Insecurities can creep in on any aspect and in any stage of life. Whether an event in your early childhood marked you, or a circumstance in your adult life scarred you, insecurity can hinder your ability to fully express yourself and instead encourage you to hide under a shell. But fear not, these barriers can be removed. Like the English poet W.C. Henley wrote, become a “Master of your Fate and Captain of Your Soul” by recognizing and applying the power you have to control your thoughts and face your fears.
1. Choose Your Thoughts Wisely
In his book “What to Say When you Talk To Yourself,” behavioral researcher & psychologist Shad Helmstetter introduces the idea that each one of us is programmed from birth on. “Leading researchers have found that as much as 75% or more of our programming may be negative or working against us.” Despite that, you have the power to give your mind the right directions to do the right thing. If you don’t, it will continue to respond to the negative programming that you have been giving it (possibly without even being aware of it).
James Messina, author of “Tools for Personal Growth,” suggests taking a rational approach to each problem you face so that you are no longer inhibited by debilitating fears or beliefs. To do so, try to avoid taking yourself too seriously, and cultivate a healthy and humorous belief in yourself to help you overcome your need for acceptance and approval.
2. Remember That You Create Your Own Reality
Remember Helen Keller? The world-renowned author who became deaf and blind shortly after birth? Despite her great misfortune, she overcame her difficulties and authored her way into the pages of history. Personal-success writer Napoleon Hill describes how “her entire life served as evidence that no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.” Past failures don’t define you, in reality they can get you closer to success… if you let them.
To break the barrier of self-doubt that can contribute to your feelings of insecurity, Messina recommends placing yourself in a vulnerable position. It can sound scary, but that is where growth can come from. Breaking out of your “shell” requires letting go of past hurts (real or imagined, self-inflicted or inflicted by others) and moving on with your life. Reward yourself for who you are and capitalize on your strengths, attributes, skills and competencies. In the words of Gloria Steinem, “without self-esteem, the only change is an exchange of masters; with it, there is no need for masters.”
3. Cultivate the Habit of Excellence
Another way to overcome your insecurity is by examining the habits and patterns that shape your day-to-day. Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” describes the processes within our brains as a three-step loop: a cue, a routine, and a reward. When a habit emerges, your brain is actually no longer fully participating in the making of your decisions.
Keep in mind, habits aren’t your destiny. “Unless you deliberately fight a habit — unless you find new routines — the pattern will unfold automatically.” Understanding how your habits work and breaking them into its components can help you fiddle with them to eventually change them. What patterns do you seek to change in your life?
4. Practice Assertive Behavior and Gain Courage
As with anything, practice makes perfect. Messina recommends that practicing assertive behavior in your life can help you earn respect and the acknowledgment of your rights. “Arouse the courage to take small steps in learning to experience success and overcoming your lack of belief in yourself. Once you experience success, you can build upon on it to gain the courage to act out of a strong conviction in your self-goodness and self-worth.”
Take a look at the vicious cycles in your life, and focus on transforming them into virtuous cycles. If you open yourself up to the possibility of success and accomplishment, if you visualize or make a prophecy of winning at life, your energy is focused in the direction of overcoming your insecurity.
5. Talk to Yourself in Terms of Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
Keep in mind the importance of being constant. Like Kobe Bryant, who starts his daily training in the basketball court at 4 a.m., it is the cumulative force of your daily actions that shapes your character. In the words of Hill, “All external solutions are temporary. Without constant attention and effort, even the most exciting success breakthroughs run their course and eventually end up on our list of good ideas and good intentions.” Talk to yourself constantly in terms of self-esteem and self-worth, and eventually you can reprogram your thoughts and brain patterns to leave your insecure self behind.