In the past, I thought that vocalizing insecurities around other people was just annoying. Now I see that it isn’t just annoying; it is handing them weapons to tear you down. I have always been a rather insecure, self-conscious person. I wish there were a shimmering confidence powder I could dust over myself each day, but it’s just a lot of hard work and intentional re-wiring of thoughts and beliefs.
Over the years, people have said a lot of unkind things to me, and I used to wonder why. Now I see that they said unkind things to me because they (unconsciously) thought I had given them permission to do so based upon the way I spoke about myself. If you give others power to wield against you, they will. If given the opportunity to knock you down, they will, especially if you make it easy for them.
Insecure people speak ill of themselves to most everyone, because it is such a constant conversation in their head. Sometimes I am completely unaware of how mean I am being towards myself until someone points it out. Someone once said that insecurity is loud, and it is. Insecure thinking sounds like a kick drum pressed to the ear, rhythmically pumping out self-doubt and shame.
My best friend often reminds me that the words we speak have power. While I do my best to be careful with what I say to others, I am careless when it comes to what I say to and about myself. I think I do this because it doesn’t seem like it matters.
Some claim that you have no power over what people think of you, but I disagree. I think we all have the power to tell the world how we wish to be treated. For years, I have told the people around me that it is acceptable for them to tease me about my appearance, my fumbling attempts at dating, and my quirks and habits. Yet the moment someone asserts or draws attention to any of these insecurities, I feel personally attacked; I wonder how they ever thought it was acceptable to say something like that.
Then I remember: I essentially told them that, and they are parroting it back to me. It is quite startling to discover how ugly and wounding the words we say to ourselves sound from the mouths of others. True, some people are just jealous ass-hats who like to elevate themselves by degrading others. But in general, I believe we offer people a permission slip when we speak ill of ourselves.
The result is a vicious cycle: we vocalize our insecurities, others say them back to us, and then we take those parroted words as confirmation that we truly are unlovable, ugly, stupid, etc.
I have often vocalized what I hate about myself as a way of receiving encouragement from others. It makes me sick to admit it, but it’s true. It’s not that I am just making up awful things to say in order to have someone refute them; I truly believe those ugly words and I am hoping someone will give me a reason to no longer believe them.
This never works. No matter what someone says, they cannot do the replacement work for you. They cannot re-wire your thinking and beliefs about yourself, only you can. At most, you are giving people permission to treat you badly, or at least you’re giving them a reason to spend less time with you. There is room for grace of course, but you cannot expect people to stick around when you never make an effort to believe you’re someone worth sticking to.
One of my favourite writers, Brennan Manning, once said, “We cannot accept love from another human being when we do not love ourselves, much less accept that God could possibly love us.” Those with deep insecurity need to fight for our birthright as children of God, and it takes a lot of convincing from Him to accept ourselves as He accepts us. It takes even more convincing to actually say those words out loud, and even more to live them out loud.
If you also struggle with insecurity, self-hatred, or negative self-talk, I would love to chat with you over a cup of coffee. You and I are not alone, and with God’s grace, we can help each other love ourselves out loud.