What is Insecurity?
A sense of imbalance that comes with not feeling confident in one’s self or one’s actions. Insecurity is also associated with pressure and an instinctual need to defend one’s self, such as from other people’s perceptions of you.
Where does Insecurity come from?
It seems to be that insecurity comes from avoiding, on some level, perceived vulnerabilities. It then becomes a coping mechanism, meant to protect us from the ways in which we’re vulnerable.
Let’s say you perceive a vulnerability that a friend might not like you. As a reaction to this uncertainty, one could start acting in ways that try to either ascertain the truth, or in order to make them like you. Maybe you laugh a little longer at their jokes, or ask their friends what they say about you, or maybe obsessively watch their social media. You might get anxious during long periods of silence with this person, and try to start up conversations on subjects you don’t naturally care to talk about.
And even if the person said to you they liked you, that too might not be good enough, because, what if they were lying, just so they didn’t hurt your feelings? The vulnerability wouldn’t go away.
You can see all the time, energy, and effort spent on protecting yourself like this, when you could just accept the uncertainty and move on. After all, there are things that matter to you even when you’re feeling secure, and by freeing yourself from insecurity, you can spend more time and attention on those things.
The Issue with Self-Protection
The problem is, as soon as we start protecting our self from vulnerabilities, we acknowledge as true the ideas that (1) there is something we need protection from, and (2) that our vulnerabilities are worth avoiding.
But the extra time we spend protecting ourselves from our vulnerabilities, is time we could be spending on moving forward in a direction that felt right, even if that direction carried some degree of risk.
So, what is a Vulnerability?
A vulnerability is a weakness of some kind. A way we could get hurt, or ill-fortune that could befall us. It may be a simple absence of what we’d prefer to exist. Regardless, it can be seen as a condition that is “bad”.
The danger of a vulnerability can easily be blown out of proportion, too. The more you look at a risk and how terrible it would be to run into it, the more we might hesitate on the direction that involves said risk.
As you can see though, vulnerabilities can be imagined. If you make a plan, you can imagine all kinds of ways the plan might go “wrong”, and thus why it might not be as good to go along with that plan at all. And even at any moment, we can find reasons to believe that our choices in that moment are putting us in a vulnerable position, and these ideas can scare us, making us insecure and wanting to run away.
The Importance of Risk
Every intended path we take in life involves risk. There can always be some kind of downside, some reason to second-guess ourselves, to doubt, to scare ourselves into inaction.
By moving forward, we are vulnerable. There is no way around it.
But we forget that we’re also vulnerable by standing still. There’s no way we can go, nothing we can choose, that doesn’t involve risk and vulnerability.
So if we have to face risk no matter what, wouldn’t it be better to take risks in a direction that aligns with our intentions? That’s a true, sincere expression of ourselves and our interests?
We have the ability to own our vulnerability. To understand that we are vulnerable, yet to move ahead anyway. And that vulnerability could be grounded, or it could be more a product of a fantastic imagination.
Owned vulnerability can really mean the difference between feeling insecure yet active, and feeling supremely confident and calm. When you own your vulnerability, you’re stepping into a space where you’re not going to be turned away by fear. You know the validity of what you want to do, and the sense in how you want to approach it. Yes, there may be some risks, but you accept them.
By contrast, when you act out while in a state of insecurity, the actions you take might not be aligned with your true interests at all. After all, in such a state, wouldn’t one true interest involve addressing your insecurity? It isn’t comfortable to live in. We only do it because we want something else – the protection, the reassurance, the certainty.
How to work on Insecure Feelings
So, if owning vulnerability can help with insecurity, how do you own it? Well, it starts with an intention to own it. But, you also want to know what you’re going to own. Thus:
Step 1: Write out a list of everything you feel vulnerable to right now, or with what you’d like to do.
You don’t have to include everything – just get out what you feel most vulnerable to. You can always write more lists or add to this one later.
Now that you have your list, what can you do with it? Well, some vulnerabilities, on examination, will appear to not be real at all. You’ll want to call out, for those, that you see it!
But for some of them, there is a reality to them, and you can’t simply deny them. For those, you need to be able to accept the vulnerabilities. Accept that they’re there! And while it may be easy to accept unreal vulnerabilities, the ones that are real aren’t so easy. Three methods can help you accept your vulnerabilities:
- Find an opposing vulnerability, one that would exist if you were to try and avoid this one. Sometimes, all you need is to know that no matter what you do, you’re vulnerable – which can make acceptance, and moving on to what you want, easier.
- Feel out what you need to change about your approach in order to account for the vulnerability and the downsides it presents. Sometimes you do need to adapt to a risk or downside before you can accept it.
- Ground yourself in your intentions, ones that oppose that vulnerability. You’re going in a direction that involves vulnerability – so, why? Own that, and it can make owning the vulnerability easier
Step 2, then: For each vulnerability, find a way to respond to it that brings you to a sense of acceptance about that vulnerability.
That being done, the only thing left to do is make sure you had a true effect on your emotional and mental state.
Step 3: Check to see how you’re feeling. Did your sense of insecurity calm down? Or is there something you’re not quite getting? Try to feel it out.
It can be confusing, sometimes, to know how to best work with our feelings. Sometimes what feels like insecurity at first can be something entirely different, or a mix. Just know that caring for yourself and your feelings involves working with what you’re actually experiencing, so try to look for that. If you’re having trouble, just know there’s no pressure, either. It’s always something you can come back to or mull over in a variety of ways. Approaches like the one above are just meant to help you target an area of your inner life in order to illuminate it and perhaps help you move forward. The more you come into touch with your inner world, the more you can understand and the more experience you will have with working with yourself and your feelings.
Symptoms of Insecurity
So how do you tell if you’re insecure? Well, there’s the feeling, certainly. A sense of fear, imbalance, defensiveness, etc.
But part of defensiveness can be denying that insecurity is there to begin with. You may, on some level, want to pretend you’re sure of yourself, that you’re a risk-taker, that you’re bold, proud, and untouchable. But that’s exactly the point. The truly secure have no problem being vulnerable – to others, to themselves, to their feelings, to risk.
Thus, one of the main symptoms of insecurity can be a sense of wanting to feel invulnerable. Untouchable. Invincible. Strong. Able to do anything, able to overcome any challenge. Better than. Or perhaps, humbler than.
It’s when you strip off that veneer of denial that you get to sincere insecurity. And that’s where the feelings of fear and uncertainty bubble easily to the surface, and where methods like the one above can really be of service.
The real goal should be to be at peace with your vulnerability within the world. You want to know your softness, how things can and will affect you. You want to be at peace with your best, and to have confidence in the steps you take moving forward. And you want to have a sense of real connection – to both the dangers of the world, and to the blessings and beings within it. In essence, openness.
And as far as connection goes, if you’re looking to get past insecurity, you need to have a strong connection with yourself and your own interests. After all, what are you taking all those risks for, if not for your sense of what’s important to you? And not the you who you know through your reputation or history, but the you who exists and feels and is vulnerable in this moment. You want to know the sincere, authentic you.
What is past Insecurity?
After calming down insecurity, the main benefit is to live sincerely, with choices that support your real interests. You’ll also feel a lot calmer, more able to keep a pace you like, and keep a level head.
You’ll also be in connection with yourself. More able to feel out the direction you want to take, even when that changes. It will help you live a richer, fuller life, one with self-understanding not born from assumptions or past experience, but from a sensitivity to the moment, and an awareness of where you are – on ever level – right now.
Fear – Fear of vulnerability is one of the main driving forces behind insecurity. The more you are able to see past and work through fear, the more capacity you’ll have for security and owned vulnerability.
Worrying – Worry can be a very insecure state, where we don’t know if we can handle future scenarios, and can actively think up vulnerabilities that can reinforce insecurity, inaction, or avoidance
Denial – As discussed, denial of insecurity can cause the whole issue to become obscured, leading to a lack of awareness or even push-back against helping yourself.
Negativity – Similar to insecurity, when you get negative you can end up pushing back against all elements of reality you label as “bad”, with more getting added to that list all the time. Until you can find peace with the bad existing alongside the good, you’ll be stuck in a reactionary stance. Working on negativity can also help you get to the place where you’re more able to sincerely work on the interests you truly have in life, and to come back from a place of avoidance.
Shame – Shame is intimately tied to insecurity, because it can make you believe that your vulnerabilities define you, and that their existence can affect your worth. In reality, shame is an attack on the self, and if you’re fair and kind with yourself, you’ll know how shame doesn’t help, but only hurts. Regardless, a state of shame can crush your sense of self-worth. Owning vulnerability, by contrast, is ultimately a direct contradiction to shame.
Powerlessness – You’ve got to have a sense of your own power and capability in being open to risk and vulnerability.
Note: the information in this article was gathered from personal experience, reflection, and work with my own feelings. Take it as you will.