Are you struggling with feelings of insecurity? Does it look like these feelings get in the way of your success and being able to relax and enjoy your life?
I can absolutely relate. I used to be driven by my feelings of insecurity. I tried to outrun them by working hard. I pushed. I strived. I forced myself. I punished myself. I felt not good enough, and I believed I needed to work my way out of my low self-esteem. Self-improvement was my focus.
That was my coping mechanism. I got lots of positive acknowledgments from this on the outside. I figured out what I was good at and pushed to make sure I achieved. My self-worth was based on what I accomplished. This worked in school when I could get straight A’s, but I had a nervous breakdown in college when I could not keep up with the demanding premed coursework. Rather than shifting my coping mechanism, I switched to an easier major where I could go back to getting straight A’s.
This was the best I could do. If I hadn’t found that coping mechanism, I would have needed to find another. But as with every coping mechanism, I also paid a price. My health was impacted. I got frequent colds, and felt tired and run down a lot of the time. I was sickly. When I got sick with parasite while doing research in Guatemala I wasn’t able to bounce back even with medical treatment.
I did not realize I didn’t need to push myself. I did not know how to stop. My worth felt like it was dependent on me being successful. As insane as it sounds, it felt like my life was dependent on achievement. But I eventually got too tired to push myself. I was diagnosed with depression, but really I was just exhausted. When my mind and body wouldn’t function even when I pushed that terrified me. I lost my solid footing and fell into an abyss of suffering. The pain felt like it would consume me, and I that would never be able to walk out the other side.
All of this because it looked like my self-worth was contingent on me doing well. Looking back I see I was a perfectionist, but I would never have called myself that at the time because I never felt like I measured up. I couldn’t meet my standards of perfection so I didn’t think I could be a perfectionist. I wasn’t good enough to be a perfectionist. In my mind perfectionists were able to achieve perfection or at least a higher level of competence and feelings of accomplishment than I did. I didn’t realize that for perfectionists, behind their mask of perfectionism, is the pain of insecurity trying to be papered over by hard work and effort.
I remember one time I was so exhausted I couldn’t move. I was alone in my studio apartment in Toronto. I was supposed to be working on my Master’s thesis. I felt physically and emotionally drained, and I couldn’t do it. I felt completely and utterly alone. It was sunny outside. My apartment was filled with bright light and felt spacious with the high ceilings. The light, however, was incongruent with my dark mood. My herbal tea was on my desk in the kitchen next to my computer beckoning me to start some work, but I was curled up in a ball on my very uncomfortable, cheap blue Ikea sofa that folded out into a bed. I had managed to get dressed in some sweatpants and a white t-shirt, but that was it. I felt utterly worthless and my inability to work on my thesis was proof of this. I was ashamed. I felt like a complete failure. Life felt too much for me.
I did go on to finish my thesis. I managed to find some reserves inside of me to get through it, but I continued to struggle for many years with feelings of unworthiness and feelings of insecurity. I did take some time off after finishing my thesis. I was a very bad feminist and modeled for many years while I was figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Modeling was not a career that working hard at it made a difference. It never occurred to me that I could work on my looks or my body. I am grateful for that.
It wasn’t until I was in my forties when I came across the teachings of Sydney Banks and learned from one of his first students that my feelings of unworthiness were normal that I experienced freedom from my self-loathing. I learned that my feelings of insecurity and shame didn’t mean anything about me. I didn’t need to fix myself like I thought. I had simply been caught up for all these years in the misunderstanding that I needed to feel confident and secure in order to be good enough. But I saw my worth had nothing to do with these feelings. My striving to feel confident was actually reinforcing my belief that I was unworthy. I had glimpses of this before then. I knew it intellectually, but it wasn’t until I had a conversation with Linda Pransky that I felt it internally. I experienced the truth of my worth. When I spoke with her, I felt for the first time that my feelings of shame did not determine my value. It was not an idea that I should believe. It actually felt true to me.
If you are struggling with feeling unworthy or insecure, I have lived in that place, but I have found my way to an understanding that helped me see I can take my thoughts and feelings less seriously. I measure less how I am doing now by how I am feeling and recognize that there is a constant formless presence behind all the ups and downs of my human experience that I can count on. The essence of my nature is pure potential. How much access I have to it is not up to me.
I don’t control my moods, my thoughts or my feelings, and there is such freedom in knowing this. I don’t have to work on myself or improve myself. Instead, I understand that my experience is temporary and transitory, and it doesn’t mean anything about me. I have a foundation in knowing I will not find my safety and security in my mental and emotional experience. I know I am more than that. I am more than my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. We all are.
Experiencing this is what set me free. Not free from feeling unworthy and insecure, but free from being bothered by those experiences. I am free to not take my thoughts and feelings seriously because I know they are not the truth. I can’t know the truth, but I feel glimmers of it and even a glimmer is enough to have me find myself on solid ground more often even when my emotions are screaming at me I am not: Even when life is not going my way, Even when my husband is moody and irritable, Even when my teenage daughters make mistakes, Even when … fill in the blank.
You are not your thoughts or your feelings either. You are not responsible for how you feel. You do not need to work on feeling better. There is an intelligence inside of you that is designed to stabilize you. It is your potential. It is your true nature. There is nothing you need to do to earn your worth or to fix yourself. You know this. It is just about remembering when you forget. That is what Linda Pransky helped me to see. She pointed me to look in direction of my true nature so I could remember who I am. As a result, I felt at home inside myself.
Are you open to looking in the direction of your true nature instead of your ever-changing human emotional experience? Are you open to feeling and seeing the magnificence in you with you exactly as you are? One small glimpse of this is enough to change a life. It did mine.
Add paragraph text here.If you would like to listen to the Rewilding Love Podcast, it comes out in serial format. Start with Episode 1 for context. Click here to listen. And, if you would like to dive deeper into the understanding I share along with additional support please check out the Rewilding Community.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.