We all have that little nagging voice in the back of our heads. You know, the one that says “You don’t belong here” or that “You’re not good enough for him or her.” It’s the voice that is constantly keeping score and playing the comparison game. When insecurity takes hold, it breeds isolation and self-doubt.

There is this phenomenon which takes place in our youth wing. When a student feels excluded or lacks confidence, she drifts off to safety, often against a wall in the classroom. It takes so much energy and involvement to get them to trust the group before they finally decide to wade in. They isolate themselves because they feel as if they don’t measure up or have a place.

You may want to toss the blame onto them for choosing to be alone, but sadly they come by this naturally. For people in general, when it comes to any level of discomfort, we tend to go into a fight-or-flight mode searching for some kind of preservation. Somehow the fear of failure and vulnerability keeps us holding onto this wall.

Remember, we only learn how to skate by trusting our footing and stepping onto the ice. We only learn how to swim by having confidence that by the next stroke we will keep ourselves afloat. But what do both of these require? Letting go of the wall.

To those holding onto the wall, find trust and safety in those that care for you. To those in the crowd, be intentional in fostering that. Here are some guidelines on how to create a space with no reinforced barricades:

  1. Name the pain. Help others assess their feelings. Usually when people doubt themselves, they are also unsure of what and why they are closing off from others.
  2. Look to the wall. Create an atmosphere of inclusion. If we want to create a sense of belonging, then we must initiate it.
  3. Step out in confidence. Insecurity and discomfort must not keep us from creating relationships or reaching out to others for help. It’s on those riding the wall, and in the crowd, to tear down these barriers.

Step away from the walls, they’ll be fine.