Don’t Get Married Before You Can Answer “Yes” to These Ten Questions!

Marriage is a big step. A significant commitment. To help ensure that you’re making the right decision for you, make sure that you can answer “yes” to these ten questions before you say “yes” to marriage!

1 – Can you be alone?

If you are afraid of being alone, how do you know that you’re acting from a place of love rather than making decisions based on fear? Ideally, you’ve had some adult years on your own so that you learn what you’re capable of and you feel secure with yourself.

 

2 – Are you more in love with the person than you are with the idea of being married?

It’s easy to feel pressure to get married and to desire the sense of security and stability that often accompany marriage. As a result, sometimes you can be in love with the idea of being married more than you are in love with the person.

 

3 – Do you have your own life?

Do you have your own interests? Friends? Thoughts and opinions? A healthy marriage is own of interdependence, not dependence. Ensure that you’re positioned to maintain your independence. 

 

4 – Have you met their people?

Not only are we drawn to people that mirror our beliefs, we have a tendency to become more like those that we spend time with. Make sure that you have spent time with the people that your partner chooses to associate with.

 

5 – Have you had (and continue to have) the difficult conversations?

In order to have a thriving marriage, both you are your spouse have to be able to say things (with kindness and compassion) that you know will hurt your partner. It’s important to have these conversations before marriage to ensure that you’re on the same page and to practice speaking and hearing hard truths.

 

6 – Can you accept them even if they never change?

When you say “I do,” you’re effectively signing that you accept this person as they are. Whatever qualities and characteristics they have (even the ones that drive you crazy) are grandfathered in. It’s unfair to both of you to expect anything different.

 

7 – Do you have a growth mindset about marriage?

The marriage you have on the day you say, “I do” is not the same marriage you will have ten years down the road. You will change. Your partner will change (and not necessarily in the ways you want). A healthy marriage is one that can grow and adapt throughout the years.

 

8 – Are your expectations about marriage reasonable?

We often ask too much of marriage and can easily end up disappointed or even angry when reality fails to match our mental picture. Read over these sixteen common misconceptions about marriage and make sure that your expectations are attainable.

 

9 – Are you prepared to contribute more than 50% to the marriage?

There will be times when you are responsible for carrying most of the emotional weight in the relationship. And at times, the load will shift to your partner. Even when the contributions are relatively equal, it’s common for each person to feel as though they are providing more than their share. Make sure you’re ready for that responsibility.

 

10 – Do you see and respect your potential spouse as an individual?

Yes, this person will become your wife or husband. But before that and after that, they are still their own independent person.  They will have different views, goals and perspectives than you. It doesn’t mean that one of you is right and the other wrong, it simply indicates that you are two autonomous beings that are choosing to spend your lives together.

 

 

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How to Maintain Your Independence in a Marriage

When I first married at the age of twenty-two, I was happy to trade in my independence for what I thought was a guarantee of partnership and togetherness. By exchanging “me” for “we,” I knew that I was making the promise to consider his opinions and needs when making decisions and that I was committing to putting the marriage before my own desires and dreams. A transaction that seemed completely reasonable at the time.

 

I didn’t lose my independence all at once.

 

Its integrity frayed slowly, like fabric subject to excess friction. Sometimes, it simply didn’t feel worth the energy to assert my own opinions. Other times, I found that I too easily adopted his views as my own. He became my primary confidant, my go-to social partner and we undertook most tasks and errands together simply by default.

Some of my actions were driven by consideration and respect – I would notify him if I was running late, consult him before making a major decision and seek his approval before spending a significant sum.

Other behaviors seem more concerning in retrospect. I was always careful to consider his feelings or preferences, yet I often neglected to examine my own.  I looked for his validation when I took up running at the age of thirty. I rarely went to parties or other large-group gatherings without him. And I relied on him to take over tasks that I found difficult instead of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone (the one that stands out the most here is making returns at a store – I HATED doing that to the point of mini anxiety attacks).

On one of my first shopping expeditions after he left, I impulsively grabbed a pack of strawberry-flavored gum at the register. Not because I have a particular fondness for fruit gum, but because he despised it so much that I never chewed the stuff. Not even in the hours I spent away from him each day.

That small act suggested a large step.

 

It was time to take back my independence and again find the “me” that had been lost in the “we.”

 

It was strange at first, acting without consulting anybody else. Making decisions on my own (and also facing the consequences of those choices on my own). I felt a little lost, like a kid at their first summer camp, unsure how to act when the accustomed structure was no longer apparent. Then, over time, the independence became comfortable and ultimately, essential. That autonomy that I had so willingly signed away years ago had become imperative to my well-being. Even though I wanted another partnership, I vowed to never again give away my independence.

My marriage now looks very different than my earlier marriage. We came together later in life, with established careers, friendships, bank accounts and habits that we weren’t willing to lose in order to enter into a relationship. Instead of there being an assumption that everything would become shared, we negotiated what elements we would merge and what would stay more autonomous.

I feel that I now truly have the best of both worlds – I know that my husband has my back but I also have my own mind (and vice-versa). There’s a much better balance; whereas my first marriage was dependent, this one is interdependent with a hearty sprinkling of independence.

 

The fear of losing oneself upon entering a relationship is a commonly cited reason for resisting commitment.

 

And rightfully so.

It’s easy to get so caught up in your role as wife, husband, mother or father that you no longer have the time or energy to devote to those things that used to bring you joy. You can find yourself slowly losing your desire or even ability to make decisions on your own, deflecting these to your partner and neglecting your thoughts in the process.

Maybe you came out of your previous marriage with the realization that you lost yourself somewhere along the way. Maybe, after years of hard work, you feel like you’ve found yourself again. You like your life. Love your independence and the confidence and freedom that comes with it. And still, you may find that you’re feeling pulled towards partnership. But you know that you don’t want to lose that independence that you’ve fought so hard for.

Good news. You can maintain your independence even within a marriage.

 

  How to Be Married (and Still Be Yourself)

 

Choose a Partner With Similar Requirements

There are some people who want to spend all of their time with their spouse. They share email addresses, home offices and friends. Others prefer to have more delineation between mine, yours and ours, creating and maintaining boundaries between areas. Some married couples even agree to live separately and only have the smallest regions of intersection between their lives.

No situation is better than the other and any variation within this continuum is perfectly fine as long as both partners are in agreement with the terms. And since you’re concerned about maintaining your independence, seek out people that are equally dedicated to maintaining their freedoms as well. Those that have full lives are more likely to respect your interests and passions and willing allow you the time to operate solo.

If, like me, you’ve experienced more overlapping lives in your past relationships, be aware that it may take time for you to adjust to this shift in the dynamic. You can’t have it both ways – if you’re going to maintain your independence, you also have to accept that you will receive less attention from your partner because they will also be busy with their own lives.

 

Distinguish Between Independence and Consideration

When I was single, I could go away for a weekend and not tell anyone as long as I returned in time for work on Monday morning. Now as a married woman, I can still go away by myself for a weekend, but I do have to at least inform my husband first. To leave without the respect of ample notice would be rude and inconsistent with a healthy partnership.

Sometimes, when people say they want to maintain their independence, they really mean that they do not want any responsibility to anybody else. Which is ultimately incompatible in a relationship (How many of you have been married to people like this who think that everything is always and only about them?).

When you enter into a relationship, you have a responsibility to the other person. And one of those duties is to be considerate of their rights and needs. And that consideration may sometimes step on the toes of your desire for independence. But when you enter into a marriage, that’s the choice you’ve made.

 

Determine What is Important to You

When I lived alone, I played heavy metal in the living room during 4:00 am workouts. I came home every day to clean kitchen and relaxed every evening on my white slipcovered sofa. When I moved in with my now-husband, I knew that all of those things would be history. And I also decided that those things weren’t important to me.

Of course, there were other considerations that I deemed vital. I needed to have my own space in the home, I needed to be able to schedule my evenings and weekends the way I wanted and I had to maintain control over my own paychecks and accounts. I actually made a list of the specific types of independence that were important to me; I wanted to make sure that I didn’t inadvertently lose my autonomy again.

Take the time to decide what independence looks like for you. What makes you feel controlled or trapped? What conditions allow you the freedom you want?

Is this compatible with a relationship? With parenthood (or parenthood of younger children)? Be honest with yourself here. If you try to pigeonhole yourself into too small a hole, you will inevitably feel constricted. It’s better to start with less commitment and responsibility and see if you want to grow towards more.

 

Communicate Your Needs Clearly and Early

All you need to do to understand the struggles inherent in a bid for more independence is look at teenagers and their parents. The teens want more freedom; the parents fear losing their kids. The kids push their parents away and the parents often take these words and behaviors personally.

It’s not that different in a partnership. When one person suddenly makes a stand for more independence, it can be seen as a threat to the relationship and can be taken personally. This is a great place for those famous “I statements,” to communicate that this is about what you’re needing, not about the other person.

Whenever possible, communicate your needs for independence at the beginning of the relationship. If your needs have changed over time, be aware that the information may be difficult for your partner to receive and that it may take a series of conversations (and time) to fully negotiate the changes.

 

Listen to Your Partner and Ignore the Peanut Gallery

When I was on my recent trip and mentioned my husband (who was home in Atlanta) to someone, I often received a raised eyebrow, “Why aren’t you doing this trip together?” I gave them a pat non-answer because the real one would be a bit longer.

Travel is important to me. I only recently have the means to enjoy it again after recovering from my ex’s financial shenanigans. In my former life, I waited too much to live, always promising myself that I would do all of the things once some benchmark occurred. And after? I promised myself that I would never again wait to live. Or to travel.

It’s different for my husband. He has to travel for work and being away means that he can’t train martial arts (his passion). His preferred funnel for the “I’ve made it tough to exhale” funds is his Corvette. And he much prefers waking up in the same bed each day to days full of the unknowns and inevitably discomforts of travel.

So I travel and often he does not. And it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of that other than the two of us (and Kazh too!).

Do what works for you and your partner and feel free to turn a deaf ear to those that want to criticize from afar. After all, the ultimate independence is the freedom to build your life in the way that works for you. Whatever that may look like.

“I Want You” vs. “I Need You”

There’s nothing sexy about being needed.

I feel it after a long day at work after hundreds of children have made their demands, becoming more task-monitor and cognition-manager than woman. Mothers describe feeling like little more than a milk-generating machine during those months when breastfeeding may be a constant. Bread-winners may start to feel more like a money-making automaton than a living, breathing creature. Caretakers often begin to resent their charge, love clouded by a fog of endless need.

Those on the other side often chafe at their sense of dependency. They need, but they don’t want to need. They desire independence, yet may be unable (or unwilling) to strive for it.

There’s nothing sexy about being needed.

Yet, so often, “need” is exactly the energy that begins to permeate our relationships after the initial, heady rush of burgeoning love. As “I want you” is slowly replaced by “I need you.”

You hear this from people who bemoan that their suppose is essentially another child who is absolutely clueless at handling the day-to-day on their own. They begin to see their partner as dependent and incapable, neither of which are particularly attractive traits. Others may become overly needed on an emotional level. Often called emotional labor, this feeling of always being “on” and taking care of the family’s relationship, communication and emotional needs is as tiring as physical labor (if not more so). Those that are fearful of being alone may overly cling to their partner. And feeling suffocated by somebody’s anxieties is a sure way to dull any attraction.

And in all of these cases, the needed one speaks to seeing their spouse as more like a friend or a roommate than a romantic partner. The more needy partner can begin to take offense at their position and may begin to act out. Furthermore, the unhealthy dynamic can lead to an increase in irritations and frustrations on both sides.

Here’s the unbridled truth – if you are both adults, neither one of you truly needs the other (no matter what it feels like).

In fact, I think this is possibly the most important lesson I learned from the end of my first marriage. I sure believed that I needed my first husband. After all, I had never navigated adulthood without him. He would handle making retail returns and spending hours debating with the gas company on the phone, both tasks with which I struggled. He knew just how to soothe me after a stressful day and he would laugh at all of our inside jokes. He (sometimes) brought in needed income and used his impressive carpentry and handy-man skills to upgrade and maintain our home on the cheap. He was always willing to talk (even in the middle of the night) and so I rarely felt alone or ignored.

I thought I needed him.

But it turned out I was wrong. Somehow, with a few changes and some missteps along the way, I was able to survive (actually thrive) without the person I thought I couldn’t live without.

Thank goodness:)

 

lookatyoulivingandshit

 

 

Being needed can feel good. It gives you purpose. Shores up your confidence and helps to mitigate any fears about being alone (after all, if someone needs you, they’re unlikely to leave you). Yet, taken too far or applied too liberally and being needed can begin to feel like an inescapable prison.

 

On the other hand, we all like to feel to wanted. It’s a compliment, an acceptance. It makes us feel both desirable and powerful. It speaks to being chosen. Appreciated and valued.

 

 

I need you says that you are responsible for my happiness.

I want you declares that I’m happier when you’re around.

 

I need you implies that neither one of you are free agents and that you’re trapped.

I want you suggests that there are other options and you are the chosen one.

 

I need you sets the stage for an imbalance of power as one gives and the other takes.

I want you acknowledges the power within both of you and allows for an equal exchange.

 

I need you speaks to what you can do for the other person; it focuses on the tasks you perform.

I want you expresses a desire for the person; it focuses on who you are.

 

There’s nothing sexy about being needed and there’s nothing sexier than hearing someone you care about say,

“I want you.”

 

Just Because You Love Someone…

 

When we were on the lookout for a new dog this past winter, one thing became immediately clear – the shelters and the foster homes were filled with amazing dogs who had been surrendered by their original families. In most cases, these dogs were relinquished not because they weren’t loved or because they were “bad” dogs, but because they were not the right dog for the family. A painful choice, but sometimes the best one once a mismatch has been made.

Human relationships often fall into the same category. We choose poorly or the situation changes after we’ve made our choice. We struggle to admit that maybe we were wrong. We hold onto hope that maybe things will improve. We fear ending things because sometimes being with anybody is better than being alone. And we justify our inaction or our excuses by declaring our love.

 

When you say, “I love them, but…,” it’s the words that follow that are the most important to pay attention to.

 

Amazing things are accomplished in the name of love. People are nurtured and challenged, accepted and encouraged. Love gives us hope and purpose, bringing light into even the darkest corners.

Yet sometimes love is used as an excuse. A reason to avoid making those difficult choices that sometimes life brings our way.

 

Just because you love someone…

You do not have to maintain a relationship with them. Whether it be an abusive relationship with a partner or a toxic relationship with a parent, you can love someone and keep them at arm’s reach (or even further). This can be a decision made from a place of compassion, recognizing that continuing the relationship is harmful for one or both parties. Love means that you want the best for them, but this doesn’t have to be at the exclusion of your own well-being.

 

Just because you love someone…

You do not have to tolerate their abusive and cruel words or behaviors. It’s rare that abusive people are all-bad; there is often a soft and vulnerable and wonderful side as well. And you can love that part of them while at the same time, refusing to put yourself in the position of being subject to their bouts of anger or coercion. Maybe you limit your exposure or make a promise to yourself to walk away whenever things turn sour.

 

Just because you love someone…

You do not have to agree with their choices. You can love the person and hate the actions.    Furthermore, love does not preclude you from letting them experience the repercussions of their choices. Sometimes love means doing what is best for the person in the long run even though they may not be able to see it in the short term.

 

Just because you love someone…

You don’t have to like them. In this moment or in general. Everybody is worthy of love, but you have to really put effort into being liked. Here’s the hard part, though – when there is love without like, there is also great internal conflict as you wrestle with the often conflicting emotions.

 

Just because you love someone…

Doesn’t mean they are the right person for you. This can strangely be one of the harder positions to be in. When you love them, believe they are a good person and yet, for whatever reason, you’re unsure about the relationship. There are no easy answers here, no strong, solid reasons to leave that accompany the, “I love them, but…” It is possible to love someone. To like them and respect them. And also recognize that they are not what you’re looking for. A painful choice, but one that may allow both of you to move forward and find someone you love without the “but.”

 

Overcoming Insecurity

insecurity

They come into my 6th grade accelerated math class with confidence,  believing that they are smart and capable. Few of them have ever experienced struggle in math and so, because of the nature of my course and my teaching philosophy, when they first encounter a concept that is not readily apparent, they panic.

Because in their minds, it’s not simply a matter of not understanding this one type of math problem, it’s a potential threat to their very self-image.

And as we progress through the first few weeks of school, that earlier confidence is often replaced with a growing sense of insecurity. 

 

You’re never insecure unless you have something good that you want to hold onto. 

 

In the aftermath of my divorce, I had a strange sense of nonchalant assurance. It was strange because my confidence, in both myself and my future, were at an all-time low. Yet, perhaps because I both had nothing else to lose and couldn’t summon the energy needed to be anxious about small things, I was gifted a respite from normal insecurities.

The more you have, the more you can lose.

 

For months, I lived almost without fear. Without inhibition. Without insecurity. I adopted a “whatever” attitude when it came to love or money or any of those other things we so desperately attach ourselves to. The chasm between what I wanted and what I had was so great that I couldn’t imagine ever crossing it.

 

When we desire something, we focus more on the pursuit of it than the lack of it. We may even reach a sort of truce, a tacit acceptance of its absence. 

 

And then ever-so-slowly and without intention, I started to fall for someone who was supposed to only be passing through my life. And suddenly, I had something to lose.

And as science has found, we have evolved to fear loss almost more than anything else.

______

 

We all have times when we’re feeling anxious or uncertain. You may feel confident and adept in one area of your life and insecure about another. You may find that your doubt-whispering inner voice is triggered by certain situations and that your anxious brain, once activated, spirals into endless questions and worries.

 

At its core, insecurity indicates that we lack belief in ourselves.

 

Insecurity, although common, is not a healthy state to occupy for long. When we’re operating from a place of fear, we’re likely to make poor decisions and contaminate others with our own worries. When we express excessive doubts and try to grasp on too tightly, we have a tendency to push others away. And that’s not even counting the horrible way that insecurity makes you feel.

 

Understanding Insecurity

 

Signs of Insecurity

Not everyone responds to insecurity in the same way. Some people express it openly. Others try to stuff it down with their favorite junk foods. Or build big muscles in an attempt to hide their self-doubts. Insecurity can be found in the agoraphobe afraid to leave the house and in the high-powered executive who secretly feels like a fraud.

Even though the outward signs differ, there are certain internal signals that you can attune to in order to recognize when you’re feeling insecure –

 

Overreacting  

If you find that you are consistently having strong emotional reactions that are out of line with the situation at hand, you may be experiencing a period where you are questioning yourself. These self-doubts mean that you can easily misinterpret or catastrophize normal exchanges.

 

Compulsive Questioning 

Insecurity seeks certainty. And so it keeps asking questions in an attempt to either confirm or deny the fears. And no matter how many reassurances are uttered, it’s never enough. Sometimes these questions arise within our minds and our never vocalized. Rather, they are bounced around within our own echo chambers. These unasked questions are often even worse than the ones we speak because we have nobody to call us out on any irrational thoughts.

 

Restlessness

When you’re feeling insecure, you’re not comfortable in your own skin. This can lead to a feeling of being on edge or even irritable. This can manifest as a sense of wanting things to be different, feeling like you’re waiting for something to happen or even in an increased difficulty in sleeping.

 

Excessive Social Media Use

Whether you’re making comparisons with others or obsessively checking how many “likes” your recent post received, an increase in social media usage suggests that you may be having a crisis of confidence. Pay special attention to how your time spent on social media makes you feel. If it’s constantly making you feel “less than” and yet you’re continuing to return to source, your insecurity has become a problem.

 

Attention or Validation Seeking

Insecurity wants other people to tell you that you’re okay. It seeks an external stamp of approval to quiet the internal voices that question if you’re enough. If you notice that you’re increasingly looking for others to pay attention to you or express their approval, it’s a sign that your trust in yourself is lacking.

 

Causes of Insecurity

There is not a single, universal cause of insecurity. For some, it is a constant underlying buzz, always present and rooted in beliefs formed in childhood. Others experience it more on a situational basis, with a corresponding ebb and flow in intensity. By pinpointing some of the precursors to your own insecurities, you can begin to view them as a reaction rather than a core part of who you are.

 

Fear of Loss

This is probably the most common underlying source of insecurity. Maybe, like my incoming 6th graders, you fear losing the labels that you identify with. Or maybe you are concerned about losing status. Or wealth. Perhaps you are afraid that if you say the wrong thing or act the wrong way, that you will lose somebody that is valuable to you. Insecurity occurs when you have something but you fear that your grasp is not strong enough and that it will slip right through your reaching fingers.

 

Periods of Transition

Whenever we are in a state of flux, changing from one state or role into another, we often feel a sense of inadequacy due to underdeveloped skills and unmastered knowledge and a fear of the unknowns inherent in change. This can lead to a sense of being an imposter (even once the learning curve has leveled) or avoiding transitional periods whenever possible.

 

Times of Uncertainty

Some people handle a state of limbo better than others. For those prone to anxiety, periods of time that have an abundance of unknowns can give rise to insecurity. It’s not uncommon to fret over every decision, turning the perceived pros and cons over and again until your mind is spinning. This lack of trust in your abilities to make a solid choice can lead to decision paralysis or an acquired helplessness if decisions are always relegated to others.

 

Concern of Not Being Enough

This cause may begin in childhood, with an absent or hard-to-please parent giving the impression that you’re not good enough for them. This sense of insecurity may be generalized or may be tied to a particular skill or trait that your parent held in particular esteem. In adulthood, this sense of not being enough can develop after (or in anticipation of) rejection or abandonment.

 

Inadequate Communication

Our brains despise a vacuum. So when you’re in a situation where you receive inadequate feedback or information, that void can trigger a sense of insecurity as you begin to ponder the worst. One of the problems with this type of insecurity is that it is difficult to tell what may be your intuition cluing you in that something is amiss and what is simply your brain telling you scary fiction.

 

Gaslighting or Emotional Abuse

This is the most malevolent insecurity, as it is intentionally cultivated by somebody else in an attempt to manipulate or control you. This sort of covert abuse is challenging to recognize and overwhelming in its intensity. If you’re starting to doubt yourself and your perceptions ay every turn and you cannot pinpoint a reason, you may want to examine your relationships for signs of control.

 

Overcoming Insecurity

 

What NOT to Do to Overcome Insecurity

Insecurity is an awful feeling. It’s a restlessness, an agitation that precludes feelings of peace. It often causes us to act in unhealthy or ineffective ways as we search for external fixes for our internal plight. The following are some of the common methods attempted to eradicate insecurity that are ineffective at best and maybe even harmful.

 

Pretending to Be Someone You’re Not

There is definitely something to the adage, “Fake it until you make it” when you’re navigating a new situation or challenge. But some take this too far and assume an entirely new persona in an attempt to please others or fill a perceived role. This will ultimately only compound your problems as you begin to feel like you will only be accepted if you hide your true self.

 

Assigning Responsibility to Others

I see this response so often in my female students. When they’re feeling insecure about their looks (just like every other preteen and teenage girl on the planet), they often turn to social media in a search for validation and approval. With every “like,” their spirits soar. And then just one cruel or harsh comment can undo every positive reaction. And in a strange way, the negative comments ring more “true” because they echo the self-doubts that are already within. And there’s another problem with fishing for compliments – at some level, you always know that you’re baiting the hook.

 

Baidaiding

I’ve noticed that when I’m feeling insecure, I develop an urge to purchase new clothes or makeup. This is a type of bandaiding, covering the discomfort with a temporary covering in an attempt to make me feel more confident. I’ve also noticed that this reaction often backfires, not only offering a short period of relief, but also creating feelings of regret.

 

Fixation

This reaction is often seen in those struggling to avoid their ex’s social media. Their own insecurities are manifested in an obsessive focus on their ex and/or their ex’s new partner. It’s both a distraction from the insecurity and a source of fuel that feeds the insecurity. Like with bandaiding, it may feel good in the moment, but often leaves you feeling worse after.

Immediately Discounting the Feeling

Some people have trouble admitting to feeling insecure as it is seen as “weak” or vulnerable. When insecurity is immediately brushed aside without consideration, it leaves no room to understand and address the actual causes of the doubt. In the worst cases, the insecurity is hidden behind a steamrolling force of false bravado, the ego leaving little room for compassion.

 

Attempting to Control

It makes sense, doesn’t it? If we’re worried about losing something, we have a tendency to grasp on even stronger. As though we can prevent loss through sheer determination and force of will. For some people, insecurity manifests in an attempt to orchestrate everything around them. To make it “just so” so that they can maintain the illusion that control can replace trust.

 

What TO Do to Overcome Insecurity

Insecurity can become overwhelming. Your fear of taking the wrong step preventing you from moving forward at all. Your endless comparisons leading you to believe that you’ll never measure up. Your hesitation at facing the truth keeping you blinded.

Insecurity feels all-powerful. Yet you’re really the one at the helm. Here’s how you can learn to overcome your insecurity:

 

Accept That Certainty Is an Illusion

Consider for a moment the antonyms of insecurity – safety, protection, invulnerability, and certainty. Those are all states that we strive for. We yearn for that ultimate sense of security that the lucky among us experienced periodically as a child. And the reality is that even that occasional sense of ultimate stability was only because we were too young to understand how easily it could be threatened.

A state of insecurity is inevitable. No foundation is immune to cracks. No rug is completely slip-resistant. And change and loss are guaranteed. When you’re feeling insecure, it’s because you’re fighting against the natural and the inevitable.

There’s a sort of confidence that can come from accepting this impermanence. From stopping the illusion that if you just work hard enough, hold on tightly enough, or control everything enough, that you can keep things as they are.

 

Detach From the Outcome

When I first started dating again, one of the many fears that held me back was the concern that the relationship would end, like my marriage, with some sort of abandonment or betrayal. I led with that fear, feeling insecure in my ability to maintain a relationship with somebody who wouldn’t behave badly.

During one particularly difficult evening, I pulled out my journal and made two columns – things I can control and things I cannot control. Under the first list, I added items like choosing a partner, learning to handle my triggers and not tolerating abusive behavior. Betrayal and abandonment went in the second column. No wonder I was feeling insecure; I was trying to control the outcome when I could only influence the process.

No matter what you do or who you are, it will not be enough for some people. And as long as you have acted within your values, done your best to be kind and put forth your highest effort, they’re opinions don’t matter.

 

Strive to Get Out of Your Head

When you’re in an echo chamber, you risk only hearing your own critical thoughts bouncing back at you. It’s amazing how our minds can take one little fact (They didn’t text back immediately.) and spin it into an entire narrative (I bet they’re falling out love and they are currently flirting with someone that they met at lunch. I won’t go through that again. I wonder if I’ll be able to get out of the lease…).

And like with anything, the more you allow your mind to travel that path, the more of a habit it will become.

Take a break from your own thoughts. Surround yourself – and listen – to others. Even, perhaps especially, those you disagree with. Get moving, when your body is moving forward, your brain naturally tags along. Strive to enter a flow state through art or sport or work, where time ceases to exist and the activity has become all-consuming.

 

Recognize That Insecurity Is Often Fleeting and Cyclical

I’ve just wrapped my seventeenth year teaching. And I’m still insecure at the beginning of every school year. I doubt my abilities to form relationships with the kids, I worry that they will be unable to master the material and I question my own capacity with the mathematics. I still feel insecure, but it no longer bothers me. I trust that it will build through the first week of school and then begin to dissipate as I again find my stride.

And this is often how insecurity operates. It swells and recedes, according to the calendar or some other external rhythm. This sort or periodic insecurity doesn’t require much intervention. Just an acknowledgement (Oh, I’m feeling insecure again.) and faith that it will only be temporary.

 

Set and Accomplish Meaningful Goals

When everybody gets a trophy, every trophy becomes meaningless. It is much the same with our personal goals. When you set (and even reach) a low bar, you fail to build any confidence in yourself. In fact, you may even find that you outright dismiss your achievements because you know that they don’t really represent a challenge.

Insecurity begs us to set these safe goals, to stay in a place of guaranteed success. Yet staying there only feeds the self-doubt. Instead, try something new. Something scary. Something difficult.

Yes, you may fail (And so what if you do?). But you also might surprise yourself. And that trophy certainly has meaning.

 

Separate Mistakes From Your Character

When you’re feeling insecure, mistakes become very threatening. An error in judgment or a misstep can easily be interpreted as a defect in character, thus both confirming and inflating your feelings of unworthiness. When you’re operating from this place of low esteem, it’s easy to see others as flawless and fear that you are somehow irrecoverably broken.

Of course, neither is true. And your mistakes are a sign that you are learning and trying, which is an indication that you’re brave and persistent. Both excellent qualities to have.

 

_____

The end of the first nine weeks is often a crisis point in my 6th grade accelerated math class. The kids are insecure, questioning their abilities no matter how many times I reassure them that struggle is normal and no matter how much they see the kids around them falter as all. Some give in to this feeling and drop out, preferring to move to class where they are again assured of their top standing. 

But most tough it out. And even as they question their ability to master the math, they keep trying. When they receive a poor grade, they no longer see that number as a reflection of themselves. They begin to accept that struggle is not only inevitable, but often desirable. Instead of turning away from challenge, they embrace it.

They become willing to take risks, trusting that they will find their way through. Mistakes become normalized and simply part of the process. They slowly start to again see themselves as smart. As capable.

But this time, those beliefs are not so easily threatened because they have been constructed to withstand the inevitable tremors and obstacles that will come their way.

And ultimately that’s how to overcome insecurity – Not by believing that your foundation is solid, but by trusting that your footing is capable and malleable. That even when things change, you’ll be able to adapt and thrive.