I think insecurity gets a bit of a bad rap.
The first case that comes to mind for me is toxic masculinity, and it’s true that I can fall into it too. We see behaviors of toxic masculinity – things like excessive aggressiveness, suppressing emotions (or the idea that the only ok emotion for men is anger), feeling entitled to sex, etc etc etc – as being ultimately rooted in insecurity. And while I’m sure the roots of toxic masculinity are more complex than that, it’s at least partially true. I’m sure most, if not all, of us have seen examples of a man who is insecure in his masculinity feel that masculinity be threatened in some way, and respond by descending further into toxic behaviors.
It’s pretty common for a general response to be an eye roll and a comment about their fragile masculinity or whatever – that is, their insecurity. I’ve done it myself.
But I think I want to stop doing that, because it’s demonizing the wrong thing. I have put real work into separating feelings from behaviors, and it’s clear here in another place where I need to be better about it.
Being that I am a human being, I’ve had any number of insecurities in my life. That’s honestly pretty damn normal. Who the hell isn’t insecure about something? And yet I also regularly see people demonize people who “are insecure.” I’m pretty sure the thought behind it is an assumption that the feeling of insecurity will automatically translate into toxic behavior.
So let me just state it – you can be insecure about something and still avoid toxic behavior.
My own history of this is a tad mixed. There are definitely times and points of insecurity that I’ve had that I did get pretty defensive about, and my behavior wasn’t always ideal. I’ve really worked on that – both on the feelings of insecurity and the behaviors. More recently I’ve struggled with insecurity around my gender and masculinity in general. Those feelings never translated into toxic behaviors.
It’s never wrong to have a feeling. Feelings are never bad or wrong or incorrect or anything. They’re just feelings. They happen. I don’t ever want to judge someone for having a feeling. It’s a person’s actions that I am concerned about. And we have control over our actions. We have choices.
Here’s the thing – I think this concept that insecurity is A Bad Thing leads to people feeling ashamed for having insecurities. This can make it particularly difficult for a person to willingly feel that insecurity, to sit with it and maybe even deal with it. Instead we shove the feeling away, because it’s “bad.” Of course, shoving feelings away doesn’t actually work particularly well, and then we get those behaviors we don’t want!
This was one of the first things I had to address when I really started working out how to deal with the areas I feel insecure about. I had to give myself permission to FEEL those feelings. I have to embrace them, be aware of them, know myself well enough to know what is tender. Only then can I make sure my behaviors stay kind. Only then can I do the work to heal those insecurities. Only then can I become more secure in myself.