Fred Smith describes the reality of insecurity and makes some helpful suggestions for growth.

By Fred Smith

All of us have our areas of insecurity. Not just a passing anxiety, but the continuing lack of adequacy. Even when we sleep this haunts us in our dreams.

Actually, as we become more secure, we are better able to recognize and accept our remaining insecurities. Even the most emotionally secure might still have stage fright so badly that they refuse to face an audience or some new experience. Those who seem so extroverted before a camera are often insecure off-camera. Many are afraid to be alone.

Insecurity is our urge to grow and gain control of our situation and emotions. When we reject that urge, it can leave us desperate and withdrawn. Oftentimes we can borrow security from a friend. One of the most interesting observations Howard Rome, the eminent psychiatrist, made was in talking about wives who recurrently confront their husbands. He saw that they would be in attack mode and if the husband stood firm peace and a pleasant atmosphere resulted. He noted that this was the insecurity in the wife coming against the husband in an attempt to gain reassurance. They pushed against the wall to make sure that it would hold. He said that this peace continues until a wave of insecurity rises and then the exercise is repeated again. His professional advice was for the husbands to stand strong; giving in would allow even greater insecurity in the wife.

One evening among friends Mary Alice said that she would not like to be married to a hen-pecked husband. Going home, I asked her in about her remark and why she tried to nag me. Since women have so much more emotional logic than men I should have expected her response, "If I didn't try to hen-peck you, how would I know you couldn't be hen-pecked?" Makes perfect sense.

While we can borrow a small amount of security from others, we cannot depend on others for our total security. One of the most pathetic marriages I know is one in which a very insecure woman married a most secure man. She felt, evidently, that his security would become hers, but it didn't happen. In every situation they faced, he was perfectly secure, and his security became a tremendous irritant to her. It was like a constant reminder and reflection of her own insecurities. When she would accuse him of not loving her, he lacked the words to explain that he indeed loved her, but lacked the ability to fill the holes in her and make her feel secure.

The security that stays must be grown from within. This is the pain of growth. It takes great determination. Fortunately, insecurity is not a disease of the will, so the will becomes the path to the cure. I might add that almost tantamount to will is a sense of humor. I have experienced the "social gap" that comes when you are raised in lowly circumstances and then have the opportunity to associate with people of class and culture. I have found an inner sense of humor is extremely useful in relieving the pressures of embarrassment. The confidence comes, but it helps to laugh about the gaffes along the way.

Insecurities are a part of the human condition. We mature, fill in holes and grow, but it is a process that takes time and hard work…and often a good laugh.