Have you ever been in a conversation where you wonder why someone talks about a certain topic so much?
It doesn’t matter what it is.
The person you’re talking to just keeps going on and on about how wealthy, smart, influential, well networked or attractive they are.
We all are passionate about certain topics and just can’t stop talking about it.
If you are into personal finance, you may find yourself discussing retirement, frugality, or coupons at length without losing interest.
If you are into some TV shows, you might rave about your favorite actors or favorite episodes whenever you have a chance to.
But today I’m not talking about people’s true passions.
I am talking about cases where someone constantly brings up a fact, an opinion or even an illusion about themselves just to make sure that you will think more highly of them.
It’s always refreshing to me to meet and talk to someone who is confident, knowledgeable, and open-minded.
We don’t need to bring ourselves down all the time to prove that we are modest. It can be depressing to us and the listener.
But after living in this world for 30 years (not long, but not too short either), I can now easily tell just from talking with someone what they are insecure about.
I am not judging their intelligence, characteristic, or personality. It’s just a fact that I can take an educated guess about what someone doesn’t feel confident about and try to understand their mentality better rather than passing judgments on them.
Maybe I am being judgmental. Maybe I am projecting my own insecurity onto other people. But I’m pretty sure that when you hear someone talking about how influential they are in a certain community and that no one can measure up to them, you can tell something is a bit off.
That’s not exactly the conversation you want to have all the time.
What is insecurity?
Insecurity is defined as “a feeling of not being confident,” according to Cambridge dictionary. When you are confident, you have “little doubt about yourself and your abilities.”
There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. When you have confidence, people enjoy talking to you and being around you since you are assertive and believe in your skills or talent.
But when you are arrogant, that’s when you start “behaving as if you are better or more important than other people” (Cambridge Dictionary).
I’m sure you’d enjoy talking to a blogger who will tell you about all the challenges that they themselves have to face to succeed in their career much more than someone who berates other blogs to stress how superior their blog is.
Yet, we tend to fall into the trap of comparison and distrust in ourselves. When we look at other people and feel inadequate about ourselves, we get defensive to protect our ego.
While we can all agree that trying to improve ourselves and focusing on our own progress is the way to go, that process takes time. And there’s no guarantee that we will succeed.
But bringing other people down to gain more confidence only takes a thought, a statement, an email, or even a tweet. That’s quick fix to our own insecurity problem. It’s likely not going to fix anything, but it does make us feel better about ourselves and our lives.
I myself have fallen into that trap and had to dig myself out of it. It might make me feel better for a short while, but the fact is that I have a lot to do to catch up with those who are far ahead of me.
It takes training and discipline to make our minds think positive thoughts. It is difficult to do since negativity always accompanies the unhappy feelings we have about ourselves.
The most important thing is just to realize why we even think negative thoughts in the first place. When we figure out the root cause, we can either choose to not think about it or force ourselves to look on the positive side. That approach is much better for our mental health and development.
Related: How To Deal With Spousal Envy
Actions to mask our insecurity
In the personal finance community, we are familiar with the term “keeping up with the Jones.”
The phrase is to describe people who “always want to own the same expensive objects and do the same things as [their] friends or neighbors, because [they] are worried about seeming less important socially than they are” (Cambridge Dictionary).
If we want to buy a big house or a brand-name car because we need it or have a strong interest in cars, that’s our own choice. We make the purchase for ourselves without worrying what other people might think of us.
But when we get into credit card debt to buy a bigger house than our friends’, go on luxurious vacations to show off the pictures on our social media, or get into a huge auto loan to purchase a brand-name car to show it off to our neighbors, we’re letting our insecurity take over our lives and lead us into debt.
We don’t like talking about feelings or emotions since they’re intangible and can make us feel vulnerable. Yet, it is emotions that, in many cases, dictate our actions, dominate our future plans, and ruin our finances.
Sometimes we take actions that seem to rectify our current problems – getting into debt to buy a shiny object to heal our insecurity. Yet, down the road, those quick fixes backfire and cause even more problems – both financial and emotional.
One of my biggest insecurities is the fact that I earn less at my day job than Mr. FAF. It stems from my own fear of looking inferior to him due to our wage gap.
I envy Mr. FAF his high-paying job, his doctoral degree, his intelligence in hard sciences, and his digestive system. It is very tempting for me to think about the things that I have but he doesn’t to feel better about myself and my salary.
But those thoughts only relieve the insecurity temporarily. They don’t fix the problem. The problems lie with me.
I might not be able to get rid of my insecurity, but I want to make it a motivation for me to work harder at my job to get promoted, learn new skills to maybe transition to a higher-paying job, and grow my side businesses to match and hopefully exceed Mr. FAF’s income one day.
We are a team, but I want to be on the same page as him, especially in terms of our income. Income can just mean money to a lot of people. But to me, it means decision-making power where I want to be equal to Mr. FAF.
Before I got married, my insecurity was directed at other people whether it was my colleagues, classmates, or even friends. I felt jealous when my classmates got better grades than me, when my co-workers got paid more than me, and when my friends got more prestigious and higher-paid jobs than me.
At many points in my life, I was so consumed with jealousy and insecurity that I felt like a total failure. I felt like I was nobody and always had to try hard to talk myself up to other people. It was not a happy feeling.
At the age of 31, however, I still get anxious when my friends go on luxurious trips overseas, acquire multiple rental properties, or start their own successful businesses.
Their success makes me feel inadequate. But I always have to remind myself not to wallow in misery and need to step up my own game plan. After all, our thoughts will lead to actions. But it’s up to us to decide if the actions will be destructive or constructive.
I don’t want to ruin anyone’s success and don’t even think that I can. But there’s one thing I have more control over. And that’s my thoughts and actions when insecurity hits me hard.
I do believe that insecurity is part of human nature, as well as greed, jealousy, happiness, and all the feelings we can think of.
No one is perfect in life. We all have some areas we can improve upon. Such areas can be a source of motivation for us to work harder and improve ourselves.
But they can also become a black hole of misery and destructive behavior that sucks us in without us even noticing it.
I still struggle with my own insecurities on a regular basis. I wish I were smarter, taller, prettier, could reach financial independence sooner, and had more properties.
I can sit at home all day and think about what others, but I don’t. But I don’t want to waste time doing that. Thoughts and feelings per se won’t lead me anywhere in life. It’s planning and taking action that will.