Overcoming Insecurity

Avraham Stein, Stony Brook, NY
Essays 2018

MyLife Essay Contest 2018

Insecurity is a big challenge today. It is common, and I have seen it in many people, including in my friends, and in myself. There are times when people will be doing something not necessarily right, but since the majority would be doing it, you and others would feel insecure about not joining in together. You would feel left out, and feel bad about yourself because of insecurity. Not only that, but it affects your relationship because you can no longer “be” yourself. You must act the part to fit in.

People will always worry about what others are thinking or saying about them. They will worry and think they might not be good enough, or that they must change their behavior to fit in. There are many psychologists who have ways to “cure” insecurities, but with Chassidus there is another way. Before I get into the way of Chassidus, I must first go in depth to understand the problem of insecurity better.

There are two parts to insecurity. One part of insecurity is being insecure about who you are, and what you have to offer. The other part is being insecure about your relationship with others, and how they may perceive you. Even within these two parts, there are another two parts. Insecurity can be physical, or it can be spiritual.

Physical insecurities affect the way you relate with other people. Spiritual insecurities relates to your relationship with Hashem. If you are insecure spiritually, you might be insecure about yourself, unsure if you are going the right way about life, with your connection with Hashem, and other challenges. Even within spiritual insecurity, an aspect of physical insecurity can interfere too. You may feel physically insecure about building a spiritual relationship with Hashem, afraid others might think “different” of you etc. But about physical insecurities, it affects you in a way I wrote earlier, about “you and others would feel insecure about not joining in together. You would feel left out, and feel bad about yourself because of insecurity. Not only that, but it affects your relationship because you can no longer “be” yourself. You must act the part to fit in”.

The main source of insecurity I will be addressing is being insecure about yourself–as that can also be a form of spiritual insecurity, and can help with curing physical insecurities, as seen in the following Sicha.

Sefer HaSichos 5751 Parshas Titzave, page 353-354.

“Name” vs. Essence in relationship to other people:

“You” goes on the essence of a person’s existence, as an aspect of a person which is higher than the level related to one’s “name”. The name of a person is not their essence of one’s existence, but rather, a name is an extraneous description of one’s existence which primarily relates to their relationship with another person, and thus, a “name” is used for that person to call him, by his “name”. However, a person on his own, doesn’t really need a “name”.

This is something we see clearly upon childbirth. For even before a person is being called by a “name”, at birth [until being named at the bris 8 days later] all that exists is a person’s essence. And, in fact, even after a person has been given a “name”, a person still maintains their own essence, and thus, this “name” is but an extraneous addition to their own pre-existing essence.

“Name” vs. Essence in relationship to Hashem:

Yet on the other hand, a person’s name is not something to be dismissed, for after all, a person’s name is connected with the origins of the soul on high, such that it is specifically
through the letters of one’s Hebrew name is there drawn down the vitality of the soul above into the body. And this is why, according to Chassidus, a person’s Hebrew names serves to connect the soul with the body.

Although this may be well and true, nevertheless, the soul on its own – long before being born and drawn into a body – is not called by a “name”. And what’s more, even after the soul is born into a body and starts to be called a “name”, nevertheless, the essence of the soul remains a constant, higher than being called to by a “name”.

In fact, the essence of the soul is even higher than all the different levels of names that are used to describe the different levels of the soul – like “Nefesh” [referring to a basic life-force in the body], “Ruach” [referring to the soul’s ability to have emotions], “Neshama” [the soul’s ability to grow in intellectual awareness and realization], “Chaya” [the soul’s simple desire to cleave on high], and “Yechida” [that level of the soul that is “one” with Hashem].

Not only is the essence of the soul higher than all categorical names, but it is even higher than all description, including the description of the soul as it is “a piece of G-d”.

Now you might think, that the essence of the soul, and the soul as it is described as a “piece of G-d” is really one and the same. For after all, a “piece” of something is really part and parcel of the thing itself. So therefore, a “piece” of G-d is really part and parcel of the essence of the G-d himself – the “You” aspect of Hashem that is above and beyond His name. Hence, you might think that the essence of the soul the the soul’s being described as a “piece” of the essence of G-d Himself is really one and the same. However, it is not.

The reason for this is because the essence of the soul is really, the “essence” of the soul. However, with regards to the soul’s being a “piece” of G-d, it is really just a “piece” in which you then have to come to a fairly lengthy explanation why, according to Chassidus, it’s not just a “piece” but, rather it is a “piece” of the essence, so really it’s like it’s an essence too.

However in contrast to this, the “you” level of a person, the true essence of their soul, as it stands as “ one” with the “You” level of Hashem – i.e. “one” with Hashem’s true essence (Atzmus)–that is the level in which a Jew and G-d are one, “Yisroel v’Kedusha Brich’hu Kula Chad”. That level is higher than all the names and descriptions, even the description of the soul as it is a “piece” of G-d above.

Now I would like to reiterate this sicha in my own words, in a more practical way, so that we can apply this sicha as a way to cure insecurities.

“You”, your true self and essence, is a higher level and more important than the “name”, the way others perceive you. Yet on the other hand, one’s “name”, i.e. his relationship with others, isn’t something to dismiss. A “name” still has great meaning, as it is used to connect our soul to our body, and our essence is enclothed in a “name”. But even with all this, our “You”, our essence, is still higher and above everything, i.e. our spiritual security is more important. We can see this through the fact that we refer our soul as a “piece of G-d”, meaning we are of G-d’s essence, and by being of G-d’s essence, we are “one” with Hashem, which is the highest possible level, higher than a “name”, and even higher than being a piece of G-d.

According to psychologists, there are two main ways to cure insecurity. The first answer is, “Take stock of your value”. We can connect this to the Sicha as, take stock of your value. Make the distinction between your name and your essence, and connect to your essence. When you feel insecure, you are often focused on something you feel is lacking about you.

Know, that by connecting to your essence, the highest possible level, there is nothing lacking, because a “name” [how others perceive you], is a much lower level than being a “piece”, an “essence”, and “one” with Hashem. And therefore there is nothing lacking.

Then there is a second answer offered by the psychologists, “Build your self esteem”. This second answer can also be seen to contribute to the first answer. Research shows that people with relationship insecurity, tend to have poorer self-esteem. When you aren’t feeling good about who you are on the inside, it is natural to look outside of yourself for validation. However, trying to feel good by getting approval from others is a losing situation for any relationship. When your well-being depends on someone else, you give away all your power. It is not just that, but you also don’t get to enjoy the sense of well-being that comes with genuinely liking yourself, and self-confidence.

Building your self-esteem is not as difficult as it may seem. Learn to silence your inner critic, practice self-compassion, and have Emunah. Retrain yourself to focus on the aspects of yourself you like, instead of the ones you don’t like. Take stock of your value, and think of how you are “one” with Hashem, your very essence, and nothing can be wrong.

It is important to remember no one is perfect–we all come with some baggage. But it is not necessary to be perfect in order to be in a happy, healthy, and secure relationship with yourself, others, and Hashem. When you take your attention off what other people think and keep the focus on yourself, you can help become a better, more secure version of yourself.