A Coaching Power Tool Created by David Braun
(Executive Coach, CANADA)
It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity ― Dag Hammarskjold
Insecurity is something every human experience in moments or for long seasons. Most would agree it is apart of the human plight. Insecurity is experienced by the child on the school playground, the college student writing her final exams, the parent worried about paying rent, the businessman’s unease about the economy, the collective fear of a nation’s anxiety of potential war, catastrophe and the list goes on. Insecurity is known in every profession, to every age group, gender, race, and ethnicity. No matter whether it is a child, adult, or senior, insecurity can be quietly at work.
But what if feeling insecure, didn’t mean being insecure. What if the journey toward living through uncertainty didn’t have to be about lack, harm, or danger. What if it was about learning to choose honesty, acceptance, and love.
- Definition: “Insecurity”: uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence… In short, insecurity means feeling anxious and fearful about yourself or something in your life.
- Definition: “Security”: the state of being free from danger or threat; freedom from danger, fear, anxiety, from lack. In short, security means living in a state of being free from being controlled by feelings of threat.
Devastation of Insecurity
There are times when temporary insecurity can be helpful. It can warn us of potential danger, of ways we need to change course, or opportunities we need to self-improve to achieve. However, when insecurity becomes fixed and habitual, its effects can traumatize the mind and body. Studies have found the following:
- 99% of people remember where the origin stories of their long-standing insecurities began;
- The most common chronic insecurities people report are related to physical appearance, personality traits, group acceptance/ rejection, and future provision;
- Living in prolonged insecure relationships may predispose people to later health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke or ulcers;
- End of life studies of the elderly finds insecurities as root causes of some of the people’s regrets for their missed opportunities and lack of risk-taking.
Insecurity can paralyze our thinking and keep us from moving forward when we shouldn’t be standing still. Furthermore, because insecurities are often rooted in traumatic, difficult, or uncertain past circumstances and experiences, they present us with a warped view of ourselves, our strengths, abilities, and personhood.
Common Symptoms of Insecurity
Some of the symptoms of insecurity include the following:
- We always worry about what other people are thinking.
- We avoid meeting new people.
- We feel the need to make others around us feel uncomfortable or insecure.
- We regularly feel compelled to boast or make sure others see our goodness, competence, or achievements.
- We struggle believing we are good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to succeed.
- We find ourselves putting on masks around particular individuals or groups, not being true to who deep down feel we are.
- We often struggle to trust or relying on other people, including relying on ourselves because we have a looming sense of failure or disappointment.
- We often look and expect the worst to happen. Thus, we tend to play it safe, procrastinate, or make excuses when challenge opportunities come our way.
There is no real security except for whatever you build inside yourself. Gilda Radner
The Power of Security
People who feel, believe, or act out of security, live more productive whole lives. Studies repeatedly show job security helps employees contribute, collaborate, and take risks, adding to an organization’s bottom line. Similarly, social security requires us to relate to others with emotional integrity, being self-aware enough to proactively deal with our fears while growing self-love. Emotional and relational security has big impacts on our health. Studies reveal that isolated people are 50% more vulnerable to premature death verse individuals with healthy secure relationships. Finally, studies show insecure individuals are less likely to monitor themselves toward a chosen goal, leading to the lowered achievement of personal or professional aspirations.
Although everyone confronts insecurity, only some recognize it in themselves and struggle with the work to establish personal centeredness. Living out of security can occur in the middle of a crisis. However, learning to “be secure” is a process. Being secure as a state of being coming from making choices on how and what we focus on, how we act, or what we believe.
Goal-setting is important and helpful to make progress in our lives. However, it is easy to believe that once I’ve achieved the perfect relationship, job, or business, I will feel secure. This is called “outside-in” living. When our goals are rooted in ideals, values, or standards outside of ourselves we are giving our energy to change away. Fool’s gold security is based on things outside of ourselves beyond our control.
True security begins with our choosing an “inside-out” approach to life. What does this mean? We learn by exploring our thoughts, feelings, and actions in every area we feel insecure. Once we identify what we believe or think about issues around our insecurity, we can choose to accept and build more powerful thoughts. The same is true with feelings and actions. Upon recognizing our feelings around insecurity, we can examine our thoughts and actions connected to this insecurity. We then can choose to build different actions and feelings around the insecurity we are facing.
When we feel insecure, we have an opportunity to explore what our inner voices are telling us about ourselves and the situation. Through coaching and other types of support, we can choose to re-orient our self-concepts and narratives about the insecurity source in ways that empower us to behave differently.
There are a variety of thoughts or beliefs we can entertain called biases and/ or fallacies. Often these become habits of thought we may rely on to make sense of issues causing us insecurities. As an example, a couple is listed below:
- Confirmation Bias: we accept only data which confirms our beliefs which pre-determines us toward continually feeling insecurity
- Arrival Fallacy: a belief that once I’ve attained a future outcome, it will make me happy. This belief activates our brain’s reward center so that over time, we are continually changing our ideal future and never finding satisfaction. This cycle breeds insecurity by reinforcing what we don’t have.
Many of our actions are based on unconscious roadmaps, freeing up our conscious minds. Unfortunately, if some of our actions are historically based on insecurity, they reinforce the feelings of insecurity. Breaking this cycle means choosing different actions. World-famous basketball star, Kobe Bryant shared it like this, “I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have a fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”
There is an interchange between our thoughts, feelings, and actions. As we chose a change in one area, the other areas change as well. In some cases, we may have to choose changes in a couple of areas to shift toward being secure. Whatever the case, this journey is a learning process that takes time and intentional effort.
As we learn to withhold judgment against ourselves that we are“insecure,” we allow ourselves to explore a better way. This learning process enables us to choose more powerful thoughts, feelings, and actions, leading to being secure vs. feeling insecure. During this learning process, the following are a few examples of enriching benefits:
- We are able to determine what our mission is—our “why’s” for what is important.
- We are able to understand clearly what our personal values are—enabling us to value the journey or process versus only the results.
- Redefine what success is to us by learning to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness for what we have.
For most of my life, I’ve viewed myself as a secure person. However, I discovered the importance of establishing choices toward being secure in myself when I left my career path and transitioned into starting my own business. When I made my decision public, I was surprised by the social pressures of leaders, family members, and team members of the organization I led.
The misinformation passed around by others, the threat I perceived to my reputation and my fears for my family’s future provisional needs revealed my insecurity. There were seasons of time where my thoughts and feelings were plagued by other people’s expectations and negative perceptions. During these times I struggled with my health, eating, sleeping, and exercising responsibly. I avoided people, meetings, and relationships.
I grew into being insecure in the middle of an insecure environment by learning to shift my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward who I was on the inside. During this time I’m thankful to my family and my faith for providing the support I needed to grow through this learning process.
There are many applications for this model. Insecurity is an ongoing growth opportunity for everyone. Of particular value, this power tool could be useful for anyone moving through any type of transition or change in their personal or professional life. As well, this tool could be helpful for anyone struggling to find the courage to confront basic unmet human needs—belonging, provision, protection, and significance.
What are the origins of insecurity: