Insecurity is a poison that kills human relationships. I wish that more people grasped this fact and those who struggle with it had the courage to examine the person they’ve become. As complex emotional creatures, most of us have felt unsure of ourselves at some point just like we’re inclined to occasionally feel angry or depressed. Nobody exhibits confidence in every situation no matter how much they’d like to pretend otherwise. Vulnerability is part of the human condition. However, a serious problem exists when self-doubt consumes a person and affects (infects?) everything he or she thinks and does.
Over the last decade, I’ve encountered a number of disturbingly insecure people in my personal and professional life. Most of the behavior I’ve witnessed leaves me with questions about their childhood and adolescence because family dynamics play a major role in shaping us. Manipulative, domineering mothers. Alcoholic, abusive fathers. What happened to them during their formative years? While I would like to understand them, it’s really difficult when you’re on the receiving end of maladaptive behavior that you find hurtful, even malicious. Here’s a brief list of what I’ve observed: dishonesty, arrogance, narcissism, paranoia, jealously, and spitefulness. Toxic, I know.
Reflective. Apologetic. Heartfelt. Learn something from Mike Ness.
What’s more, these folks often engage in a high level of brand management that involves diverting attention away from their own flaws. They distract with excuses or mislead with outright lies (or lies by omission). Their unrestrained pride becomes a sickness that blinds them as they spit one rationalization after the next. Everyone else is to blame when something goes wrong and you’ll never hear them apologize when they make a mistake. Self-examination might reveal their weaknesses, their inadequacies. Personal reflection might undermine the false self-image they’ve projected from their cracked foundation. They can’t admit fault because they’d be forced to abandon the facade and confront who they are inside, thereby uncovering pain that just might crush them. The path of emotional awareness is too difficult to walk, so they’d rather leave everything buried somewhere that can’t be seen. Instead, these charlatans masquerade as good people and turn the rest of us into their collateral damage as they scrape through life with their callow theatrics.
Now, a person can change his or her routines, job, clothing, partner, and location, but the pain can only be suppressed for so long. In time, its manifestations will eventually strain, and then perhaps totally compromise, any bonds established with people they purport to care about. Relationships will dissolve when the negative behavior escalates because some of it is emotionally abusive. For example, if an individual finds enjoyment in ruthlessly provoking or disparaging other people, then he or she has crossed a line. Their defense mechanism is pathological. While it makes sense for anyone to protect themselves from perceived threats, intentionally inflicting pain on convenient targets speaks to an issue of misplaced anger. Their insecurity has run amok.
So, how do you handle people like this? After learning some invaluable lessons, I’ve decided that I will politely confront someone when it’s warranted, and, if my suspicions are correct, then I will immediately distance myself from the person. Last summer, I dated a woman who exhibited some of the behaviors that I mentioned above. After listening to multiple stories about her failed marriages, I asked: “What did you do wrong in these relationships?” Unfazed by my question, she continued with her victim narrative. Even when I gave her examples of mistakes that I’ve made in my life, she refused to admit any of her own. As a result, I extricated myself from that situation before she had the opportunity to do me any harm. I have a healthy fear of emotional vampires.
“It’s how you choose to live your life that counts…”
At the office, I won’t collaborate with these people unless it’s absolutely necessary. I want nothing to do with their chicanery, ineptitude, or animus. All of my communication is direct and kept to a minimum. Any meetings always include another person so there’s a witness to what has been said. Furthermore, I disengage them because it’s only a matter of time before they say or do something vindictive in a deluded quest for validation. I’ve seen some people become verbally aggressive to control the conversation, while others are passive aggressive to precipitate a reaction. Either way, they need to be avoided. Fewer entry points means fewer opportunities to be attacked. They don’t deserve your attention or energy.
Unfortunately, we’re all going to meet people like this. In the event that you do, walk away and take solace in the following: you didn’t invest any more of yourself in someone so unworthy of what you have to offer. Move on. Happiness is the best antidote for such poison, and, don’t worry, they’ll soon be out of your system (and hopefully your life) forever. Also, remember that the truth always finds its way to the surface. When it eventually does, these people won’t have anywhere to hide.
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