Q: I really struggle with insecurity. I feel stuck in destructive patterns and unhealthy relationships. I want to change, but can't ever seem to gather the courage to break free. What can I do?
Jim: Our insecurities are a weakness, but make no mistake: They have great power. In fact, they're a key reason many people stay trapped in a cycle of dysfunction and misery.
Most of our insecurities are simply a nuisance. We may question our attractiveness, drive a car we're self-conscious about or struggle with public speaking. It's the kind of stuff that makes us feel awkward at social gatherings, but otherwise, it doesn't hold much influence over our life.
But some people struggle with insecurities that tap into a deep well of fear. It drives their thinking and keeps them stuck in painful situations. It can feel especially overwhelming when the only solution a person knows is willpower. But "white-knuckling" it and simply trying harder is rarely effective. You need outside help.
Some anxieties can be eased with the support and encouragement of friends, who reassure you in times of weakness. But other fears are too deeply entrenched and can only be overcome with professional help. And let's not ignore the spiritual component. I personally believe that we can never be fully secure until we have a relationship with the Creator who uniquely designed each of us as individuals.
With the guiding hand of a qualified counselor, you can not only rebuild your self-image but learn how to replace fear with confidence. Take heart -- there is hope for healing. To speak with one of our staff counselors, or to find a therapist in your area, call us at 1-800-232-6459, or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com for more information.
Q: I know our two teenagers can be fairly vocal, but I have a hard time getting them to say anything when they get home each day. I'll ask, "How was school today?" and the best I get is usually an anemic "Fine." How can I get them to open up?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: If you'd like to open the door of conversation a little wider for your teen -- or really, anyone -- to walk through, remember these two simple ideas: Ask about something specific, and don't ask "yes" or "no" questions.
Say something like, "Tell me about that group project you're doing," or, "What drills did your coach make you run at practice today?" Questions like these narrow your child's focus and present the opportunity to offer you actual information.
Also, be prepared to engage them, no matter how they respond. If they say, "I hate math," or, "School is stupid," don't dismiss that. Lean in and pursue the topic. Ask them to share what's on their mind -- then listen carefully and patiently. The best way to get others to open up is to connect at the point where life is most real for them.
It's worth noting that we adults often forget (sometimes deliberately) how stressful middle and high school can be. Teens are overloaded with changes happening inside as well as all around them. The school setting can be socially exhausting for some students. They want grace, understanding, a sense of worth and belonging -- and unconditional love.
Occasionally, your kids may feel like leaving their day in the rearview mirror as much as you might. So be sensitive and allow them space when they need it. The rest of the time, find out what's important that day and connect with them over it. As you establish a climate of caring concern, you'll find that they're more apt to initiate meaningful conversation.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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