The more I observe people (including myself and my loved ones) the better I see that insecurity is the source of most, if not all, of our problems. To put it simply, we all have insecurities. And sometimes, these insecurities hurt us, destroy our relationships, and affect our wellbeing.
This problem is so common that it is a shame that we still fail at empathy, at compassion, and understanding- we still do not see that the person we are arguing with might be having issues with their own insecurities. What is more, it does not matter how much we have accomplished, how far we have traveled in life, how gorgeous others may think we are. We, the poor mortals, find a way to belittle, distrust, and chew ourselves. Give me a Ph.D., a CEO, an attorney, a doctor, a top model, a great actor, and I bet that all they have insecurities. You think this or that person is so full of themselves, so arrogant, and even rude? Sometimes those who speak the loudest, those who seem to be so sure of themselves, are the least secure ones among us. Nobody wants to be hurt. None of us would like to fail.
What you have (or lack) ≠ Who you are
It is one thing to have insecurities, and another to be an insecure person. As quite a shy person who constantly (constantly!) doubts everything and especially herself, I have had to develop a few tools of mindfulness, so that I would not become an insecure person. These tools have helped me organize my life, stay in the moment while planning for the future, appreciate my talents and skills, and celebrate my loved ones. Among these tools is practicing affirmations. The reason why affirmations help is that people do not want conflict between their thoughts, their words, and their acts. This is why, for example, when you make it a habit of kissing your partner good morning (an act), you can be sure that that kiss will make it easier to resolve any conflict between you two (thoughts and feelings). Take another example: When I was working at restaurants, I realized that putting an act of being happy and welcoming actually ended up affecting my feelings and thoughts. No wonder William James, the American philosopher, famously said:
We don't cry because we are sad. We are sad because we cry.
Similarly, then, we end up behaving in line with the self-image which we portray through these affirmations. If I constantly repeat to myself that I am a neat person, I will have to make some changes in my life to become neat. So it is something like this:
Affirmation–> Self-image–> Believing in yourself–> Acting accordingly
Write it down, self-doubter
Now I want to share with you, my fellow doubters, another tool which will help especially if your self-doubt is due to your constantly comparing yourself to others, and thinking that they are more productive than you are. If productivity defines your value, let us show you how much you accomplish every day.
Because we do accomplish a lot. I remember that years ago one day, I was complaining about myself to my dear friend. I had all these plans for the weekend, I was going to be so very productive, the most productive person on earth, but it did not happen. I felt like I wasted an entire day, I didn’t get any writing done, and I just cooked, did the laundry, called my parents, and did a little grocery shopping, and the day was gone. My friend said to me: “But you did so much already! You did enough, don’t you see?” She helped me look at my day from another perspective. I did not have to be the most productive person on earth. Every body has its own rhythm. Every person has theirs. I had my own progress, my own path, and that was great. Friends are great when you listen to them.
I once had a colleague who was his worst enemy. He kept talking badly about himself. At first, I took this as a strange sense of humour, but it kept getting worse. One day, he did not show up at work. When I called him, he said that he was not sick, but he just felt like a failure. He swore that he does not do anything on his days off. He was certain that he was incapable of even the easiest tasks, and he did not know how he was able to get this job in the first place. He was disappointed in himself, guilt-ridden, and ashamed. Having read David Burns’ Feeling Good, I had an idea. I asked him to please please please listen to my advice. I wanted him to write down whatever he accomplishes every day. From brushing his teeth to doing the laundry, from walking the dog to washing his car, I wanted him to write it all down.
A few days later he was indeed feeling better. This was not a cure-all, perhaps, but I am sure that it helped him. Writing has a curious power. Thinking of something versus writing it down, writing always wins.
before going to bed, do these two things
So write down your accomplishments every night. Write down whatever you have accomplished that day. You will be amazed to find that even on your “laziest” day, you accomplish quite a lot. Were you able to stick with your diet? Good for you. Write it down. You had a walk in the park? Write it down. From cleaning the bathroom to calling your aunt who is in the hospital, write it down. Appreciate yourself for being calm on the phone with your insurance company. Celebrate yourself for being mindful that day. “I was not defensive when mum criticized me over such and such.” Write it down.
Then, list the things that you need to do the following day. Anything from appointments to work that needs to be done, from social engagements to business meetings or family gatherings.
These lists will not take more than a few minutes, but they might have huge impacts on your everyday life.
What are the benefits?
If you do these *consistently*, you are already in a better situation than before you have started this practice, because you have taken an initiative. This practice will help you in three direct ways:
- You will see progress. If three weeks ago you ran half a mile in the park, you will realize that today you were able to run a full mile. These notes will be your diary of progress. You will realize not only that you indeed accomplish things, but also that you get better at them!
- You will feel more confident. The more you realize how much you accomplish, and the more progress you see in these accomplishments, the more confident you become of your own beautiful self.
- You end up changing the ways in which you talk about/to yourself. You will not always complain about how much time you have wasted all day, because, now you will know yourself better. When you stop bad-mouthing yourself, your self-image changes, and when your self-image changes, your behaviour changes. When your behaviour changes, you feel even more confident. Just like the affirmations I mentioned above.
You do not become a completely different person from one day to the other. So you should do this consistently, remembering that everyone has their own rhythm. But you will start seeing yourself through a different lens in only a few days. You might gain a lot, by giving a few minutes every night for a few weeks. You might enjoy it so much that this habit might become a keeper!