If you’ve ever had that uneasy feeling of insecurity creep in while you’re working on a project or sitting in a meeting, you’re not alone. Maybe you’ve had thoughts like, “Do I even know what I’m doing? Am I good enough at this?” or “Everyone else sounds like they know what they’re talking about. They’re going to think I look stupid.” This is an incredibly painful and scary place to be.
You might do all sorts of things to avoid letting people see how insecure you are. Maybe you keep quiet when you want to share an idea. Perhaps you don’t ask for clarification about something when you know you need it. Maybe keeping quiet isn’t your style and instead, you speak your mind, but not about the relevant issue at hand; you joke or talk in circles about the issue. You might take on a lot more responsibility than you can handle to prove your competence to others (and to yourself). There are a lot of different ways to hide insecurity.
Why is it so compelling to go to these lengths of protection against allowing others to see your self-doubt? Well, when you’re insecure about your ability, your skill, or your worth you’ve usually been comparing yourself to other people, generally in your group or cohort. Chances are, your cohort is important to you (as it is for most of us), and so is their acceptance and opinion. You fear their judgment, appearing one-dimensional, being misunderstood. You begin to feel that losing your membership to this group is a real possibility, that you could be excluded. As a human, you are a social being, driven to connect; you are motivated by relationships so, the threat of losing them is terrifying. You avoid exclusion and isolation from your group at all cost.
But when you’re focused on protecting yourself from pain and rejection, you’re not authentic which means you’re not being seen for who you are. Your group doesn’t get to see the real you and your bonds are not as strong as they might be. You’re trading one type of isolation for another. It can be easy to lose yourself in this and begin to develop more feelings of fear and loneliness.
What can you do? You don’t want to feel like this, but you don’t want them to find out you’re not as good as they think you are. There are many things you can do, but here are just a few. Here is the first recommendation:
-You’re going to have to stop thinking of yourself as, “not as good as they think you are.” That sounds like a substantial change in thought habit and it is, but it’s necessary. We can talk more about it. I’m not saying you don’t ever get to feel insecure again- it’s still an option (if you want it). Start slowly at first. For 10 or 15 minutes a day you will allow yourself to do something that gets you in touch with feeling your talent, worth, and expertise, on your way to becoming even more skilled. You can increase this time as you get the hang of it. This will build your confidence and increase your comfort with thinking more highly of yourself.
-Next, you have to allow yourself to say, “I don’t know.” You have to be able to say it to yourself and others. This will allow you to see that a) the earth doesn’t swallow you up if you don’t know everything and b) you can increase genuine self -confidence without knowing all the answers. I guarantee that you will find a sense of freedom the more you allow yourself to say, “I don’t know.”
-Finally, when someone compliments you or your work, start taking it in. Don’t push it aside. Don’t intellectualize it away until it’s meaningless. Allow yourself to feel positivity in it, however slight. Feel free to ask for specific feedback on the compliment, too, so that you can hold onto concrete examples of what someone appreciated about you or your work.
These are a few things that are helpful in getting the ball rolling away from your “fear of being found out,” toward the satisfaction and peace of living more authentically, enjoying increased self-confidence and more genuine relationships. People get to interact with you, not your defenses.
Love and Be Loved,