How To Overcome Insecurity

Though it seems to fade more by the week, day, hour, and sometimes minute, insecurity is something I've dealt with for a while.

Sometimes I'm insecure about the way I speak. Sometimes I spend hours overanalyzing my day and worrying that I'm not good enough

There are certain coping mechanisms that I've found that have helped me to overcome my insecurity. These mechanisms are like little tools in my mental health toolbox, and they've help me get through my professional and social life just fine. In particular, there's one method that I use and have noticed myself using more as my confidence grows.

That method? Oversharing.

And I mean oversharing of all information – small stories, big stories, back stories, future stories. The idea is that I'll get everything I'm insecure about out in the open before anyone can discover what's really going on. I know a lot of women feel this way – it has to do with the idea that at any moment the curtain will lift, and everyone will discover what a fraud you are. So by oversharing, not only are you putting the other person at ease by having a conversation filled with self-depreciating anecdotes (surely a symptom of Good Girl Syndrome – see above) but you're also protecting yourself.

It's a total win-win.

I've known about my tendency to use oversharing as a method for battling insecurity for a while, and last week as I attended my first Alt Summit I found myself yet again employing these means of constant too much information-ing.

Even though almost everyone in attendance was was incredibly friendly, completely on the same page, and encouraging in a way that only a room full of supportive, creative women can be, I was still insecure. Us introverts tend to find things to worry about. 

During the meeting and greeting and friendship-forming, what should be a simple question became a mental minefield for me with each person I met. The question that tripped me up the most: Where do you live?

The truth? The truth is that I live half in North Carolina, half in London in a complicated way that only expats in transition can fully understand. Case in point – I recently had a call with my U.S. phone carrier. When I explained to them that I'd soon return to London, they asked how long I'd be out of the country. After telling them that I didn't have an exact return date, hearing their confusion, then over explaining that right now I was in the U.S. but soon I'd be in London but then would be back hopefully sooner rather than later, I realized that my oversharing was hurting me rather than helping me. I was the crazy lady on the phone who talks so much that it sounds like she's just looking for someone to talk to.

I'm not that gal.

At Alt, where you're meeting someone each time you turn around, I found myself telling everyone I lived in "North Carolina" – air quotes and all – then explaining the entire story of the immigration process to sweet, confused Californians and Oregonians. (How easy it must be to just say "Portland" and smile.)

So instead? Instead, on the last day, I began telling everyone the truth – that I've been in living in London for about three years, and that my husband and I are in the process of moving to the States. Why was that so hard?

Oversharing is a protection mechanism. It puts me in control of situations which contributes to my new-found confidence. Still, I hope to get rid of my oversharing tendencies sooner rather than later. I'm aiming for honesty and simplicity in all areas of my life, including this one.

But until then, don't ask me any questions (even the simplest of ones) unless you want the real answer – self depreciation, air quotes, and all.


What To Do When You're Stuck

A good friend of mine recently made a big change. She moved across the country, started a new job, got a new apartment. When my friend first made this change, she was feeling pretty great about it.

A few months later and she's found herself feeling something a little different. The initial shock and shine of the move has now worn off, she's become comfortable in her new job (or is at least at the point now where she knows what she's doing/isn't afraid to eat in front of people), and now a new feeling has crept in.

Turns out the job wasn't exactly what she thought it would be. And the city she's moved to? It's a cool place to live, sure, but it's not really a fit for her anymore.

She's finding herself falling into old habits, reliving past lives, and overall realizing that what she thought she wanted turns out to be, well, not what she wants.

You see, my friend has begun to feel stuck.

If you've been in the position of feeling "stuck" before, then you know what a difficult place it is to be. It's like every part of you is fighting for something, but you have no idea what. You want a change, need a change, but you don't know what the change that you need to make even is, much less how to actually make it. It can be paralyzing and frustrating to say the least.

It's hard to even give advice on something like this. My friend isn't going to change anything right now – mainly because she doesn't know what she wants to change – but also because she's just made a big change, so what if she acts on her feelings and then finds herself unhappy again?

It's a hard place to be, folks. I don't think anyone would argue that.

It's rich that I'm writing about this because, if I'm honest, I'm not sure that I have ever felt this way exactly. I've felt similar before, sure, but I'm kind of a forever mover in all aspects in my life. As soon as I start to get that "stuck" feeling, I move on to something else.

(That's probably bad on several other levels, but we won't worry about that for now. Because I'm ready to move on to something else.)

Here are a few un-prompted suggestions on how to un-stick yourself:

Think about the reasons why you feel stuck. The real reasons – not the surface level reasons. Maybe you don't like your job, but why don't you like it, and why won't you leave it? Is it because you're worried you won't find something that's a better fit, or because you're scared of starting a new job? Or, maybe it's because, as Jess Lively put it on a recent podcast, you're a people pleaser (also known as a Good Girl) who's afraid of upsetting your colleagues by leaving.

Make a pro-con list. Stupid, right? Not really. I use pro-con lists on a regular basis in my adult human life and they really do help. (If you need some motivation, buy yourself a cute notebook to write the list in. That helps.)

Trust that gut. This is huge (the point, not your gut). It's said a lot, but it's amazing how often we overlook this. Intuition is a thing for a reason, guys. After you make that pro-con list, sit in a quiet room and look at it. Think on it. What items on that list make you feel good, and what items immediately make you feel bad? Try turning the list over, forgetting what's on it, and coming back to it later. No doubt something will jump out at you either in a positive way, or in a way that gives you the "no" feeling. (In which case, make sure that's a con.)

Still feeling stuck? Go for a run, pet a dog, watch "Tree of Life", read a good book, and give yourself time. When you're feeling stuck, a day can feel like an eternity, but remember that it's not. The feeling of being stuck is part of the learning process, the growth process, and you won't be there forever.

And if you're STILL feeling stuck? Well, there's a comment box below. Let's talk it out.

 

Photos by D Watterson III


The Good Girl Syndrome

For as long as I can remember, I've been eager to please: my parents, my teachers, my grandparents, and basically anyone I care about.

When I was 9-years-old my teacher handed me a letter for my parents. I'd been out sick for a few days, so naturally my first assumption was that I was in trouble for being sick. In trouble for being sick. Turns out, the letter was an invitation to test for a gifted class. (Spoiler alert: I didn't pass the test.) 

Perhaps needless to say, this trait has followed me into the working world and actually worsened as I've aged. Long gone are the days of receiving notes from teachers, here (to stay?) is the desire to please the boss, co-workers, and really just about anyone else I come in contact with whom I respect.

I've spent years putting in extra hours at work and on personal projects in hopes of getting that gold star at the end of the day. This isn't always detrimental – I enjoy my work and would never miss out on anything of real importance because of work, but it's more something that I consider to be a personal issue. When will I have ever worked enough hours or done enough good deeds in a day? When will it be good enough for them or, more importantly, for me? 

 

What's worse: without that gold star at the end of the day, I'm sometimes disappointed in myself and get that familiar feeling that I'm not. good. enough.

I've thought about this a lot. I considered that the "eager to please" trait might be an age thing that I'll grow out of, or an American thing. But I've come to realize that it's not.

In many cases, the overbearing eager-to-please gene is a female thing. 

I call it Good Girl Syndrome.

If you suffer from Good Girl Syndrome, then you know how awful it can be. How the end of the work day is met both with relief but also met with a gnawing feeling that you've disappointed...someone. 

Another part of the Syndrome: let's imagine something really does go wrong. Maybe you're late to an appointment or meeting, maybe you make a mistake or forget something important. The feeling of remorse from that is terrible and all-consuming. Situations where I've made some human, regular mistake will stay with me for days over the fear that I've let someone down or basically just look like a Bad Girl.

Obviously the first step to resolving a problem is admitting you have a problem, so I'm owning up to my issues with Good Girl Syndrome in hopes that other gals out there will do the same and at least take notice of the issue if they haven't before.

Maybe if we're all a little more supportive of each other, or can agree to work towards a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, we'll start to feel better about ourselves, the work that we're doing, and the days that are passing. At least that's what this Good Girl hopes.

If you're interested in reading more about women and confidence, I'd recommend this article from The Atlantic. I'd also love to hear your comments and thoughts on this, so please feel free to chime in below!