"How Do You Handle Your Insecurities?"

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

My insecurities would be so much easier to deal with if they were invariably wrong. They’re not.  My insecurities are actually useful in some low-rent sense of the word, and as such I can’t chuck them blindly aside to walk into traffic.
It’s like having a very sensitive canary in a coal mine. Sometimes your canary gets overexcited and faints. And if you go, “Well, the canary fainting means nothing, proceed as normal,” then that’s when the canary breathes in deadly methane gas and dies.
I have destroyed relationships by overreacting to my insecurities, demanding my partners prove things to me that they could not possibly ever reassure me of; sadly, I have also destroyed relationships by not listening to my insecurities, and having partners then go on to cheat, abuse, and hurt me because I didn’t interpret that signal properly.
So for me, the trick is to try to find reality.
I am like the Sherlock Holmes of my own psyche, whenever those tides of anxiety roll in.  I sift everything for clues.  I make lists. I replay conversations in my head over and over again like that lunch at Chipotle was the fucking Zapruder tape, relentlessly scouring it to try to determine whether she was actually Not Into Me or whether I was just misinterpreting the signs.
And here’s the important point: at some point, I determine I have collected all the data that I can, come to a conclusion, and act as though that conclusion is true.
For in my anxiety, I could spend literally months debating whether that two-minute conversation I had at a convention has RUINED MY CAREER FOREVER.  No, I instead spend the next week analyzing social media, seeing if that author still replies to my Tweets at the same frequency they did before, going over the words I spoke… and after a time, I say, “I have collected enough evidence,” and make my decision, and try to live by it.
This is not always easy.
But if I don’t say “This is enough evidence, cut it out,” then that’s when I flywheel apart. I send embarrassing emails to my lovers: “Yes, you spent the night with me and smiled and cuddled me and always enthusiastically reply to my texts, but there was that one time I said ‘I like you’ and you went ‘aww’ instead of I like you back, so you really hate me, don’t you?  This is all faked, right?”
Shockingly, this doesn’t get me more dates.
For me, my insecurities are about 80% WTFBRAIN, useless spin-twirlering to keep me needlessly rattled, and about 20% “Oh, jeez, that is a problem.”  Yet what I find is that the more I act as though some conclusion were true, the less anxious I feel about it.
Yes, I’m worried maybe that date didn’t go well, but my reactions have a way of shaping reality.  If I act cool and confident, even if I’m a raging mess inside, then my dates and friends tend to like me.  If I act like I’m needy and uncertain, they tend to drift off.
This applies even in the fringe circumstances where I decide I’m correct. It goes both ways, and it’s why I used to be trapped in bad relationships for literally years at a time – I’d go, “But maybe all this abuse is just your phantom thoughts!” and stick around.  Now, I come to that conclusion and I make it and some days I wonder “What if” but I don’t ever call them in the dead of night to go “I miss you.”
I do miss them.  But I’ve decided they’re bad for me, and actions trump feelings.
The reason I’m writing this is because a friend of mine asked me the other day: “How do you handle insecurities?”  She asked via text.  I wish the answer was simple enough to answer via text.
In truth, the answer isn’t big enough to fit in an essay, either.  There’s all sorts of questions that follow this one, such as “When do you decide when it’s enough evidence?” and “How do you self-soothe so as not to ask these dumb-ass questions?” and “How do you come to the correct conclusion?”  And frankly, I could write books’ worth of answers and it still wouldn’t be everything I knew to fight this hateful squirming anxiety bundle writhing within me.
But that’s the basics.
I hope they’re enough.

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