The Deep Pain of Insecurity That Keeps Us Stuck
I spent most of last month clearing documents and files … and then I stopped. I’ve repeated this pattern many times over the years. I have a complicated relationship with papers and files due to deep fears and insecurities that constantly run in the background.
You may not have an issue with disposing of files and documents, but if you feel you can’t let go of something, look at the underlying insecurity that keeps you stuck.
What I’m sharing with you is not about overcoming, or beating insecurity. It’s about meeting it with respect and understanding so we can learn from it.
The two sides of insecurity
When I looked at the feelings behind the documents and files I keep piling, I noticed that they’re about one of two things.
1 - Proof of the past: I keep stuff to validate the experience. The insecurity is based in the thought that the past was so special I won’t have anything that special again, so I need to hold on to (and remind myself of) the evidence.
2 - Possibilities of the future: I need to look at the stuff at one point to make sense of what happened, or to improve my skills.
Both thoughts point to one thing: not enough in the present. I need to get more from the past, and do more in the future.
We’re not living enough, or may not have enough. So, we keep holding on and feeling stuck repeating the same thoughts and behaviors.
How the problem gets worse
As the insecurity digs deeper, we judge ourselves, and we push ourselves to take action—reactive fearful action.
Forcing action may work for a short while. But deep emotions will win every time. And we’ll revert back to our familiar behaviors.
The message that keeps coming up for me is this: Instead of beating myself up for having insecurities, join the feelings and see what happens.
Part 1. Shaking hands with insecurity: The emotional framework
Before we take any action, we need to recognize the feelings that control our thoughts and actions.
I’ve been working with this 4-step process that may help in feeling and, subsequently, doing better.
Bring to mind an issue you’re struggling with, and do the following.
1 - Notice and acknowledge the feeling. Denying, rejecting, or trying to reason with a feeling doesn’t work. Validate the feeling by giving it your loving attention.
2 - Allow the physical sensations to be. We may not like the way the body is reacting to fearful feelings. But if we just feel what comes up, without wanting to push it away, it will pass. It always does.
3 - Meet the insecurity with understanding and uncover the lessons. Instead of fighting what we don’t like to feel, let’s meet the feeling with curiosity and appreciation. It’s here to tell us something. Be still and see what comes up.
4 - Imagine letting go of the thing you’re holding on to, what would happen? Repeat steps 1-3 till you feel at peace with letting it go. If you’re still stuck, sleep on it, and repeat the process again the next day. Stay with it—for days if you have to—till you can peacefully accept letting it go.
As I work with the papers project, I’ve been feeling my way through insecurity. I’m digesting the following lessons, and releasing the feelings as they arise.
- Have closure of past deeply painful experiences.
- Get clear about the skills I want to develop.
- Let go of wanting to track everything.
- Forgive past bad decisions.
- Keep it simple. Keep it light.
Part 2. Decision making and action
After you let go of the attachment to the item, or situation, is there something you feel you want to do? Or have you completely let it go?
The decision doesn’t need to be complicated. We just need to allow ourselves time to process the emotions and move forward.
If you made a decision to let go, move on to part three. If you decided to take action, consider the following steps.
1 - Plan before you start. Think about what you need to do. Jot down a few thoughts to give action a solid form.
2 - Imagine future results. What does success look and feel like? Go through the emotional process, and let go of any fears and insecurities. How would failure look and feel? Repeat the emotional process and make peace with what comes up.
3 - Take the first step. Start working. When insecurities show up again (and they will), feel and let go, then move on.
4 - Keep going. If you stop, release the emotions that come up and get back to your action.
Once you’re done, it’s time to wrap up.
Part 3. Completion and closure
Whether you succeed or fail, or you do something or don’t, you need to close the experience so you can let go and move on.
Reflection is the best tool we have to gain insight and learn as we look back at an experience.
We can’t completely close the chapter if we don’t get still and appreciate the wisdom gained from the experience.
The biggest challenge with reflection is that it’s fairly easy to skip and jump straight into the next thing—especially when insecurity is nagging in the background. Mindfulness and intention are key.
What do you need to do?
1 - Look back and answer these questions:
- Did your plan work out, or not?
- What were the biggest challenges and wins?
- What were the important lessons that can help you in the future?
- What would you differently from now on?
2 - Feel what comes up. You may feel excited, relieved, or disappointed. Whatever you feel, go through the process and allow yourself to release the attachment to the experience and its outcome.
3 - Write down your thoughts and answers to the questions. I’ve been developing the habit of creating a document for each experience and placing it in a folder aptly named reflection.
4 - Let go of all the resources, and objects related to the project. Once you’ve made peace with the end result, archive, throw out, or give away the documents and stuff. This is what I’m trying to do to stop feeling I need to look back at the past. One summary is enough.
The process may feel daunting. Here is a simple visual reminder (right click on the image to view the full size). Hope you find it useful.
Insecurity is part of our imperfect humanity. If we reject it, we ignore the gifts and growth opportunities, and life will keep reminding us of what we’re refusing to see.
Surprisingly, when we surrender to the feelings of doubt and inadequacy, we realize that:
The unconditional acceptance of insecurity can be a great source of confidence and peace.