To some extent, many of us deal with insecurities. Whether it’s feeling self-conscious of our body or not being “smart” enough for medical school, we have internal struggles in our daily lives. Insecurity is basically a lack of confidence in oneself. Even the most-confident of a person with a healthy, working conscience has doubts about himself from time to time. About one’s skills, accomplishments, and overall worth in society.
Sometimes, insecurities are controllable, but other times they can become so crippling that it leads to mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Failing one’s bar exam after two year’s worth of studying, for example, can be humiliating to the individual, and it can create low self-esteem and, even worse, the lack of motivation to try again. Feeling inadequate results in sadness, bitterness, and general fear that one cannot amount to anything great in life.
I have my insecurities. Growing up, I had the persistent problem of trying to make friends. I’d attributed it to my extreme shyness in combination with my resting bitch face, which often didn’t make me approachable in public. While I did have a small group of friends throughout primary school, I also felt as if I didn’t even belong to that group. I felt isolated even in the group, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong with me. As a result, it made me even more withdrawn and unapproachable to any new person I met.
This insecurity of being unable to make friends easily carried with me into the first year of college, where the pool of people was larger (i.e. more people=more potential to make friends). Having had the experiences I had during primary school, I let my insecurities affect how I interacted with others: I regret having pushed away acquaintances who’d actually tried to reach out to me, as they could’ve been great friends. I was very much in my zone of feeling worthless from my insecurity that I didn’t really try to meet people.
My extreme shyness and RBF weren’t the only factors that’d made me unapproachable (and hence unable to make friends easily): it was also my discomfort at making conversations. I’m awkward from the get-go, and I also have a severe insecurity with my voice, which is quite monotonous and low for a woman’s. I’ve hated the sound of my voice growing up, as some people have commented about it and I didn’t feel good about it. That was why I hated having to open my mouth and make small talk, and in a way, I didn’t have enough “practice” in the art of conversation, to the point that I remained an awkward conversationalist even in my early twenties.
However, sometime following my 22nd birthday, things slowly started changing. It was the year I finished college, and I went off to France to work. I spent that first year abroad dealing with the “real world,” as I experienced the struggle to understand a different culture and language, all the while getting my first taste of the occasional xenophobia and racism. Previously coming from a liberal, PC culture made it a huge shock when I went to one that was the opposite, and it increased my feelings of insecurity, all the while made it difficult to make friends, with expats and locals alike.
At the same time, however, that first year also saw my ability to overcome my insecurities. I traveled solo extensively, and along the way met a lot of people from all kinds of cultures. Pushing myself to go to different countries, as well as making myself go out to public events, e.g. bars, Couchsurfing meetups, clubs, gave me exposure to people, with whom I had to talk to over a pint. Of course, I was still awkward and shaky with small talk, but bit-by-bit, it started to become easier for me. Conversations became more predictable, in a way, as most of it was travel-related (a field I’m passionate about) and the comfort of knowing that I wouldn’t see fellow travelers again gave such talks less pressure than, say, an extensive one with an individual I’d be stuck with for a while. Not the best way to put it, I’m sure, but for a novice conversationalist like myself, I needed that to start off with.
That first year abroad improved me considerably, as well as lessened my insecurities a bit. I actually made more friends than I ever did in my first 22 years of life– even if they ended up becoming more of acquaintances after the year was up, I’m still glad to have met them and doing so gave me a huge confidence boost that made the second, third, and fourth years in France much easier to navigate.
I’m by no means 100% over my insecurities today– I still get my bouts of anxiety when I have to talk to people, let alone establish rapport with them. But what I’ve learned is that it’s okay not to have everyone like you; not everyone can like each other, and that’s okay. It’s the ones who put in the effort to get to know you who are the ones you should try it out with. Learning to loosen up and smile more makes a big difference not just in being approached, but also in your mood– you’ll definitely feel happier and more confident if you smile, even if just a bit! Also practicing conversational skills is imperative: while you don’t need to make extensive small talk if you don’t like it (I despise it), having a few ice-breakers to start before going deeper is a solid way to get in with people.
From my experiences growing up insecure, I can say that the “faking until you make it” motto rings some truth. While you shouldn’t completely change yourself to fit someone’s ideal mold, learning to embrace your quirks and flaws will make you more approachable to others. Admitting to and owning your mistakes is also indelible, as you can then begin your process of self-improvement. The worst thing that you can do is to remain stagnant, to believe that you’re not tall or smart enough to do anything about it.
Overall, it’s important not to let your insecurities define who you are. You should never feel like they’re unchangeable, and you should always strive to better yourself each time you feel unhappy or dissatisfied with something you said or did. Don’t regret a negative experience, and always work to improve, so that you minimize a similar situation from happening again.
What are your insecurities? Are you working to change them and how? Let me know!
PS Will probably make a Part 2 to this post, as I have more to say on this subject. Stay tuned!
— The Finicky Cynic
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