This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series The Living Landscape of Insecurity

In the first installment to this series, we talked about how insecurity colors what we say. Click here if you missed it!

Today, we’re going to talk about what I think is a far worse tragedy…and some ideas on how to avoid it!

Something That Almost Makes Sense

To make my point, I’m going to start with the instructions written on the back of my tube of toothpaste:

…and to do this, I need to take a really snazzy photo:


“Adults and children 2 yrs. & older: brush teeth thoroughly after meals or at least twice a day or use as directed by a dentist.

Anyone else catch the fact that those are the most non-committal directions ever?
There’s three different ideas in there.

In other words…who are we to tell you how you should brush your teeth?

Personally, I think dentist would see fewer cavities if the instructions read:

Brush until you feel as though you could smile continuously before taking your next meal.

And now we’re suddenly making sense.

Photo: tanakawho - (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Photo: tanakawho – (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Question of Why

“Why?” is a digging question.

Why do we follow the instructions on the back of toothpaste tubes?
Why do we choose to avoid conflict or seek resolution?
Why do we wake up in the morning?

Rather, for what do we wake up in the morning?

The question of why cuts to the heart of the issue, and I think it’s important we cut to the heart of why we do the things we do.

We can either choose to brush our teeth until we satisfy our own definition of thoroughly, or according to a checklist, or even because someone who’s spent a great deal of time studying the importance of brushing one’s teeth tells us to.


We can either choose to live our lives until we satisfy someone else’s definition of success, or according to the checklist of society (I go to school, get a job, get married, have children, and then I buy a minivan), or even because someone who’s spent a great deal of time studying the importance of life tells us what optimal looks like.

And these are all decent pursuits.

But they might be done only to satiate some insecurity. For example, perhaps we’re holding our own happiness hostage until we reach some achievement (i.e. that we’ve brushed thoroughly), or that we can check the boxes handed to us by society (i.e. brush twice a day), or that we’re living to please someone else (i.e. our dentist).

Or we could choose to brush our teeth with vision.

Please note that I’m not knocking the purchase of minivans (especially cool ones). Unless of course, the purchase of the minivan was for no other reason than to shore up some insecurity.

Insecurity hijacks life. It overpowers the helm, and throws the rudder in one of two directions. This is why it’s worthwhile to ask who’s steering the ship.


Fight or Flight

I’m sure you’ve heard of this concept before. The idea is that a creature will respond in one of two ways to a potentially threatening situation.

What you may not have heard of before is that we respond to insecurity in much of the same ways.

For example:

For a long time I believed that I was stupid. The result was that I would intentionally pursue things that were incredibly difficult just to prove that I wasn’t.

I was effectively allowing insecurity to hijack the direction of my life, and I was no longer living with forward vision. I was in “fight” mode.

Another way this can go is to avoid anything that might have proven that I was stupid. This is what I would call “flight” mode.

The point is that if you’re navigating life by insecurity then you aren’t living your life.

People have great ideas (especially when it comes to how you should live), but only you can know the motivations for why you pursue them.




Think about ways in which you can encourage others to live ‘on purpose’ so that they aren’t tossed around by their own insecurities. Post your ideas in the comments below!

Series Navigation<< The Living Landscape of Insecurity Part IThe Living Landscape of Insecurity Part III >>