When an old culture is dying, the new culture is created by those people who are not afraid to be insecure. – Rudolph Bahro

It’s not uncommon to regard insecurity as a form of negativity/weakness that must be banished from our lives. Unchecked, feelings of insecurity can paralyze our potential to do amazing things. But looked at through the lens of Bahro, insecurity takes on a liberating, powerful quality. I see it as a motivating call-to-action: Let’s rein in this freaky energy and re-purpose it into courageous efforts for the greater good.

Those who push the boundaries on what is considered fair and worthwhile are essentially courageous practitioners of insecurity—they take risks. When feelings of doubt and fear arise for me, these past and present risk-takers light my lamp:

Frederick Douglass, former slave and fierce abolitionist. After escaping slavery he became a celebrated speaker, plus he founded and ran a top-selling abolitionist paper in the US. His book My Bondage and My Freedom is a moving lesson on tenacity and perseverance.

Harriet Tubman, former slave who saved many slaves through her work with the Underground Railroad. It’s difficult to find accurate history about her life and abolitionist work, as Syracuse University scholars point out. Despite the mythology surrounding her, it’s not disputed that she took on a risky mission to save others.

Victoria Woodhull, the first woman who ran for president in the US—50 years before women could legally vote there. She was a real firebrand, to say the least.

James Baldwin, author and social critic who was a prominent voice in the 1960s civil rights movement. You can get a sense of his flair in the highly acclaimed documentary I am Not Your Negro.

Frans de Waal, scientist and author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?. His Ted talk on the moral behavior of animals challenges the notion that humans hold a monopoly on justice and compassion. In doing so, he takes scientific orthodoxy to task too.

Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, whistleblowers. It takes real guts to blow the lid off the opaque machinery of US surveillance.

Laura Poitras, truth-telling artist/journalist. Her documentary CITIZENFOUR, about Snowden’s revelations and his subsequent hiding in Hong Kong? Dang.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen master. His book The Art of Power turns conventional understandings of power upside down, where they can be examined with a new perspective. I appreciate his plays with language. For instance, he coined the term “interbeing” to describe the intentional practice of remaining aware of interconnectedness and living with a small footprint. To practice interbeing is to practice climate protection.

Who inspires you to step into the zone of insecurity/courageousness?

Share your thoughts.