As much as I like to project the impression that I'm 100% confident and self-assured all the time, I'm not. Trust me. My friends know exactly how neurotic I am. I'd say I'm self-assured and confident and A-OK with myself until something rattles me.
Recently this rattling has come in the form of other people's insecurities. One friend of mine--let's call her Friend A--seems to have internalized her mother and her sister's body image issues and diet obsessions while growing up. She gripes about how she has to work twice as hard as everyone else to stay slim. Never mind that she's lovely the way she is and my guy friends extol her hotness. In her mind she comes up short next to tall, willowy size 0 girls. Meanwhile, Friend B and I went shopping recently; Friend B grapples with her own weight issues.
The really startling thing? All three of us wear the same waist size in jeans, and Friend B and I are the same weight. And for the most part I like how I'm built--petite, strong, and healthy.
Lately, I feel as though being exposed to the weight and body issues of others is weighing me down. Thoughts along the lines of "If she's so lovely and amazing and regards herself as unacceptable, what must I be?" are plaguing me like pesky mosquitoes. And before you know it, this rhetorical trap becomes a vicious downward spiral.
The contagion effect of personal insecurities doesn't just apply to body image. Let's say you have a BFF who's brilliant at her job or her studies, or she's an accomplished dancer, a talented writer, or a top-notch athlete. If she constantly beats herself up over how deficient she is, it's very difficult to see yourself through untainted eyes and realize that you, as an autonomous entity, are no less brilliant, accomplished, talented, and top-notch in your own right. The insecurities of others can affect you, especially if building self-assurance is a battle you fight every day with the naysaying voices in your head.
So, what do you do if you think that the insecurity around you is catching? These days, the best thing I can do to deal with contagious insecurity is to distance myself from it, either by throwing myself into my work, going for long walks to clear my head, or surrounding myself with more positivity and spending time with people who have clarity and conviction. I can take better care of myself by pampering body and spirit.
To the people constantly complaining about their flaws or deficiencies to their friends, consider this: Indulging in insecurity is a deeply narcissistic, destructive, and often selfish act. It hurts yourself, yes, but it affects those around you too. Embracing positivity is one of the most courageous, selfless, rewarding things you can do.
I realize I've opened up a can of worms with this topic and I'm far from having all the answers, so I turn this discussion over to you. Have you ever experienced contagious insecurity, or are you someone grappling with personal insecurity? How do you deal with it?