Perhaps some of us build confidence over the years and never experience a moment of doubt or insecurity. Someday, I may join that exclusive group of people. But today, I awoke feeling just a bit insecure about my life. Am I going in the right direction? Do I contribute anything valuable? Do I even have any special talents? As artists, we learn to feel deeply. It’s what contributes to great art. But it can also be a challenge. Insecurity about our gifts can be overwhelming and weigh us down. As I learn to walk through my emotions, I’ve developed a self-care toolbox that I felt I’d share.
My first step is acceptance. Surrender to the emotion of the moment. Admit that you feel insecure. Whether that’s about your art, career, life partner, or general direction in life. When we fully accept our emotions, even the negative ones, we allow ourselves to feel them completely. When we accept our insecurity that doesn’t mean we move through the day sharing the news with everyone. In response to How are you, we don’t reply, “Life is horrible. I’m miserable.” But we can choose our words carefully, and say to ourselves, “I guess I’m feeling a little blue today.” Notice the careful wording. We don’t say, “I’m blue.” because that is identifying with your doubt. We say, “I’m feeling blue.” When we express our experience as a feeling rather than the definition of who we are, we recognize our true selves.
The second step is recognizing that I am NOT my current emotional state. Emotions flow through me They are what make me human, but I am more than an emotion. Eckhart Tolle would say that we are the watcher behind emotions. We are Spirit experiencing life as a human. With that in mind, begin to choose your words wisely and recognize that what you are experiencing is temporary. When we permit ourselves to feel an emotion, it begins transforming into something else. But here’s the key, we can’t trick ourselves. We can’t pretend to accept the emotion with the ultimate goal of pushing it away. We must feel the emotion. The surrender has to be complete before we can move on. Surrender might be demonstrated as sitting quietly and fully feeling insecure. One of my friends gives herself 5 minutes to rant about the feeling. Set a timer and speak aloud what you are feeling. “I’m such a loser. I’ll never be successful. Why am I not special?” You get the idea! Feel free to rant with passion. The key is to experience the emotion but to stop firmly when the timer chimes.
The third step is to release judgment. I know that this is a challenge. When we experience a negative emotion, we begin judging ourselves for having the feeling. It’s our thoughts about our emotions that cause friction. It’s our judgment about them. Why am I feeling this way? What is wrong with me? Shouldn’t I be stronger than this? Haven’t I done enough spiritual work to never feel this way? Judgment is a denial of our humanity. We are. The emotion is. Because we are human, our thoughts, beliefs, and life situation are often translated into an emotional experience that our body shares with us. Emotion is a message from our body. When we release judgment, we are ready to hear the message and react accordingly.
The fourth step is realizing that negative emotions like insecurity are an alarm system, we experience them when we are not practicing presence. In this case, my body is telling me that I am pushing too hard. My thoughts are not in the present but in the future or past where I am applying judgment to myself. I’m seeking validation, a signal that I am not fully in the now. I am an individualized expression of Spirit and I am worthy just as I am. There is nothing I need to prove.
Insecurity is a sign that we are consciously in the past or the future. When we have thoughts like “Why did that happen?” or the opposite, “What happens when my finances run out at the end of the year?” we are projecting ourselves into the past or the future. When our thoughts are in the past or the future, they are not true thoughts. None of our memories are 100% accurate and our thoughts of the past are often skewed, and our fear of the future is always resting on an imagined future; something that may never come to be. When I feel insecure, I sit down and focus my attention on the moment. I find a place to practice presence. A quiet spot in the bedroom. A lawn chair in my backyard. The kitchen table. Sit quietly and place your phone far away.
In that quiet place, I practice appreciation. Gratitude is the fifth step. Simply be grateful for being alive. Being in the moment is a great time to practice gratitude and notice the moments of awe surrounding you. Try this exercise. Close your hand into two fists and begin listing 10 things you can be grateful about in your life while using your fingers to count off. When we are experiencing insecurity, it’s a challenge to list 10 points of gratitude. Start with something easy. For example, “I’m grateful that I can sit here for 10 minutes and not do anything, I’m grateful for the light coming through the kitchen blinds, I’m grateful for the sound of the blue jay outside my window.” Use all five of your senses to work through 10 points of gratitude. List gratitude in what you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. The practice of noticing gratitude in all five of your senses will expand your list. As you build momentum, you may notice that you exceed 10 and that’s great also.
The sixth step is recognizing that any negative emotion shares one universal message; you are being too self-focused. John Kabat-Zinn cites Larry Rosenberg of the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center with the creation of the term, “Selfing.” Selfing is when we view everything and every situation from the limited perspective of I, me, and mine. When we get wrapped up in our “I-ness” we view everything from the “what does this mean to me” perspective. In his book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” Kabat-Zinn recommends “If we could only recognize the process of selfing as an ingrained habit and then give ourselves permission to take the day off, to stop trying so hard to be somebody and instead just experience being, perhaps we would be a lot happier and more relaxed.” I’ve learned to recognize that when I’m feeling insecure, I’m doing too much “selfing” and not enough loving. I begin to recognize that others need my assistance. This leads me to my final step.
The seventh step is a conscious choice followed by action to move away from selfing. As the watcher behind the emotion, I am connected to all that is. I recognize that I am connected to others and everyone is challenged by being human. I simply must help others. It’s what makes me human. Realize that if you're experiencing a diminished sense of self-esteem, others may be as well, and look for ways to assist them. Today, I decided to write this article to help others through their current negative experience. I think this article worked. Not only did I remind myself of how I walk through insecurity, but it also transformed my emotional state and hopefully it will help someone else with their negative emotions. Now that you’ve accepted the current feeling, look for ways to help those around you. Assist your spouse in cleaning the kitchen. Offer to help your child with her homework. Share a new art technique with a fellow artist. Take a box of donuts to work. Stop selfing and begin “othering” for the day. I promise that the decision to look outward in love will move you forward.
What are your tools to work through insecurity? Did I leave anything out? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!