We all want to feel more confident, more secure, less anxious, more comfortable in our skins. Who doesn’t?
A $100 million self-help industry for decades has targeted our insatiable quest for deliverance from inner states of psychological and emotional unease, awkwardness, self-doubt, and sundry experiences of deeply felt, painful vulnerability.
But more costly than anything, countless millions of us put our lives on hold, waiting until we feel that requisite, elusive level of inner solidity we’ve arbitrarily marked as qualifying us, readying us, to move forward with bold decisions, bold plans, bold explorations, bold ambitions.
I suggest we need to stop waiting. We need to stop waiting to feel secure, confident and ready enough to live our lives.
Life is meant to be lived scared; one of our greatest privileges is to get out there and, feeling intimidated and unsure of ourselves, go kick some ass.
I suggest that feeling dread, insecurity, lost, anxious, confused and self-doubting is our human condition. We experience these, and similarly disturbing “feelings” and “states,” more often than not.
We experience them, I suggest, because they’re, in fact, utterly normal, not pathological.
Yet the messaging we get through our lives is that it’s not normal, that it is pathological—that there is something wrong with us—the more we struggle with these ubiquitous psychological experiences.
The mental health establishment itself has promoted this perspective for a century, having codified, more specifically pathologized in its annually revised diagnostic manuals, countless psychiatric disorders many of which reflect our everyday struggle to endure the brutal task of being a human being.
Consequently, we are afraid…of ourselves. We dread that we’re defective, tainted, “not normal” for feeling emotionally and/or psychologically fragile in an essentially frightening, destabilizing world. Whole, fat textbooks on “abnormal psychology” similarly denote a compendium of conditions that designate us “abnormal.”
Appreciating that mental illness surely exists, I’m suggesting that the categories and criteria of “mental illness” over many decades have become so expanded, and so expansive, as to compel many of us to question regularly, often anxiously, “Am I okay? Am I normal? I sure seem to meet the criteria for a bunch of psychiatric disorders.”
It’s imperative to question all this and, more importantly, to appreciate that our often implicit demand to live free from/relieved of personal insecurity holds us back; it becomes a pretext to wait—to wait to really get out there and live our lives full throttle; to wait until we feel ready enough, secure enough, confident enough to face that big, crazy, arbitrary world with a willingness to make big messes and big mistakes along the way.
But the waiting is hazardous. The waiting consumes our lives. There’s no escaping the fear and trembling of being a human being. There’s only the opportunity to dive into our lives with respect for all experiences of our ever-present vulnerability. We’ve got to know that we’re okay, no matter how petrified we feel. We can make the decision to live our lives boldly, scared.
It’s a decision we’re unlikely to regret.