Over the course of the last few months, I have noticed more and more of my clients have begun addressing their needs regarding managing their insecurities. These insecurities can stem from childhood, traumatic experiences, or relational experiences that have made us question our sense of worth. If we do not have a way to actively manage our insecurities, we run the risk of succumbing to judgement, and before we know it, we lose touch with our own sense of self. When we lose touch with our sense of self, we open the door for unhealthy behaviors, such as negative self-talk, people pleasing, feeling the need to filter ourselves, or starting to live in a guilt or shame cycle.
I want to take a moment to make a distinction between guilt and shame which many people use interchangeably. Guilt is a normal emotion that we all experience when we feel we are at fault for something. Guilt is identifying that we did something wrong. Shame is embedded on a deeper level—while it may start out as guilt, if we find ourselves feeling guilty regularly, sometimes it evolves into shame where we begin to think we are something wrong. Shame can act as a barrier to a life of authenticity because it takes nurturing and self-actualization to pinpoint what makes up that shame.
Something I share with clients in our early sessions is that I am not the type of clinician who will sit back, constantly psychoanalyze you, and be quick to draw my own assumptions or diagnosis. Instead, I bring my authentic self into the room and genuinely take time to listen, laugh, and hold that space for vulnerable emotions. I do this because this is authentically me. I do not have a “therapist” character and a separate “Diana” character. These two roles overlap with one another because I have a genuine interest in helping others feel empowered to make their own decisions based on their own value system and no one else’s (including mine). What I have come to find about this approach is that clients feel more willing to explore what makes up their insecurities, because they know they have someone in their corner who genuinely cares.
I want to outline some ways to free yourself from judgement (self-inflicted or not) and live with authenticity.
- Take inventory of what fulfills you. A typical way that people try to gain fulfillment is by hitting “milestones” or checking things off our bucket list. Take a moment and think about where these “milestones” came from. Were these “milestones” something that you came up with on your own, or were they pushed on you based on what was modeled for you and what society or other people in your life wanted for you? No matter the answer, we must cultivate a state of mind to know if we feel satisfied with our decisions, both day by day and over time. Create a list of what fulfills you as a person and think about what active steps you are taking each day to continue striving for the items on that list. For example, one thing that fulfills me is fostering meaningful connections. On a personal level, this means surrounding myself with friends who challenge me, support me, and who embody a growth mindset.
- Know your limits and prioritize your wellbeing. It is great to strive for growth, but in doing so, you want to make sustainable changes and nurture different aspects of yourself, keeping in mind that we will all continuously evolve. Knowing your boundaries both emotionally and mentally will help you continue to make decisions based on your drive and no one else’s. If you need a quick rundown on boundaries, I recommend reading this article.
- Accept the mixed bag of life. There are going to be moments when we compare ourselves to others, and it is especially easy to do this when we have constant access to social media. It seems that everyone wants to be able to post achievements or “picture perfect” moments so that they remember these moments and do not take them for granted. Although, let’s be honest, some people post as a way to overcompensate for the areas in their life that they are not proud of. I can guarantee you that those same people who post about their achievements and highlight those special moments, have also experienced times in their lives when they felt vulnerable, alone, or started to question their sense of self. If they say they haven’t, they are either putting on a façade, are not being honest with themselves, or have been sheltered from life experiences.
- Remember everyone feels insecure about SOMETHING. I hope this statement comes with a sense of normalization and reassurance that everyone has something that they are unsure about. What is less common is for people to disclose these feelings to others. You could be scared to share an aspect of your life that is less than picture perfect, or a different idea or opinion that you have for how you see things, because you do not know how the people around you will react. I would ask you: are you living your life and making decisions based on the acceptance or approval of others? If so, its time to make some sustainable changes.
Being careful not to overgeneralize, I have found that Cancer survivors can be helpful to look toward as a model for living authentically while embodying inner strengths. There is a shift in both perspective and time that leads them to want to treat each day as precious and to adopt values that reflect grace. The “small” things that used to bother them or hinder them no longer matter on the larger scale of things. In those vulnerable months of treatment, not knowing what the outcome of their prognosis is going to be and having a baseline level of anxiety over whether the cancer will come back, they make decisions about how they choose to see life and what they choose to do with it. Obviously, I am not saying to live life recklessly with no regard for the wellbeing of others. I am saying to look at your actions and determine for yourself what decisions you are making out of fear of judgement. Decide today what actions you will take that reflect courage and authenticity, and live life unapologetically.