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Sophie Elkus

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Dealing with Insecurities

Acler top (dress here), L'Agence jeans, Alias Mae shoes, Linjer bag, Quay sunglasses

When I sat down to write this post, I typed “How to Deal with Insecurities” into the subject line. Then I deleted the “how to.”

The truth is, this is a loaded topic and there’s not one magic answer. I recently did a Q&A on Instagram and a reader asked for my tips on the matter. I received so many messages from you all that I thought I’d expand on my answer, because it’s such a common experience. Let me preface these tips by saying I’m not an expert – I’m still working on my confidence every day! But these are tools that help me:

1) Know that everyone has them.

EVERYONE! The most “confident” people in our lives have them. I have them.

Instagram is a wonderful place for creativity, for collaboration, for positive connections – for finding your long lost neighbor from third grade and happily learning she’s married with three kids. For following celebrities and bloggers and being inspired to live a more beautiful life. For getting ideas for what to wear. What it’s not a great place for is comparison. You have to take Instagram with a grain of salt and an air of skepticism. It’s meant to be a highlight reel – no one is happy and perfectly styled 24/7. Believing so will only make you insecure about your own life.

I remember a particularly rough day where nothing was going right – I had just had a tense conversation with my boyfriend (and we don’t usually fight), I was stressed about my career, drowning in work and feeling down. I needed a good cry. But I had a scheduled photo to post for a brand in which I was laughing at the camera, looking carefree. I remember posting it with teary eyes thinking how ironic it was; how low I felt in that moment but how high I looked in it.

2) Practice kindness and confidence.

As a society we celebrate “confidence,” but we speak about it like it’s a God-given trait, an innate attractive quality that makes someone special. “She’s so confident, she has such good energy.” This annoys me because confidence is not always innate – it’s not only available to a lucky few who are born with outgoing personalities. Confidence can be learned by practice – it’s available to everyone.

It’s scientifically proven that doing something enough times forms a habit. Practice saying kind things about yourself every day, and watch yourself start to believe these constant thoughts. It may feel stupid, but look yourself in the mirror and practice giving yourself compliments. Focus on qualities you love about yourself. Know that most of the time, people don’t notice anything else. It’s like how they say “if you forget your lines, make something up and keep going” because the audience won’t know the difference. Which brings me to my next point:

3) Deflect.

Deflect may not be the right word – it sounds like giving in or covering up. What I mean is – when someone attempts to highlight your weaknesses, DON’T entertain it for a second.

I heard Miranda Kerr once say in an interview when asked what her biggest physical flaw is – “why would I tell you? Then you’d look at it!” That struck me as smart – it’s not being ashamed of something; it’s just not giving it attention and power. The interviewer looked taken aback and moved right along to the next question.

You may be thinking, “easy for her to say” – and I agree, life must be tough for a supermodel… But then I catch myself and realize – it is tough. It’s tough for everyone! Insecurities don’t discriminate – even someone you may find “perfect” has them.

Women tend to be self deprecating and we indulge each other by discussing all the things we dislike about ourselves. I think too much of that can be damaging. Why do we do this? Maybe it fosters a sense of camaraderie, a sense of common understanding and bonding – but there’s a fine line until it becomes a little sick. I think we should actively try to bond over the things we love about ourselves and build each other up.

I think that insecurities affect men and women differently. This may be an unfair, sweeping generalization, and I’m sure some of you will disagree with me. But in my experience, I’ve seen firsthand as a sister among two brothers as well as growing up around boys, the effects of traditional male camaraderie. Of course there are exceptions as men can be wonderfully sensitive and emotional too.  But I do feel like women are wired to bond over our experiences, to sympathize and tell our stories more than men – I feel like men are wired to bond over action – less talk, more doing. They build each other up in a different way than women do, and as a result our confidence is impacted differently.

I’ve heard male friends say “oh wow, I didn’t know he was going through that.” Meanwhile if it’s a female friend – not only did I know she was going through that – I’ve talked to her about it at length and we’ve made a pro-con bullet point list and hypothesized every possible outcome (this is why women get shit done, right? We are prepared!)  Let’s make sure that if we’re talking something through, we’re not just wallowing in negativity but using conversation as an opportunity to boost ourselves up. Of course sometimes we NEED to vent and get it out – but negativity is a slippery slope. I like to say my piece, get the negativity out – then move on to the plan, to what I’m going to do about it –  before the conversation becomes a counterproductive pity party.

4) Edit your circle.

If you take nothing else from this post, this point may be the most important to remember. There’s a quote that says “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, make sure you’re not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” (The original quote can be attributed to Freud and I believe he said “fools,” but for this purpose I like assholes even better).

How genius, and true is this? Give yourself a break – how can you expect to thrive, blossom and exude positivity and confidence when you’re swimming uphill surrounding by negative people who make you feel insecure? Being our best selves while being beaten down by others is an incredible, impossible task. It’s unfair.

As I’ve gotten older I find this to be truer. Not because I find myself surrounded by assholes – the opposite. As I’ve been lucky enough to develop deeper friendships with genuine, kind girls with shared interests I’ve noticed what a profound difference it has on my confidence. There is just nothing in life like a healthy, supportive female friendship. These relationships carry us through life and pick us up during tough times in a way not even a romantic partner can.

Where it gets tricky is that most of us don’t have one friend who is outwardly tearing them down. You may think, “that doesn’t apply to me, my friends don’t do that.” But it can be subtle – very subtle. It can be so much as a backhanded compliment, a friend who gets overly competitive, points out your “flaws,” or makes you feel uneasy, even if you can’t pinpoint exactly why. A friend who says “that dress is so cute! It’s bulging a little on you at the back – but it’s still cute.” Or maybe she’s overly critical of your decisions. “I guess you could do that. I wouldn’t, but I guess you could.”

I know because it’s happened to me! At first I may not have even realized; or perhaps I shrugged it off and assumed she was having a bad day. But after it’d happened several times, I began to find myself naturally creating some distance between us because it didn’t make me feel good.

It doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad person. They may be dealing with their own insecurities we know nothing about. If it happens, I’d recommend lovingly distancing yourself from them. Acknowledge that they may be struggling themselves, and wish them the best, but know there is no need for you to suffer around them while they figure it out. You must prioritize yourself and your own confidence.

With all this in mind, I can understand why some people have difficult or toxic relationships with family members, and in extreme situations, are forced to cut ties to prioritize their well being. I’ve seen friends go through this, and it’s very complicated – a whole other topic. But the thing is, we can choose our friends.

Long story short…

If a friend or partner is consistently making you feel insecure –  it may be time to replace them.

I don’t have a formula to gage this because I go by gut feeling. I can tell which friends make me feel good.  It’s a physical reaction – I can feel myself relaxing in their presence, my posture becomes less rigid, my breathing slows. When I go home after seeing a real friend, I feel lighter.  Happier. I feel more peaceful. That’s also how I want my friends to feel after spending time with me.

I like to think of a simple analogy. We all have an energetic field around us that we radiate outwards to other people.  If we spend time around negative people that make us feel insecure, it’s dangerous – we become susceptible to those people piercing through our field, tearing and ripping it and causing damage. If we spend time around positive people who build us up, they enforce our field by shining their light onto us and in return we become stronger, brighter, more capable. Protect your field with ALL your power.

I’d love to hear how you deal with insecurities – leave a comment below (also find my outfit links in the bar below – I got so carried away here, forgot to mention the outfit. Whoops)

Acler top (dress here), L’Agence jeans, Alias Mae shoes, Linjer bag, Quay sunglasses
Photography by Felicia Lasala

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