Dear Liza: How Do I Grow in Confidence?

Dear Liza, how do I grow more confident in myself?

I'm an extremely insecure person, and when I say extreme it really is. It affects my relationships with other people because I get insecure about the littlest of things every time (in fact I recently lost a friend because of my constant insecurity crisis). I also feel like it is the basis for the mental issues that I have; even though they are also caused by other things, I feel like my insecurity is really the foundation of it all. I'm trying to work on those issues and on the other things that cause them but I feel like I have to get to the root of the problem here.

But how can you go from someone who unconsciously thinks of themselves as the most horrible monster in the world to someone who actually likes themselves? I have no idea how to do this because honestly it just seems so unlikely and impossible. Why do we treat ourselves in a way we would never treat anyone else?

That's a really good question. Why do we treat ourselves in a way we would never treat anyone else? 

Insecurity is really tough, because in my experience it will make you second guess everything. I don't have an easy cure in a blog post, and I'm wondering if some long term counselling might be helpful for you to really delve into those feelings, but in the meantime let's think about ways you can help yourself.

I'm sad that you think of yourself as the most horrible monster in the world, because I'm sure that's not how other people see you. I'm sure they see all sorts of wonderful things about you, but I'm guessing you don't believe them even if they tell you. One thing I do know is that the words we use about ourself really affects how we see ourselves. So even you telling me that you think of yourself as a monster will be chipping away at your self esteem and contributing to your insecurity. This is so hard to change when we've become used to thinking and saying negative things about ourselves, but I would really love you to challenge yourself when these thoughts creep in. When you think you're (insert negative comment here), ask yourself if you'd ever say that to someone you love. If the answer is no, then don't allow yourself to say it to yourself.

A friend of mine once challenged me to say one thing nice to myself everyday with no caveats. A straight up "this is one thing I like about myself today." It forces you to practise treating yourself well, and you'll probably start to internalise the good where before you were internalising the bad. I'm not going to pretend it's an easy fix, but it's a start.

Another good thing to do is write down anything nice anyone says about you or a time you're successful. Keep it all in the same book, and when you're doubting yourself turn to it. This is evidence for how others view you. Use this evidence to fight back against the part of your brain that's contributing to the insecurity. Sometimes when I'm fighting back against a self-hatey attack of thoughts I need to actually visualise myself holding a baseball bat, hitting those stupid thoughts away. It sound silly, but it empowers me to reject them. 

I'm sorry that you lost a friendship over this, but please don't let that contribute to the insecurity. Some people just aren't comfortable when other people struggle in these ways, but it doesn't say anything about you or them. It just means your friendship isn't the right thing for your life right now. 

These suggestions aren't going to solve all your problems, but we often have more control over these things than we think we do. You might benefit from talking to someone on a longer term basis, and if you can that's a really good thing to do. Counselling has helped me challenge many of the damaging thought processes that I have and I'm so glad I've been going. If that's not an option for you maybe find a friend that you can talk to about the thought processes you have. Explore the patterns that they follow and ways you can challenge them. 

You are so much more than your insecurities, even when they tell you otherwise. Remind yourself of that.