From the time I can remember, numerous insecurities about my physical appearance, temperament, and abilities have plagued my mind, stubbornly following me from season to season. And I’m not alone; having these insecurities is seemingly inescapable in our existence as women.
Our culture’s attitude towards women can feel unforgiving and exclusive, from glorifying unachievable body standards to instilling a reliance on makeup to look acceptable from the time we’re in middle school. It’s no wonder that many of us women are haunted by some of the same insecurities for years. So what can we do about this?
I propose we take an honest look at our common insecurities as women, ask ourselves where it stems from for us personally, and consider the most effective ways of healing.
Here are five of the most common insecurities women suffer from:
1. “I’m not thin enough.”
A whopping 78% of teenage girls are unhappy with their bodies. This, it seems, is a universal point of insecurity among women. We’re conditioned to regard the gaunt, six-foot-tall bodies of supermodels as the ultimate goal (but a totally unrealistic one). As a woman whose shape is not that of a model’s, I’ve dealt with my fair share of body issues.
Learning how to love the body we’ve been given and seeing its inherent beauty isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Start with a simple step like writing down something you like about your body or appearance every day, or challenge yourself to say something nice about your body for every mean thing you say. These affirmations will eventually make a world of difference. If we say something about ourselves often enough, we begin to believe it. So why not make an effort to have that thing be something loving?
2. “I’m not strong enough.”
Starting at a very young age, we’re bombarded with language like “Don’t be such a sissy” or “You run like a girl”. These phrases are highly damaging to our image of femininity as young women, leading us to aspire to become tougher, more masculine. This is compounded as we enter the often-male-dominated workforce, leaving us struggling with being seen as too weak, emotional, or inadequate if we don’t play ball like the boys do.
But we’re bound to keep losing if we try to out-man men. Women do in fact have intrinsic strengths - they’re just different from that of men’s. We’re more likely to be in touch with what we’re feeling, we seek out communities of women in which we build one another up, and we can birth and nurture new life. When we open our definition of “strength” to new possibilities, we’re able to recognize our wonderful sources of strength that the world couldn’t do without.
Women do in fact have intrinsic strengths - they’re just different from that of men’s.
3. “I’m not feminine enough.”
One night I was on the phone with one of my closest friends, and, through tears, she confided in me, “I just feel like I’m not… girly enough”. She complained she felt her hands looked too mannish, her frame was too thick, and she was too tall - insecurities she had adopted after a toxic friend had told her she should.
We often have an image of what a woman should look like - either an Amazonian beauty or a dainty, petite lady. But many of us don’t fit that mold, being left to question our feminine identities. But here’s the thing: you are feminine enough, simply because you are a woman. When we choose to own our femininity and let that identity meet us where we are, rather than placing it upon an unreachable pedestal, we open the door to new ideas of what femininity is.
4. “I’m not young enough.”
It’s a cruel truth that as women our youth is highly valued - far more than that of men. Anti-aging serums are sold to women in their twenties. Hollywood matches up actresses to play opposite actors more than twice their age without the blink of an eye. We’re reminded of our “biological clock” as soon as we graduate college. Consequently, it’s very easy to get caught up in the “I’m getting old” mantra - I myself started feeling my youth slip away as early as eighteen.
But my idea of what youth was changed when I met a woman in her sixties, all of her children totally grown, whose career didn’t fully take off until she was in her forties, who travels the world like there’s no tomorrow, and who dreams like she’s got a hundred years left. Being young really has nothing to do with your actual age or whether you already have kids; a youthful heart will never grow old.
Being young really has nothing to do with your actual age or whether you already have kids; a youthful heart will never grow old.
5. “I’m not enough.”
Perhaps the most dangerous insecurity of them all is the feeling that we’re simply not enough - to make someone happy, to be a good partner, to meet any standard we feel applies to us. The unfortunate truth is that many of us weren’t reassured of our intrinsic value from a young age, leaving us to search for confirmation of our value in the validation we receive from others. This can often lead us down a path of self-destructive behavior, which forces us to continually question our value as we find ourselves feeling more lonely, unwanted, and worthless than ever.
I once heard someone say they wrote love letters to themselves. It sounded strange to me to begin with, but then they explained: “I needed to see myself from an outsider’s perspective to begin to understand my worth… It was so difficult to find anything nice to say to myself at first, but when I started treating myself the way I’d treat my best friend, it became easier.”
In all truthfulness, overcoming any insecurity can’t happen overnight; it will take years of dedication to fight old toxic voices in our heads and create new mantras. But challenging ourselves to do these things will, little by little, make all the difference in the long run, leading us to finally make peace and love ourselves. Breaking the chain now will inevitably change our lives, and the lives of others, for the better.