Dealing with Insecurity

There are times every day when I feel small. My words are so soft that they barely make the air move when they’re spoken. I exist within such a limited space that I may as well just evaporate and leave my body stranded between strangers, a speck of silence. What I have come to realize about this smallness is that although I ascribe it to myself, it stems from insignificant comments made in passing, remarks meant to be forgotten. Yet they have solidified and become ingrained within me, shrinking me down as a result. 

In trying to write about insecurity I have discovered how challenging it is to verbalize. Any way I approach the subject feels either disingenuous or dramatized. My insecurity exists in an amorphous state, floating somewhere above my head, above my words. Its presence is so subtle yet constant that making it explicit with words is challenging. But I’ll try my best.

In my own life, insecurity materializes in the form of questions, a staircase of questions that I am unable to resist tumbling down step by step until I reach the bottom. Insecurity forces me to question others’ thoughts, to question my own actions, and finally, to question myself. I look around a crowded room at an event and realize that I’m the only person not having a conversation. Do I seem awkward and bad at making friends? Do I act in a way that makes them think that? Am I just not an approachable person? Finally, the conclusion is reached: I’m not worth talking to, which is why no one bothers. When looking back at the situation, regaining consciousness from my mental tumble, I realize how ridiculous it all sounds. The reason I’m not talking to anyone is because I haven’t gone up and introduced myself. It is not a reflection upon my ability to make friends but rather on the situation itself. Yet, in the moment, the feeling of not enough, of small in comparison, is all-consuming. It leaves me frozen. At times, I stutter and draw a blank during conversation. I leave a gap that the other person then begrudgingly overextends themselves to fill. Are they not engaged in the conversation? Do they think the way I’m responding is boring? Am I a boring person? Finally: I am not worth having a conversation with because I make boring conversation. The reality is that gaps in conversation are natural and happen to everyone, and any gaps I experience are not a reflection upon the quality of my conversation but rather the natural ebbs and flows of conversation in general. Yet this rational conclusion can only be reached after the fact. When someone doesn’t remember my name, and I have seen and spoken to that person countless times before, the conclusion that I fall into is this: I am simply not a memorable person, not enough of a person. All of these bizarre mental skips, these self-ascribed shortcomings, feed into my self-inflicted insecurity; the amorphous, negative version of myself that follows me like a shadow.

Part of what makes insecurity so challenging to write about is the fact that I don’t like talking about it. I would rather focus on the positives of my experiences with the world and avoid feelings of vulnerability. Of course, I talk about my insecurity with friends, but even then, verbalizing it is challenging—one insecurity feeds into the next which stems from the next and so on. Touch one part of my spiderweb of perceived shortcomings and the whole thing shakes, threatening to break. Aside from being a challenging topic of conversation, talking about insecurity feels, somehow, very middle school. I would rather not transport myself into tweenhood, a pimpled, tearful age where my words used to come out all wrong and my body felt lopsided. I have supposedly entered into a new era, one where I feel balanced and speak confidently. After all, college-aged women should know better than to give power to insecurity. While it is true that I feel more empowered and secure now than I have at any other point in my life, I will admit that my insecurity still causes me to stumble over my words. I tumble from one wrong conclusion to the next and end up feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.

Insecurity can be incredibly isolating. So, I am writing this article to say: It’s okay, I get it. It happens to me too. As a college freshman, the uncomfortable experiences that I have endured in the past three months are innumerable, and if I took the time to overthink each one I would probably end up graduating four years late. What I have realized after embarrassing myself countless times in front of others, after all the awkward hellos and uncomfortable introductions is that a) no one really cares; everyone is too trapped in their own heads to notice my perceived mistakes, and b) I need to stop putting myself down just for existing. Others’ personalities should not become the expectation for my own. I am an imperfect person, but so is everyone else. 

It’s okay for me to be concerned about my actions; that’s a sign that I’m reflecting and trying to improve. What’s not okay is doubting my existence because of a silly slip-up in a social situation and allowing that self-doubt to diminish my worth. I am tired of concerning myself with the contents of others’ heads, and I’m tired of writing their opinions about me into existence. I am not a mind reader and, after all, my opinion about myself is the only one that should really matter. If someone has a problem with that, they aren’t the right person for me to have around anyway. There’s no one solution for insecurity, no quick fix I can provide. But what I’ll say is this: just because you feel small sometimes, doesn’t mean you are.



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