I was chatting with one of my friends last week about holiday plans. He mentioned that his daughter had a new boyfriend. Their relationship was getting serious, and the young couple decided they wanted their parents to meet. So, my friend and his wife were headed to the west coast to have Christmas with their daughter, her boyfriend and the boyfriend’s parents.
Here’s where the insecurity comes in: The new boyfriend comes from a wealthy family. Much wealthier than my friend.
My friend was clearly rattled, grumbling that “I’m just a professor at a junior college. They’re probably going to talk about cars and watches and just want to play golf. That’s not the type of guy I am. They’ll look at a guy like me and think I’m just a nobody.”
What’s crazy is … he hadn’t even met them yet! He just assumed that’s what they HAD to be thinking.
How did I recognize this so clearly? Because I’ve done it myself, a million times.
As someone who is often in situations with people who are more educated than I am, and many of whom have a lot more money, I’ve found myself succumbing to the assumption that others are judging me.
Here’s what I said to him – and what I say to myself pretty regularly, too: Don’t confuse your insecurities with their judgments. My friend has a great life. He’s an accomplished college professor who is in a happy marriage. He’s witty, athletic and raised a great young woman, who this rich guy’s son fell in love with!
In that moment, his insecurity got the best of him. It’s happened to all of us.
Here are some tips to help:
Be clear on the difference between your insecurities and their judgments. When you find your brain saying “they’re going to think …,” challenge that thought. Root your mind in fact. You don’t know what someone thinks until they tell you. And if they do think you’re lame, you being all obsessive about it isn’t going to make it any better. You’ll just make yourself sad.
Examine your language.
If you have a disdain for rich people, it’s highly unlikely you’ll become one of them. If you think educated people are snobby, the odds of you broadening your intellectual horizons are low. We all have a story in our heads. The language we use, even in our self-talk, matters. Watch out for the adjectives you’re attributing to people.
Lean into connection.
If you’re going to a holiday party, and you’re walking in and feeling like you don’t belong, the best thing you can do is authentically connect. Walk up to the host and tell them you’re happy to be there. What happens in that moment is you’re telling your brain and your body how you want to feel. You’re setting an intention and starting strong. Plus, you’ll (likely) get a warm response, which creates a self-fulfilling cycle.
The reality is that no one is walking around with scorecards in their purse. Your insecurities are just that ... yours! And you have the power to move beyond them.
I’ll sign off with one of my favorite quotes: “You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise L. Hay
Have a great holiday season!
– Lisa Earle McLeod is a leadership consultant and the author of several books. For more information on her company, visit McLeodandMore.com.