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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

On Insecurity

I came across this quote the other day and wanted to share it. “The reason we struggle with insecurity is our tendency to compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” While perhaps the thought is less than profound, it is essentially true. We do compare ourselves and all too often in unrealistic ways.

When we look at another and project a trouble-free existence or pity someone whose life we assume is filled with inconsolable woe, we are almost always seeing only a reflection of what we desire or fear. A friend sent me a video clip from Thailand that spoke eloquently to the point. It showed a young man going through his day encountering situations that any of us might ignore in our busy lives. A nearly dead plant sits just a few feet away from a source of water; an elderly woman struggles to push her food cart on to the curb; an impoverished mother and daughter sit on the street begging for money for the child’s education. We’ve all seen or experienced similar situations and perhaps we did something or not as circumstances and our nature prompted.

In the first half of the video the young man seems to be punished or at least considered foolish for taking it upon himself to respond to these situations. He moves the plant so it will be watered—feeds a stray dog his lunch, helps move the cart to safety and empties his wallet for the young girl. He seems too good to be true—but we’d all like to think of ourselves as kindred. The narrator asks why this young man persists in this behavior day after day when it is clear he derives no benefit. It is only in the final few minutes that we see the plant flowering—the food vendor offer extra food to a needy individual, the dog sitting patiently by the young man’s side. The payoff scene is the mother sitting alone on the sidewalk. We think at first that something must have happened to her daughter—something bad—but no sooner does that suggestion cross our minds than we see the little girl in her school uniform rushing to her mother’s side.

The filmmaker wisely underplays these scenes so that the emotional payoffs seemed less contrived than plausible. They serve to underscore what we must know intuitively—that how we see the world around us has more to do with who we are and who we wish to be than the circumstances we encounter. If our lives seem lacking the good fortune or happiness we believe others possess—it is within us—and it is within us to alter our perceptions.

Security, about which we hear so many perverse homilies, is not about having or being in a place of accomplishment or wealth. These things can be swept away in a moment. Being secure on the other hand can never be taken from us but it requires faith in ourselves, belief that we can affect those around us in a positive way, and courage to accept those things we encounter—good and bad-with equanimity. A tall order to be sure.

The lesson of the video for me is that we can only achieve such a sense of security by placing ourselves at the service of those around us. Neither envy nor pity are constructive—but actions taken selflessly to secure another are always a reward in themselves.

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