Who Is That in the Mirror?: Reflecting on Being Insecure

Updated on September 10, 2017
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Jamal is a graduate from Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

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One of my hobbies is doing amateur photography and I often times find the best pictures are the ones that are unplanned. The inspiration is just there. Its not that I am trying to be rude or insensitive, which is why I ask later of they don’t mind me sharing the pictures. Most of the time, they’re cool with it, but sometimes there are ones they don’t feel they look good in and don’t want me to share them. The thing that interested me about this was in an era where we proudly boast that no one can tell us what to do, be, or look like, there still appeared to be some invisible authority that held us accountable to some standard. It is almost like there is a whip master behind us ready to lash our backs of we didn’t look a certain way or say a certain thing.

Insecurities are common to all people, but why? How is it that we can go fuck whomever we want, when we want, yet still find ourselves squirming over discussing exact details or talking about it freely in public?

The difference between Superman and Clark Kent is the difference many men and women see in themselves.  One is good at what they do but unsure of themselves, lacking confidence.  The other is independent, strong, and bold.
The difference between Superman and Clark Kent is the difference many men and women see in themselves. One is good at what they do but unsure of themselves, lacking confidence. The other is independent, strong, and bold. | Source

Distorted Image in the Mirror of the Mind

I once dated a woman who was so rife with insecurities that her hands would visibly shake when it kicked in. Most often it was tied to her family and she let it control almost every aspect of her life, what she did and didn’t do. Everything had to line up and with them in order for her to enjoy the experience. When she did do something that went against their values or that she enjoyed regardless of whether it was right or wrong, she would be fine in the moment, but the insecurities would come back to haunt her afterward.

Once the high of freedom was over, the low of ‘what the hell are you doing’ began.

In other circumstance, I have seen outwardly confidant, well-off people who appeared as if nothing could rock their boat, become rattled once certain topics were broached to them. The freedom of expression that was in their voice suddenly shrunk to a lower, submissive tone, revealing something else: a vulnerability that made them feel naked some how. And in this state they often times became very defensive or overly aggressive to try to make up for their exposed vulnerabilities.


"The range of what this covers is as vast as the human experience, but the result is still the same: intense fear and vulnerability."

Breaking the Law

I am not saying this to sound like a self-absorbed guru. I honestly believe our insecurities come from the knowledge that we have somehow crossed an established line of conduct. Insecurities are often the guard dogs of culture, the watchmen on the wall. All people are brought by social standards that are considered normal and appropriate by the group at large. This does not just pertain to conservative and religious communities as the accepted stereotype goes. No matter how progressive that society may become, values are being passed down that helps solidify that wall.

Whether it’s no swearing or swearing every other word, or wearing a dress or hot pants, or being politically correct or patriotic, they are all elements of conformity at work. Most often insecurities align themselves with these norms and they even come with their own sets of punishments for violations. Usually its shame, that the act we committed somehow damns our worth as a human being and is everlasting, extending to everything we do, everywhere we go, and who we know. Other times it is the fear of becoming social pariahs. We all want to be accepted even though we will swear up and down we don’t need it. Whether it’s by one person or a whole group, we need acceptance from some outside source to move forward.

Another source insecurities can stem from is traumatic events. We may have had an experience that was so painful or harmful; the very memory of the event, even years later, turns us into children in the fetal position. The range of what this covers is as vast as the human experience, but the result is still the same: intense fear and vulnerability.

Outrunning the Past

Insecurity is an ancient survival mechanism that has continued within the human race. Humans needed to survive in groups and communities in order to survive. This rule was unanimous across cultures and time, and continued from when we were hunter/gathers, to building empires and reaching for the stars.

The intense feelings act like guard rails to keep the members of that community in line, indirectly allowing our own mind to do much of the work that was usually left to elders and institutions. Yet ss societies continue to evolve, insecurity often become cages that were sometimes gilded with gold and other times wrapped in thorns. They stagnate evolution and growth and it was a very easy pattern to fall into. All you had to do was set a standard and get others to follow along: the mind did the rest.

I noticed these patterns in my early twenties on no whatever path in life I choose. If I chose the religious and conservative path, I was insecure about displeasing God and wanting to do something sinful though I may not have actually done the deed. If it was secular, then I was being insecure about my looks or not having fucked or got drunk enough to be accepted as normal by those communities. Both paths had their established guard rails and unspoken rule, and both paths believed themselves free of the constraints of insecurity and control.

Some conservatives seem aware of this pattern on a certain level but accept it as the proper thing to do. They may refer to it as a conscious or conviction. If it towed the status quo, then it had to be a good thing, no matter how painful it was.

Equally, many progressives seem to not really realize that they are a part of the same cycle of insecurity that they are trying to flee. They don’t seem to understand that a mandated code of conduct is still a mandated code of conduct even if you enjoy it: clothes, sex, music, political correctness, you name it. It wears a different mask but is still the same animal.

And what both groups don’t really understand that freeing ourselves of insecurity is one of the most difficult things for a person to do.’

For example, during the Renaissance era, Europe developed a craze for looking for the next genius to appear on the stage: the next Mozart, Newton, Galieo, or Nietzsche. But true genius was often a blessing and a curse. Someone who thought outside the established box maybe praised as a god for awhile, but were often loaded with insecurities that their adoring public could barely grasp. Many of them went through life misunderstood and depression and suicide were very common. The frailties existed because no one understood that part of their gift involved breaking the rules and dealing with the consequences, all while creating their masterpiece or theory. No one wanted a piece of that action, just the fame side of it.

American Idol can be your worst nightmare for being insecure.  William Hung however showed a bold and independnt attitude of himself, despite his lack muscial talent and the judges laughing at him.  It shows that insecurities can be overcome.
American Idol can be your worst nightmare for being insecure. William Hung however showed a bold and independnt attitude of himself, despite his lack muscial talent and the judges laughing at him. It shows that insecurities can be overcome. | Source

Truth or Dare

The reward for becoming free from insecurity is a true and unhindered understanding of self and being truly free. The price of freeing oneself from insecurity is potential loneliness and isolation because you will not conform to any groups’ standards that they may demand of you. You are neither Democrat or Republican, neither liberal or conservative, neither beautiful or ugly.

Whether or not insecurity is actually healthy or not is debatable. It may depend on your point of view or personal biases of what is truly important. It s definitely a fact though that being insecure in ourselves can often work against us and limit how much of our potential we actually achieve. To have no insecurity is to go off and on the guard rails while knowing its there, while remaining emotionally healthy regardless of the flak you get from it.

And there are people who can do it and still have their sanity as well. A society that focuses on people who maintain their independent identity in spite of outside pressure or becoming insecure while rejecting their judgment, may go a long ways to the rest of us feeling better about ourselves when we look in the mirror.

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