This past weekend I spent some time with my friend, Chris Lema. He’s a fascinating man with great insights in a number of areas; the one we stumbled on this Saturday was people and leadership.
Over the past few months, as I continue to evolve into my role, I continuously question my philosophies. It’s a process of self-improvement that I find very helpful. In the discussion we stumbled into different personalities, characteristics traits that we, I, find fascinating. Of the various options, one resonated with me — Personal Insecurities.
I, like many, struggle with insecurities. The difference though is probably in how I handle / manage them. A number of trends and thoughts became apparent as we discussed it, and it was enough that I felt it’d be worth sharing.
Thinking Through Insecurities
I think by nature of being human, we are all plagued with some level of insecurity. I believe they can manifest in various ways – physical, psychological or emotional. I think sometimes however we recognize the defining attributes, but fail to recognize why they exist.
For example, yesterday I gave a radio interview on website security. Prior to the call I find myself pacing, looking at the clock, and although having a conversation I wasn’t actively there. When the interview started, the words raced out of my mouth like a horse at the sound of a gunshot. I realized the physical affects and quickly focused on controlling my heart rate and calming my thoughts. As the interview progressed, so did the pace of the discussion, the thoughtfulness and in turn my confidence.
We are all our harshest critic, so to those listening might have not noticed a thing. It is however, an example of how I personally manifest insecurities.
in·se·cu·ri·ty: uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence.
I think, and am willing to bet, this happens to more people than many realize. Sometimes it’s easy to look at someone, whether they are successful, confident, charismatic and think, “If I can only do what that person does.” It’s our nature.
There are 5 things I’d encourage you to consider when thinking about insecurities. A few I’d challenge you to ask yourself, “Is this me?” and others I’d just encourage you to keep in your thoughts.
1. Everyone is Insecure.
There is this misconception that the most successful people have no insecurities. It’s actually a fallacy; many of those same people are insecure in a number of things. Many however have embraced those insecurities and have learned to control them. Both in the way they manifest as well as in how they control those manifestations.
I’ll give you an example.
I’m very insecure speaking in front of people. Before every talk, I find myself continuously fidgeting and if you’ve been around me, you’ll often see me going over my slides repeatedly before going up on stage.
I’m also very insecure about the things I write, but I have found that taking the time to draft and share them provides me the clarity I require. There is no doubt in my mind that sometime in the future I will come back and likely get into a heated debate with myself on a number of subjects. I’ll attribute this to deeper understanding and experience. I also fear what others might think or perceive of my thoughts and opinions, especially those more “qualified” to to talk on the subject.
Regardless though, whether speaking, writing or any of the various other insecurities I am plagued with I continuously work to identify how they manifest and how to improve their management.
2. It’s about Action.
I think one classic sign of an insecurity is the individual that spends more time telling you what they have done, rather than a person that just focuses on doing. It’s the desire to share your awesomeness rather than allowing someone to recognize it for themselves. It revolves around the fear that whomever you are reporting to, working with, or hoping to impress will fail to see your value or knowledge.
It’s the belief that if you don’t tell the person that you did something, then they’ll never know. This is also complicated by the idea that you can only share something when it’s 100%.
There is however a delicate balance that has to be struck. The idea is not that you can’t communicate your ideas and opinions. In fact, in many ways showing your thoughts and expressing your opinions is a beautiful way of providing insight and allowing someone to identify with your true abilities.
There are also ways that you can engage with someone, allowing you to demonstrate what you’re doing, without saying, this is what I did. Very meta, I know.
Something I have learned over time is that more is accomplished in a team than as an individual. This was not always the case for me. For the longest time I felt my ability to demonstrate my personal ability was tied to me the individual; yet what I have learned, and continue to learn, is it’s actually more impactful and meaningful via a team. In pairs you can accomplish so much more and the sum result of the action will lead to more awareness. Yet we often strive to accomplish things in singularity. Why is that?
3. Harness your Voice.
One very common manifestation is an inability to harness your voice. I actually started this section title as – Be quiet, but in thinking through it realized I was wrong. It’s the insecurity of not being heard and the need to be heard.
This isn’t about being quiet though; it’s about understanding when to say something. It’s about how you participate in the conversation, but some times that participation is as much about listening as it is saying something.
Think about a meeting you’ve been invited to, or maybe a gathering of friends. The discussion is one you’re not familiar with, yet you find yourself with this desire to speak. You share ideas and thoughts prematurely; you interject because you have a need to be heard. You make attempts to drive the focus of the discussion, but it’s not for the benefit of the discussion as much as it is for your own personal benefit.
I think this describes us all to some extent. We’ve all been in a setting in which we spoke when we probably should not have. When we responded when the question wasn’t directed as us. When we felt that this was the time to show our superiority and value. I know I have.
It’s ok not to be the one talking. It’s ok not to know the answer. It’s ok to harness your voice. It doesn’t mean you can’t engage, it just means you should be more inquisitive than controlling. You should ask instead of tell. You should listen instead of speak.
Not knowing is not taboo, regardless of what you might think. I find the higher you go in something, whether it’s sport, business, academia this belief seems to be the same.
Approach things with less of an, “I know that attitude” and more with a “I could possibly learn something” mindset and you might surprise yourself.
4. Earn Respect.
I think one big mistake, that often manifests itself in insecure people are those that demand respect.
- Do you know who I am?
- Do you know what I have done?
- You want me to do what?
- Listen to me because this is who I am!!
These may not be things they say, instead things they imply in their responses, their mannerisms. Well, sometimes they do say it too…
Regardless, it’s perhaps the most dangerous manifestation I think. It’s also a sign of weakness and comes from a lack of introspection, but honestly comes from the fear of lack of respect.
One thing I have noticed in talking to people is that they have a timeline for respect. I really have no idea where that even came from. I’ve been in this community 10 years, I deserve respect. I have been training 15 years, I deserve respect. I have these degrees, I have deserve respect. Instead of dictating the earned respect, maybe ask, “Why is the respect not being given?”
Also ask yourself, what does respect really mean to you? Maybe you are given respect, yet it’s presented in a way that you don’t recognize because it’s not aligned with your own expectation of what it should be.
Whatever you do, ask yourself, am I demanding respect, or am I doing enough to earn it? The catch is, if you’re focused on earning then you won’t ever really ask for or demand it.
5. Be Self Aware.
There is a process of self-awareness that I think we should all undergo on a continuous basis.
Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.
The process is a lot harder than many realize, and often lead to another process known as self-actualization, but I won’t get into that.
I believe to be truly effective you must be willing to be brutally honest with yourself. You must ask yourself difficult questions, and realize when your bias kicks in. If you have to add qualifiers to specific observations then that’s probably a sign of your true nature. Maybe it’s not everyone else; maybe it really is your character.
This process, I think, will help you in identifying your insecurities. Yes, many people realize their insecurities and just avoid certain things because of them. Many others though don’t realize them at all, this section is especially important to them.
Your insecurities should not prevent you from accomplishing something; instead, they should encourage you to keep moving forward.
I want to be clear that I am not an expert, or pretend to be an expert on these concepts.
These are my opinions based on conversations I’ve had and my own though processes. I also believe that I can define and relate with these points mostly because I myself fall into each category in some way shape or form. So I speak from my own self-awareness exercises.
By the way, if you ever want to chat with my buddy Chris, you can find him on Clarity where he spends his time coaching and advising various companies in a number of industries. You can also gain a lot of knowledge from his blog where he openly shares his insights.
What are your thoughts on insecurities?