I think we all have insecurities about our appearances. I definitely do, and have had ever since I spotted the first pimple on my forehead. My acne, my nose, my underarm hair, thighs, arms, big toes, stretch marks, and the way my weight gain has made a lot of these more protruding. It speaks a lot about my own self-esteem and the fact that, at the crisp age of 22, I am as insecure as ever.

Then there are the other insecurities, the kind that stem from our experiences and our character, things that are deeply ingrained within our psyche. I have them too, and they don’t seem to get any better with age.

being rejected from college the first time

Back in 2016, found myself in a gap year after none of the 13+ colleges i applied to accepted me. None. There is no “community college” where I come from, so my options were limited. I decided that a gap year was the most viable choice given my options, and I reapplied to another 13+ universities the following year,  and have been in college for more than 2.5 years now. 

But to this day, I’m still haunted by those rejections. They are hard to accept, no matter where they come from. I’ve since received a lot more of them, in the form of club, job, among other rejections. Receiving rejections awakened a lot of insecurities and resentment in me. Sometimes, I felt like I had been cheated, that I had deserved that position. Sometimes, I felt like I had failed myself when I was younger, that I should have pursued another path to prepare me for this moment. But all these negative feelings were counterproductive; they just bathed me in a pity pool for myself. It was unproductive and hurtful, and I am still working to make peace with that.

my voice

I think we all think our voices sound really different or weird when we listen to it on a recording. I have a particular distaste for mine. Whenever I hear my voice coming out of somewhere other than myself, I cringe. Hard. I know that if I hear my voice often enough, I’ll eventually get used to it. But it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not counting on it.

To make things worse, I can’t sing. Because I studied music back in school, I needed to sing for my music theory classes, and it was hard. It was hard to listen to my voice, hard knowing that the teacher was listening to me intently, hard knowing that my peers were also doing so as well. Those music classes may have helped me sing notes in tune, but they didn’t help me sing in tune to songs overall because I just never practiced. I never wanted to hear my voice out loud. I am trying to coax myself into singing again, just because it can be good for my soul, but it’s been hard to make it stick. I like humming, though.

feeling like i’ll never be ___ enough

Everything I set myself to do, whether it be my career aspirations, side hustles, hobbies, or simply something I want to learn, more often than not I’m plagued by a fear of not being able to do it. This is particularly so when I’m just finding my bearings and everything about that thing seems so amazing and complex that I find it incredibly hard to truly feel that I, too, can do it.

being seen alone (and introversion)

Ah, the paradox of being an introvert with a fear of being spotted in their zone. I love venturing alone, eating alone, being alone – yet I’m horrified by the idea of being seen alone by someone I know. It makes no sense, because I never judge people who are doing their own thing, alone. That thought rarely, if ever, crosses my mind, yet I just can’t shake it off about myself.

I have a feeling that this insecurity is deep-rooted in my experiences when I was younger. Growing up, I was encouraged, pushed and convinced that I had to be more outspoken with my ideas and behavior. My dad taught me that I had to speak up in every opportunity that I could, because if I didn’t, then how would I be able to succeed when I got to college or the workforce? If I didn’t practice then, I would never be able to speak up for myself. My parents taught me that parties and hanging out with friends were just wasting time that I could be using to prep for the SAT (or SAT Subject Tests or ACT or TOEFL or homework), yet when I found myself in fun and sociable situations I didn’t enjoy them. I had voices pull me from the extremes of a confusing mixture, even though I never asked for any of it.

While I went through a lot of effort and anxious moments to practice being more social and confident when I was younger, not much about me has changed. I am introverted as hell, I’m not a huge fan of public speaking but have become okay with it as my confidence has naturally evolved on its own, and I have come to the realization that I don’t like parties. Or hanging out with more than a few people at once. And I’m okay with it – but I still fear being judged when I’m in public.

my social anxiety

There’s this phenomenon called “imaginary audience,” wherein we believe that we are the center of a narrative and everyone is paying close attention to us. We feel like we’re being watched all the time, our every move being monitored. It’s most commonly associated with teens, though it can happen at any age. I’m 22, and I’m still one of those people. Every time i step out into a public place, I fear being seen if I’m on my own.

I talked about being seen alone just now, but now I’m talking about the fear of not knowing what to do when I have to confront that situation. I fear running into people I know, or running into acquaintances and not knowing what to say. Do I want to acknowledge their presence, or just brush it off? Do they even remember me? Should I have a small conversation, or make up an excuse to walk away immediately? Do I even want to talk to them? Hell no. It’s all these “What if…?” scenarios that leave me ruminating endlessly.

Along with this, I also fear planned outings with friends. I’m lucky to have met people in college whom I love hanging out with and have no anxiety whatsoever when I make plans with them. But I also have friends, or groups of friends whom I do get anxious around if I don’t know them as well, and it can get pretty awful in my head in the hours leading up to the meet up. 

However, something that I am proud of is that I am becoming more okay with not having social plans every weekend. I love spending Friday nights at home and occasionally going out on weekend (or not at all). Whereas my younger self would have felt the need to go out in FOMO, my current self is content with my own company. That, I do have to give myself credit.

my shyness

So, not only am I a major introvert, I’m also shy. I was incredibly, astonishingly shy when I was younger. I always have, and always will be. Through my experiences growing up, I have learned to pretend to be otherwise when I’m interacting with others. I have grown comfortable to be my full, silly self when I’m with someone I get along with and trust, but I am still my same shy self on my outer core.

I can understand why my parents pushed me to be someone who I didn’t want to be. They wanted to prepare me for the real world, but what they didn’t realize was that this was something I had to face on my own terms. Shyness is fragile; you can push, but if you push too hard, all the effort might backfire. While some of the experiences I had did help me break out of my comfort zone, I also have memories of things people said that broke my confidence. They were situations that wouldn’t have happened had I not been put in that position; but I was, and I have to learn to be okay with that.

feeling insecure

And so it comes full circle. I am insecure… about being insecure, self-sabotaging my way to failure. I am so in my own head, so conscious of my fragile existence, that I fear how others might see my insecurities and think of me. It’s something that I hold myself responsible for, because I know that, at the end of the day, 99% of it is in my head. Everyone else who, by the rare chance, notices something that I don’t want them to, will completely forget about it by the next few minutes. If I just use myself as a test subject, I’ll realize that I couldn’t really care less about other people’s flaws and insecurities – and if I do care, it’s always to compare my own flaws to them, because I am so fixated on myself. I am still stuck in my own narrative, and I hope that acknowledging it can help me take the steps I need to take control of it.

-Michelle

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