When I was in elementary school, and up into junior high, I had to come home in the middle of the day.
I had a neurological problem, and wasn’t allowed to be in gym class. I had to go home and rest for an hour or so. When I’d walk back onto campus, I’d fight feeling like an alien in a strange land.
My assumption was that others were far closer to one another than I was to them. I grew sensitive to whether or not I was accepted. So I did stupid stuff to call attention to myself.
That wasn’t helpful.
Childhood insecurity is far from unique to me. I’ve heard many versions of this same story, going from an insecurity because of parents that were chaotic, embarrassing or downright mean, to being the tallest one, the shortest one, the one with asthma, or the one with big ears. The one who got picked last. The one who couldn’t focus. The one who was really, really smart. The one who developed early. The one who wasn’t into sports. The one who was into sports, but couldn’t afford to play. The one who was a different color. The one who wasn’t Baptist. Or Catholic. Or Jewish.
You name it. Insecurity can be found under a lot of rocks.
We all somehow survive that. We find a friend or two. Maybe by high school, we’re a little more sure of ourselves. Or maybe not.
What’s fascinating is how those early feelings seep into our consciousness, and perhaps today, influence our thinking.
When do you revert? When are you looking through the eyes of that little girl or boy, instead of your adult ones? When are you struggling with feelings of insecurity, when it doesn’t fit your reality?
The clue is when you overreact, or under-react. Your buttons get pushed.
You hear that some friends got together, and you weren’t invited. If you immediately become angry, or obsess about why no one texted you, then it’s likely that some old insecurity has raised its head. You instantly wonder what you could have done wrong. You struggle to remember that sometimes things happen spontaneously — no one left you out intentionally. Or it’s possible they were meeting to plan a surprise birthday party — for you.
That’s the overreactive button.
You’re in a relationship. When it’s good, it’s very good. But there are times when you’re insulted and screamed at — because you didn’t do something the way your partner wanted. Or you simply did what you thought was right. You say nothing. You tell yourself it will pass. You shove it under the rug, and wait for better times.
In both instances, you’re not seeing things, or understanding things, through the eyes of a mature, healthy adult. Insecurity and fear are influencing your mind and your reaction.
As parents, we cringe when we see insecurity in our children. When your son says he can’t ask someone out, because she’s in the popular group, or when your daughter says she can’t try out for the soccer team, because she won’t make it, we encourage. We talk about taking risks — about how it’s okay to learn and make mistakes. How it’s important to like yourself — to be comfortable in your own skin — to believe in your own capabilities, whatever they are.
But when buttons get pushed, we’re remembering bullied taunts, or times when we walked into a locker room, and other kids walked out. Times when no one sat by us in the cafeteria. Times when what we had to wear was dirty or torn. Times when some boy or girl told us to take a hike. Times when we didn’t catch a pass, or make a goal. Times when a parent mocked us or called us worthless.
We’re remembering awkwardness. Hurt. Self-consciousness. Anger.
And living it as if it were happening today.
That process makes you vulnerable to not thinking clearly, or acting in a healthy way.
To become secure in yourself means you appreciate and can name the strengths you have today, and accept your vulnerabilities.
What does “accepting your vulnerabilities” look like?
You know what “pushes your buttons.” When your button gets pushed, you take very personally what’s happening between you and others. If you’re a perfectionist, your button might be pushed when someone doesn’t do what they said they would, and your tendency would be to become angry, or overreact. If you struggle with self-worth, you could be way too easily hurt by constructive criticism, (overreaction) or far too easily absorb abusive feedback (under-reaction). If you struggle with feeling respected, or with confidence, you could be easily irritated by someone acting independently.
Knowing what pushes your buttons gives you power over your own choices. You recognize what’s triggering your vulnerability.
You can choose how to act, rather than automatically reacting.
Whether that happens with a friend, with your partner, with your family, or with the news of the day, you’re far more in control.
And you can feel secure in yourself.
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