Ah, courage's ugly cousin - fear. The root cause of all your worries, concerns and troubles. The inhibitor of your true personality - the person you know that you can be, but hold back from being because of worries of how others might respond. The ugly cloud that blocks your spirit from shining out into the world for the benefit of others. The true culprit of feeling small, unimportant, and worthless.
Fear is life's greatest foe. It manifests itself in many forms, causing any number of negative thoughts and feelings, and will grow into an army of millions if you choose to withdraw from the battle. It's what inhibits your growth and your level of happiness. It's what closes life's doors to you, making your world small. It is solely responsible for your feelings of insecurity and inferiority.
Fear literally runs people's whole lives. People will avoid experiences, will avoid other people, and, in extreme cases, avoid living entirely because of fear's grip on their lives. It will relentlessly remind you of past failures, pains, and times of embarrassment. It will manifest in your dreams as nightmares, in your body as tension, and in your mind as stress and depression. It is demoralizing and ruthless. It will suck your life-force dry, if you never face up to it.
Therein lies the answer to your troubles. You must face your fears in order to experience growth. You must face your fears, if you are to ever have feelings of self-worth. Most importantly, you must develop an innate ability to overcome your fears in order to live a truly happy life, one in which your true personality can shine through.
Naturally, people will view those who have overcome their own fears as leaders. They are the charismatic people that light up the room with fun and laughter. They are the courageous people that stand up for their and your rights. They are the genuinely loving and compassionate that will reach out to others, offering their knowledge and strength as guidance. People are attracted to them like a moth to a flame. Indeed, they are a source of light in a vast universe full of darkness and confusion. Their insights are a strong source of inspiration to those seeking a better life. They are a source of hope. A reminder of what is possible. A reminder that you don't have to allow fear to inhibit you from experiencing all the happiness that's your birthright. If only you can find the courage to face up to your own internal conflicts.
I know that it's initially a scary concept to face your fears head-on, but it really isn't as bad as your fear-trodden mind is trying to convince you of. Just like the task of undertaking any lofty goal, your goal of overcoming your fears can be much more easily attained if you break it up into smaller, more readily achievable goals.
For instance, instead of placing all the pressure on yourself of overcoming your fear of rejection by forcing yourself to go straight into dating women, perhaps you can first work on building more confidence on your initial approach. Once more confidence is built in the process of introducing yourself, it will be a much easier, less pressure filled experience, to move onto other aspects like flirting. Hopefully, a little later on down the road, you will have built up enough confidence to ask her for her hand in marriage The key is to work with it gradually, but to never let up on the throttle. To give up is to allow yourself to shrink back into that small, unimportant, undeserving image of yourself that you allowed to build up over the course of your past experiences.
Which brings up another important point, your self-image -- the way you view yourself in your mind's eye -- is much like a canvass that's painted by your courage and your fears. The more courage you gain, the more beautiful the painting becomes, until eventually it's a masterpiece that can only evoke feelings of happiness, confidence and inspiration for yourself and others. Furthermore, your perceptions of the world around you -- your reality -- is also painted by your grip on your fears. Those fears leave an imprint in your thoughts which forms the images in your mind that represent the objects that make up the "real reality".
Dr. Maxwell Maltz in his classic self-improvement book entitled "Psycho Cybernetics" summed these mental constructions up perfectly when he said, "You act, and feel, not according to what things are really like, but according to the image your mind holds of what they are like. You have certain mental images of yourself, your world, and the people around you, and you behave as though these images were the truth, the reality, rather than the things they represent" (p.34). He goes on to conclude, " it follows that if our ideas and mental images concerning ourselves are distorted or unrealistic, then our reaction to our environment will likewise be inappropriate" (p. 34).
This could be considered Dr. Maltz's interpretation on the phenomena of "mental projections." Mental projection is essentially the psychological tendency of people to project their own feelings onto their surrounding environment. This would explain why happy people tend to view the world more optimistically and other people more favorably than a sad or depressed person. It's not necessarily true that the happy person views the world any more realistically than the depressed person. In fact, the depressed and pessimistic person's view of the world may be much closer to reality than that of the happy and optimistic, but that doesn't change the fact that life is much more beautiful and satisfying for the latter. The reality of life is that there is no set reality. Our response to our thoughts and feelings, our emotions, paint over the canvass that the universe - or God, if you so choose - laid before us. To see the canvass for what it truly is would be to remove the ego entirely from the picture, to free the mind from all conditioning (more on this later).
While it's possible to lessen the impact of the ego through methods like meditation, which I highly recommend for that very reason, I'm of the opinion that it can never be fully "vanquished". Then again, perhaps the Buddha did this when he became "enlightened." Suffice it to say, most people don't have the faith, patience, or self-discipline that it'd require to accomplish such a feat, even if it were possible.
However, for those who disagree with my stance or are simply interested in the topic, a man by the name of J. Krishnamurti has a series of books and one in particular entitled "As one is: To Free the Mind from All Conditioning" that cover the topic with great breadth and depth. It is, at the very least, an interesting philosophical viewpoint on life and, perhaps, the key to the enlightenment that the Buddha had once experienced. For those who, like me, don't have that type of patience, changing your self-image and hence your mental projections is a much more feasible approach.
The good news is that by simply recognizing the fact that your perception of yourself and the world around you is so strongly tied to fear, that it's the true root of feelings of self-doubt and lack of self-worth, is the biggest step that you can take towards improving your internal conditions - overcoming your fears and becoming a happier person. It's in realizing this correlation that we can begin to implement tools like "visualization" and "positive affirmations" in order to help strengthen us in our quests to become better, happier, more inspirational people. Perhaps through utilizing these tools for your own growth, you will one day be seen as a charismatic leader; a knowledgeable, compassionate person who openly allows his light to shine for those souls that are still lost much like yours once was.