Cure Your Insecurity, Part Two: Understanding Expectations

Now that you identified a few possible sources of your insecurity after reading last week's post, it is time to think about toward what your insecurity is a response.

I will stop there for a second to repeat: Insecurity is a response. 

A reaction to something. An effect. 

Sure, your insecurity becomes the cause of many other effects in your life, but it is born as an effect. 

EXPECTATION

To understand insecurity in its simplest form, we work backwards. 

Insecurity is about competence. Competence is related to ability. Insecurity is then a reaction to a perception of ability. 

Specifically, perceived inability or incompetence.

Judgment of one's ability is based on criteria to complete certain tasks. Those tasks can include everything in life: work responsibilities, doctor's appointments, vacuuming the house, being on time for dinner, buying groceries, planning your budget, the list goes on forever.

The criteria of each task is proportional to the importance of its completion. For example, going to the doctor is more important for some people than for others, so the pressure to make and attend an appointment is greater for others, so their ability or inability to complete that task may cause more stress.  

Judging that a task is important to you creates demand for its completion. 

And this demand creates an EXPECTATION to complete the task.

Whether you put the expectation on yourself, a boss puts it on you, a doctor, a family member, a significant other, whoever, the expectation creates pressure to make sure something is completed. 

And that pressure puts pressure on your ability to complete the task. 

INSECURITY

Depending on who you are and how you have conditioned your self-talk, there is a predictable sequence of three ways that insecurity blossoms when an expectation is presented:

  1. Knowledge:  You do not know how to complete the task.

  2. Resourcefulness: You do not know how to learn how to complete the task or who to ask for help.

  3. Self-worth: You do not think you are able to find the solution at all and you do not think you are worth anyone's time to ask.


WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The task is not completed and your self-talk that you are incompetent is reinforced. 

RIGHT or WRONG

When I was younger, I thought there was a right or wrong way to call the dentist's office and make an appointment. My mom had made them for me earlier in life so I got it in my head that I did not know how to conduct the phone call. 

The expectation came from my mom over time to make the calls myself (like a big kid) but I was terrified - not because I was uncomfortable with talking to strangers on the phone but because I was stressed that I was going to somehow "fail" the task of making an appointment.

In this example, the task's expectation came from my mom and then I added the expectation that there was a right or wrong way to do it. 

The two expectations combined in a paralytic fear of picking up the phone and I preemptively perceived myself as incompetent.


WHAT ABOUT YOU?

We respond to and deal with expectations all day long, on every section of the pressure spectrum. The pressure of them is likely higher in some areas of your life more than others, but all of the expectations boil down to this one single question:

  • Why does it matter to you to complete that specific task?

What is your intention behind it? How does its completion serve you? In addition to considering those questions, your assignment is to stop and think about the last 24 hours. 

In the last 24 hours:

  1. What tasks did you complete?

  2. Why did you care about completing those tasks?

  3. Which ones were stressful? 

  4. Which ones were not?

  5. What expectation was placed on each task? What are the consequences of incompletion?

  6. Who placed that expectation on each task?

Write all of these answers down. At the end, you will have a lot of data - FROM JUST ONE SINGLE DAY OF YOUR LIFE - that can map out

  • what you deem important in life

  • what daily tasks cause you stress

  • what kinds of expectations make you feel insecure

Start there. You got this.