It’s Not You: How To Manage Interactions With Insecure People

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The term insecurity can characterize a feeling of inadequacy, low self-esteem, or self-confidence—and difficulty coping with those feelings in a healthy way. This feeling can be common, with most people experiencing insecurity occasionally. 

Insecurity can drive negative self-talk and self-criticism in some, but it can also manifest as things like jealousy, clinginess, approval-seeking behaviors, avoidance, bragging, competitiveness, guilt-tripping, bullying, and aggression toward others. 

Learning how to recognize and live with any insecurity you have (and the effects of others’ insecurity in your life) can improve your self-confidence and reduce unnecessary strain in your life. Read on to learn more about supportive strategies you can take if you’re experiencing insecurity or the effects of others’ insecurity.

Is someone projecting their insecurities onto you?

Insecurity can strain relationships, possibly driving heightened sensitivity and frequent arguments in some. When a family, friend, colleague, or romantic partner makes hurtful, overly competitive, or self-deprecating comments, there are steps you can take to lessen the effects of their behavior on your experience. 

Responding to insecurity

It can be difficult to know how to respond when someone says, “I look fat in this outfit, don’t I?”, or “Frank’s comments during the meeting were so dumb.” Many people might be tempted to dismiss self-deprecating comments as inaccurate (ex: “No, of course, you don’t look fat”) or agree with unkind criticisms (ex: “Yeah, Frank’s comments were pretty dumb I guess”), but these responses might often be unhelpful. 

The best response to someone’s insecurity can depend on the situation. However, you can consider using the following suggestions:

Hear them out

Many might respond quickly to self-deprecating comments by saying things like, “That’s not true!” However, you can acknowledge that you understand how they feel, while still letting them know that you don’t believe their negative comments are factual. 

For example, if your friend tells you that they feel like a failure, you could say, “I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling like a failure. I don’t agree with you, and I think you’re being too harsh on yourself, but I’ve been there too, and I know it doesn’t feel good”.

If your friend continues making self-deprecating comments, you could try letting them know that you don’t know how they want you to respond to them, or let your friend know that their comments don’t seem constructive or helpful.  

Recognize the impacts of body negativity 

According to a study published in Body Image, more than 90% of women between the ages of 18-23 might talk negatively about their bodies. Negative comments can lead to higher rates of body insecurity for both the person making self-deprecating remarks, and the friends who are around to hear them. Disrupting these comments can decrease the likelihood of experiencing a poor self-image. 

As stated above, responding effectively to self-deprecating comments generally relies on someone acknowledging that their feelings are valid, rather than dismissing comments or offering self-criticism to express empathy. Focusing attention on positive attributes that are not related to physical appearance can also help reduce emphasis on looks. 

Wait for the right time

If emotions are running high, you might want to consider waiting for them to subside before bringing up your concerns. In the moment, you may want to say something like, “This conversation makes me uncomfortable, let’s not talk about ____ in this way.” Later, you can set aside with this person to have a more in-depth conversation about their comments. 


Create healthy boundaries 

If an insecure person is seeking external validation from you, it can be time-consuming and it can start to threaten your boundaries.

First, you might consider asking yourself what your boundaries are. Then, you can try to communicate your limits. If someone expects you to constantly direct message, text, call or email with them, you might want to let them know that you aren’t always available to talk. For example, you could say, “It seems like you want me to be available all the time, but I’m trying to save time after work/school to spend with family, and I’m not always available to text. I want to stay connected though, so let’s try setting aside time every Sunday to talk if you want”.

If you clearly communicate your boundaries, and they are still violated, you may want to have another conversation with them to make your boundaries clearer, talk about what to do with a therapist, or consider taking a break from the relationship.

Work on your own self-esteem 

Everyone can experience insecurity at some point, and it can also develop in childhood. With practice, you can learn to evaluate your thoughts and scrutinize their accuracy, possibly replacing them with more factual thoughts. 

Over time, you may notice that you experience negative emotions and engage in insecure behaviors less frequently.  Some people become better practitioners of self-compassion as they age, and others may engage in healthy lifestyle habits (including exercising regularly, sleeping well, and meditating) to counter insecurity. 

How can online therapy help those experiencing insecurity? 

One of the most effective types of therapy to address insecurity is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—and a 2017 study found that it can be effective for many people with low self-esteem and those with comorbid psychiatric conditions. 

During CBT sessions, therapists can help clients identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts, and restructure them to improve feelings and behaviors. Many therapists might use CBT as a short-term therapy to teach clients how to help themselves, and many counselors assign homework between sessions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the intervention. 

The thought of going outside or away from one’s support system can feel overwhelming for those experiencing insecurity. Online therapy can be a helpful resource to address this, supporting people from the comfort of their own homes or safe places. 

Is online therapy effective? 

A 2022 study has found information that suggests that internet-based CBT can improve self-esteem, self-compassion, quality of life, and symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression. 

Online therapists, like the ones at BetterHelp, can work with you to address the possible effects of insecurity in your own life, and they can help you brainstorm how to address insecure people in your life while preserving your comfort and boundaries. 

Is someone projecting their insecurities onto you?

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When someone projects their insecurities onto you, it can be difficult to know how to respond. You can improve how you interact with people who are experiencing insecurity by learning how to acknowledge feelings, establish healthy boundaries, work on your own insecurities, and recognize when a toxic relationship needs to end. 

If someone in your life is insecure, it can affect your mental health, too. Online cognitive behavioral therapy has been clinically suggested to improve self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as a helpful way to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety disorder-related symptoms. Additionally, if you’re unsure how to effectively communicate with someone who’s making insecure comments, a licensed therapist can offer advice.

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