It doesn’t take too long when you meet some people to know something is off. You just get a weird vibe. Maybe it’s the way they avoid eye contact. Maybe they smile too much. Maybe they just stand awkwardly. Whatever it is, they telegraph problems, and big ones too.
Other people are better at hiding it. You have to put a little effort into cracking open their shell before the dark stuff come spilling out. Yea, she seemed put together, but once you spent some time with her, she got clingy. He was cool right up to the moment he exploded because you asked him to turn down the TV.
Whether it’s obvious on the surface or not, most people are deeply insecure. Some have learned to disguise it, to present themselves as having rock solid confidence. Some don’t even try. Either way, deep insecurity is rampant and, while most of us can sense it in others or sometimes in ourselves, we have a hard time saying exactly what it is.
Because we cannot name this struggle well, we cannot win it. The first step to becoming less insecure is knowing what we mean when we talk about “insecurity.”
It’s really pretty simple.
Insecurity is the actual or imagined lack of resources necessary to form a stable life and personality.
That’s it. Once you grasp that, the rest of the path is clear.
But, sometimes simple concepts are the hardest to grasp.
Here’s an illustration.
Imagine standing in an empty room on the second floor of an abandoned house. Outside a storm is coming. The wind is strong. Once in a while, you feel the house sway.
At that point, your survival instinct is going to kick in and get you out of that house. Better to take your chances with the storm out in the open air than to be caught inside the house when it falls.
What you would fear in that situation is the house’s insecurity. You can tell from its behavior, especially under stress, that its foundation is weak, its boundaries frail.
A lot of people aren’t very different from that house. The reason you want to run away from them sometimes is because, just like this hypothetical house, you sense they could collapse at any moment.
The metaphor here breaks down eventually because human beings are so much more complex than a simple house. Our foundations aren’t literal, and yet we need the resources to build them all the same.
These resources can be either material or psychological. Both are important. Let’s deal with the easier one first.
Material lack can make a guy insecure for sure. If you can’t pay for what you need, you’re going to be nervous a lot of the time. Knowing your needs are many and your income limited is a recipe for worry.
This is particularly true for those who are dependent on someone else to pay their bills. We might think of the college student still leaning on mom and dad to send money, but that’s misleading. Most of us are in exactly this situation.
Instead of depending on mom and dad to keep the cash rolling in, we depend on our employer. He could let us go, and then we’d be sunk. Such things tend to make us all uptight.
Psychological lack can be even tougher. When we never had the kind of relationships with our parents that made us believe we matter, when we lack a clear and balanced image of ourselves, when we lack understanding of how relationships work, we stand on shaky ground. We can feel it shifting, but don’t know where to run.
This kind of inner insecurity is pernicious. Lacking the resources to feel comfortable with ourselves can cripple even our most noble efforts to improve our lot.
Both material and psychological lacks can be real or imagined. If you’re worried about paying the rent because you don’t have enough money, but you spend a couple hundred dollars a month on video games and booze, you might have an imagined material lack. In this case, your problem isn’t a lack, but a problem of misallocation.
If you feel like you like nobody likes you, you might be right. Lacking the confidence to succeed socially can stem from a real lack of social skills, or it could stem from believing false things about yourself based on untruths you picked up somewhere in the past. The only way to know for sure is to test reality. Do people invite you out? Do you have friends? Do ok with the opposite sex? If so, your feelings probably stem from an imagined lack more than from a real one.
So, what do you do about the things you lack, these essential building blocks of a firm foundation. You do the only thing you can do: GO OUT AND GET THEM. They aren’t going to magically show up because you sat around feeling sorry for yourself long enough.
Whatever it is, you must make a plan to identify the deficits that are making you insecure and work to fill them. Listen to yourself. The pain you feel is a voice calling you to take up your quest. If you will set out to pursue the things you need, you will find yourself on an adventure that will only make you stronger.
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