Insecurity is something that we all have had to face on some level. It’s a part of growing up and developing as a person. If someone says they’ve never dealt with insecurity, it would be safe to say that insecurity was behind their statement. For some, however, the basic levels of insecurity and struggles become augmented and overwhelming. Insecurity for them never becomes manageable but rather it grows and threatens to consume their life. It’s the more dangerous levels of insecurity I want to address, that end up leading to more devastating consequences and can affect a persons’ emotional development. Emotional injuries, addictions, trauma, abuse and many other life events can all act as a sort of beachhead for insecurity to rule from. This type of debilitating insecurity, despite the source, can swallow lives whole if left unchecked.

Sometimes the clearest example of the damaging effects can be witnessed in the context of leadership. Micro-managing, manipulation, controlling management, abuse of power and even at times a shipwrecking of an entire organization or team can occur. Insecure people can be very difficult to work with and can over time create a very real loathing in the people around them. The weight that friends, families, and employees around insecure people carry can be overwhelming and ultimately leads to the growth of major dysfunctions. Insecurity not only can suck the life and confidence out of a person, driving them to always feel the need to assert themselves, but the vacuum is so strong it sucks all the energy and life out of their families, friends, and teams as well.

This infection of thought can create very bad emotional states: jealousy, envy, fear, suspicion, defensiveness, a lack of trust, cynicism, bullying, overt amounts of criticism, attacking anything that it marks as a threat, delusions, lying about oneself, rationalization, minimizing, justification and so much more… The mind plagued by insecurity is always a buzz trying to build mechanisms to protect and add value to itself. It compares itself with others maximizing the weakness of another and minimizing any flaw it may possess. This type of insecurity caves a person in upon themselves in such a way that nothing they experience or are involved in can be separated from self and their need to be built up and protected. It forces the centrality of itself. It requires celebration and approval. It vigorously and ruthlessly attacks even the slightest of opposition. This void drives it to bend and gather everything it touches in and upon itself ultimately. I didn’t study psychology but it sounds very similar to some sort of clinical narcissism.

Overcoming this extreme insecurity first involves finding a place of peace, and admitting our need. We need a mind that is not plagued by the vacuum of self-preservation and has cultivated the capacity to see beyond itself. We need a mind that sees itself as a “part,” and not the “center” or “whole.” We need a mind that can accept its own weaknesses and not be overwhelmed by them or by the feelings they create when focused on. I’ve shared with our kids before that being mature emotionally ultimately means having the ability to laugh at yourself. It’s a great benchmark. Being underdeveloped emotionally causes us to take ourselves way too seriously and blinds us to the fact that we are a mere piece of a much bigger picture. Being free from the vacuum we are describing here enables higher functions in us like empathy and compassion. When we move beyond self-centric ways of thinking, we can be armed with a healthy amount of self-awareness and navigate relationships more successfully.

Here is a good test for whether or not bad levels of insecurity have a hold on you. When was the last time you apologized to someone? And not in a manipulative way, but in a way that left you taking responsibility for your part of the issue. When was the last time you articulated your fault and then in vulnerability asked for forgiveness? These are things that are very difficult for an overtly insecure person to do. Taking responsibility, vocalizing personal struggle or weakness, asking for forgiveness or assistance, owning certain dysfunctions or errors, clearly admitting an area of need or weakness. All of this is avoided like the plague by insecurity as it requires self-awareness and courage.

Another test although not as easy as the apology test is that of auditing your current relationships. How many people that are close to you, feel comfortable disagreeing with you, challenging you, sharing uncomfortable truth and or discussing more difficult things with you? Is there any family member or friend that has disagreed with you that you have not in turn attacked or cut off or written off as an idiot? Can you have hard conversations without ultimately demonizing anyone that disagrees with you? Insecurity unchecked drives people to extreme levels of defense and requires the people around them to be in agreement and often times even beyond this to the point of requiring celebration.

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The only way forward requires the embrace of some very sobering and uncomfortable realities and learning to be at peace with those. We need to learn to hold our weaknesses in our hand, not denying them, while at the same time seeking to move forward in personal development. We have to face our fears, and be willing to admit that life is not about being the center, or first, or the best. We have to accept that life is about playing our part in service to others more than being celebrated by them. Kick the perceived pressure of needing to be perfect and embrace the felt responsibility of becoming more honest with yourself and others. Receive the pressure of learning to mean more to others through service, not through centrality. It’s very difficult to see beyond self unless you cultivate a vision of the world that moves forward through leveraging our lives in service to others.

This post is not intended to be clinical or academic in nature. I’m sharing from personal experience and out of my own journey regarding addiction and extreme anxiety / insecurity. The consequences of fear ruling the heart and mind are very clear to me, unfortunately. The journey of developing a “better mind” or a better way of thinking / being is so layered and exhausting at times. Regularly rehearsing new ways of thinking and constantly bringing bad ideas and thought processes into captivity. At the beginning of my journey there were days I felt like I was going to lose my mind. You begin to familiarize yourself with what it means to be hunched over in an anxious clambering for peace and the difference you feel when standing more upright clothed with a healthy amount of dignity, self-awareness, and peace of mind.

I remember being in prayer early on in my journey and I was anxiously asking God to help me and I had a sudden sense to stop, lift up my head and “look out” at the other people in the room. The impression was that God was responding to my anxious posture with an encouragement to “open my eyes” and see the people around me. I realized in that moment as I looked upon the individuals in the room of people that I am but a small “part” in the big picture of “our” lives. I also realized that in that “small part” there was a very important role for me to play. It’s unhealthy to place yourself into a dark hole of anxiety and to rehearse all of your needs and worries. In contrast, it’s very empowering to place oneself into a posture of “seeing others.” That one moment will forever be a milestone in my life. I always want to be lifting my head, opening my eyes and seeing other people.

It’s my hope and prayer that we all find a path that leads us further away from self-absorption. Our culture is increasingly self-absorbed and emotionally immature. We need to set courses of personal development that lead to healthier minds, relationships, and communities.