By Jamuna Rangachari December 2007 Dealing with insecurity, the root cause of envy, depression and relationship problems, is essential for our well-being and growth InsecurityWhat it is• Belief that one is inadequate or incompetent to handle life’s challenges.• Fear of being discovered as inadequate, ill-fitted, or unsuited to meet responsibilities at home, school, or on the job.• Sense of not fitting in with one’s peer group.• Sense of always climbing up a mountain, never being able to reach the top.• Sense of lacking support or reinforcement where you live, work, or play.• A sense of being unaccepted, disapproved, or rejected. Could lead to• Self-pity• Showing off• Excessive perfectionism• Becoming self-conscious and tense• Becoming prone to stress and envy• Frustration and depression• Interpersonal problems with others, who perceive you as snobbish or defensive• Becoming too aggressive and violent. What to do• Accept and acknowledge the feeling• Analyze which areas of life you are insecure in• Talk to close friends and well-wishers to help you overcome the feeling• See if the feeling has any basis in a particular sphere of life. If it does, work on it objectively.• View difficult situations and mistakes as temporary setbacks, and nothing to do with you as a person. How secure are You?If you were to see your spouse talking animatedly with another man/woman would youa. flame with jealousy and rush to separate the two?b. accept the fact gracefully? If you were walking on the road and someone behind you laughed, would you a. automatically assume that the person was laughing at you?b. ignore it as none of your business. If you were to enter a five-star hotel, trip and tear your sari/trouser, would youa. turn and run?b. go to the men’s/women’s room, repair the damages, and carry on with your business? If your best friend at work were to suddenly become very friendly with the new recruit, would youa. turn a cold shoulder to her?b. get to know the new recruit too so all of you can be friends together? If you were to join a new job, would youa. stay up all night worrying about the impact you will make?b. know that you will do well and be liked. Results: The more the number of As, the more the insecurity. But that’s okay. The most important thing you need to remember is that the insecurity is not you. You are whole, perfect and complete. The insecurity is only conditioning, and can be scraped away with a bit of effort. Always remind yourself of your real identity, and do not make an identity of your insecurity. That is not you. Once you are able to distinguish between the real you and the insecure conditioning that shows up, you will eliminate the latter more easily. Soon, the real, beautiful you will shine out, secure forever. A dear friend of mine was anxiously and fervently looking forward to her son getting married. The match was arranged by her, everything was in order, and the marriage took place with all friends and family attending and blessing the couple. Even before things had settled down, however, pangs of insecurity started setting in. She scrutinised and analyzed her son’s every little gesture, evaluated the couple’s every act for negative connotations, and analyzed if the gifts she had given were adequately appreciated and valued. In a matter of time, the relationship became strained and artificial. Geeta Krishnan, a computer professional, was extremely nervous before every presentation, though she was always well-prepared and thorough. She would become jittery, tense and difficult to get along with whenever her presentation was due. Further, if the boss called a colleague inside later, she would be sure that it was to criticize her, and give the next assignment to the colleague. The Many FormsExamples of the havoc this feeling can cause abound in literature, mythology and history. Peter Keating, in Ayn Rand’s classic, Fountainhead, initially tries to pass off the protagonist, Howard Roark’s, work as his own. As he cannot keep this up for long, his entire life falls apart. He ends up a total wreck, not knowing where he is heading. Even the root cause of wars is often insecurity. Aggressors, sadists and bullies are often covering up deep feelings of insecurity. Duryodhana’s prime goal in the Mahabharata was the destruction of the Pandavas as he was highly insecure in their presence. Similarly, Kaikeyi drove Rama to the forest only because she was insecure about her position if he were to become the monarch. In relatively recent times, Hitler and many other despots have been highly insecure individuals. For them, everyone and everything out there is an enemy to be neutralized. If such people don’t find enemies around, they have to invent them with disastrous consequences. In everyday life, for insecure people, this ‘enemy’ is often found in the spouse, one’s social circle, or in the superior at work. As Dr Chugh, a leading psychiatrist in Delhi, says, “Insecurity can be seen in a lot of different ways. Some of them include being over-possessive about something or someone, playing games to get something, defending oneself or belittling another, and anger.” Truly, insecurity is one animal which displays itself in many, many forms. Many insecure people attempt to hog the limelight, or take the credit for another’s work. We may dismiss them as ‘show-offs’, but actually low self-esteem is the culprit. It is precisely because of low self-esteem that they feed their egos without realizing the true area to be addressed. Similarly, people who are perceived as snobs also operate from the same root cause. Actually, there is nothing called a superiority complex. It is always an inferiority complex that manifests as a superiority complex. The insecure person is often consumed by the feeling that others are out to get him. The offence could be as minor as someone not noticing him at a function, but the insecure person takes it as a personal affront. Excessive perfectionism too arises out of insecurity, as the perfectionist is never happy with the results of his effort. Between these extremes, almost all of us do experience a tinge of anxiety and neglect driven by an insecure feeling, at varying frequencies. Why? What?Essentially, insecurity comes from poor self-esteem. This could be caused due to childhood experiences, or setbacks in life. Very often, it is at the adolescent stage that these feelings set in. As Dr Ambrish Bhatt, a counsellor in Mumbai, says, “The self-esteem of most adolescents is usually very fragile and even a minor comment or well-meaning advice can be devastating. Hence, it is very important for parents and teachers to know how to handle them.” In his experience, a lot of parents tend to add to the nervousness and anxiety that youngsters cope with today, instead of providing the much-needed support. Needless to say, the feeling of not being ‘good enough’ to meet the challenge of a situation you face in life, or a sense of helplessness in the face of problems, conflict, or concerns can be crippling. In fact, these problems themselves are imaginary, but they do create the very situation one dreaded. Whatever the source, it is the craving for acceptance and love that is the root of insecurity. An imagined sense of not being loved creates a situation where love actually begins to disappear, and becomes a self-prophesying belief as in the case of my friend. She actually became a person her son and daughter-in-law avoided, the very situation she had dreaded. AntidoteDr Dayal Mirchandani, a well-known psychiatrist in Mumbai, shares a case he handled where a person went through severe anxiety at the workplace thinking he was not good enough. Counseling sessions where he was made to see his own plus points helped tremendously, and he went on to be a much happier individual with a healthy self-esteem. In yet another case, the issue had its roots in childhood as the person was told he was worthless by his father. Dr Mirchandani used hypnosis to help the patient, who is now well-adjusted and comfortable in his own skin. Dr Ambrish Bhatt shares the experience of a girl from Patna who came to Mumbai for a job. Extremely insecure about her looks and background, she got easily duped into marriage by a colleague who manipulated her career, money, and choices in life. Finally, with Dr Bhatt’s help, she learnt to handle the situation, and not be taken for a ride. The help could come from friends and well-wishers too, if we are open to receiving it. Though she covered it up by portraying a lack of interest in dressing up, Lata Gulati (name changed), a homemaker in Mumbai, was deeply insecure about her looks, and hence always nervous before a public function or party. On one such occasion, she blurted out her feelings to a friend who was extremely surprised. “You are so attractive, Lata,” she said, and helped her shop for clothes and accessories. “I now realize how unwarranted my fears were,” says Lata, today a confident and secure woman. Mr Patel (name changed), an executive in information technology, lost his job due to an altercation with his boss. This led to a difficult phase where he became too anxious even to attend interviews. Fortunately, his wife helped him overcome this feeling, and encouraged him to recognize his potential as a teacher in the computer field, something he had been doing earlier purely as a hobby. “I have found my true calling now,” he says happily, on a successful second career as a much sought-after trainer. Similarly, my friend overcame her feelings of insecurity when her siblings counseled her, and now has a very comfortable relationship with her son and daughter-in-law. Geeta Kr
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