So, let’s confront some myths about confidence, insecurity and anxiety. Because the misinformation’s wrong, and worse, pernicious.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 30-year clinical career, it’s that everyone’s got insecurities. Everyone.
Sure, some of us (especially the more psychologically complex we are) feel our insecurities more acutely than others. But I’m telling you—however obvious or well-disguised, everyone’s insecure about something (and almost certainly, about many things).
And why? Because being a human being is an inherently insecure, vulnerable experience. After all, our brains uniquely facilitate self-consciousness. And with self-consciousness comes guaranteed insecurity.
Let me state that notion again: We are self-conscious creatures, therefore it’s impossible not to feel unsettling insecurity and vulnerability, regularly.
Naturally, this applies to anxiety: Because we’re human beings we’re inclined to feel anxious about a million possible things, rational and not. That’s not because there’s something wrong with us. To the contrary, it’s because that’s what it is to be human—equipped with brains and minds that guarantee myriad opportunities to experience anxiety and vulnerability.
And aren’t we seduced, unfortunately, by shallow, romanticized ideas of confidence? Don’t most of us want to be like the guy, or woman, over there who “appears” incredibly confident, which is to say, strikingly self-assured, composed, rarely nervous, seemingly always comfortable in their own skin, apparently immunized from self-doubt—in a word, enviably invulnerable. Don’t we tend to envy people who appear to exude this classical concept of confidence? Who appear always relaxed, self-possessed, imperturbable?
Yet this is a misguided model of confidence, and a hard one to shake. It’s misguided for how it idealizes the perception of invulnerability and perpetuates the false myth of confidence as exhibited invulnerability, whereas most of us feel vulnerable often. And most of us experience our vulnerability in so many possible ways—often intensively and painfully.
What, then, is a better definition of confidence? It’s simple: We exhibit confidence every time we soldier through our lives, moving forward with productive agendas despite (and in co-existence with) feeling scared, insecure, gripped with uncertainty and self-doubt. We demonstrate true confidence whenever we find ourselves feeling painfully vulnerable, perhaps deeply uncomfortable in our skin, dreadfully insecure about something, feeling perhaps morbidly inadequate, yet we proceed forward with our constructive agendas as a bold, remarkable statement of faith in ourselves.
In effect we are saying, I’m a human being. That means I’m going to feel scared often in life. That’s a totally normal, expectable thing. I’m not a squirrel. I’ve got a complex brain and mind that guarantee experiences of ongoing, uncomfortable insecurity and vulnerability. But I know I can live my life feeling scared and insecure, whenever I do.
That’s my choice. And I strive to exercise that choice without shame, and with a sense of empowerment, pride and accomplishment.