We all get insecure sometimes — even therapists. But knowing how to get through those uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) moments of self-doubt can make all the difference.
Since becoming a licensed therapist 11 years ago, I’ve had so many times where I’ve felt deeply insecure. It’s not easy to admit, but I know at the core of my own insecurities is FEAR….fear that I am not good enough, that I am not worthy enough, and fear of failure.
The insecurities I face as a clinician are far more intense than those that I had in high school. You know those coming-of-age moments when you doubt everything from your looks to the sound of your own voice.
The self-doubt can also be compounded by the fear of being wrong. And the truth is, I can’t be wrong because in a lot of situations I face as a therapist mistakes can impact the lives of others.
So I’ve had to ask myself, how do I move through my insecurities so that I can function and be an effective therapist? If you have moments of questioning your worth, choices, or abilities, I’m here to share some things that have helped me, in hopes that they may work for you too.
Understanding your own insecurities
Beginning to understand what our insecurities are rooted in, or centered around, is a great first step. What are your insecurities? Have they changed over the years? What do they look like and feel like? What are the signs that you’re feeling self-conscious? I recommend setting aside 30 minutes to an hour and answering these questions for yourself in a journal.
It can also be helpful to know what your external and internal triggers are. External triggers include moments of comparing yourself to someone else or measuring yourself in terms of appearance, wealth, physical abilities, etc.
Internal triggers can derive from a harsh inner critic. Are you hard on yourself, critical, or judgmental? What do you say to yourself when you make a mistake? Internal triggers can develop because of a new role you have in life such as starting a new job or becoming a parent.
Insecurities can also come from the need to be perfect, and past or present day traumas. They can crop up as jealousy, procrastination or avoidance of a difficult task, and worry if there is something positive or exciting happening.
Top 10 insecurity coping tips
Whatever your insecurities are, know that there are ways to both deal and heal. Here are quick, top 10 go-to tips.
- Acknowledge your feelings rather than avoid them. Try journaling them out (here’s a tool to help) or talking to a trusted loved one or therapist. Just getting real about what’s going on for you can make a huge difference.
- Identify your triggers and work to confront and heal them. Do you experience self-doubt when you spend time on social media, when trying something new, or out in social situations? It can help to begin to identify patterns, meeting yourself with self-compassion and understanding along the way.
- Challenge your negative thoughts….Ask yourself is this FACT or FICTION? Sometimes our perspective doesn’t align with reality, so ask yourself if your feelings are based on actual facts, fears, or distortions.
- Turn your self-critique into an opportunity to enhance yourself, your career, your skills, your relationships and overall life experience. Work towards a growth mindset and set solid and realistic goals. You can use this tool to get started setting your personal goals.
- Prepare yourself for setbacks and mistakes, but do not let them control you. The next time you try something difficult, what if instead of getting defeated, you reframe your thoughts and look at your efforts as a learning experience instead of a failure?
- Give yourself GRACE. Be a friend to yourself, and remember that how you treat the people you love when they stumble is how you should treat yourself, too.
- Embrace all of your characteristics and passions, especially your strengths.
When insecurities are present, remind yourself this is a great time to highlight your strengths which counteract negative thoughts and emotions. Try grabbing a piece of paper and writing down 5 of your strengths. Are you curious, kind, witty, brave? Come back to this list when you need a boost.
- Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people. And when you do have to engage with negative people, remember that negativity is theirs, not yours.
- Seek out success stories from people who have overcome their insecurities to give you not only a roadmap, but also hope. It’s likely that everyone around you has experienced moments of self-doubt, so try opening up to someone you trust to commiserate.
- Practice gratitude. I find it helpful to start my day with a quick gratitude check-in — either listing or saying out loud a few things that I appreciate in that moment.
- Let go of people and situations that fuel your insecurities. Unfollow that social media account that has you doubting yourself, spend less time with that competitive friend that always wants to one-up you, and make more space for positive people and experience that help you to feel your best.
When my fear tries to hijack my purpose, I go back to the basics which starts with intention. I become very intentional about my well-being, making sure I am okay before I help others. Then I am INTENTIONAL with every encounter, making space for the wonderful people in my life.
I also become intentional about being a competent clinician, making it my purpose to be a lifelong student of my craft. This means seeking out learning opportunities to make sure I am providing the most up-to-date and evidence-based treatment to clients.
We all struggle with insecurities from time-to-time. Be gentle on yourself, begin to notice what happens for you in these moments of self-doubt, and approach this self-doubt with curiosity and kindness. I know it’s easier said than done, but thankfully it does get easier over time. Our therapists are always here if you need a little extra support.
By Teressa Carter, MSW, LCSW
Teressa has nearly a decade of experience in behavioral health as a licensed clinical social worker, specializing in mental/behavioral health counseling. Her specialty is cognitive behavioral therapy, while utilizing the Strengths Perspective: calling upon our innate capacity of mindfulness and resiliency to navigate our paths with the stressors and challenges in our lives. When she is not seeing clients, Teressa enjoys karaoke and baking. She finds socializing and expressing herself in creative ways helps to maintain a positive mood.