I am the first person to admit I am insecure. I don't think, as much as I would like to be, that I will ever be 100% totally confident, it's just not part of my make up (not the cosmetic kind!). For as long as I can remember there has always been something I have been insecure about. I'm not saying this is good, I can't stand feeling like I do. It's something I begrudgingly accept, because no matter how much effort I make to try and counteract it, insecure thoughts just creep back in.
I am the first person to try and boost other peoples confidence, and try to quell their insecurities. Not just because I feel I should, because I actually want to and I don't believe they should have them. However, when it comes to taking my own advice, or applying that same belief to myself, it just categorically does not work.
As I have gotten older (I'm 22, so probably have a fair way to go and hopefully improve) some insecurities have lessened, to the point where they don't impact upon my life in such obvious ways, but they are still there, lurking beneath the surface. Some days my insecurities are much worse that others, just in the natural ebb and flow of life, hormones and events.
My biggest insecurity is my appearance. I should say at this point I am not writing this blog to receive compliments, sympathy, or anything to that effect, I'm simply writing it because for me, writing is like therapy, it's a release and I find it helps to put things into words. I'm not particularly good at vocalising a lot of these personal thoughts, I'm too emotional, but writing is something I can do. I don't think I have ever expressed these feelings to anyone before, with the exception of my long suffering boyfriend Colin, who finds them unfathomable. I have been with him for 5 years (in July), and I think my insecurities have heightened in that time...not because of him directly, but due to my age and experiences. When I met Colin I was a size 6/8, I am now a size 10/12 which I KNOW is not fat/huge/monstrous in any way...but if I was insecure and unhappy with the way I looked 5 years ago, you can imagine how I feel now, when I am bigger. I would love to be that size again, and it's not like I've binge eaten my way through 5 years, I'm still pretty healthy, and I think my metabolism is still quite effective, perhaps it's just natural and if I had exercised more...I don't know!
I know my insecurities go way back, I can remember in my first couple of years at secondary school, in my early teens, being so uncomfortably paranoid and shy about how pale I was. PE lessons were horrific for me. I genuinely got terrified of changing in front of everyone (I was thin as a rake, and my actual body was not the issue then), in case they, God forbid, saw my pasty legs and all pointed and laughed. Embracing my pale skin now is a very, very big step forward! I then realised I was the only person who didn't shave, and I remember being painfully conscious of my legs even more. I got some disposable razors and started shaving in secret (although I'm sure my Mum wouldn't have told me off or anything, I just was too embarrassed to ask), but I still felt self conscious. I can remember clear as day going to play netball in PE one summer, and I was the only person wearing trousers because I couldn't bear for anyone to see me. This is undoubtedly where my genuine dislike for my legs stemmed from, and I don't see how I could ever escape from these feelings fully, even if my some miracle I end up with pins like a supermodel.
The feelings I had for my legs, and the painfully self conscious way I tried to hide myself gradually extended to the rest of my body, and in my teenage years it was my skin colour (or lack thereof) that I disliked. I am also quite a sweaty person, which I think anyone can understand is a horrible, horrible thing, something you can't help but be aware of. This was also painfully obvious from my teenage years, and in summer I would keep my school jumper on even though I was literally melting in the heat, just so people wouldn't see if I had sweat patches on my blouse. I have recently found a good anti persperant that is quite effective, but I am still very conscious of sweating now...which is probably why I really don't like the English heat, which clings to me and makes me all sticky and uncomfortable.
As I headed toward GCSE and A Level age appearance started to become 'the thing', clothes, bodies and faces started to have a really powerful impact. I was never in the 'popular' crowd, I never particularly wanted to be, they all seemed like stuck up, really irritating people, but that also meant that, by school playground standards, I wasn't cool, didn't know what cool was, and couldn't ever be cool. Bothered?! Not really! I still had great fun with my friends, and at least they were actually my friends, not just accessories! I wanted to do well at school, and I did, so I'm glad it wasn't just one big fashion show, or about how many boys I could throw myself at in a lunch hour. However, this time is when I started to look at myself more critically, and noticed things that were not quite how I would like them, and so on and so forth. My feelings towards my body by the time I got to University where more often that not negative, self loathing and destructive. I think, looking back, my 'then' best friend had anorexia, which probably did not help me, and though I didn't go to the controlling extremes that she did, my thought processes were much the same.
I'm not sure if my insecurities are just that, or if it could perhaps be mild BDD (Body Dysmoprhic Disorder), but what I do know is that, to me, they are very real, they affect me every single day of my life, subconsciously they affect my personality and my decisions, and I wish I didn't think the way that I did. I can accept compliments more graciously now, instead of immediately batting them away and dismissing them, but it doesn't mean I believe them, or want to be smothered in them. The day I look in the mirror and am even a tiny bit pleased with the whole reflection looking back will be a very good day.
My overall confidence has grown. When I look back to my teenage years, and even to University, I can see how much I have changed, and I think it's for the better. I would still describe myself as shy, but compared to when I was a teen, this may not be as prominent. I can easily walk into a room of people and not let my nervous butterflies get the better of me. I can strike up conversations with people I don't know, in an environment that I don't know, and enjoy it. I can get on a train to a destination I have never visited, and know that deep down, even if I do get hopelessly lost, I'll be OK. I can say no and not regret my decision. I can make complaints without stuttering my way through the conversation. I can take responsibility for my own actions. In these respects, my confidence has grown in leaps and bounds, to the point where new acquaintances would not describe me as shy. I think University and the working world are accountable for these growths, and I'm very thankful for the developments. I wish I could extend this to all areas of my life.
When I graduated from University with a 2:1 in my degree I had an epiphany. I am intelligent. Wow, I did it. By myself. That is MY degree. That may sound silly, but up until that point I genuinely believed that I had fluked my way through my GCSE's and A Levels, and that every achievement I had was by some small miracle. The tears I shed when I got my results where pure, ecstatic joy mixed with relief. My lack of self belief and self worth had prevented me from realising my potential, and stopped me from seeing what other people saw all along.
Insecurities may be silly, trivial feelings, but are inescapable and potentially crippling nonetheless.