This is not going to be my usual article. I am not going to tell you how you can defeat some demon or accomplish some goal. Nor am I going to discuss some profound philosophical idea that we can relate to our lives. Instead, I am going to do something really fucking difficult for me. I am going to open up and let you in on a little bit of poison that I drink everyday. A poison that has ended countless relationships. A poison that has fueled many moments of emotional distance, depression, anger and addiction. That poison is insecurity.
Now, I have never been good at fully inviting people into my life, so this article makes me anxious as hell. I am basically exposing my deepest, darkest deficiency to as many people as will read this. I don’t know how many that is. Probably only a few. I secretly hope it is none. However many it is, I know that this scares the living shit out of me – just putting it down where it can be found by anyone and not leaving it safely tucked away in my head where I feel like it belongs. But I also know that this is a long time coming. I need to open the cage. I have to let this breathe and writhe and happen in the world because it is smothering me.
And maybe, someday, someone will stumble across this little piece of bitter honesty I am attempting and they will find something of value. They will find a soul stricken with a similar poison and by finding it approach some anecdote of their own. Me. I am writing this without yet having a remedy but with a mind and heart set on finding one.
This insecurity has plagued me to some degree or another for as long as I remember. I am sure it has mostly has to do with my father leaving when I was just a child and never seeing him again. I am sure it has to do with the beatings I took, verbal and physical from the men that came after. I am sure it has to do with the early disappointments I heaped upon the people I love and the continued disappointments I occasionally throw their way. I think I understand the cause, but understanding the cause does not give me any purchase in finding a solution.
Now, I know that, to some degree, every one of us faces insecurity. Will we be accepted by our friends? Will we be able to perform in our jobs and our roles of life? Are we attractive enough or smart enough or financially stable enough to live the life we want? These questions have crossed everyone’s mind. This is a normal feeling that we face when we look out into the world and see all the remarkable difference and beauty and accomplishment of others. I wish I had that normal bit of insecurity. Mine, it goes much deeper. It is a toxicity that has poisoned everything I have ever done in my life.
I will use this a small example. I run ultra distance races. Marathons and longer. It is brutal and miserable and it takes a rare kind of insanity to push yourself through those miles and that pain. Most races you finish should be a fucking celebration of just still being alive. But here’s the thing, of all the countless races I have ever finished I have never once crossed that finished line and congratulated myself. The first thought I have is, “I have to do the next one better.”
And that’s jut one of the fucking tragedies of the toxic insecurity I am talking about. You never let yourself be proud of yourself. Never giving yourself that ‘atta boy. That good job. That mental pat on the back. Never letting yourself just bathe in the moment of success and let the warmth of it wash over you and feed those hungry aspects of yourself that need to be reminded that you are a pretty fucking amazing creature.
The sad reality of insecurity is that it manifests in so many ways. And I have to admit that some are actually desirable, when seen from a distance. My insecurity is closely aligned with my discipline. I have chiseled my physique and pushed my body to the limits of what is possible for it. I have chased and caught countless academic accolades and awards. I have started from nothing in my life to shape a career that I should be proud of and that has afforded me countless luxuries. I have managed to be a decent father without ever having on one my own. And still, among all that, there is this deep, dark chasm that sucks up every inch of my self worth and turns every accomplishment to black.
Because I know that, to some degree, I push myself to do all these things, to chase the accolades and the accomplishments and physical feats, out of a place of deficiency. It all comes from a place of lack and because of that it has no substance. Now don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of love and joy in the things I work to accomplish. I sincerely enjoy working out and running far. I enjoy the constant chase of more knowledge and wisdom and making a difference in the world, but I can see the thread of darkness through it all and it pushes me to the extremes of accomplishment, never letting me enjoy the process or the reward of it.
But for those small goods, there is a cost. And, oh, what a cost it is.
I am constantly stricken with this underlying jealousy towards the world. A constant sense of competition and one upmanship with everyone and everything. If I can not be the center of attention or control the situation in a way that allows me to manipulate the flow of it all I grow instantly sullen and petulant and I shut down. I become cold and dismissive as a means of manipulating the situation and drawing the attention I so desperately seek by any means necessary.
Every romantic relationship I have ever had has been slowly eroded away by this insecurity. It starts small. Because I am not yet fully invested in the commitment of it. They do not yet occupy the necessary space in my heart to tear it out of my chest so my insecurity is not yet alarmed. But as soon as my emotions start to inch towards any sincere and deep emotional connection with someone I can feel the insecurity bubbling up and that old poison hot in my veins. What if I am not enough? What if they leave? What if they see through my patchwork facade of charm and accomplishment and motivation and just see the sad, broken, overcompensating loser that I am.
In my mind, if I let the person I am with go explore other people or things, or if I let them into the struggles or emotions of my life, I will be exposed for the worthless piece of shit that I am and they will leave. They will leave me and I will be alone. Forever alone and their leaving is the validating, self-fulfilling prophecy I always bring to bear. And what’s worse, my insecurity never lets me get close enough to them. I always build a wall between our lives and I never fully immerse myself in the totality of their beautiful world because I think it’s going to end someday anyway, so why even bother? It is a vicious cycle of a desire for connection, true raw, meaningful connection and then a quick pushing away once I feel my heart becoming too invested.
And that’s where I live. That’s where my deepest pain exists and that is where I approach most everything in my life. From that sort of toxic insecurity. And if I am brutally honest, which I have been up to this point, even my desire to help people is a thin, selfish call for attention. A desire to be noticed and valuable in the world. Don’t get me wrong again, there is a very deep well of sincere compassion and desire to do good and to make a difference in this world, but I can feel the poison in there as well. I can feel the bitterness of it and it contaminates the doing of it. It makes it a little lesser and that breaks my fucking heart because I want it to be pure. I want my desire to help others be undeniably sincere. I don’t want it to feed the poison in me.
So, I am trying to figure that out. How to come out of that insecurity and patch up those things that shattered during my childhood. I have work to do. I know it will be a constant struggle but for once, I am not doing this thing, I am not taking on this incredible difficulty, for anyone but myself. I am not looking for approval. I am not trying to please anyone. I am not trying to fit in. I just want to be whole, like I imagine I was once, and whats more; I finally fucking want to be me.
Because that is another thing about this toxic sort of insecurity, it strips you of your individuality and authenticity. You get so caught up in making sure that you are presenting the best possible image of yourself according to the perceived expectations of friends and family and society. You never just let yourself be you. Whatever that looks like. Because you think that you are never enough. That you will never be enough. That the unadulterated truth of you is magnificently lesser than the truth of anyone else. I just want to be enough to myself so that I can finally feel like enough for someone else.
And this is my task going forward. I want to let myself be me. I want to be proud of myself and to celebrate my accomplishments and let other people celebrate them with me. I want to let people compliment me and appreciate me without thinking they are stupid for not seeing my deficiencies. I want to open up to the world and let them see the pain and sadness and absence in my heart that lives alongside all the bounty I think I have to offer.
I am slowly realizing that I don’t have to hide my faults from others. I don’t have to try to be better than the world, because I never will be. No one is ever going to love me for any accomplishment or single trait anyway. They are going to love me for the unique, beautiful, and slightly dignified mess I have made of the entirety of my life. They are going to love me because I combine all my accomplishments and mistakes into a single unique package that is distinctly me. That is why anyone comes to love anyone else in this world. Because all the pieces of you, the heavy and the light, the bright and the dark, the good and the bad, hit the light in a perfect kaleidoscope of color and reveals an image that only you can create.
So, there is one single thing I need to remember. There is one single thing that I need to carry around with me in my head and my heart to act as that constant anecdote to the poison of my insecurity. It is that I can be the very best at only one thing. I can be better than anyone in the world at one thing if I practice at it and make it a priority. And that thing is Me. No one can be a better me than me. I just have to be that and in being that I might actually approach something of the self love that I have lacked for so long. I might approach security. I might step out of the shadows and find a little bit of light.
But first, more than anything, I want to say sorry to everyone that has been affected by my insecurity. All the girlfriends that I have hurt because of my jealousy and my inability to open up in a way that allowed any trusting connection. All the friends I have tormented with it. All the good people that have been caught up in my never ending quest to fill a hole so deep inside my soul that it sucked out the love and possibility of any amazing situation I ever had. I am truly and unequivocally sorry. There was not a single one of you that did not display an amazing amount of patience and kindness towards me when I never deserved it.
And lastly, the hardest apology to make or accept, is the one I need to make to myself. Not the me now but the little boy I was that watched his whole world leave him in the dark. I need to apologize to that little boy whose father left when he needed him the most. It wasn’t your fault, buddy and it had nothing to do with how worthy of love you are.
I realize that I never allowed that little boy to grieve. How could he? He didn’t know what was happening. He didn’t know a big part of his world, something so critical for loving, was being taken from him right before his eyes. You don’t realize how long forever lasts until you are staring at the growing absence and you know it’s never going away.
So, I want to hug that little boy that I was the same way I hug my boy when I can see the tears welling in his eyes. I want to pull that little boy close and tell him that he is going to be ok if he can just see what is happening for what it really is. That someday he is going to be ok. I want to let him cry and scream and gnash his teeth and curse the world and then I want him to know that I am sorry. I am so fucking sorry for all the pain that this is going to cause you but you have to promise me not to close yourself off. You have to promise me to not let this break you because if you can just keep your heart open long enough, if you can just love yourself enough, the world is going to love you back. Love you back in a way that you deserve.
Fuck. That shit is hard to write and it pulls at something so deep and buried and painful. I won’t even pretend that it makes it go away. It’s still there but it’s a start. A place to build from. I am giving it life and in doing that I may be able to end it. I know that I will never stop trying. I know that I have a lot to give and I am going to keep giving it.
Now, I suspect that some people who will read this article will come to see all my writings in a different light now. I suspect they will be less keen to follow my advice or to believe that I am worth listening to because of my confession here today. And you know what? I am ok with that. Today at least. Today I am going to be enough for myself. Today I am going to be proud of myself for letting this out into the world. Today I am going to give myself that ‘atta boy that I should have given myself a long time ago. Today, I don’t drink the poison.