1. Insecurity is natural. Mixing it with ego and ambition can kill your dreams.
2. The first step to managing your insecurities is recognizing them. Look in the mirror and get real. Therapy, journaling, and meditation can help.
3. Insecurity becomes crippling anxiety for 1 in 10. Help when you can and get help if you need it. It’s okay to not be okay.
4. So far, you have survived 100% of the bad things this life has thrown at you - chances are you will figure out whatever comes next. Go get to work.
This passage from Bill Walsh floated into my life recently, and it sparked some serious consideration about insecurity.
"But there is another side [of ego] that can wreck a team or an organization. That is being distracted by your own importance.
It can come from your insecurity in working with others. It can be the need to draw attention to yourself in the public arena. It can be a feeling that others are a threat to your own territory.
These are all negative manifestations of ego, and if you are not alert to them, you get diverted and your work becomes diffused.
Ego in these cases makes people insensitive to how they work with others and ends up interfering with the real goal of any group efforts."
This voice is in my head, planting seeds throughout my day—seeds of doubt. I’m not good enough, this person doesn’t like me, my muffin top stands out in this bathing suit, or this [..insert catastrophic thing..] is going to happen, or all the good I have will end in a brilliant fireball perpetuated by my incompetence, my irrational feelings, or my ego.
The voices of doubt, perhaps more aptly described as insecurity, whisper sweet evils about my life, relationships, and work. They love to talk to me about my failings as a father. I particularly think about how my insecurities and desires affect the boys.
The good news? My journey of self-reflection brings me to a place where I can write the words you just read and be okay with all of you knowing too. My daily routine includes work to identify, mitigate and marginalize those feelings. It takes a process, and it is a process. More on that in a bit.
Despite my work, they still show up and play havoc with my days and sometimes with my humans. What has changed for me is my ability to recognize these thoughts when they show up. Sometimes I let them hang out and berate me. Other times I successfully put them where they belong, seeing them for the vicious heathens they are and their mission to kill my progress.
Once in a while, I have to phone a friend for an assist. A word of affirmation, a perspective I can’t see, or even a swift kick to get my stuff together. A few of those friends are reading this now. I am incredibly grateful. We all need friends like you.
What is insecurity?
Insecurity: A state or feeling of anxiety, fear, or self-doubt
Synonyms include: instability, precariousness, shakiness, unstableness, and unsteadiness
Insecurity’s cousin, anxiety, can be more than voices. It can be crippling. At some point in life, 13 percent of Americans will cross the line into social anxiety disorder, meaning insecurity that gets in the way of living the life people want
What is important to know, and well beyond my expertise, is that this can also be a biological issue. I’ll leave it to you to unpack the diagnosable types of insecurity and implore you to recognize it as real as it affects at least 1 in 10 humans you interact with daily. That is an incredible statistic.
The next time you are with a group of friends, at your weekly “this could have been an email” meeting, or maybe at your dinner table, look around - someone is struggling. Go easy. Maybe you can be that friend I mentioned earlier.
Back to the rest of us who are only moderately impaired occasionally (okay, daily). Can we eliminate insecurity? Do we want to? It turns out that 1% of the population has managed to do just that - we call them psychopaths. Don’t spend too much time beating yourself up. Insecurity plays a role in our life, and that is okay.
The Benefits of Insecurity
If insecurity sparks a thought from time to time, that’s okay. What is not okay is letting your ego manipulate you with your thoughts. The combination of ego, ambition, and insecurity is deadly - at work, at home, and in your head.
This deadly cocktail caughtup with Ludwig Van Beethoven and in 1802 he talked about his struggles in a note. He disccused where his insecurity as his hearing faded and you can see it tangled up in his ego and ambition. It was destroying him.
“what a humiliation when one stood beside me and heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard the shepherd singing and again I heard nothing, such incidents brought me to the verge of despair, but little more and I would have put an end to my life”
Abraham Maslow, as he often does, gives us a piercing version of an insecure person:
“perceiving the world as a threatening jungle and most human beings as dangerous and selfish; feels rejected and isolated, anxious and hostile.”
Seeds of Doubt
Maybe you don’t go as far as to say most people are dangerous and selfish, but when you are at your worst, it’s possible you see a dangerous jungle filled with monsters.
Seeds of doubt are in all of us and can germinate into fear. They will, at a minimum, hold you back from your potential and, if fed by your ego, could destroy your relationships, work, or life.
The jungle is mostly trees, not monsters. Respond to reality, don’t react to your imagination. Time travelling too far into the future is not helpful. This is where we tell ourselves stories about our partner leaving us, never finding a partner, losing our job, losing our children, or [..insert that thing that you hold dear or is deeply connected to your identity..].
Self Awareness, Self Control
The grey matter between your ears has refined the skill of telling you what you need to survive over millions of years. Is it telling you the truth? Does it want you to thrive or just survive to make more little you’s?
Mark Mason, in his piece on self-awareness, wrote:
”Self-awareness is like great sex: everyone thinks they have a ton of it, but in reality, no one knows what the F$*k* they’re doing.”
This is all real work. It’s mirror work. It’s looking in the mirror and getting real. You aren’t alone, and we need to do this work.
Talk to someone: Our insecurities are real and may be rooted in trauma, biology, or a combination. If it’s severe, or even if it’s not, talk to someone. It’s okay not to be okay. If you break your arm, you go to the doctor. Why is your brain any different? It’s not, society has made it a stigma, but thankfully that stigma is slowly fading.
Talk to yourself: Journaling is extremely powerful. When your thoughts get on paper or pixels, they stare back at you. Reading what is coming out helps decipher the rational from the irrational. I talk about my practice here.
Let’s go back to our friend Beethoven. In the same writing session, he came full circle from death to a way forward: “Patience - I must now choose for my guide. I have done so, and I hope my determination will remain firm to endure.”
Train Your Mind: Nature works to identify threats, and not all of them are real. Meditation helps you get to the point where you can see thoughts for what they are in real-time during your day - that is a superpower. Don’t overthink this (that’s ironic). Start with a minute a day and go from there.
While sitting alone and quiet with your thoughts is scary, identifying those thoughts as they come and go matters. You have to pay attention. Autopilot can take over, and suddenly your habits, impulses, and thoughts have you careening into a cliff.
Let’s Get Real
Your insecure voices are real, but their stories aren’t. And I’ll tell you a little secret: those voices are real for everyone else too. Whether you worrying about what people will say when they see you in a bathing suit (no one cares, I try to remind myself) or whether you will lose your job - go easy. So far, you have survived 100% of the bad things this life has thrown at you - chances are you will figure out whatever comes next. Let’s go get to work, friend.
PS - I you have any questions about my version of the practices I laid out above, please drop them in the comments.
And here is a photo of cooper being anything but insecure. :).
If you’d like to see my annotations visit this link. https://readwise.io/reader/shared/01gw4rgxeqmgvwqjqyj0vycme0
Otherwise, you can find Mark Manson’s original article here: https://markmanson.net/self-awareness?utm\_campaign=mmnet-newsletter-202312-03-20&utm\_medium=email&utm\_source=mmnet-newsletter&utm\_content=self-awareness