Feb 16, 2023 - Economy

Axios Finish Line: The toxicity of deep insecurity

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nothing destroys more relationships, teams or companies than insecure people in power, Jim VandeHei writes.

  • Why it matters: Beneath all bad motives, bad behavior and bad people — at work and in life — lurks deep and dangerous insecurity.

It's an insidious form of cancer that spreads effortlessly — and quickly.

  • A little insecurity is normal and healthy. It grounds and motivates us. I'm talking about insecurity so deep it shapes a person's character and decision-making.

So many of the lessons I have learned the hard way came from watching profoundly insecure people do the wrong thing for the wrong reason.

  • I wish this were a happy column about how not to be insecure. Take that up with your therapist — or parents.

This is more about how to spot it — and flee:

  1. Selfishness. If your boss or colleagues are routinely focused on themselves, they have issues. If they do it persistently, they're unfixable.
  2. Smallness. Confident people don't do petty things, like talk smack about others or stir the pot. Insecure people marinate in that crap to shift focus away from their shortcomings.
  3. Bitterness. People who whine or wish ill on others are like the flu in an unventilated room. Their negativity is destined to spread and sap the energy of those around them.
  4. Loneliness. One telltale sign of the profoundly insecure is that they attract other insecure people — and repel confident, positive people. Don't let yourself get sucked into their misery.
  5. Meanness. Good people aren't asses. Insecure people often are. We all have bad days. But if someone seems like a bad person consistently, it's because they are one.

The big picture: I wasted years of my life believing I could change insecure people. You can't. The best thing to do is ... run.

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