It’s not what you say out loud to everyone else that determines your life – it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the greatest power.
If you feel unsure of yourself sometimes, I know exactly how you feel. I used to be incredibly unsure of myself… and sometimes I still am.
But it’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, anxiety, an inability to join in, and feeling “different” – they’re really not all bad. Those inner battles have been my angels at times. Without them I would never have disappeared into literature, language, the mind, passionate work, and all the wild intensities that made and unmade me, and shaped me into the person I am today.
But a harsh truth remains: The enemies we encounter in life, especially our own inner demons, use the things we’re insecure about against us.
Which means we can’t hide forever. We have to emerge. We have to grow through our insecurities.
At some point we have to free ourselves and take our power back by being secure in who we are – flaws and all.
This isn’t easy, of course – it’s a journey. And as you embark, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- The story you tell yourself is the story you live by. – Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Every day. All the time. And that story makes you what you are – it lays the foundation for every action you take or don’t take. You build yourself out of that story.
- Every belittling, insecure thought is unreliable and changeable. – Once you become self-conscious, there is no end to it if you don’t address it; once you start to doubt yourself, there’s no room for anything else until you make a change. You’re going to have to let truth shout louder to your soul than the lies that have infected you.
- A moment of truth is one of your most powerful assets. – Instead of smiling to be polite, just cry when you need to. Instead of laughing when you are nervous or uncomfortable, just speak your truth. Instead of acting like everything is all right, proclaim it isn’t all right – talk about your feelings! Honor yourself. Honor your truth. Be real.
- A little self-focus and self-care goes a long way. – Whenever you are self-conscious you are really just exhibiting that you’re not conscious of who YOU are. You don’t feel comfortable being yourself. If you did, then there would be no problem – you wouldn’t be seeking opinions from others. You wouldn’t be worried what others say about you – it’d be irrelevant! When you are self-conscious you are in trouble. When you are self-conscious you are really showing symptoms that you don’t know who you are inside. Your very self-consciousness indicates that you have not given yourself enough care. (Read The Mastery of Love.)
- The biggest critic lives in your perception of people’s perception of you (not people’s perception of you). – One of the greatest journeys in life is overcoming insecure thoughts and learning to truly not care so much about other people’s opinions. In fact, you will never make a great impression on others until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you’re making.
- Everyone has their own way, which has nothing to do with you. – One big reason we judge each other so bitterly in our society of social comparison and social status: we perceive anyone else who’s doing things differently than what we’re doing as criticizing our decisions. This, of course, is something we need to let GO!
- Your greatest beauty is completely out of sight in shallow social interactions. – Outer beauty is only skin deep. And everyone has ugly days – we’re only human. Focus within, not without. Acting right is better than looking right. Realize that evil can look pretty on the outside. Realize what makes you beautiful beyond looks. You are far more than what can be seen at a glance.
- Unconsciousness can cripple you. – A human being will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards, as long as it does not occur to her to pull rather than push. An open, conscious mind is the key. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Your struggles have been making you, not breaking you. – Sometimes you must go through difficulties, breakups, rejections and painful wounds, which shatter the flattering image you once had of life, in order to gradually discover two powerful truths: 1) Life is not exactly how you thought it was. 2) The loss of one wonderful pleasure is not necessarily the loss of true, long-term happiness and well being.
- The more you live through and learn through, the more you will realize how much you don’t know. – Research suggests that the so-called “impostor syndrome” that takes place when we suddenly don’t feel “good enough” gets more intense as we grow wiser. The more experienced or accomplished we become, the more likely we are to rub shoulders with ever more interesting, talented and skilled people, leaving us feeling even more inadequate by comparison. So, in a backwards way, if you’re concerned that you don’t measure up, that could very well be a good sign that you actually do measure up just fine.
In the end, you will ultimately come to realize this:
Insecurities have the ability to shape and mold your mind to live with everything that’s bad – like crying on the inside constantly, while smiling on the outside… thus creating endless anxiety.
But there is a solution:
- Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.
- Forget about what you thought for a moment and appreciate exactly where you are.
- Think positively.
- Be mindful.
- Focus on the ONE meaningful task you can handle in the present.
- Notice the slight, gradual progress you’re making.
In what ways have you struggled with feeling unsure about yourself or your circumstances? How have you coped? Please leave a comment below and share your insights with us.
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Photo by: Theresa Gjolaj
There was a time when I didn’t feeling worthy of being alive. Looking back on it now, it’s crazy to even think about. Honestly, during that time your blog and the amazing book that is “1,000 Little Things” helped improve my self-confidence day by day. Other self-improvement books like “The Road Less Traveled” and “The Four Agreements” that you have recommended many times in your emails/blogs were helpful too.
For me it hasn’t been about learning something brand new, but about re-learning to properly use the mental and emotional tools I already had. And the best way I found to make this happen is constantly reminding myself that I am capable and in control of my attitude and behavior every step of the way – which I’ve done by reading a page or two of the aforementioned books and/or your blog emails.
Marc Chernoff says
Megan, I’m so inspired to hear that we were able to provide some positive perspective and guidance as you grew through your struggles.
And thank you for supporting our work too.
I often worry that I’m not going to get through my anxiety, which I think many people who struggle with anxiety concern themselves with. However, I find that taking small steps to face our anxiety and prove to ourselves that we are stronger than it, is helpful. Thank you for writing this wonderful post!
Marc Chernoff says
B.G., I couldn’t agree more. Everything we want to move toward in life is achieved one tiny step at a time. Building a ritual of taking these steps is the key.
Thank you for this wonderful read. I always look forward to the bi-weekly emails and posts from your. Today’s post has given me lots to think, cry and laugh about, especially as a new cancer patient who has not come to terms with her circumstances, and rarely feels sure of anything these days.
Before I became a daily reader of your work I had a significant trouble finding the line between self-worth (the ability to love myself) and arrogance, so I always dismissed everything as being arrogant and thus I always lacked feeling good enough.
The best tool I have found to boost my feelings of self-worth when I’m struggling is to read the articles, stories and comments shared on this site and and in your book that remind me that I’m not alone in my struggles – that others are going through difficult situations too.
Great post. I really had to learn to get over number 5 (other peoples perceptions). When I did it was very freeing. Ego makes us think that people are consumed with who we are as individuals.
When I think of someone it is only for a couple of seconds and then I am off on other thoughts. So when I used to get frozen because I was so concerned about other peoples opinions of me. I was really judging myself far too harshly. I ended up using this as a tool to better myself rather than disable me.
Thanks for a great post.
Steve wilmes says
I have struggled with insecurity for the past 24 years. I am a 44 year old man who has had seats on corporate jets, traveled to different parts of the world have a beautiful house at the beach in California, am the CEO of my company and could want for nothing. My daughter is wonderful. And yet everyday I don’t think I am good enough. I worry that I will lose it all, be without my family and anyone. That little voice in my head screams insecurity everyday and keeps me from doing so many things. It also irritates and destroys relationships with people I have. I have tried to cope on my own, but find it very difficult. I have sought therapy from a variety of sources, read the books, and gone thru the process. Still no luck. It is amazing what a grip it has on me. But each time I read your blog I feel a little better. Maybe one day I will get over it, but I have resigned myself to a life of loneliness and bitter relationships. But I still try.
Marc Chernoff says
Steve, this is something I used to struggle with too. Hang in there. The key for me was finding the one tool that works specifically for me–the kind of therapy that resonated with me personally. It’s a process of trial and error, but the goal is to find a mental/emotional tool that helps you bring conscious awareness to the self-defeating thoughts that are getting the best of you. If you ever want to talk via a coaching call, let me know.
I was moved by your comment… especially the last few sentences which prompted me to reply…
It seems to me that perhaps the problem is a fear of losing the things you have acquired since you mention you have struggled for the past 24 years and are 44 and by all accounts very successful. Did the feelings begin when you started to acquire “things” and “success”? This is a very common deep-seated feeling of impending doom most likely stemming from feeling guilty that “I don’t deserve it” or “I just got lucky” and thus l could never get it back! Trust yourself!!
Having gained and lost both of wealth and deeply loved ones several times in my life. It is devastating… and this is cliché but so true…it’s not the end of the world and will it wont matter at all in 100 years!!
I am speaking from experience as someone who was challenged by these feelings since I was a young boy. Two things that changed them for me were:
1. Accepting my own eventual death – this is very powerful as the truth sits with you… life becomes precious – not what you “have.”
2. Starting to focus on the inner me instead of defining myself by my achievements and the “stuff” I acquired. While acquisition and recognition is good, I now define true success by who I am being!
There is an old riddle / parable that goes like this: There are two wolves living inside of us and they are always fighting. One is full of darkness, fear, and despair, and the other is full of brightness, hope, and optimism.. So which one wins??
The answer… THE ONE YOU FEED!! Every morning in my reflection and then through the day as I encounter different situations, I ask myself: “Which wolf am I feeding?”
And I would just add one last thought that I believe is absolutely true…. Happiness is always a choice – a moment by moment decision. Which do you choose?
I like how Marc and Angel elude to the fact that horizontal success is not real success. In fact its only temporary because we can lose all material possessions at any time and will indeed lose them all in the end (ie. Family, House, Car, Money). Steve is correct in his assumptions and is a prime example of someone who has achieved great material success but is not valued by his gains.
What really matters is verticle success. Our deeds. Our growth in the inner realm. What do we do with our material success that helps us in what is to come next? I speak to myself as well and hold no judgement on others.
I’m always so anxious and unhappy most of the time. I hate being this way, I always try to tell myself to think positive be happy and even though I may act like it the truth is I’m not. It’s so easy to read these articles and say that you’ll start living and thinking better…and you can but then all of a sudden those feelings come rushing back and I feel like I can’t breathe. I’m very quiet aswell so it’s super awkward for me in so many situations which is why I think I’m unhappy because people don’t understand me and I can’t help but care about what they think of me. I don’t know where am I getting at here my thoughts are literally all over the place. I just really wish I could be happy and ignore the bullshit around me.
Rose Costas says
Thanks for this awesome post. I am working hard at getting over #5 and #10. Thinking of what people’s perceptions are of me is one that I have struggled with for years. I think my desire to please is and still is a factor and so I try harder every time becoming more frustrated every time.
Feeling like an impostor all the time doesn’t help the self esteem either.
Great article; posted at a good time. It seemed the more I tried to better myself, the more unsure I became of myself. Things seemed to fall apart more, making it a vicious cycle. What I always used as my strength became my weakness. How did I cope? I realized I became the problem I saw in others. The tongue is a powerful tool. It can build or tear down. I weigh my words more carefully now. I realized there’s no need to be on alert 24/7. It’s exhausting and just plain paranoia.
stephanie stephan says
THIS IS LITERALLY ONE OF THE BEST ARTICLES I HAVE EVER READ FROM YOU!! THANK YOU SO MUCH. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!
Amazing! After reading through your book over the past few weeks I’ve begun making progress in several areas of my life as it relates to increasing me self-esteem and confidence. This email/article was a perfect reminder for me.
You guys knocked it out of the park. I already made my new years resolution which is to start taking better care of myself. Emotionally and mentally, my sanity is so important. I know I can accomplish a better self-care ritual by January of 2017. There is plenty of time to do it all. Keep up the good work. We all appreciate it!
This week I had to facilitate a number of sessions. I have been so anxious about being at the front. My work is really about allowing others to shine, enabling others to feel a sense of wonder in their own ability and then sharing it with others. I thought I would stuff it up, I thought I had to speak more, but instead, I received positive feedback that confirmed that less is more. In speaking less, and making the session about everyone else, people were more open to sharing their own experiences. Instead of lecturing, I allowed others to lecture to each other. Working in a collaborative way is so much more than thinking or feeling like you have to carry it all. It is so liberating to know that when you work with everyone’s talents that we can realise the wonder of who we are and what we are capable of doing together. Together we do more, and less is more. The accidental conversation I had today revealed that what I thought was my weakness was considered a strength by someone else and made me realise I need to let go of what I think is wrong and focus on what is STRONG.
Anxiety is my worst enemy. There are days that I feel is harder than others. I have analized myself many times and have blamed myself of what my life as been for many many years. I have allowed others to come into my life and hurt it because I was kind and loving to them. I found out through your readings that it is not all about others it is what you want and how you want to feel about yourself. Each day I read what you say and it gets better to face my fears, there are many and I have to face each one in a different prospective and living in the moment to handle each one. Overcoming the fact that I felt I was never good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, not being angry at others who hurt me. These are difficult times for me but I am getting better each day. Thank you for helping me with your words to get my life the way I want my life to be. I appreciate all you do.
Right now this post is just exactly what I need because I think I am falling I love with a woman who is older than I am, but I am not so sure if she is also feeling the same way or if that’s just how she do her things. Though we make a lote of eye contacts she even helped me do some work today, and I don’t know if its because I do help her too. But I don’t want to be too fast and then come off as creepy, and I don’t also know if I am getting too slow because its been days since we started noticing each other.
Jan Ramsey Brick says
Great advice… as always! I just signed up for your “Think Better, Live Better” event in Austin. Looking forward to spending the weekend with you two. 🙂
Marc Chernoff says
Looking forward to meeting you on January 9th, Jan!
Anxiety is not a disease but it is the symptom of many modern afflictions requiring ancient remedies.
Arijit Singh says
I agree with you Mark. Anxiety is not the disease but it could be the cause of many.
To be blunt most days I just plain feel like a loser. I made many mistakes in my younger life and I feel that I am being punished for them no matter how hard I try to right the wrong. I do not blame anyone but myself, but it seems that no matter how hard I try I just cannot get myself out of the rut that I am in. I feel defeated and stuck – in my personal life and in my work life. I feel as though nothing will ever change no matter what I do, so sometimes I think, ‘Why bother’?
I try so hard to not think that way and I will try to preoccupy myself with things that make me less sad, like reading or being with my child, but reality always sets in at some point and I just cannot get away from it.
I went to college late in life and hoped that it would turn my life around – I would finish and find a job I enjoyed and was good at but instead I am in a job that I am not happy with and have been stuck in for years. Yes, I am very grateful I have a job, but that doesn’t mean that is a reason for me to suddenly feel happy. I have looked elsewhere but never hear back and then I feel very inadequate.
When I think about what I can do and what skills I have I feel as though I am either only mediocre or just plain uesless. I do not have the mind for science, math, etc., and feel that I do not offer anything different than a billion other people can offer.
I suffer from depression, anxiety, social awkwardness, emotional issues, etc., and I have spoken to people about it but I either lose them as friends or the specialists never come up with anything to really help.
I have to admit, however, I have a lot on my shoulders. I have a very ill spouse, I do not make a lot of money; therefore lots of debt, I do all the errands, cleaning, chauffeuring, etc. I handle all the finances and pretty much anything that involves life. So, everything is left up to me. Sometimes I feel I can’t do anything correctly either and am criticized a lot.
I am not here looking for sympathy and I promise that I am not trying to be complainer – I know that there are people who have it much worse than I do, in fact knowing that and still feeling the way I feel makes me feel incredibly guilty, but I guess I am writing this for any advice that may help. Anything.
Sometimes I just want to get in my car and disappear but I know I can’t do that so I hope that someone can help with any words of encouragement, or perhaps there is someone out there going through what I am as well and understands and maybe wants to talk about it. Anything will help.
Mary A says
OMG!! You wrote my life, exactly! And I mean EXACTLY! Right down to the sick spouse and never enough to pay for it all. Handling EVERYTHING by yourself! Know now there is someone in the boat with you!! I feel like the breath gets sucked out of me daily. I am trying to handle two jobs to make ends meet and it is never enough. I fear I am going down the tubes and no one will be there to take care of me. I cannot let that happen and it is totally brain draining. I read Marc and Angel and know there is something here that I can do, even if it is to change one thought. I print the messages, for myself only, and highlight the one item that slaps me in the face. That is where I need to make a change. And it isn’t easy! But if I can start to think about me only and not all my troubles, then perhaps I can find one moment of happiness in my day. And speaking of happiness, I have shoved that so far down the totem pole, that I think it is buried underground. So I have to dig it up, one thought at a time. Again, not easy, but doable over time. So as I write this, I am thinking, write down my happiness plan. Stop getting slapped in the face and make the one small change. Small changes become larger over time. And I want that. You definitely are not alone!
Wow. Such a powerful blog. Thank you so much for sharing. Learning to lean on others and love yourself is hard. Learning to not be anxious about anything.
Cosimo Galletti says
Thanks for the read Marc! Feeling unsure of your worth is a constant struggle for most. It is a natural state for people to look at themselves and feel a sense of inadequacy. As humans we are hard wired and socialized to do so. I have found that the key to staying in a positive and motivated state of being is to give yourself daily wins. To define for yourself what your best you looks like and design your day around modelling and accomplishing that standard of living. Gaining an understanding of who you are and how you can positively impact the world is a rare thing. You will also come to understand that most people are searching for this same understanding. This is when you can truly begin to appreciate who you are and what you are worth. Thank you so much for the opportunity to comment.
Manuela Joy says
Thank you for the inspirational post! I used to have the problem with being worried about which impression I am making on people…sometimes I still am. But as you said, I should not care much and by worrying about it I will never make a good impression as well.
Thank you for the encouragement 🙂
Great article; posted at a good time. It seemed the more I tried to better myself, the more unsure I became of myself.