Throughout our patriarchal history we have led a manner of living that generates and perpetuates low self esteem and insecurity. Many of us in our day to day lives experience our insecurities in all sorts of situations: the people we work with, our parents, our friendships and our primary relationships.
This article will outline the many facets of insecurities, how they arise in our relations and what we can do about it. This will enable us to cut the ties that bind us to a history that sabotages and restricts us from achieving our unlimited potential for a happier and healthy life. A life that will hopefully lead us into the next century with more love, compassion and understanding for our fellow human beings and of course, our environment on which we so much depend for our lifestyles.
The following has been derived from my own personal experiences. These are reflections that I have personally made in the analysis of myself and my relationships. This analysis involved forming general concepts and after sharing these with many of my friends I soon found out that the concepts also apply to a lot of other people, hence my sharing it with you now. I hope this moves you and much as it did me.
To begin our journey into insecurities we need to explore where it all began; our childhoods where so many of our adult patterns began and are often repeated today. The life of a child takes place in its relations with it's parent/s and most parent/s speak to their child in an authoritarian way, especially when an adult wants to 'control' the behaviour of the child.
Authoritarian relations are defined by the emotions of mistrust, fear, anxiety and 'control'. The child learns these emotions in relating with the parent/s and so begins a loop between the parent/s insecurities and the childs. Or, the parent/s and child reinforce each others insecurities in these emotions.
These relations are also characterised by "I know what's best", denoting that the parent/s have all the answers to life when quite often they are struggling themselves. Another is, "I know how things really are. You are wrong because you do not know." This is a way of 'controlling' a particular view of the world where difference is deemed as a threat to that of the authority. In this case the parent/s are telling the child "how things really are", thus 'controlling' the child to conform to their view of the world.
'Controlling' a child in this manner is demanding that they must behave in a certain way for that way to be acceptable to the parent/s and society at large. Usually a demand is a command for obedience, to conform to what is being demanded. Rather than risk rejection from the parent/s, the child will conform and obey and in the process deny themselves. The child learns to obey the parent/s to gain acceptance, love and approval rather than risk rejection. To be rejected is to be left out, excluded, isolated from the care and attention of the parent/s or worse from the expectations of society.
As this process of 'control' is repeated throughout a child's life and into adulthood, they will learn that love and acceptance comes from conforming to the demands of others. They will deny or trivialise their own needs to meet and satisfy the needs of others along with learning to be responsible for other's needs instead of their own.
Learning to be responsible for others and not for ourselves can have all sorts of consequences on self esteem. We may feel powerless or indecisive about making decisions. We may not trust our own knowledge of our experiences to make a decision and may rely on others to provide the answers for us. Our inadequacies reinforce our own view of ourselves; a lack of faith in ourselves and our abilities.
Generally the experience of powerlessness is associated with the feeling of being helpless - "I'm not capable of taking care of myself" or "I need people to take care of me". This denotes an emotional dependency on others to provide the ability to care for ourselves. We get caught in the web of being dependent on others to provide our emotional security. A security that only reinforces our experiences of powerlessness and helplessness.
Emotional dependency often stems from a deep neediness (insecurity) to be loved. (Neediness in this context is quite distinct from a need where we meet each others needs in interdependency through taking responsibility for what we want and asking for that; it is a mutually supportive relation not based on dependency). That neediness is usually expressed through being responsible for others and satisfying their needs. This is after all, how we learnt to get the love we want.
Unfortunately though, when the love we want is not fulfilled it can trigger immense pain because we have become dependent on that love for our own sense of self worth and esteem. Our own lives may become meaningless or nothing without the people we have depended upon for so long to meet our neediness for love. But dependency has many other facets as well.
Dependent people will rely on others to provide the security of being needed, hence they will fear being alone. They will have a strong need to be needed by others, as this is how they gain their sense of self worth and esteem.
Another facet of dependency is living our direction in life through the dreams of others, thinking that this will provide us with the happiness and fulfilment we so desire. Difficulties may arise in setting our own direction because of feelings of inadequacy. We may live our lives in passivity; feeling too afraid to take responsibility as this is a path that is unknown or unfamiliar. What is unknown or unfamiliar is met with fear instead of trust and curiosity.
How do we get our needs met in insecurities? Generally through what we have learnt in the beginning - 'control' and manipulation, and this sets up the denial pattern of conforming to demands made by others. This is a perpetuating loop in which both parties participate in mutual denial as they control and manipulate to get their needs met through demanding. A lose - lose situation for those involved.
Often when denial is so familiar we will reject our own needs and wants through tolerating or putting up with situations. To tolerate or put up with something is suspended denial.
Another interesting aspect of insecurities is competition. We may compete to cover-up deeper feelings of inadequacy and self doubt. When we compete with each other it is usually associated with a desire for recognition - a desire to be noticed, to be acknowledged. Linked to this, is also proving and justifying as we seek to gain attention and acceptance.
But where are these reflections and understandings leading us?
It leads us to understand ourselves within the context of our human relations so that we can change them, for without this understanding we are operating in a vacuum. To change something is to know what we want to change, but change to what?
From my perspective, it is a change towards relations of acceptance and understanding instead of denial. Relations where we are encouraged to think and act for ourselves with responsibility. Relations that are interdependent - mutually supportive interactions where our needs can be met through discussion and negotiation, not through neediness and 'control'. We can learn to live autonomously with the awareness that we are interdependent of each other, hence, we act with responsibility knowing that our actions have consequences in an interdependent world.
It is this awareness that allows us to think, act and relate differently from the ways in which we have been raised. The social conditioning that has been our history for so long is now ready for change. We can now cut ourselves from the ties that have bound us to self destructive and restrictive human relations. Relations that limit our abilities and suppress the need for change.
Now is the time to unleash our human potential. A potential that has been squandered and repressed through relations of authority - relations where 'control' and denial is the norm, keeping us dependent and insecure for so long.
We need only to think, act and relate with one another differently and the world will be a better place for all of humanity and the other species we coexist with, in this our precious world.
Copyright 1996 Jane Cull. This material may be freely copied and reused, provided the author and source are cited. However, the author would appreciate being contacted should you wish to copy or reuse the material.