My fellow-blogger Ann Handley wrote a wonderful little post entitled “I Suspect Everyone Else is Smarter, Better-looking, Taller, Cooler, Cuter, has Newer and Shinier Objects than I do (and is More Modest).”
Beside winning this week’s prize for the biggest mouthful of a post title in the blogosphere, Ann helpfully discusses how the Internet makes it that much easier to compare ourselves to others, and to be found (at least in our own eyes) wanting.
Most of us (save for the fanatically deluded) wrestle with some degree of insecurity, because truth be told, there is always someone – usually lots of someones! – better than us in a variety of ways. We might be OK-looking, but a quick glance at movie stars and models painfully reminds us that we’re not attracting a pack of paparazzi anytime soon. We might be reasonably intelligent, and paying the bills with a decent job, but we’re not retiring at age 32 with $500 million in stock options. And so on.
We can have at least 3 D’s of responding to our imperfections and insecurities:
1. Defeat. No matter what you have and how you’re put together, there’s always someone with more. People with very modest abilities, and even those who are greatly gifted, can equally succumb to the emotional paralysis of giving up in the face of comparisons and negative self-talk. Defeated people deal with their insecurities by taking no risks (it would only reinforce the sense of defeat) and spreading around the jinxie dust of glumness.
2. Delusion. When feeling insecure, there’s always the refuge of denial! And it can run two ways – the delusion that you can actually attain some form of perfection, and the equally dangerous delusion that you have nothing to offer. Folks inhabiting this “D” tend to wear masks and cannot risk self-disclosure.
3. Determination. A healthy response to your inevitable sense of imperfection is to embrace it, and to determine to cultivate what is good (and try to overcome or at least neutralize faults). Insecurity can drive some people to achieve great things, because a need is generated to both prove and improve something. These people admit their flaws, suck it up, and move forward – because surrendering to the stagnation of despair is a worse fault than all other faults.
I’ve certainly taken a 3-D approach over my lifetime; hopefully trending more toward Determination as the years have gone by. And learning the humility of limitations, and accepting the good company of other flawed people accompanying me on the journey, makes it that much easier to leave behind delusions and defeat. Feeling like you don’t measure up? Oh, good – another real person to talk to!