How can you be confident and insecure at the same time? I don’t think it’s impossible at all. In fact, as long as both are in balance, I think it is a sign of a healthy psyche.
There are people that seem to ooze self-confidence. You see them walk into a room and immediately own it. They seem to know who they are and where they’re going. Their very confidence can evoke a sense of insecurity in the rest of us. Yet we often forget that even the most confident seeming people can harbour a great sense of insecurity.
Don’t be fooled by what you think you see
Often what we project to the outside is not at all what we feel in the inside. And by hiding what we feel on the inside, we stop others from giving us the reassurance and the encouragement we so desperately need.
The privilege of becoming a psychotherapist is that you are forced to put every aspect of your own personality and identity under the microscope. A process than can be painful and revealing, as well as deeply healing.
Drop the pretences
In the early 90’s I began to understand that being skilled with words didn’t necessarily make me a good journalist. I was too innocent, too scared of conflict, too open to given everyone their version of the truth. Working with people seemed interesting, so I decided I should start my counselling training at one of the most reputable training centres in London. As was my habit in those days, I went by what ‘looked best’ on paper, rather than explore what would be best for me. I was interviewed by a kindly gentleman, who insisted in asking me if there was anything ‘more’ to me than “I had an amazing childhood and I am an amazingly secure person, well equipped to help others.” Try as he might, I wasn’t ready yet to give up the self-confident façade that hid my deepest insecurities. Being a skilled professional he was of course able to see straight past the façade, and in a friendly rejection letter I was advised to “come back when I was a little more mature.” How I raged at the duplicity of psychologists who seek to find ghosts in even the tidiest of cupboards.
All these years later I understand that he meant well, and was hoping I was ready to see that I didn’t have to pretend to be any braver, any smarter, or any more ‘adjusted’ than I felt I was. Yet I also remember how his attempts at breaking through my façade only made me shore it up even more. It took a couple of painful life experiences, and some gentle and empathetic trainers to help me understand that my fairy tale narrative was full of cracks, and that I needed to find a balance between my insecurity and my confidence.
Harmony between opposites
That balance, as well as a healthy dose of blind optimism, helps me to keep stepping forward into life and push the boundaries of my comfort zone. I now know that it is inevitable that this will bring out a frightened, fearful of failure, and trembling self. And that this side of me is just as loveable, if not more, than her confident sister. These two sides of me no longer compete for the driver seat, they walk hand in hand, Insecurity being held close by Confidence, and Confidence kept humble by Insecurity.
When Confidence and Insecurity part ways in a human Psyche, as so often happens in an increasingly narcissistic society, we end up with people who will maintain their façade at any cost, especially to others. And at the other side of the divide we find people who believe themselves to be so useless, so insignificant, so lacking in any skills, that they maintain an inner vigilance through self-defeating criticism to keep themselves from finding out that they too have something to contribute. Insecure people latch on to confident people like drowning sailors to a lifebuoy. And pathologically confident people need these insecure people to reinforce their fragile sense of power.
The journey back to the middle is hard for both ends of the spectrum, but one that is well worth making, as it helps us to reach out and make our lives become truly useful in this world. And understood through that lens, Marianne Williamson’s wonderful lines still resonate deeply:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
Or in my own words, be brilliantly fallible, and fallibly brilliant, be confidently insecure, and insecurely confident. And stride forth and embrace the life that is yours to lead. You will fall, yes, but you will stand up again. You may hurt, for sure, yet you will heal. The courage is in the trying, not the succeeding.. the courage is having the innocent belief that you can, and that you have the right to try.