Last week a client confessed that she was plagued with worry about an upcoming speaking engagement. While sharing her anxieties she explained that the speaker who was presenting before her was a charismatic and popular presenter. Although my client was committed to her topic, her faith in the subject had recently waned. In addition, her quiet and shy demeanor left her feeling very worried about the success of the talk. Tearfully, she explained, “I have a terrible inferiority complex.”

Empathizing with her fears, I honored her worries by stating, “You are really worried you are not good enough. I get it. That’s hard.” I also empathized with her shame about losing faith in her subject. “It’s hard to convey passion about a subject you feel ambivalent about. It feels hypocritical. It’s uncomfortable. I get it.”

She appeared relieved I understood her predicament and asked what to do. I reminded her that an awareness of her insecurities was a healthy thing, and that her ability to be vulnerable and discuss them with me, meant she was far more secure than she thought. Moreover, her willingness to present despite knowledge that she may not be the best and that some things are out of her control, signified a fundamental security.

In contrast, a person who believes they are flawless frequently defends against conscious insecurity with a touch of narcissism. Individuals who must control and manipulate situations in order to ensure they will be perceived as the best, are most likely profoundly insecure.

My client, who is aware of her insecurities, expanded on several personal reasons why she was a bit conflicted about the subject of her presentation. The reasons made sense when considering her past experiences which included several childhood traumas. I empathized with her feelings and reassured her that most people would feel the same way if they were in her shoes. She appeared relieved.

I encouraged her to consider being honest about her conflict with the audience. Frequently, the depth of thought and feeling that transpire when a person attempts to sort out deep inner conflict inspires change, growth, and new insights for the industry a person belongs to. She admitted she thought it was an interesting and intriguing idea.

In essence, an awareness of insecurities is healthy because it exemplifies a realistic and humble view of a person’s self-perception. Although it’s nice to be the best at something, the character it requires to be vulnerable and feel “less than” in situations, yet still participate and try, is what facilitates growth, evolution, and brilliance. Sharing this process with others is brave and selfless, as it allows others to learn from your mistakes and feel less alone regarding their own mis-steps.

Four tips for being fearless when you feel insecure:

  1. Being aware of insecurities;
  2. Embracing insecurities;
  3. Discussing insecurities with an empathic person;
  4. Using knowledge of the origins of insecurities in order to gain insight and improve performance.

The stigma of feeling insecure is prevalent, yet, there is a difference between being consciously aware of insecurities and defending against them with narcissism. Embracing insecurities, sharing them with someone supportive, and gaining insight as to why they exist help a person use them to improve their performance and self-esteem.