I read your previous column about feeling insecure in some social settings and I have a similar problem, only much worse. I feel insecure all the time. At work, going on a date, even at family functions, I feel self-conscious. I’m in my 50s, and you’d think after all these years I’d be more confident, but it’s still a problem. Can you suggest anything that might help?
Shaking in Her Boots in Minnesota
This is a perfect question for me because I have long struggled with quaking in a variety of footwear, and I’ve needed to develop a variety of strategies to get me through life. Maybe even more important than using “tactics” to appear confident, I’ve adopted a perspective, a lens on life that will help make all that quivering a thing of the past.
The biggest area of my self-consciousness-ity has always been my appearance. For whatever reason (Thanks Cosmo! Thanks Dad! Thanks Charlie’s Angels!) I always felt unattractive and unlovable, like Martians could look down and go, “That girl in the green shirt, with the bad hair? WTF?” Unless you were a friend to whom I endlessly complained, I doubt anyone knew that behind my breezy exterior sat this boiling cauldron of self-loathing. Your endless internal monologue, “I’m so this; I’m not that enough”, I know it’s exhausting. It’s like carrying around a dumbbell, like when Roseanne was married to Tom Arnold. (Btw, what happened to Roseanne? Seriously, you know Martians are actually WTF-ing about that whole sitch.) Anyway, we gotta put that dumbbell down. It’s heavy and so unnecessary. Anyway, one day I was on the subway, thinking about how thin my lips were or something, when I looked around and had my epiphany. “None of these people care. They’ve got their own dumbbells. And if anyone did care about my “too-thin lips”, well, they’d be total jerks. Besides, you think Maggie Smith goes around giving a shit about her “thin lips”? Uh, NO.” The incredibly stupid, narcissistic self-absorption of it all hit me like an explosive…um, Martian laser ray bomb? Anyway, instead of feeling like an unattractive shithead I realized I was actually just an egocentric shithead, and I could fix that. And I did.
I’d always been really interested and appreciative of other people, so I just turned that up to 11. (In a lot of ways it is like the solution proffered in the last “Ask Dixie” column.) Whenever I started to slip back into those feelings of I-suck-anxiety, I’d internally slap myself out of it and focus on the people around me. (Word to the wise, don’t literally slap yourself. It tends to put an abrupt end to most conversations, so it’s counter-productive.) Seriously, try working on this perspective shift. You are sleeping with your enemy. Kick that mother-effer out of bed, spread out and enjoy all that extra room. Ahhh! Not to get all Serenity Prayer on ya, but accept the things you cannot change. Love the one you’re with, “Shaking”. Do that hair toss, check your nails, and do what it takes to feel good as hell (Thank you, Lizzo)!
OK, now let’s rock some tactics. Chuck that Imposter Syndrome by embracing an “imposter”. It’s not about being inauthentic, it’s about being you without that dumbass dumbbell. Even Beyonce had to come up with a Sasha Fierce. (Btw, did you know that Dixie isn’t my real first name? Just sayin’.) I know you’ve given some thought to a version of a “work you”, “date you”, “daughter you” that is cool and confident. Put that heavy dumbbell down and slip into that version, if only for an hour or two. Do this over and over again and one day you’ll wake up and find you pretty much are that person. In the words of Beyonce, “I Am Sasha Fierce.”
Becoming your own Sasha Fierce is an inside job, but you can also try getting there from the outside in. In other words, try behaving your way there. For example, if you feel insecure at work, you might ask yourself, “What would a confident manager do? How would a confident, effective, really good manager handle this?” I’ll give you an example from my own life. So, I still have these issues about my appearance. (#workinprogress) I thought to myself, what do people who aren’t super insecure about their looks do? They take selfies. So, I came up with a project to try and take one selfie a day. I go for a daily walk and I have my husband take my photo before each one. And I post them to Facebook. It’s uncomfortable, and I often cheat by wearing sunglasses or sunglasses and a mask, but it’s really helped. The world hasn’t ended, nor have any crowds set upon me with torches and pitchforks. People on Facebook have been very supportive and encouraging.
So, my sweet Shaking, put down that heavy dumbbell and stop shaking in your boots. Instead, put on your coolest, most glam boots, get your runway stride going, and shake your ass. Be your very own Sasha Fierce who cares more about other people than caring about what they think of her.
And if anyone mentions thin lips, well, fuck ’em.
Email your questions to Dixie at dixie [at] jumbleandflow dot com. We may feature your question and Dixie’s advice on jumbleandflow.com. You can choose to remain anonymous or provide your name — totally up to you.
Dixie Laite has been a second-grade teacher and mechanical bull operator, and for the past 25 years she’s worked for a variety of TV networks as a writer, editorial director, trainer, advice columnist, even an on-air personality. But primarily she’s trotted around New York City in one cowboy shirt or another, lurking around flea markets, gyms, and anywhere they’ll hand her French toast. Currently she lounges around her apartment with one husband, one dog, five parrots, and roughly 2,000 pairs of shoes. Dixie is the main lady behind Age Against the Machine, a column about empowering women over 50. Sign up for the Jumble & Flowdown newsletter to stay in the know about Dixie’s latest columns.
Follow Dixie on Instagram @dixielaite
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Great advice! It’s normal to feel a certain self-consciousness at any age, but self-conscious is as self-consciousness acts. I find when I try to act less self-conscious, I grow in confidence. Be your own Sasha Fierce!
Somewhere in my 20’s, I realized that if anybody else was even half as worried about themself as I was about myself, they wouldn’t have the time or energy to worry about me.
(Hope that makes sense.) After that, I was well on my way to giving zero fucks.
Jenni, what a wise insight. Boy, do I wish I’d had you around when I was in my 20s!!
3 Comments on Dear Dixie: Why am I still so self-conscious in my 50s?