we find ourselves in new situations.
But, some experience insecurities that are deeply rooted feelings that take a toll on the person’s self-esteem. These insecurities are often so intense that they give the person a distorted view of reality. These intense insecurities become dangerous because the person often cannot differentiate fiction from reality. Joseph Luciani, Ph.D. said they see windmills as dragons.
The deep-seated insecurities prohibit people from living a normal life. They often become very isolated from society. They allow their critical inner voice to say negative critical things to and about themselves, such as, “You’re not good enough,” “You’ll never make it.” Their critical inner voice talks down to them, which we wouldn’t allow anyone else to do to us.
The story below is actually a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. But, as you read, keep in mind that this really happened.
The Guy In The Window
Connie thought back over her childhood. She hadn’t thought much about the people or events from the nursing home until she started telling her coach, Gary, about her childhood. She was exposed to a large variety of people with many different issues. But one stood out very clearly, Jack, the guy in the window.
He was a strange guy. He actually lived in the cellar of the nursing home. Connie didn’t remember when he arrived. According to her memory, he’d always been in the cellar. She was close to 10 years of age when she was told that Jack was her dad’s brother. She was always a very curious child, so the fact of her uncle living in the cellar was of great concern to her. Why? Why was he locked in the cellar? She knew her dad locked him in at night. Why? It didn’t make any sense to her at all. Any time she asked either of her parents about him she was told it was none of her business.
She was told that he was different, he was retarded. He had had a very high fever when he was about five years of age, which left him with brain damage. He had never been to school and had basically been locked away his whole life.
Jack was the epitome of severe insecurity. Even though her parents owned the nursing home for the sick and elderly, he was not allowed upstairs with the rest of the patients. His room in the cellar was one room with a cot, a dresser, a toilet, sink, and shower. It was between the laundry room and the food cellar. He had one small window at eye level that opened into a space between the old house and the new addition that had been built. He exited through a side entrance with stairs that went to a rough wood cellar door.
Every morning, rain, shine or snow, as soon as he finished his breakfast, he would go outside and walk around and around and around the house. If anyone approached him or tried to talk to him, he’d hang his head, mutter something, and walk away. He acted like he was afraid of everyone.
Connie felt very sorry for him and over the years made friends with him. She discovered he was a very gentle soul, but had been shunned all of his life until he couldn’t talk to anyone. As their friendship developed he talked more to her. He would even make eye contact with her, which he did not do at all with anyone.
Daily you would often see him looking through the window into the sitting room of the nursing home where the patients would gather to watch television. He was allowed in only once a year on Christmas Eve when he was given a present then ushered back outside. The weather didn’t matter. He never missed a tv show, but he always watched from outside at the window.
If you were outside and close to Jack you could hear him talk about the characters from the tv shows as if they were real people that he interacted with on a regular basis. You would often hear him talking like he was on the show and it was real. He often would talk to Connie about the shows.
Everybody said, “He’s just retarded. He doesn’t know anything.”
Connie made friends with him over a batch of kittens. The momma cat had her kittens in an area close to Jack’s window. When Connie found out where they were she’d go into his room, open the window and bring the kittens in, sit on his bed, and play with them.
Jack discovered what she was doing and stayed in his room to play with the kittens, also. They’d sit on his bed and pet the kittens and talk. He was so gentle with the kittens. He was so afraid of hurting one of them. He also got so he’d talk to her about his tv shows and other things. He was able to overcome his insecurity with Connie and the kittens.
A year or so later, Jack needed surgery and was hospitalized in a town about 45 miles away. He had been back at the nursing home for a few months. During that time, if you listened closely to his dialogue with himself, you could hear him talk about going back to Deadwood, to the hospital and how he liked it there and how good they were to him.
One night, Connie’s dad went into the cellar to lock him in, as was the customary procedure, when he discovered Jack was gone. It was dark outside. It was cold and beginning to snow. Dad called the police and started driving around looking for Jack, but didn’t find him.
Several hours later the police brought Jack back to the nursing home. They found him several miles down the road to Deadwood. The police asked him questions, but as usual, he just hung his head like he didn’t know what they were talking about. He wouldn’t make eye contact or acknowledge them in any way.
The next day he started telling Connie all about his adventure. He told her he was going back to the hospital where they treated him nice. He had a warm room and a soft bed. He described the food they brought him to eat. For weeks, he’d tell Connie that he was going back to Deadwood.
Connie, being the curious kid that she was tried to figure out, “If he’s so retarded that he doesn’t know anything, how did he know to get on the right road to Deadwood?”
The next spring when the weather warmed up again, Jack had come out of his shell enough by talking to Connie that he asked one of the old guys that were sitting in a wheelchair outside under the tree if he wanted to go for a ride. The old guy was up for an adventure.
Jack walked around the house looking in the windows to see where his brother was, to assess the situation. A little later he returned to the old guy in the wheelchair to verify that he was up for a ride. Jack took the brakes off the wheelchair and pushed it up onto the street.
Once again, he headed in the direction of Deadwood. Later, the old guy told Connie’s dad that Jack talked the whole way about his stay at the hospital in Deadwood and how well he had been treated.
An hour or so later, dad got a phone call asking him if he was missing a couple of patients. Dad said he didn’t think so, but asked why. The caller told him that two old guys were about five miles out of town headed toward Deadwood and one guy was pushing the other one in a wheelchair.
Dad hopped in the car and caught up to them. This time it wasn’t a simple ride back. Dad made Jack push the wheelchair all the way back to the nursing home and it was all uphill.
Connie said to herself with a little laugh, “Jack’s much smarter than they give him credit for. He’s just afraid of people.”
At age 10 or 11 she didn’t know the word “insecurity,” but she knew he had them all fooled.
What is insecurity?
Joseph Luciani, Ph.D. lists some facts about insecurity in his book, The Power of Self-Coaching :
- Insecurity is a feeling of vulnerability and/or helplessness.
- Insecurity results from childhood psychological wounds-real or imagined.
- Insecurity is the false belief that you can’t handle life or some aspect of life.
- Ongoing insecurity is based on distortions of reality, not fact.
- Insecurity becomes a habit of thinking and perceiving.
- Insecurity minimizes the possibility for accurate self-perception.
- Over time, insecurity feels like a natural part of your personality.
- Insecurity becomes worse over time.
- Like any habit, the habit of insecurity can be broken.
As Luciani states, Jack’s insecurities were a result of childhood psychological wounds. As Connie discovered, he wasn’t as retarded as most people thought. But because of the assumptions from his parents and other family members, they treated him as if he had no reasoning or learning capabilities, which enhanced his insecurities and feelings of vulnerability.
Before he arrived at the nursing home he had lived in his sister’s house where he was relegated to the attic. So, he went from the attic to the cellar. Poor guy!!
Whenever he was around adults he felt very vulnerable and helpless. They all treated him as if he couldn’t handle life or any aspects of life, so he assumed the role and believed it himself until he was treated so much better in the hospital.
Jack’s insecurity then was based on the fact that he believed what everybody said about him,” he was retarded and couldn’t do anything.” He adopted their habit of thinking, except for instances with Connie and, the funny part, he would walk around talking about the scenes from the tv shows and repeating the script as if he was one of the characters. I don’t think I could do that!
Over the years, Jack adopted his parent’s beliefs about him as true. His behavior then became normal and natural to him.
But, he was able to develop new habits and behaviors with Connie and with the caregivers in the hospital.
Closer To Home
Many of us have insecurities that are minimal in comparison to Jack’s, yet, they cause us some discomfort, inconvenience, and concern. If Jack, who had all the odds stacked against him, could overcome his insecurities to talk to Connie and other caregivers, we should be able to break our habits of insecurities. We should be able to calm our critical inner voice.
Some people live with their insecurities and don’t attempt to change them stating that they were “genetically predisposed” to insecurities.
Yes, there is a “genetic tendency or predisposition” to things like alcohol, drugs, obesity, bulimia, music, introversion, art, extroversion, etc., but that doesn’t mean that the person will manifest the trait. Sure your personality can be influenced by your genetic tendency, but it is not determined by it.
I for one can attest to “genetic predisposition.” My grandfather was a severe alcoholic. The first time I had a drink of alcohol it felt so good. It felt like going home. But, I also knew the dangers of the tendency toward alcoholism, so I never allowed it to manifest. I have a drink occasionally, but in all my years’ alcoholism has not manifested.
That is the same for any other “genetic predispositions.” So, you cannot blame insecurity on “genetic disposition.” So, what causes it? How does a person become insecure?
There are many theories as to the cause of insecurity. It could be the result of a traumatic event in a person’s early childhood or bullying at home by siblings or at school. It can also depend upon the quality of parenting they receive or it happens by some accident.
Luciani states that more often than not it’s a by-product of faulty misperception or interpretation by the child. I know in my own childhood I was constantly assimilating information and trying to make interpretation of the events, words spoken, and actions by others.
Many times, though, information was missing or fragmented which yielded bad conclusions. Sometimes I was right in my assumptions, but just as often I was wrong. As I got older those bad assumptions had to be changed and updated. This happens to all of us as children to some degree.
If the assimilation and interpretation of information are combined with traumatic events the insecurity becomes more deeply rooted resulting in insecurities that become habits of behavior.
These habits of insecurity can be broken and changed, just like any other habit. Again, it comes down to how badly do you want the change. Are you willing to accept the challenge and actually work at breaking the insecurity? It’s simple, but it’s not easy. It takes dedication and desire to make the change.
Jack’s New Home
Jack’s several attempts to go back to where he felt wanted and loved was finally successful. It wasn’t long after his last attempt that the nursing home was closed. At that point, Connie’s dad took the time to actually listen to what Jack wanted and put him in a home in Deadwood.
Before I go any further I want you to know that you are important and valuable. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in someone else’s thoughts like Jack did. You are important. You have as much to contribute as anyone else. Jack also had much to contribute, if he had been given the opportunity.
What needs to be done is change the insecurity to security, to change distrust to self-trust, change depression and anxiety to empowerment.
The very first step is to DO THE OPPOSITE. It’s a technique of Self-Talk. Remember, We Feel What We Believe, so if you are feeling insecure, it’s because you believe you aren’t able to talk to someone or whatever the case may be.
Below is a list of things that people with insecurities say. I’m going to change them to the opposite. What I am adding is just a suggestion. Change it to fit you better.
Find a quiet place with paper and pen, computer, or tablet. Be ready to write. Read the statements below. Find the statements about insecurity that apply to you or find something else that makes you feel insecure. Write it out. Recognize how natural this makes you feel as you read it.
DO THE OPPOSITE
Write out the OPPOSITE. Recognize how uncomfortable the OPPOSITE makes you feel. Tell yourself that this feeling isn’t true, that it’s part of the distortion that you have come to believe as true.
Readout loud the OPPOSITE statements. You need to hear your own voice saying them. Set up a schedule and read the ones that resonate in your mind three times, three times per day. The more you read them the faster you will see change. Read them until they become comfortable and natural.
Insecurity Statements/OPPOSITE Statements
- I tend to be shy or uneasy with strangers. OPPOSITE: I can talk easily to strangers because God is my helper. Hebrews 13:6 “ The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
- I never have enough money. OPPOSITE: I have enough money and everything I need because God is my source. Philippians 4:19 “ my God supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
- I’m usually pessimistic. OPPOSITE: I am optimistic. All things are going to turn out for my good. Romans 8:28 “ … all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
- I often wish I were better looking. OPPOSITE: I look good.
- I have lots of fears. OPPOSITE: I am not afraid. God covers me with his wings; I will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend me. I need not fear any dangers at night or sudden attacks during the day. -PSALM 91:4–5
Often times we say things like, “I can’t do that,” or “I’m not good enough” over and over to ourselves — Critical Inner Voice. It sounds like our voice even if we’re saying it only in our heads. We rarely realize the implications of what we are saying. There is a principle in Psychology that says, “If you tell lies long enough, it begins to feel like the truth.”
Every word you speak either verbally or in your mind goes into your subconscious mind. When you repeat it over and over it begins to register as truth whether it’s positive or negative. Yes, the insecurities usually develop during early childhood. You start repeating these words from that time on, no matter where it comes from.
Words are like seeds that you plant in your garden. When you plant them, water them (by repetition) they begin to grow. With continual repetition, they grow and take over any other thoughts.
You can continue to plant the negative words and comments about yourself and your world or you can change it by planting, watering, and nurturing positive comments. As the positive comments begin to grow from repetition, as directed above, your inner voice will pick up the new positive words and feed them back to you for a positive change.
Originally published at http://www.denawarfield.com on August 14, 2019.