Last week, we began a quest for confidence. It’s a quest that I began some months ago and I am passing on to you everything I’ve learned on the journey in the hopes that it will help you bypass the problems and get your work out there and into the world where it can do some good for others. That quest, though, begins with examining the causes of the insecurity. Insecurity is a sign you’re being held hostage by your past.
Insecurity Is Rooted in the Past
Your past is where insecurity begins. That’s where all of your belief systems begin, actually, and belief is what powers the brain’s operating system. Every event that happens to you is faithfully recorded, interpreted, and sorted by the brain.
Those things that are deemed essential to your survival based on how much pain or how much pleasure they caused you become hard coded into the operating system. That is so that the brain will continue to look for more of them, in the case of things that caused you pleasure, or to avoid them, in the case of things that caused you pain.
It is the interpretation of the event, or the story that you tell yourself about what the event means, that determines the outcome. If you want to change your insecurities, then, you need to identify those negative stories and begin to rewrite them into something positive.
Fear of Failure
I don’t remember when it really started, but at some point along the way in my life, I became terribly, horribly afraid of failure. Just the thought of failing was enough to keep me from trying. I wanted to do great things with my life and I would talk about doing them, but that is where it would end – all talk, no action. That fear of failure held me paralyzed.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have legitimate reasons to fear failure. I’d had people laugh at me for failure. I’d paid the price you for failure. I’d been mocked plenty of times for past failures. And I’d been labeled a failure for those by people whose opinions mattered to me. Pain, humiliation, and rejection all became associated with failure and those ugly ghosts would come back to haunt me any time I started to take a step forward.
Fear of Abandonment
I was four the year my father left for Mississippi and didn’t come back. I was a daddy’s girl, and he was my first love and my world. It left me with questions about my worthiness to be loved and my ability to be lovable. That fear of abandonment, of somehow making a mistake that would lead me to be declared unlovable and therefore no longer worthy of someone’s time or energy, stayed with me.
Every time I started a project, or made a friend, I would abandon it mid-way through before it could abandon me. It wasn’t that I was doing this consciously. I was doing it without even being aware of the reasons for it. But that fear of abandonment kept me from attaching myself to people or projects and the minute that I encountered a problem with it, I would leave it behind because I feared my failure would lead someone to abandon me.
I grew into a perfectionist. I set incredibly high expectations for myself, for the people around me, and for the work that I did. When I, the people around me, or the work I did couldn’t live up to those expectations (and they never could because my expectations were impossibly high), I would become bitterly disappointed.
I would, in fact, become so disappointed that I would stop showing up. I would stop doing the work, stop attending the meetings, or stop showing up as a friend. I would blame myself, the people around me, or the work for my failure to live up rather than realizing it was my expectations that needed adjusting.
If I finally managed to finish something, I would hide it out of doubt that it was good enough. I couldn’t believe in myself and so I never took my work out or allowed it to be seen. I didn’t know how to get past doubt, so doubt continued to keep me from fulfilling my dreams and ambitions.
Fear of Rejection
I couldn’t stand the thought of being rejected. It was validation of my fear that I was unlovable or undesirable. I poured my heart into my work, so to reject it was to reject me, and I couldn’t face that risk. I allowed that fear of rejection to cripple me for years, hobbling me in my efforts to succeed.
I was told often that I wasn’t really hungry when I asked for more food. I was told often that my needs, my wants, my desires didn’t matter. They weren’t important. What mattered, what was supposed to matter, was what everyone else wanted of me. I was told that the only way for me to get what I needed or to get more of what I wanted was for someone else to go without or get less of what they needed.
I neglected to nurture my dreams and my desires. I felt guilty for feeding myself what I needed to grow. And if what I needed or wanted was to achieve something great, it felt like I was stealing someone else’s potential happiness to get that.
“We don’t have enough” for me to get something I needed. “We don’t have enough” time to spend, talent to give, food to eat, money to spend. You name it, “we don’t have enough” was the answer.
I wasn’t enough, either. I wasn’t good enough. And when all you are trained to see is what you don’t have, what’s missing, or what’s wrong with your work, you can’t stop criticizing it long enough to see the abundance of goodness right in front of you.
Recognizing the Source Is the First Step Forward
I don’t tell you these things so you’ll feel sorry for me. You have to recognize the source of the problems so you can fix them. The recognition of where the problems began, and the stories that are playing in your head as a result, is the first step forward in finding confidence because it’s where you’ll find those stories so you can begin to rewrite them.
Continuing Our Quest for Confidence
This post is the next step in our quest for confidence. I hope you’ll join me each Monday as I discuss confidence and help you work on building yours.
Join 40 Day Writers Facebook Group
If you would like to start putting your work out there and developing the confidence you need, I encourage you to join the 40 Day Writers Facebook Group. It’s free, it’s friendly, and your work will not be shared outside the group. You can get the feedback and support you need to start developing your confidence just by showing up, sharing what you have, and engaging with the other writers there.