Imagine you live on a ranch, far away from the city. Your nearest neighbor is 2 acres away and Main Street is a 15 minute drive. You hear a noise, then another. It’s pretty clear to you that someone’s in the house. You stand in the corner of the kitchen and peek out into the living room, your heart racing. There he is! And he has a gun!
Adrenaline pumping, you look around for some kind of weapon, something to protect yourself with. You pray that the kids don’t come downstairs, but you’re not sure if you should take your eyes off the man with the gun.
Steathily, you reach for the frying pan that’s on the counter. It’s still has some eggs in it. You don’t care. You hold the pan in readiness, waiting for the moment when he’s unaware; waiting for him to put his gun down as he begins to gather your valuables. Inside, your heart is screaming, “my babies!” “Don’t you dare get close to my babies!”
The moment comes. His back is to you, his arms are full with your new desktop computer.
And you rush at him, pan raised and bring it down squarely on his head. Again and again and again you bang, screaming “Kids! run to the neighbors!”
This may not be the right emergency response. But I’ll tell you one thing for sure. You were not thinking, “how do I look when I’m hitting this guy.” And you were not feeling stupid that there were eggs all over your hands. Insecurity? You were on a mission! You had kids to protect!
And that tells us, that underneath it all, our insecurity is not from a lack of self confidence but from a lack of self awareness. Who are we and what are we doing here?
Why aren’t we always that clear? Why do we get confused and stuck in the details? That’s because of the little kid inside of us. She says “it’s all about me.” It’s a little spoiled child at her own birthday party complaining about the presents.
And she’s there all the time. The more we indulge her, the louder she gets. Pretty soon, we’re confused. We’ve lost our clarity and maturity.
Imagine you were focused on how messy your house would look when the police arrived or how your hair was still in curlers. You would miss your mission entirely, washing out the pan and doing your hair, instead of protecting the children!
There really are two voices inside of us.
One that wants us to regress and be self-centered and one that wants us to progress and be other-centered.
And when you hear the two voices for what they are, you no longer have confusion. All you need is courage, and you’ll no longer be insecure.
I’ll have to give you a very personal, recent example so you’ll know what I mean.
I run a program called WOW. It’s an outreach organization directed at Jewish young professionals. Most Jews have grown up with a watered down, stale Judaism, with no idea of what the Torah has to offer. WOW is a non-profit that gives people a chance to explore on their own and discover Judaism’s relevance to their lives.
Q. If I think Judaism is stale, why would I want to explore it?
What this means is that I need to go out of my way to speak to young Jews to let them know that we’re here for them. So rewind to last week. There was an Israeli party at a club downtown. You know me, totally the clubbing type! Ahem! But I knew I had to go to meet people.
And it was SO interesting. Because I had been thinking about insecurity and I’d had a lot to say about it and then BOOM!! I found myself driving downtown with butterflies in my stomach. Totally insecure.
For all my work on security etc. and for all my thoughts, I found myself way out of my comfort zone. As I was driving I started mumbling to myself the very things I was planning on writing about. “It’s not about me, it’s about G-d. It’s not about me, it’s about the work I was sent here to do. It’s not about me looking good. I most definitely won’t look good.”
As I walked into that club. There were 100 twenty-somethings, sipping drinks with rocking music and the lights down waaaaaay low. And there was me, a nice Jewish mom in my tichel and my long dress walking in, and heads were jerking.
This is the truth. I was not comfortable.
And so, my friend I needed to heed the mature voice that’s underneath my scared baby voice.
We were born to be who we are. Not to be anyone else and not win anyone else’s approval. Being a secure grown up means rising to that truth. Nothing, and I mean nothing matters more than doing the right thing at the right time.
Hold on to that thought and you’ll be free to rise the greatness you were born for.
But what about being human? What if you’ve heard ten times a day growing up that you’re stupid? What if you were born into a family that valued good looks above all and you’re 100 lb’s overweight? What if you have social anxiety and just being with people makes you feel judged and exposed?
We must realize that our extra 100lb’s isn’t causing us to have low self-confidence, it’s the decisions that got us there that make us feel lousy. And it’s taking charge of those decisions that will make us feel great. The same is true for social anxiety. We aren’t measured by how many people we interact with, but by our achievements. Did we succumb to the fear, or fight it by reaching out?
Our sense of self grows in proportion to our personal triumphs.
There are situations where we’ll feel more appreciated and we’ll probably be able to function better because the fear isn’t there. The question is, will we brave ourselves through it? Not just showing up, but will we brave enough to follow through, with clear self-knowledge despite the baby voice trying to hold us back.
After I almost lost my life 5 years ago, I shed insecurity almost completely. I realized what I spoke about above. It’s not about how we feel, it’s about why are we here. WHY AM I HERE ON THIS EARTH?
If you can’t answer that question, you shouldn’t be able to sleep at night. We have one life, a short time that comes with no guarantees. Then the game is over and we go to collect our prize. We have to know what our job is, what the stakes are. And if we don’t know, we have to learn Torah and find out.
I’ll give you a hint though. A mission always has to do with giving. With doing for others.
Being insecure keeps the focus on you. It’s time to turn your thoughts inside out, “how can I give in this situation?” Do that and you’ll find yourself centered. Otherness is where we belong.
Have you ever been to a big event and you can’t get your bearings? Even if you walk in with a date, people are chit chatting and nibbling and generally finding (or not finding) their comfort zone. You walk in, there you are, not knowing much of anyone and feeling insecure.
You can spend the evening, trying, hoping, and enjoying as much of it as you can with your insecurity hounding you. Or, you can try something new.
Imagine you said to yourself.” I will find the person here who is more lonely, more insecure than myself and go out of my way to make them feel comfortable.”
And there you are, mission in hand, shaken out of babyhood and “me, me, me” to adulthood, where you realize that all of life is about giving to others. And there she is, having walked in, in much worse state than you and now – walking out feeling great. And so do you.
Not to mention, that in this world of illusions that we live in, there are ten people looking at you wishing they were as comfortable and had someone to talk to.
Sometimes building yourself or being self protective is what you need to do to ultimatly be a bigger giver. I would be the last person to encourage co-dependant, unhealthy relationships. What we’re talking here is about the premise that there can be no self-esteem outside of the idea that G- d made you and you have a mission to do here. And there can be no self confidence unless you conquer your fears and live in that reality.
There are many other lighter responses as to “how to gain confidence,” and many superficial ones too. But I believe in you. And I know that you won’t buy the ‘look good and you’ll feel good” line. There are alot of people who look good who don’t feel good. Some of them don’t even feel good about how they look!
It may be important to look good, but confidence cannot be bought, it must be won. And we win it by doing our best.
Does that help you? It helped me. I made new friends that night. just a few. Like I said, outside of my comfort zone. But I went with an eye for giving and knowing who I am, a daughter of the King, sent on a vital mission, and it gave me all confidence I needed.