I have encountered enough girls in my life to know that girls have insecurities, running rampant.
I believe that 99% of our reactions to other people stem from insecurities and experiences within ourselves (unless, of course, an outlier might be an injustice being caused, but then again, that can also be boiled down to an insecurity). I recently got mad at a co-worker, spent two days fuming about a comment he made, and then I realized that the reason I was mad had nothing to do with him, but rather that it reminded me of an ex-boyfriend, who was very disrespectful towards me, which in turn, brought up an insecurity that I, myself, carry from that relationship.
Insecurities can come in many different forms: insecurities of the body, insecurities of intellect, insecurities of territory. In ‘That Post-Confrontation Awkwardness’, I write about a situation I had with an ex-mother-in-law. And, as it turns out, the whole lecture she gave me had nothing necessarily to do with me, but rather her own insecurities of losing her son; she, being the primary female figure in his life for so long, felt threatened by the fact that someone else might come in and “mess up all of her hard work”, so she targeted me as a projection of her own fears and insecurities. If we look at identity as formed by gauging and comparing ourselves to those around us, rather than inherent to the self, then we can see how and why insecurities develop. So, she bounced her ideals off of my ideals, compared her life achievements to mine, uncovered some uncomfortable, potentially underdeveloped philosophies, and began questioning her identity.
I, myself, have an insecurity of going into places by myself. When I was growing up, my parents would try to drop me off at the front of Wal-Mart just to “run in and pick up a few things”, and I would throw a temper tantrum, quarantine myself off in the car until they finally gave in, parked, and came in to the store with me. I never wanted to ride the bus to school, so I would purposely be late enough, miss it, and my mom would be forced to take me. It had to do with social acceptance and my insecurity of being alone; because, being alone meant that I didn’t have any friends (which I didn’t, so going into the store confirmed that for me), no one liked me, and no one liked me probably because there was something wrong with me.
I also have an insecurity of eating in front of other people. Sure, if the whole group is eating, then I have no problem eating with them. But, if I am the only one, I feel like everyone is watching, and judging every single bite and chew I take. I think this stems from my experiences being a dancer. As we all know, dancers are very concerned with their body images, and I grew up in a community of people who were constantly counting their calories, rationing their portions, and delaying their meals.
And, of course, I have an insecurity with anything related to cars. I never make my own judgments of what to do, always make everything really dramatic as soon as the tire pressure light comes on, and never trust my own abilities to change the blinker fluid (but, of course, this also stems from the fact that I blew up two cars so I just don’t want to take the chance).
However, I learned to get over some of my insecurities really fast when I made my college dance team and was thrown in front of a crowd of 80,000 people wearing nothing. No longer could I hide in a corner, because I had to face 80,000 people.
I see insecurities present themselves all the time in my high school classroom. Just the other day, I praised a student for a very insightful idea. Under her breath, another student muttered, “that’s just because you are the teacher’s pet”. This reveals more about the latter student, rather than the praised student; it is evident that the latter student has some kind of insecurity about her intellect, and therefore, it’s easier to put down someone else instead of deal with that insecurity at face value.
Or, doing things like constantly checking someone’s Facebook status to find something vague, like, “Can’t wait for this week to be over”, and then automatically assuming its about you demonstrates an insecurity. Or, watching someone in the hallway, hyper-analyzing all of their movements, and getting offended that they don’t say hi to you, because “that means they must be mad at you” demonstrates an insecurity. Shopping at the mall and making fun of “the way that girl walks” or “that awful haircut” or refracting from complimenting someone on an accomplishment, because you think “she just got lucky” or “it’s not fair, I work hard too” also demonstrates insecurities; because it’s about competition: I am judging, and putting someone else down to feel better about myself.
And, what girls with what they perceive as “lots of insecurities” tend to do is target girls who they perceive “have no insecurities”. This is how bullies are formed. Bullies are often some of the most insecure individuals; they cover up their sensitivity by putting others down. They feel threatened by those who appear to “have no insecurities”, and try desperately to find breaches, to find even one potentially irrelevant flaw, so they, themselves, can feel better. I once had a room mate in college/member of my dance team, who, when I came home from class, would be sitting in the living room, stalking other girls’ on our teams’ Facebook pages, making fun of their pictures, of their dance abilities, and even of their voices. And, all of this judging stemmed from an insecurity she held about her own dance skill and membership to the team.
But, what these girls with “lots of insecurities” forget is that those girls who “have no insecurities”, at one point had their own insecurities, and still have their own insecurities, but have just found ways to deal with those insecurities.
I think overcoming insecurities comes with a few realizations. First, we must remember that we are our own worst critics, and that human nature is to be selfish and self-promoting. When you think we are judging you, we are actually just thinking about ourselves. I used to get myself in this crutch all the time; “I hope they don’t notice my half-eyebrow”, and then spend a good majority of the day trying to hide it; “I hope they don’t notice that I am actually very sensitive”, and then spend your days, trying to cover that up, and be harsh towards people; “I hope they don’t notice that I gained two pounds this week”, and then spend hours in the mirror, figuring out which angles hide that “extra weight”. The truth of the matter is, people probably are not noticing these anomalies about you, because they are too worried about themselves.
Second, I think we must learn to accept that no one is perfect, and therefore, we are not either. This should be a pretty easy realization, because, through our insecurities, we have spent an immense amount of time judging other people to make ourselves feel better, and we have already figured out where their imperfections are.
Last, as any fear research suggests, the best way to overcome a fear and insecurity is to expose ourselves to it. It requires a shift in thinking; from, “Everyone is going to think I don’t have friends if I go into the store by myself”, to, “I just have to roll back my shoulders, walk confidentially, and pay attention to how many other people are shopping alone”, from, “I don’t want people to watch me eating” to “Everyone has to eat”.
I believe that what we experience, as humans, is actually very common and universal, but that the mode in which those experiences present themselves are different. At some point in our lives, we all learn that our parents are not quite the people we think they are; for some of us, it happens through a re-marriage, for others, it happens through the raising of our children. At some point in our lives, we all experience failure; for some of us, failure just looks like not making the school play, for others, it happens when we lose our job, our family, and our house. At some point in our lives, we all experience insecurities; for some of us, it is in the form of not going into stores alone or eating in front of other people, for others, it is in the form of losing territory on our children or control of our relationships. But, I think the key is to learn to work through these insecurities, because it is within hard work and suffering that the gifts of life and knowledge are revealed.