In 10th grade, I read a lot of Emerson and Whitman. A quote from Emerson has stuck by me through the dozen or so years since then:
Most of the shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.
I didn’t exactly get it at the time. I just thought the words were pretty. I was 15 or 16, a cheerleader, and spent my weekends at horse shows. I was pretty content in my rural Virginia bubble.
As I got older – as I get older – I have learned how firmly I can stand in my own way. We take two steps forward and allow insecurity or fear to send us three steps back.
The concept of insecurity and self-confidence has come up in discussions a lot during the last couple of weeks, in various ways, shapes, and forms. It has been interesting, to listen to how my friends, all of whom are beautiful and strong and wonderful in their own right, struggle with insecurities and a lack of self-confidence. Listening to their stories and sharing my own has led me to this idea:
We all fight our particular brand of insecurity each and every day. We feel like “posers,” as one friend put it. I liked that idea as a way to explain insecurity – that we pose in our ordinary life, feeling like we don’t actually belong there, even though we are exactly who and where we are meant to be in that moment.
I am pretty well-equipped to deal with my own insecurities, after years of fighting with them. I have learned how to take a step back and give myself a pep talk when I need it. Here are a few ways I deal with insecurity:
- Take a time out. Sometimes, I will simply step away. I will duck into the bathroom or take a quick walk around the block to breathe. Taking a few deep breaths usually calms me down and allows me to focus and re-frame the situation at hand.
- Give yourself a pep talk. Know how you see people on TV, looking at themselves in the mirror and telling themselves how great they are? Do that. I don’t exactly use a mirror, but I will stop – usually while taking the above mentioned time out – and tell myself something along the lines of “you have got this” or else recite a favorite Bible verse or quote to remind myself to rise above my own insecurities.
- Visualize. Professional athletes swear by visualization and so do I. When I’m nervous about something, I visualize myself doing whatever I’m nervous about, and see it going well. Before I taught my first barre class, I spent what probably amounted to hours visualizing the class. I would drive around running errands, listening to my playlist and visualizing my thigh set. I do this before work meetings, too, even before meeting new people.
- Fake it until you make it. At my previous job, the CEO frequently said “fake it until you make it.” Speak with confidence. Carry yourself with confidence. Look the part, even if inside, you are absolutely freaking out. I received that piece of advice again about teaching barre, and have been giving that advice to others – just fake it, even if you have no idea what you’re doing. Chances are, no one else will know you aren’t sure what comes next. And suddenly, after all that faking, you suddenly realize you made it.
At the end of the day, “you were born to be real, not perfect.”
Everyone struggles with insecurity and self-confidence. Everyone deals with those struggles in different ways. I have found myself in a place, after years of struggle, where I can recognize insecurity for what it is and react. Others may cope with insecurities by retreating into themselves or not taking the opportunities presented to them for fear of failure. Still others may cope with their own insecurities by treating others as inferior as a way to feel better about themselves. We all react differently.
When insecurity strikes, recognize it, but don’t let it hold you back.
You don’t have to be perfect. Just real.