Anyone can be insecure – whether that is towards a colleague, a friend, or even in a relationship.
But what makes people insecure? We asked 8 experts to share their insights.
Sal Raichbach PsyD, LCSW
Licensed Psychologist, Ambrosia Treatment Center
The root cause of all insecurity is fear, and it’s shaped by our past experiences
Feelings of worthlessness as a child usually carry over into adulthood, impacting our self-perception and how we interact with others. It doesn’t matter if these interactions are actually detrimental.
Self-esteem is based on our reactions to these relationships and the world around us, so the perception matters more than the reality. We use these reactions to form an understanding of the world around us, which is why insecure people tend to be uneasy and anxious.
Rather than try to hide these insecurities, one should try to overcome them. It’s not an easy task, but the payoff is a sense of peace and comfort. The effort is always worth it in the long run.
Licensed Therapist | Co-Founder, LARKR
Insecurities in a relationship are common, especially for younger people who may not have as much experience navigating romantic relationships.
However, insecurities can occur in a relationship at any age. Jealousy is a common reoccurring insecurity that can come in many different forms. A partner may be jealous about the amount of time you’re spending with other people, they may be jealous of your career or income, or they could even be jealous of your family.
Fear may also spark insecurities. Perhaps the fear that you are not good enough for them. This usually stems from one’s experience from previous relationships where trust was lost.
Like any situation, overcoming insecurities can look different for each person.
If you feel that you are the one that is often insecure in the relationship, focus on what is making you feel that way and how you can best explain that to your partner.
Don’t be ashamed of feeling jealous, just find a way to express your feelings without being hostile or aggressive. If you feel as though your partner is insecure in the relationship, calmly ask them what is bothering them and how you can work together so that you both feel more secure about one another.
Most importantly, before entering a relationship, work on loving and caring for yourself so that when you are in a relationship you are comfortable with your own self.
Author | Post-Trauma Coach | PR Consultant
Insecurity starts in the home, with your primary caretakers
Many people these days would like to blame these things on TV and social media projecting unrealistic and altered images as a heavy contributor to today’s self-esteem issues. This is incorrectly discredited over and over again.
Primary care providers, whether that be a mother, father, or both, are your first subject of reference when it comes to things like morals, ethics, and matters of the heart.
Young people learn how to love themselves by witnessing us loving ourselves as we are and loving them unconditionally.
Read related article: 12 Best Self Love Books
Kids that have been thoroughly nurtured regardless of what they look like, their athletic capabilities and even educational abilities, find self-worth in knowing that they are enough.
They are not enough based on what they look like or enough based on their achievements. They are simply enough.
Their caretakers tell them how beautiful they are. They place importance on how you treat people, not simply how they look. Share the fact that a person is more attractive based on their behavior, not their financial status or external appearance.
To solidify this point, these same parents must display this point by not spending more time on their own image and looks to a point that they neglect their kids. When superficial things take the place of time with your kids, they internalize it.
They take it personally and start to believe that they are missing something. Maybe if they were prettier or smarter they would get the time and attention that their heart desires from their parents.
When they don’t get it from them, they seek it elsewhere. They seek it from the opposite sex, the general public and places that may not be as fulfilling, keeping that craving active and never really satisfied.
In my book, A Child’s Memories of Cartoons & Murder, I talk about being a young child, watching my mother get dolled up to go out. She was a beauty. I enjoyed watching her change from one dress to another, shape her eyebrows and blot her lipstick to make sure that it’s not too thick.
I would then cry and watch her walk out of the door, knowing that I would not see her until the next day if that. I grew up thinking that I was not worthy. My father not being around did not help at all.
I had deep insecurities thinking that he may have been around if I was prettier if my skin was lighter if my hair was longer. It was not until far into my 30’s that I was able to grasp that I was not the problem and that I was enough.
As a parent, I practiced my belief that pouring into your children would minimize any insecurities that the world would place upon them.
When their foundation is strong enough, they can fight through those things that allow them to cast doubt on themselves. They know, believe and live in the premise that they are enough and capable of whatever it is that they desire to accomplish. So far, I have not been wrong.
Certified Life Coach
We don’t know how to do something or because we don’t measure up to others
It can be so easy to feel insecure. To feel like there is something wrong with us, to feel that lack of confidence.
Why do we feel that way?
Well, we often think it’s because of who we are – it’s our personality, or it’s because we don’t know how to do something, or because we don’t measure up to others.
But that isn’t the source. And believing that feeling insecure is just something that happens to us, or that it is just a descriptor of who we are, only sets us up to feel worse.
Instead, we need to know where insecurity truly comes from. It’s a feeling. And, all of our feelings stem from our thoughts about ourselves.
To understand why we are insecure, we must understand what thoughts we are having that are leading to that insecurity. Once you identify those thoughts, the next step is to realize that a thought – is just a thought.
Often times our brains buy into them automatically, just assuming that they’re true. But really, thoughts are just sentences in our brain that our brain uses to try and make sense of the world. If you are feeling insecure, there is a thought you are thinking and believing that is leading you to feel that way.
Often times, we think and believe those thoughts for so long, they become a habit. And they become the default way our brain thinks about ourselves, leading us to feel chronically insecure.
But there is a way out. You don’t have to feel that way. instead of buying into that thought that leads you to feel insecure, question it. Ask yourself, how is the exact opposite of this thought true?
In what ways am I already a secure, confident person? Your brain will find the evidence for you. And you can begin to undo the habit of believing thoughts that lead you to feel insecure.
Relationship Life Coach, Studio City, Ca.
It is due to the relationship they have established to themselves
I believe that people are insecure for many reasons and the primary one for most is due to the relationship they have established to themselves.
When a person grows up hearing messages that they are less than ideal (or worse) from primary caregivers, peers, family, clergy, and/or anyone in a position of authority they tend to unconsciously believe they are damaged on a deep level.
This unconscious belief colors everything they do in life and it is extremely painful. Sometimes it is wiring in the brain that makes a person insecure, and sometimes it is learned behavior.
Narcissists are ironically some of the most insecure people you will meet.
They have an unshakable belief that they are worthless which is what causes them to bully others etc. They must at all costs protect their belief that they have little value from being found out. In the case of the narcissist, it is wiring in the brain more than the environment.
For the ‘learned” behavior of a formerly verbally and emotionally abused person, however, the insecurity is reversible with therapy and self-care. For the wired behavior not too much.
Founder and Owner, I Deserve A Perfect Life
It came from fears–mostly about the future
Insecurity, being insecure, means that one has a lack of a feeling of security in one’s self.
Where did this lack of security come from? It came from fears, mostly about the future. It comes from beliefs, that repeatedly echo in our minds, “things won’t work out.”
What if, you told yourself that everything will work out perfectly? What if you did that so often, for so long and with such conviction, that you began to believe it? Would things change in your life, to support your new beliefs?
Yes, they would! You would find yourself having experiences that confirm the source of your security and its ability to handle anything. That source is you.
Health and Wellness Expert, Maple Holistics
We are our own harshest critics
To feel better about yourself, stop looking at others. Insecurity is normal, but that doesn’t make it fun. So why does it happen in the first place? It’s because we are our own harshest critics.
Oftentimes, we see others appearing happy and confident without realizing that they are just as unsure of themselves as we are. So, we hold ourselves to the perfect standards which others unwittingly create, and then we feel unsure of ourselves when we are unable to meet them.
But these insecurities do not just come from people that we know. It comes from magazines with impossibly-beautiful pictures of celebrities, characters on television shows, and alumni newsletters listing lofty achievements of peers.
Seeing people’s accomplishments, whether real or fake, without seeing any of their struggles, is sure to make any person wonder about their own life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the root cause of insecurity?
Insecurity has various root causes, and it can manifest differently for each individual. Some of the most common factors include:
• Past experiences: Traumatic or negative events from one’s past can create a sense of vulnerability and self-doubt.
• Social conditioning: Societal and cultural norms can significantly shape an individual’s self-esteem and perception of their worth.
• Parental influence: A person’s upbringing and the dynamics within their family can impact their confidence and sense of security.
• Personal temperament: Some individuals might naturally be more prone to anxiety or self-doubt due to their genetic makeup or personality traits.
• Unmet needs: Insecurity can also arise from unmet emotional, psychological, or physical needs, leading to feelings of inadequacy or uncertainty.
How do you fix insecurity?
Fixing insecurity involves self-reflection, self-acceptance, and personal growth. Here are some steps to help:
• Identify your insecurities and their root causes.
• Practice self-compassion and self-love.
• Challenge negative self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations.
• Set realistic goals and celebrate small achievements.
• Surround yourself with supportive, positive people.
• Seek professional help if necessary, such as therapy or coaching.
How does insecurity manifest in people?
Insecurity can manifest in several ways, affecting an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Some common manifestations include:
• Negative self-talk: Insecure individuals might have a persistent internal dialogue filled with self-doubt, self-criticism, and harsh judgments.
• Overcompensation: To mask their insecurities, some people might overcompensate by boasting about their achievements, skills, or appearance.
• Fear of failure: Insecurity can lead to a heightened fear of failure, causing individuals to avoid challenges or procrastinate on tasks they perceive as difficult.
• Social withdrawal: Insecure people might isolate themselves from others due to feelings of inadequacy or fear of rejection.
• People-pleasing: In an attempt to gain validation and acceptance, insecure individuals might go out of their way to please others, often at the expense of their own needs and desires.
• Jealousy and possessiveness: Insecurity can also manifest as excessive jealousy or possessiveness in relationships stemming from a fear of loss or abandonment.
Is it normal to be insecure?
Yes, it’s normal to be insecure. Insecurity is a natural human emotion that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It’s important to remember that nobody is perfect, and we all have moments of self-doubt or worry about fitting in or being good enough. Embracing and learning from these moments can be a valuable opportunity for personal growth.
Are insecure people toxic?
Insecurity, in and of itself, is not toxic. However, when individuals allow their insecurities to dictate their behavior or influence their relationships negatively, it can potentially become toxic. It’s crucial to recognize and address one’s insecurities to prevent them from causing harm to oneself or others.
Are insecure people jealous?
Insecurity can sometimes lead to jealousy, but not all insecure people are jealous. Jealousy often stems from feelings of inadequacy or fear of being replaced, which can be linked to insecurity. However, it’s essential to understand that each person’s experience with insecurity is unique, and not everyone will express it the same way.
What not to say to an insecure person?
When talking to an insecure person, it’s crucial to be mindful of their emotions and vulnerabilities. Avoid making comments that could exacerbate their insecurities. Here are a few tips on what not to say:
• Don’t compare them to others: Comparisons can be hurtful, as they often amplify insecurities. Focus on their unique qualities and strengths instead.
• Avoid pointing out their flaws: Insecure individuals are often highly self-critical. Be supportive and empathetic by highlighting their positive traits and accomplishments.
• Steer clear of dismissive remarks: Comments like “just get over it” or “stop worrying” can feel invalidating. Offer a listening ear and constructive advice instead.
• Don’t make jokes at their expense: Humor can be a powerful tool, but making light of their insecurities can cause further harm. Be mindful of the impact your words might have.
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