I have a confession; I feel insecure rather often.
After having a conversation with someone, I sometimes have this crushing feeling that all my ideas are just wrong or my knowledge incomplete. And that I would be safer and feel better if I just kept my thoughts to myself because everybody else knows better than I do. Recently I had a conversation with two other people and one of them wanted to talk about misogyny. He asked me what I thought about the #metoo campaign. I didn’t have a clear-cut answer. I think there’s something valuable about sharing experiences but I can accept that there are pitfalls with hashtag campaigns. He was very respectful of my opinions and seemed curious about what I thought. I walked away from the conversation feeling like I’d gained something from it and interested in looking up some book recommendations. But it didn’t take long for the insecurities to set in. “Why did you say that? What will they think? You don’t know enough to talk about that…” I hate that feeling and I have a suspicion that it’s something I picked up along the way. Surely it isn’t something one is born with. If it is something I learnt, then I would like to know how to unlearn it.
Unfortunately, I don’t think there is one simple fix for it. I guess in this particular situation, one of the things I can do is go out and have more conversations and be willing to be challenged on my opinions. I can also learn how to thoughtfully and respectfully challenge others.
Insecurity, however, goes beyond conversations with acquaintances. I think it shows up in my close relationships, in my work and in the way I see myself. I’m not sure that by learning how to behave in certain situations I will be able to root out what’s behind the unpleasant thoughts. I want to deal with the feeling as well as learning to improve in situations where I feel inferior.
It can be difficult for me to let go of thoughts that are critical. After that particular conversation, I couldn’t shake this feeling of dread on the tram on the way home. I kept thinking about what I should’ve said and about how I need to read more and learn more and listen better. Sometimes the thoughts take hold and I feel like a hurricane is tearing through my mind. Years ago, before I was diagnosed with depression, those thoughts were a lot bigger and wilder and scarier. I didn’t know what was happening to me. My inner voice would go on tirades about how bad I was or how fat I looked or how hideous my soul was… I would have awful dreams and imagine the most terrible things. Therapy helped with a lot of that but I have noticed that some of my insecurity remains. It seems to have morphed into something smaller, less threatening, less dogmatic. It’s not “You’re fundamentally evil and don’t deserve love” but “Your ideas aren’t refined enough; you need to learn more and before you speak/write/share”. It’s more of an invitation to retreat rather than a statement about who I am. It’s like my insecurity takes on the disguise of a helpful suggestion. It’s sneaky like that.
Knowing what’s happening to you is important when you struggle with feelings of insecurity. Being aware that I have this helps me catch the thoughts early and I do manage to stop them. Sometimes I get there late; when I’m tired or have period pains or something negative happened during the day, it can be a lot harder to get myself out of the thought spiral.
Writing this made me realise that I’ve linked depression to feeling insecure. I’m not sure if these two can be separated. Perhaps feeling insecure is part of having depression. Life is mostly good these days but these insecurities remind me of the more fragile, more obscure parts of my mind.
I have picked up so many unhelpful, inaccurate and damaging thoughts and beliefs and somehow made them my own. I know that the process of unlearning deeply rooted beliefs can’t be easy or quick. But I am hopeful and willing to do the work.