Statistics and the Fear of Being Insignificant
For as long as I can remember I have had one constant fear. Sometimes it's more frightening than spiders but often I'd rather feel its affect then come across any arachnid. Perhaps its nothing I should be anxious about but I can confess that it has kept me up many nights whilst staring at the revolving ceiling fan.
My greatest fear is becoming just another statistic.
Perhaps you've heard some of these:
- 30-50% of all marriages end in divorce
- 5-20% of people will die because of their eating disorders
- 977,000 (approx.) abortions were recorded in 2014.
I'm closer to each of these statistics. Probably much closer than I care to admit. I have always feared being labeled by one of these studies that I have read in some book or magazine. I've tip-toed the line of marriage and divorce. My choice of emotional medication is really good food in large quantities. And any child who has been adopted knows they are lucky that the alternative was not chosen. So, yes, being reduced to a statistic haunts me.
Click to listen to this week's podcast on fear
It's not the numbers that are scary.
There is an operative word that you may have missed in that last sentence. Go read it again. Did you spot it? It's the word reduced. You see I can admit that my biggest fear is that of becoming insignificant - of being remembered only as a part of a percentile found in some scholastic study. My name, my thoughts, my life all reduced down to a single non-descriptive digit.
Insecurity thy have found thy name and it is "Insignificance."
I don't think that I am alone in feeling insignificant. It seems to be a common trait found in the earliest records of people. In the Biblical Origin story of sin and evil it possibly shows up when the Serpent reminds the people that there is a God that ranks higher and that people don't have access to that type of power (of course the lie was that eating the magical fruit would make people just as significant as God, but, alas, we've proven that untrue for millennia). Whenever comparison comes in to the picture we as people are either subscribed inferiority or we choose that jacket for ourselves. Often times it's both.
Where does insecurity come from?
Comparison and classification are the root causes of most insecurity. We are grouped and classified on a number of personal traits and since they are personal we take them as queues to how we fit in with other people. Here some classifications:
- Body image (e.g. fat, skinny, pretty, ugly, etc.)
- Income level
- Size of social circle/influence
- Educational achievement
- Lifestyle choices
- Relational status
But just the existence of these classifications don't mean that they define who we are. It is only when they are ascribed to us do they become ours. When a labeling stands contrary to what we feel about ourselves an insecurity is born in our souls only to creep into our emotions and finally manifest itself in our actions and choices. And make no mistake about it the more severe the gap between the label and the self-image the deeper and more severe that insecurity becomes.
Who's to blame?
It is easy to point fingers and place blame. There are many instances where we could point to a parent's outrageous expectations, a friend who always called you fat, or knowing that part of your story didn't fit nicely into the culturally accepted version of that dreaded word: "normal."
We blame religion for pointing out our faults. We blame teachers for bad grades. We can even blame McDonald's for being so darn tasty. But here is the truth that I learned: It's my own fault.
Not for being labeled, not for being picked on, and not for feeling like I could never measure up. It's my fault that I chose to believe what others said about me more than what God - the one who created me - has said about me. I chose to measure myself against people who were probably feeling the weight of their own insecurity just like me! I chose to let the insecurity evolve into a lifestyle.
Look, here is a hard truth that I hate to have to tell myself: I can't control what others do to me, but I can control how I respond. Frankly, I have responded poorly up until this point. But that changes now.
How To Overcome Insecurity
It is hear that I have to apologize, because the section heading makes it seem like I have the magic formula to overcome insecurity. Sorry, I don't. But what I do have is some steps that I am currently taking to break these destructive patterns:
- Find someone, a mentor, who has overcome similar struggles and find out how they did it.
- Identify my biggest areas of insecurity and write them down.
- Read the Bible to figure out who God says I am and write it down.
- Compare and Contrast the lists from #2 with #3.
- Discover how my insecurities have affected my actions.
- With help from my mentor work through the issues. (This will get messy and it takes time)
- Don't stop when it gets hard. My insecurities have been growing deep for 31 years now. They won't get weeded out over night.
Now, my guess is that this list will grow over time and I will try to share more about my journey with you along the way. I know my journey has, thus far, been difficult. But the freedom and confidence that stems from realizing the truth about how God loves me is indescribable - and I am nowhere near working through and emptying myself of all the crap that is deep inside. But I know that I'm far enough long that I've got to see this thing through - no matter how difficult it seems.