By Jillian Smith
A friend of mine who has been close to me for roughly a year recently told me that for an outgoing person, I am very guarded in how much personal information I share.
It shocked me that a friend I’m very close to felt this way.
The situation forced me to think about some uncomfortable questions over the next few days. Why do I do that? What do I have to hide? Is there some other ulterior motive I had? Am I just shallow?
The awkward truth is that I am afraid of being inadequate, whether it is thinking I am not pretty enough, smart enough or funny enough. I have a real problem with telling myself that I am valuable.
I also feel inadequate writing this column. I feel that talking about the fact that I have this gnawing fear makes me seem even less cool and smart and competent. I am a defective neurotic, in my mind.
I was bulimic in my teenaged years and still struggle with body image issues to this day. This is the last thing I want to tell you. The last thing I want to be after you read this is the girl who is advertising her personal business to the world for pity or attention.
So why am I writing this now?
I have been part of the problem. By me refusing to bring up the negative parts of my life, by me filling my Facebook with lists of achievements and creating the impression that I have a carefree life, I don’t invite others to be honest about their struggles or their flaws.
Many studies have shown that the curated successes of our friends’ lives as seen through social media has a negative effect on our self-esteem. The constant stream of success subconsciously creates an unrealistic and unobtainable version of reality. It’s not wrong to document success, and indeed that is far more preferable than having streams full of negativity, but it certainly makes real vulnerability more difficult. The same thing can occur in a non-virtual sense, as it has with me, when we never confide our personal failings or fears to others.
What’s the solution for fear of inadequacy? Psychology Today says that it takes being vulnerable about fear and owning up to it before the fear will ever go away. This is a tough thing because the person who thinks they are inadequate certainly doesn’t want to invite impressions of greater inadequacy by talking about their fear of inadequacy. But this is why I am writing about it now, and why I invite others to be unafraid of being open and vulnerable. In their article, Psychology Today notes that keeping our fears to ourselves allows them to grow and become more threatening than what they are, and that the anxiety can lead to actions of self-sabotage. Instead, owning up to our fear allows us a feeling of greater control over our thoughts.
There are moments in your life when you will feel like you are not enough. It happens to all of us. But in those moments, don’t feel ashamed of voicing your fear. Indeed, it is the one thing that will allow you to overcome it best.