Is everybody insecure?

Dipping toes in the water

Photo by Jesse Therrien

When I was in middle school and high school, it never occurred to me that other people might be as insecure as I was. I don’t think I assumed everyone else had it all together–I was just too absorbed in my own issues to give the idea much thought.

When I was in college, my girlfriend claimed that everybody was insecure, and the idea had the ring of truth to it. I had noticed that everybody I got to know well enough seemed to have survived some trauma. It was easy to imagine that we were all going around hurting inside, each of us thinking everybody else had it all together and that we were the only fucked up ones.

I found the idea kind of liberating. It put me on a level playing field. I could think, yeah, you look like you’re doing okay, but you’re really just as screwed up as I am.

I think it was something I needed to believe back then.

As the years pass, though, I find myself coming back around. I’m starting to think that insecurity is a product of over-examining things. It’s so easy to find evidence that you’re less, if you’re on the lookout for it.

But I’m starting to think that what I saw in college was selection bias. Like gravitates to like, and I surrounded myself with people who were like me. In my artistic life I guess I still do. But half my life is not artistic. So many people I know seem to live unexamined lives, and I’m not inclined to think they’re just faking it.

I don’t mean to make a fetish of being insecure. It’s crippling. The last half dozen short stories I’ve written have yet to be submitted anywhere. I am way too quick to decide that I don’t belong, that this or that person doesn’t really want me around, that my contributions are not valuable.

I think there’s got to be a happy middle ground somewhere. After all this time I’m still looking for it.

What do you think? Are you insecure? Are you faking it until you make it? Do you think everyone’s the same?

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7 Responses to Is everybody insecure?

  1. Jonathon says:

    Am I insecure? Most definitely. I feel like I flip between feeling pretty secure and confident and feeling like I’m a total fraud and one day everything’s going to come crumbling down. It’s especially bad when I’m looking for work.

    I don’t think everyone’s the same, though. I think you’re right that overexamining things can make it worse, and I think it’s probably a bigger problem for depressive types. But I think there are plenty of people out there who are perfectly confident and self-assured.

  2. Joe Iriarte says:

    I can see how the looking for work thing would make it worse. First it’s the rejection, which I get because I get that constantly with writing. But I think it’s worse when you’re looking for a job because we tie so much of our worth in this society with being a provider, and so much of our identity with our jobs. I mean, look at the question, “What do you do?” where somehow it’s implicit that the questioner is asking what our occupation is.

    There are specific areas where I have a lot of confidence, but I’m adept at convincing myself that the things I know I’m good at don’t matter!

  3. Peggy says:

    Wow, Joe. This post really resonated with me. It’ll be hard to keep my reply short, but here goes. I, too, dealt with deep insecurity in my youth. I thought all those other people had it all together AND that they were looking at me and thinking all the negative things about me that I thought about myself. Then, in high school, I had the good fortune to move and “reinvent” myself, and found myself in the crowd that I used to think looked down on people like me. What I found out is that they didn’t look down on people like me – they didn’t think about me at all! I had wasted so much time worrying about them and what they thought of me, and worst of all, had based my self-worth on that. Getting onto the other side of the looking glass really opened my eyes and helped me be less judgmental of myself. Later on, I realized that I wasn’t really so different than before. I just felt differently about myself. I certainly believe we all have insecurities, though they may not weigh the same on all of us. There are many people who do not spend much time looking inward and I believe they don’t carry the weight of “am I good enough” on their psyche the way you or I might. I’m reminded of the saying “ignorance is bliss.” While sometimes I envy that ignorant blissfulness, most of the time I don’t. I think particularly as a writer, I relish the ability to savor the world intensely both when it is sweet as well as when it is bitter. And I believe that self-examination makes me a better person than I would otherwise be. We just have to learn to balance that self-examination with the ability to get out of our own way. So, am I insecure? Yes, but much less than I once was. Thanks for a great post. P.S. where’s my pony?

  4. Joe Iriarte says:

    All ponies are sent via USPS. Watch your mailbox.

    I think you have a point about writers–maybe especially YA writers–benefiting from being really analytical . . . even if we stray a bit close to neurotic! That’s a good balance you’re talking about . . . I’m still working on it.

  5. Person who has a really distinct name and doesn't feel like seeing this comment pop up on a search engine. says:

    I’m not so sure if everyone is insecure, but like you said, everyone has a particular temperament (I am apt to believe people do not readily make this decision to be overly analytical, it’s a bad one to make) and some are intrinsically obliged to over-think and to make an analysis about how they feel about over-thinking. It’s all just one paralyzing bind and it often sets the tone for melancholy, and unfortunately this either is a result of or a facet of insecurity. As for myself and my history with insecurity, it’s quite true that times in my life when I was “confident” or felt assured in my way of living, I wasn’t doing much introspective thinking. I was a happy middle-schooler, but I didn’t know a lick about real life. It wasn’t until I reached High School that I became much more insecure and frustrated, but with that I have a starting point to trace the moments which framed who I am today. I hate to reduce the complexity of insecurity to the quintessential “byproduct of genius” conclusion, but I’d hate to think we go through the torment without the faintest light at the end of the tunnel…

  6. Joe Iriarte says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Person! I think your analysis is pretty solid. Like you, I don’t want to make it all about “genius,” because of the risk of appearing to fetishize insecurity, but it does seem intuitive that intelligence (or other types of insightfulness) will correlate at least some with an analytical nature.

  7. Joanna says:

    Everyone is insecure.
    Everyone has gotten up to the stage of where they think they are ‘not good enough’ or have compared themselves to other people. But what we do not realize is that the people we compare ourselves to, also have their ups and downs. They have their insecurities as well. It is human nature to experience jealousy, sadness, anger, and anxiety once in a while and we cannot always control our emotions towards how we feel about ourselves but we must make sure that in the end we appreciate ourselves for who we are and that we always keep our self esteem high. You are not alone in this. Everyone has their own insecurities but once you start to love them, they don’t become your insecurities anymore. It’s not a flaw if you embrace it. Flaws are not ugly. Everything and everyone has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

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