Threatening = Insecurity

Have you ever considered whether you “threaten” other people? I don’t mean that others are afraid you might physically harm them. But does your personality overwhelm them?

Perhaps you speak your mind too freely. You might ask too many questions. Maybe you expect too much of them intellectually. You take them out of their comfort zones. Far out. I guess you also could say that you’re “intimidating.”

You might be in a powerful position at work, and manage to make your employees anxious about keeping their jobs. Or, you’re the most popular woman in your social network, and other women are afraid you’ll suddenly decide to “blackball” them. Sometimes, you have such strong opinions and ideas that others are afraid to voice theirs, fearing that you’ll dismiss, or worse, disparage them.


I know that I’ve been personally and professionally “threatening” to others in my life, as I’ve felt “threatened” at times by colleagues, friends, even family.  At least three times in my career, as I was rising through the ranks of a prominent publishing company,  I was promoted to jobs that colleagues were expecting to get. I struck terror in their hearts because I was an extremely demanding boss. Actually, overly demanding, and unrelenting. And, not always pleasant.

Sometimes it’s possible to be threatening to the same person who is threatening to you. My company once published a fashion magazine for a retailer of plus-size clothing, and I posed some sort of threat to the youngish woman who headed the retailer’s PR efforts. She tried to sabotage me at every turn, perhaps because she didn’t think someone outside the company had a right to run such a big project. She threatened me, on the other hand, because I constantly worried that she’d succeed in putting an end to the magazine, even though it was successful.

As I reflect on the subject, I think that one trait is largely responsible for threatening feelings or actions: Insecurity!

When someone doesn’t feel worthy, she’s either vulnerable to being intimidated by others, or she intimidates them (subconsciously I suspect) to make herself feel more powerful. It doesn’t matter how smart, rich, talented, successful or beautiful you are; insecurity trumps them all. Think about Princess Di.  I knew one top editor, on the other hand, who was so insecure about his talents (he had none) that he publicly berated employees about their shortcomings. The better you were at your job, the more threatening he became.  

Insecurity can wreak havoc in a relationship. I was involved with a charming, handsome, wealthy, smart and successful man for 12 years, but was continually threatened that he’d leave me. Despite all of his allure, he was threatened that I’d leave him. He was pretty insecure, too; an alcoholic, I neglected to add. It didn’t make for a happy or healthy situation.

Feeling threatened is enervating. Intimidating others (even if you aren’t consciously trying to) is ugly. Trying to take away something from someone else doesn’t enrich you, physically or mentally.

I admire those who feel good about themselves, so good that they successfully encourage others to feel good about themselves, too!

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