- TheTick Times Thursday Jul 21, 2016
Everyone’s Struggling for Something. Including You.
If there’s one thing I see when I look around lately, it’s insecurity. On every face, in every cafe, on every street. It seems that as the world gets less stable, so we crave security more. But I think we’re usually trying to find it in all the wrong ways.
So here’s a little essay on conquering insecurity.
Little Empathy. Here’s a secret. Everybody’s insecure. Everybody. Not A Single Person in the World Isn’t Insecure. Say it ten times.
The reason that your insecurity plagues you, hurts you, paralyzes you, isn’t really the insecurity. It’s the injustice in it. You probably think you’re the only one, that they don’t suffer it, and that therefore you’re defective, unworthy, “wrong”. Nope, sorry. It’s not that easy. You’re not. Insecurity’s natural, a part of life, a necessary obstacle, and like the Zen old saying goes: “the obstacle is the way”.
So. First step. Just go somewhere where there are a lot of people. A town square, cafe, whatever. Now ask yourself: what is this person insecure about? What is that person insecure about? Really look at them. It’s usually written on their faces. Money. Love. Sex. Fame. Power. Just breathe and take a guess. Do this for a week or two, until you gain some awareness of the simple truth: everyone’s insecure in some way. You’re not alone. It’s OK, natural, the most normal thing in the world. Now you can accept it, right?
Conquering insecurity starts with empathy. You’ve been looking at people without seeing them. The truth is everyone’s insecure, not just you. And thinking that they’re not is another way of placing yourself above them. So get out of this narcissistic mode. Have empathy for every single person you see, because the first great truth of human life is that everyone’s struggling for something in this big world.
Big Empathy. If you really get the above, then the question is: why do you think that insecurity is something unique to you, something that they don’t have, and only you do? Why do you even think it’s “wrong” in the first place?
There’s only one good answer: your mental model, your inner theory of insecurity, is wrong. Badly wrong. You probably think: the more “successful” that people get, the less insecure they get. That the rich, famous, pretty, handsome, powerful are the least insecure.
Wrong. That’s exactly backwards. The more successful you get, the more insecure you get. The richer people get, the less empathy they have. Now empathy’s just the opposite of insecurity, right? The same is true of beauty. Prettier people are less empathic. So “success” , good fortune, having things easy, makes us more insecure.
Conquering insecurity takes Big Empathy. Little Empathy is being able to look at people and see, really see, that everyone’s insecure, not just you. Big Empathy is deeper, broader, wider. It’s bigger empathy for the people you used to think were invulnerable, because now you know they’re probably the weakest inside. Why else would they chase all this superficial stuff to begin with?
Stop Asking For It. So now we’re getting to the root of the issue. Why is your theory of insecurity backwards? Why do you believe that success is the antidote to insecurity, when all the evidence in the world says it isn’t?
Because you’ve been conditioned for — not vaccinated against — insecurity. The sense that you’re not good enough, smart enough, clever enough, is pumped into you a thousand times a day. By ads, teachers, bosses, coworkers.
What is the real message they’re sending? It’s to want the stuff of “success”, right? Socially, we believe in this thing called “success”, which is an amalgam of money, power, fame, sex, because we believe it will relieve us of the crushing burdens of anxiety, fear, dread. But this belief is completely (and ironically) backwards.
So stop believing it. The first root of your insecurity is wanting the wrong things. You want the very things that are making you insecure. The pretty face, the giant house, the glittering life. But these never made a person in history feel more secure, strong, stable, peaceful, content. They are living emobdiments of the very insecurity you’re trying to break.
Here’s insecurity in a nutshell. Life seems meaningless. You don’t feel good enough in some way. You go out and get these things other people have told you mean something. They don’t. So the vicious cycle starts all over again. Now zoom out. Everybody’s doing this, but nobody’s asking why.
See the problem, the paradox, now?
Peace, Presence, and Purpose. So now we’re getting to the true cause of all this insecurity. How did we evolve this foolish belief as a society, that this thing called “success” will mollify our anxiety, fear, suffering, pain? Well, it’s, as they say, complicated.
Let’s just say that we did evolve it, out of a combination of off-the-rails extreme capitalism, individualism, and materialism. The real question is: if you shouldn’t want the largely meaningless things of “success”, because they’re what breed insecurity, what should you want instead?
Look. I’m not saying you should go retreat to the mountains, build a hut, be a hermit, and live the life of an ascetic. That’s just another kind of escapism.
What you should really want if you want to conquer insecurity are three things. Peace, presence, and purpose.
Where there’s inner peace, there’s no need for insecurity, right? So get out there and learn how to really cultivate a sense of peace. Most of us spend most of our lives doing stuff that isn’t peaceful. So how are we going to be at peace if we’re constantly online, watching people bicker on TV, etc? We can’t. We need to have peace to be at peace.
Just start with silence and stillness. Really give your insecurity room to breathe, to flow out of you, to be released into the world. Think about all the stuff I’ve discussed, really reflect on it in that stillness. If you want to go further, meditate, read about the process of contemplation, just sit in the park for an hour every day. It’s an art, and you’re maybe not even a novice yet.
The second antidote to insecurity is presence. Where there’s presence, a sense of really being here, of nowness, thisness, there’s no insecurity, either. You’re letting go of all these little ideas of “success” and “failure”, of “perfection” and “imperfection”, maybe even, for example, when you’re in love, of “me” and “them”. You’re just accepting and celebrating what is, because it needs no artifice, addition, sugarcoating. This is a crude way to put another art, the art of really seeing.
But there’s another sense of “presence” to keep in mind, too. That sense is really expressing yourself. Whatever you wear, say, speak, do expresses you. Insecurity happens when it doesn’t. That is, when your actions don’t express the truest you. Then the mind begins to think: “there must be something wrong with me. I can’t even be honest about who I am”. And all the fear, anxiety, and worry start. So you have to express yourself. Who you really are, as far as you’ve discovered in you. Insecurity comes not from self expression, but from a lack of self expression. And when you start this journey of self expression, fear and anxiety are usually replaced by a sense of courage, strength, resolve.
The final antidote to insecurity is purpose. Wherever there’s a larger purpose, there’s no need for insecurity, right? You can be insecure about your looks, wallet, clothes, manners, and so on, when it’s all about you. But the moment it’s not, then what need is there for insecurity?
Insecurity is usually a pretty good sign that a life is being live egotistically, focused on the self. That self focus turns into nitpicking. So instead of just nitpicking less, cut away the root. Live a life bigger than “I”, “me”, “mine”. Get a purpose, and insecurity will begin to take care of itself.
We’re all here to live lives that matter. Insecurity is usually a Very Good Sign that your life isn’t mattering much, enough, as much as it could, should, can, must. Why? Because it’s focused too much on you, on getting, on having, on wanting. Hence, the incessant drive to be prettier, handsomer, richer, more powerful, and so on. None of these things really matter much in life. You see them as blessings, but usually they’re curses. They make decent people terrible fast, inescapably, desperately. The real question is the opposite: how do you, a decent person, a little insecure, a touch afraid, grow into a great, wise, loving, beautiful, defiant one?
What matters in life is that you live, love, develop, grow. That the seed in you breaks open and stretches to the sky. Let it.
About the Author:
Umair Haque is a coach, lover, vampire.