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The Minimalists
The Minimalists are Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Alongside their podcast cohost, T.K. Coleman, this simple-living trio helps millions of people eliminate clutter and live meaningfully with less. Learn More.

Store-Brand Insecurity

Picture the coolest people who have ever graced our screens—
be it James Dean or Joan Didion, Dua Lipa or Denzel Washington—
now imagine any of them posting hateful comments on social media.

Such behavior is difficult to envision
because being flustered is incongruent with their poise.

The most composed people are paragons of self-assuredness.
They possess serious IDGAF energy.
Even in turmoil, they appear unperturbed.
They lack the knee-jerk judgments that are a byproduct of insecurity.

You, on the other hand…

You care what other people think—
you yearn for their acceptance—
because there’s an underlying dissatisfaction in your own life.

(Of course, when I say “you,” I’m really talking to myself.)

Although this malaise of craving causes great suffering,
misery is the norm in today’s affirmation-obsessed society.

If you were completely satisfied with yourself—
with your relationships, career, and geography,
your finances, generosity, and status,
your priorities, fitness, and possessions—
then it couldn’t possibly matter
what other people thought about you.
(James Dean was famously undisturbed by critics.)

Despite this truth, I have good news:
Your dissatisfaction is not even your own.
It was handed to you
by your culture,
your peers,
your community.

Imagine a neighbor who tells you she’s disappointed
because you don’t own a private jet
or a professional sports franchise.

You would laugh it off.

Why, then, do you care
what that same person thinks
about your
or calendar?

Because you want to fit in.

Almost everyone wants to fit in
because they’re afraid
they’ll look like a fool
if they don’t.

Ironically, real fools clamor for adulation;
we refer to them as “try-hards” or “brownnosers.”
(Joan Didion didn’t fit in—she stood out—yet she was no fool.)

In colloquial terms,
the average person’s thirst for acceptance
is oft-referred to as lacking self-confidence.
But perhaps a new term is in order: store-brand insecurity.

Insecurity makes sense
when one exists in a place of true lack.
When I was 80 pounds overweight and six-figures in debt,
I lacked the restraint and money I needed
to get to my enough point,
so I felt a healthy dose diffidence
until I maneuvered out of those craters.


Once I escaped my basin of discontent,
I had no right to feel dissatisfied about anything.
Any remaining timidity was a product of
cultural conditioning.


There are two ways to increase your sense of security:

First, you can enhance externalities—
credit scores, square footage, job titles,
designer clothes, luxury cars, six-pack abs.
Maybe after a few decades of accumulation,
these accomplishments will hush your imaginary haters.

Or you can simply need less.

Just like you don’t need the jet or the sports team,
you also don’t need any amount of
worldly goods, wealth, or respect,
to make you you.
(Dua Lipa is still Dua without the makeup, money, or fans.)

Needless to say, there is no formula
that will instruct you “how to” need less.
Even so, you can want less
by dropping the false desire for more.

Chasing more is a trap,
a collective hallucination,
a disease that has metastasized the populace.

You don’t actually want more veneration
or more self-improvement
or more material items;
you want the happiness
and all the pleasant feelings
that you believe exist
on the other side of those things.

You already possess the happiness you’re looking for.
It is not found in externalities or acquisitions.
It lives in you, right here, right now,
veiled only by the false belief
that you are incomplete
and that obtaining more
will complete you.

Once you realize this gift—
once you understand the healing power of less
everything changes
you become invulnerable
to the judgment of others.

This is the basis of genuine security.

Why is this second path—
the path of less
always the path less traveled?

Because cluttering your exterior life
is easier than decluttering your interior.

Sure, it’s easy to camouflage dissatisfaction
with success objects—
with outfits and vehicles and trophies—
but that concealment is temporary.

When prized property turns into flotsam and jetsam,
as all things eventually do,
the only thing that remains is
your underlying insecurity.

It never went away.


When you need less,
insecurity downright disappears;
it is replaced by a deep satisfaction with the way things are,
not the way your coworkers, friends, and family “wish” they were.

When you need less,
you no longer feel the misguided urge to impress anyone.
(Denzel doesn’t care whether we’re impressed by his life.)
Paradoxically, this disposition is far more impressive to many people.
Yet that no longer matters, either.

When you need less,
the only thing that remains is
a perfect peace that cannot be purchased
or handed to you by anyone.