In the last several years I have met an insane amount of incredibly intelligent and successful people. They all had so much to offer: they were smart, good looking, healthy, and overall at a place in life that 99.9% of the population would have killed to be in.
Surprisingly enough, I found one common denominator among many of them – a high level of insecurity and anxiety. I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what are the things that we are typically insecure about and why are we insecure about them. Some of the ones I could come up with were following:
1. Lack of context – Some of you may have seen an exercise they do with anorexic women, asking them to draw themselves in real scale. They then confront the women with their actual size by tracing their body on the same paper. There is always this “aha!” moment when the person realizes how critical she is with herself.
I have seen the same thing happening in the professional world: people undermining their own technical skills, their presentations skills, their management skills, especially when the benchmark or measurement criteria is not discussed openly (most managers are not great at giving positive feedback but really great at getting after you whenever you did something wrong).
2. Socio-economic background – folks that grew up not so well-off, or during hard economic times (such as the 80’s high inflation in Brazil), tend to have this ingrained fear in them that leads to the belief that job security is the most important thing. This also comes along with securing material possessions and making sure they are keeping up with the Joneses. And we know that this is a vicious cycle because the expenses keep growing and anyhow job security is a bogus concept (unless you work for the Brazilian government)
3. Ivy league education – great education is of course priceless but what happens when you put a bunch of overachievers in one place and tell them to run faster? Guess what? They are overachievers. So they will. And the result? These great minds are then faced with infinitely increasing benchmarks to measure themselves against. Nothing is ever good enough. Result: constant feeling of failure / missing out/ etc.
4. Parents – Jewish (especially eastern – european jews and other immigrants) are the specialists in making their kids feeling inadequate. The jewish kid grows up hearing phrases such as: “you only got 95% on the test. How come not a 100%??”, “Why can’t you be like the Cohen’s son? He is a Math olympics champion, phenomenal piano player, always so well behaved and treats his parents so nicely!!”, “You will grow up to be a great Lawyer/Doctor/Engineer “(or any other of the 5 professions that they find suitable).
Not to discriminate Catholics, they also put additional guilts onto their children, making them feel like a bad person for not being virtuous enough (i.e. doesn’t matter what one does, he is so damn selfish), acting promiscously (more relevant for woman, even when they are like 40 years old), or challenging the status quo (i.e. one should not question authority and rather submit to her position in life).
5. Traumatic past experiences – people often get stuck on false assumptions based on past experiences. Who didn’t get bullied in school or at work, failed to deliver a project, or had a bad boss (VERY common) or an asshole romantic partner (been there, done that). We tend to generalize those experiences to form our approaches to the new ones. This can be very normal when done in moderation but more often than not leads to radical view points that don’t get us anywhere.
“Every man/woman is going to treat me badly eventually” or “I am not good at this skill and I could never get better”, or “people don’t like me/ I am not cool enough” put us in the perpetuated “victim” black hole.
Of course, there are many more other reasons. But I found those to be the most common ones.
Are any of the above keeping you from being happy and doing the things you always wanted to do?
Time to start letting go..