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November 1, 2018

For me, it was brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts were the one food I absolutely could not stand growing up. Every time the slimy veggies were slipped onto my plate, my nose crinkled and my appetite vanished. They were enemy number one in my mind, and I avoided them until just a few years ago, when dinner party courtesy called for me to try some. My own reaction shocked me: Somehow they tasted really, really good. Incredible even.

Maybe for you, it was beets or sushi. You grew up hating the food—but then one miraculous day, you realized you loved it. There’s a reason for that: Our taste buds dull and change over the course of our life, as does how the food was cooked, the environment we’re experiencing the foods in, and our evolving perspectives—all of which impact how we’re able to love what used to make us shudder.

But it’s not just food that has this effect on us. The same shift that can happen with our taste buds, favorite movies, and even self-care routines? That can also happen with the way we see ourselves.

Your Expired Insecurities

Earlier this month, writer Ashley Ford challenged people and their past self-perceptions with a simple question posed on Twitter: “What's something you hated about yourself as a kid or teenager that you now consider a strength?”

The responses that poured in covered a wide variety of topics and emotions. People mentioned everything from eyebrows to feeling overly sensitive. Some brought up vulnerability, while others mentioned the shame they carried from growing up in poverty. But the common thread amongst all of the stories was everyone’s ability to reframe some of those negative ideas about themselves into positive ones.

Those eyebrows? Now a defining and loved feature.

The folks who lamented their sensitivities found it has helped them practice empathy today.

And the tips and tricks picked up by people who grew up with less have helped them make the most of what they have now.

We all carry insecurities, many of which began when we were kids or teens. And these negative stories can stick like velcro and play a big role in our self-talk and confidence. Without even realizing it, they become part of our identity.

Psychologists like Dan McAdams have been studying the stories we tell ourselves for decades, and he refers to those stories as "narrative identities." In 2013, McAdams, along with psychologist Kate McLean, found that when we find positive meaning in the negative things that happen to us, we’re more likely to live healthier lives with “higher levels of mental health, well-being, and maturity.”

When we find positive meaning in the negative things that happen to us, we’re more likely to live healthier lives with 'higher levels of mental health, well-being, and maturity.'
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Just like Ashley prompted her followers to do, we can reshape our own stories and challenge our “expired insecurities.” We can see them in a new light.

See It as a Strength

To start, we have to call out our stale insecurities. Ask yourself: What’s a story you believe about yourself that’s kind of just hung around unchallenged for years, like a can of soup taking up space in the back of the cupboard?

Ask yourself: What’s a story you believe about yourself that’s kind of just hung around unchallenged for years, like a can of soup taking up space in the back of the cupboard?
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Maybe it’s that lingering insecurity about math you’ve carried with you since middle school. Or, that fear of public speaking when you couldn’t get up for show and tell.

Once you’ve pinpointed an old insecurity, it’s time to reframe it. Finding a strength in an insecurity can change the way we perceive ourselves.

Instead of focusing on your math skills, for example, think about how focusing on another talent while you grew up–like reading or writing—has helped you out today.

That loud laugh? It’s just another way you spread your joy.

Your fear of public speaking? When you speak up in that Friday meeting, you’re actually disproving it in a way that’d make your 5th grade-self proud.

See the strength in those insecurities, and instead of focusing on that stale narrative, notice how that story helps you in your day-to-day.
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See the strength in those insecurities, and instead of focusing on that stale narrative, notice how that story helps you in your day-to-day.

Expired insecurities will hang around until we pick them up, dust them off, and either give them a Queer Eye-worthy makeover or send them packing.

It might feel unnatural at first, but like all habits, calling out and reframing your insecurities will get easier with time. And pretty soon, you might be having that “I can’t believe I used to not like this?” moment, just like me and my new fav vegetable, brussels sprouts.


Read next: The Sneaky Way Our Minds Feed Our Insecurities

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