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.
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
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.
"Blaire has been amazing. She's super supportive, empathetic, and kind. She has helped me gain confidence in myself and learn that it is okay to enforce healthy boundaries in my relationships."
"Rachel is awesome! Gently encouraging and very responsive. I prefer to communicate via messages and I love that that is an option. I feel that she totally understands me and is never judgmental. The stress from work impacts my partner less since I've been talking to Rachel - I am managing my stress and insecurity better."
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.
How can you tell if a person is insecure?
You may not always be able to tell, as some will internalize feelings of insecurity. However, in many cases, people who are insecure behave in ways that can be observed by others. Signs of insecurity include things like clinginess to others, bragging, approval-seeking (people pleasers), jealousy, bullying, or aggression.
What causes insecurity in a person?
There are a number of causes of insecurity, many of which stem from early childhood. Some of these include:
- Being bullied as a child
- Rejection or non-inclusion
- An anxious attachment style
- Social anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Low self-worth
Is an insecure person toxic?
Not always, but they can be. In some cases, highly insecure people may have mental health issues that drive behavior that may be unhealthy for relationships. For example, a person who is feeling insecure may be extremely controlling to a romantic partner in an attempt to be in control of their environment. Others may brag constantly about their own life, and put down their friends in an attempt to feel important. Still others may continually seek assurance from others, asking constant questions like “do you love me?”, “are you mad at me?” or “do I look fat?”
In its most severe and complex form, insecurity can be a feature of narcissistic personality disorder. People who experience this disorder may come off as arrogant and uncaring, but are often extremely insecure and put on a show of toxic self-assurance to compensate for their low self-worth.
What is the biggest insecurity of a person?
A person who feels insecure often does so because they don’t feel “good enough” and fear rejection from others.
Are insecure people jealous?
Jealousy is a normal feeling, but when a person feels insecure they may be continually jealous in a way that impacts their well-being.
Why are insecure people so annoying?
For those who don’t experience feelings of insecurity, it can be difficult to interact with those who do. Some insecure individuals may brag constantly about their own lives, and try to “one-up” others. They may try to act like the smartest person in the room, and act as though everyone else’s thoughts or opinions are wrong. Others may be clingy or continually seek assurance from friends and family. This can be frustrating, but it is also important to remember that these behaviors stem from feeling unworthy and that they often feel unhappy or frustrated themselves.
Do insecure people fall in love?
Certainly, insecure people fall in love. They may face challenges in relationships if they experience high levels of insecurity, however. They may crave intimacy, but fear rejection. This can lead to behaviors that are unhealthy, such as clinginess, avoidance, controlling behaviors, or jealousy.
What insecurities are most common?
Some common insecurities include fear of failure, fear of rejection, and social anxiety.
How do you deal with an insecure person?
If a family, friend, or other loved one is insecure, there are some strategies you can use to help manage behaviors.
- Be an active listener
- Create healthy boundaries
- Practice empathy
- Practice self-compassion
The ability to deal with an insecure person is not always a given. And not everyone can be helped. In some cases, you may be healthier to choose to remove them from your life, especially in severe cases like people with NPD. If you sense that your relationship with a person is causing you mental or physical harm, you are not under any obligation to help them or stay with them.
How do insecure people sit?
There are some nonverbal cues that can help you recognize someone who is insecure. Often, people who are insecure will move in a perpetual façade of rush and importance—checking their watch, making you wait for them when you have an appointment, and in general acting as though their time matters more than yours.
As for sitting, a common visual gag in movies or TV shows has some basis of truth, when a person calls you into a meeting and puts you in a low chair and themselves in a high one to give the feeling of power over you. This kind of aggressive posturing can be indicative of someone who struggles with insecurity.
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