I remember waking-up in cold sweats thinking about how I was going to manage to pay all the bills that month. Since taking over a company holding large debts, my own personal finances had suffered. The nervousness and cold sweats were symptoms of anxiousness that came from being financially insecure. I was anxious because my financial resources were not sufficient to meet my financial obligations. It wasn’t because the world was unfair, or because Capitalism is a bad system, or because someone was mistreating me, or even because God was testing. I was insecure for the same reason we’re all insecure: when the requirement of the moment is greater than our abilities to meet the requirement. While I would like to blame the circumstances for why I was working in an indebted company in the first place for my worries, the truth is I had accepted the circumstances and was now responsible for either meeting requirements or abandoning them.
On hindsight, given the things I have achieved since then, and given the greater odds we have defied, that thing that was causing me so much insecurity was actually not so bad. In that moment I felt like jumping out my apartment window. Today, that idea seems like such a petty reason to commit suicide. I realized that I could prevent that level of anxiousness by budgeting better and prioritizing my income more. Because I had not improved my income nor my savings, I was financially incapable, and because I was financially incapable, I was financially insecure. Because I was financially insecure, I, David, felt generally insecure. That one area in my life made my whole life insecure.
This realization taught me something very important: My insecurities, they’re not simply some abstract unmanageable thing called “insecurities”. They’re the result of not having improved my capabilities in certain important areas of my life. Most of what I was anxious about could have been reduced, and even prevented IF I had developed my abilities better. This is one of the problems of lumping issues into abstract categories instead of calling them out for what they really are – an exercise that our overly-sensitive society finds offensive.
Insecurity is not a condition people suffer from. It’s the result of lack of capability. Very insecure people have simply not developed the necessary capability to handle the requirement of that area.
The sad thing is we aren’t taught this. We believe that insecurity is caused by the conditions around us, the conditions of our childhood, of our relationships, of our work. If only people were more understanding, if our parents were better, if our boss paid more, and our government gave better help, we would fee more secure. By putting the responsibility of our own security on the shoulders of others, we conveniently remove the reality that we have not learned to make wise choices independent of external factors. As long as there is someone out there to blame for our insecurities, we will not single-mindedly deal with the reality of the sources of our insecurity.
Is it any surprise that the most financially insecure people you’ll find are usually those who don’t know how to excel in their jobs nor follow a prepared budget? You’ll find that financially secure people are doing what? Saving, investing, and creating value. That’s not a coincidence.
Is it any surprise that the most physically insecure people are those who have less than ideal physical capabilities due to bad habits? You don’t see too many people who are taking care their health worrying about sicknesses. Why? Because they’re improving their capabilities in that area.
Is it any surprise that the most career insecure people are those who have not found a craft they can truly excel in? In my experiences, I’ve heard more whining from non-performers than performers. Again, that’s not a coincidence.
The good news is this: our insecurity isn’t a curse or demonic attack. It’s the direct result of lack of capability. This may be bad news for those who want an excuse more than a cure. But for those of you who want a cure, we’re given a path towards victory. By being very honest about the source of our insecurity, we can now identify the practices we need to do to improve our capabilities in that area. If you’re financially insecure, get a better job, start saving, sell stuff, stop spending on stuff. If you’re physically insecure, change your diet, stop comparing your looks to others, use sunblock, whatever, develop another identity that’s not based on looks. If you’re insecure about your relationship, look at what you’re doing that’s causing it. If the solution to your insecurity is always someone else changing, then you’ll always be insecure, and insecure people are terrible partners. But if the solution is with you, than you don’t need to wait for someone else. You can change your situation, change your decisions, change your relationships, and do the necessary things for you to succeed.
I forget this a lot and get frustrated. Then I remind myself and just move on. I don’t need others to understand. I just need to do what’s necessary to get the life results I want. I’m not insecure because others make me insecure. I am insecure because I’m not capable in that area. I’m better off working on that area than blaming external things.
So the cure to insecurity isn’t a world where no one criticizes you, nor has no issues, nor has no adversity. The cure isn’t a world of greater self-esteem. The cure is more self-mastery. The most secure people in the world have achieved a level of competence in that area of security. As long as we are incompetent, we will always feel insecure.
As long as we’re bad at handling our money, we will be financially insecure.
As long as we have unhealthy habits, we will have physical insecurities.
As long as we’re not the best at work, we will have career insecurities.
As long as we’re not really humbling ourselves before God, we will have spiritual identity insecurities.
This isn’t a self-esteem or dignity issue as popular advice wants to call it. It’s a maturity issue. It’s a competence issue. It’s a self-mastery issue.
I want to end with this idea: Feelings of insecurity is a wonderful indicator of that which we need to grow in. Just like a headache makes us focus on our head, insecurity points out areas that we need to heal, need to develop, and need to master. When we address insecurity issues with “self-esteem cures”, it’s like trying to cure a diarrhoea with a pain reliever. Nice try, but you’re still going to crap like nuts – on everyone around you. The problem isn’t the pain. The problem is reason behind the pain. That reason is inside us. That’s what we need to be dealing with. The pain is a gift to point that out to us before it hurts us and others even more.
**Bonus Section: Beyond You**
When thinking about this issue, I asked a few people, live and online, about their thoughts on insecurity. They were helpful in helping me write this post. One thing I noticed is this:
In general, we are so caught up in our own financial, physical, emotional, and relational requirements, that our days go by simply responding to these requirements. Very few, and I mean very very very few, are truly diligently working on a life that’s bigger than himself or herself. When you live a small existence, why be surprised that you feel small and insecure? Of course you feel small. You are small.
Here’s my advice: Live your days beyond you. Make it a point that each day is building towards a greater impact in the lives of others. When you’re busy with things much bigger than yourself you’re forced to grow, to mature, and to expand. You’re forced to be bigger so that you can meet the requirements of your big goal. What happens when you continuously grow towards a grand purpose? You develop more and more mastery. That’s where confidence comes from. Confidence doesn’t come from someone nicely lying to you, telling you you’re a good person when you’re really inconsequential. Confidence comes from know you are consequential. Your existence makes a big difference. The lives of others won’t be the same without you.
If you want self-esteem go for self-mastery. If you do you’ll have both. But if you seek self-esteem before the mastery, chances are you’ll never have either.
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