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HBR’s “To Overcome Your Insecurity, Recognize Where It Really Comes From” Is a Superficial and Outdated Look at Human Existence

HBR’s “To Overcome Your Insecurity, Recognize Where It Really Comes From” Is a Superficial and Outdated Look at Human Existence

In late June 2018, the Harvard Business Review published an article titled “To Overcome Your Insecurity, Recognize Where It Really Comes From”. The authors claim that insecurity in the workplace is a social issue and not a psychological one. Here’s why HBR is wrong.

First off, ‘insecurity in the workplace’ is not an isolated phenomenon that can be analyzed on its own. A person lives many lives – at home, at work, in the privacy of their own company, on social media, etc. Traits that are as influential on a person’s personality such as insecurity exist in all these dimensions.

A simple response would be that you would be hard pressed to find a person that does not feel insecure in more than one of these situations – that feels insecure at work. A rudimentary understanding of this is that the trait can be born of any of these situations and transfer over to the workplace. But this is not all that LiveLifeKingSize wants to say.

Another simple response is that – if people are outcomes of their social context, then everybody is an outcome of the same thing – and as such nobody is responsible for the outcome. Therefore, one cannot say that ‘person or organization x influences person y to be insecure’ – for their behavior must have been influenced in a similar manner before.

These two simple arguments can lay to rest HBR’s claim of insecurity in the workplace being a social issue. However, our purpose here is not to contradict, but to share wisdom. So here it is:

Insecurity is not a social phenomenon. It might not be psychological, but it most certainly is existential.

A person that experiences insecurity experiences it in all situations – to varying degrees. Perhaps they have learnt to feel more comfortable in their current social groups – but this is plastic surgery. If they move to a new city and a new job, their feelings of insecurity will kick in again.

A person carries their sense of insecurity with them everywhere – on the train, with their spouse, in the workplace, etc. It is entwined with their sense of existence. Hence, it is existential.

But what is the cause – the root – of insecurity?

The real reason for insecurity in the workplace – or anywhere else – is an inability to be at peace with oneself. It has nothing to do with the context – it is a fundamental lack of ease with oneself as one is.

Young children are never insecure. They shout, scream, make faces at adults, dance freely at parties, and tell the silliest of jokes. This is because they have not yet bought into the illusion that is the current human reality.

Humanity’s way of existence is a breeding ground for insecurity. The fundamental belief is that ‘you need to become in order to be’.

It starts with survival. Animals all around don’t feel they need to be worthy of being fed – of picking fruit from the trees or hunting. Humans are the only species that are born into a reality where they need to ‘earn’ their food and shelter. This creates a basic yet deep insecurity that they are already not worthy. They feel they must justify the simple fact that they exist.

Next, you have the social context. In the realm of man, you need to behave a certain way and even think and feel a certain way to be accepted by society. Non-compliance leads to being ostracized.

Even on a religious and spiritual level, you are told what to do, what not to do, and what kind of person you ‘should be’ to be accepted by God. There is no peace here.

Even the entire universe of advertisement tells you that you should look a certain way to be attractive, do certain things to be an acceptable and ‘good’ human being (this includes NGO advertisements.)

Is it any wonder, then, that when a person finally finds himself in a workplace, that he might have deep insecurities? These insecurities might be made visible in certain situations and social contexts – but they are the symptom, not the disease. His insecurity is a result of feeling that he ‘ought to be’ someone else, and that ‘who he is’ isn’t that.

The disease is the entire landscape of human existence as it currently is. But the truth is that this disease is natural. It is not something to blame for our problems. Humans have grown from simplistic animals into complex creatures with the ability to think deeply and to feel. This reality is an extension of that. It is simple forgetfulness of who we really are that causes all insecurity.

A deep existential dive into the deepest recesses of our being is needed to clear ourselves from the illusions of what we ought to be. Then we can remember how we always were – simple, naked, vulnerable, playful, innocent and free.

Only when people start ‘waking up’ from the ‘dream’, and when more people do so, do we have a chance to see a world around us that reflects reality and the simple security of existing in this beautiful universe – rather than one that seems to be some kind of mindless, meaningless machine within which we must somehow earn our keep and survive.

Insecurity in the workplace is a small issue – and is a natural extension of a general sense of insecurity born of living in world that is cruelly disconnected from the fundamental peace of the way things are. There is nothing to worry about here – and it most certainly is not a social issue.

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