It’s Not You: How To Deal With Insecure People
By: Tanisha Herrin
Updated December 22, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Judson Haynes
When someone is insecure, it can be a defense mechanism and an excuse to lash out at other people, so can they distract from or avoid their own imperfections. Unfortunately, insecurity is a widespread character flaw, but it looks different on each person. Despite the various manifestations of insecurity, it has a common theme: it often creates tremendous strain in relationships with others. It is not always possible to avoid people who possess insecure traits and behaviors, so what do you do?
Being sure of yourself is the first step in learning how to deal with insecure people and in turn safeguarding yourself from emotional damage. This means that you develop a strong grasp of who you are, what you believe in, and discover productive ways to communicate when your beliefs and values are challenged.
Establishing Boundaries when Dealing with Insecurity
Learning to feel confident in your own skin can be challenging. It requires self-reflection and the knowledge that a potential outcome may include cutting ties with some people. Although it can be difficult to reach out and talk about your feelings with others, speaking with a professional can help you to put things into perspective, allowing you to get back on track emotionally. Online platforms provide effective tools such as support groups, forums, and professional counselors that can help. You can learn to bolster your confidence and establish resilience in situations like dealing with an insecure individual.
Insecure people can leave lasting wounds in others through their words and actions. While simple commentary may not seem like it would have a big impact, it may leave a long-lasting scar in our lives. One potential reason insecure people lash out at others is they are feeling shame and projecting it onto others. The insecure person may feel psychologically incompetent or threatened when exhibiting negative behaviors toward others. Beginning to learn where we end and someone else begins can help with separating those negative behaviors with how we see ourselves.
As in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we need certain things to be satisfied in our environments and in order to work toward the next stage in self-actualization. Focusing on our individual needs and growth will help clarify boundaries between oneself and an insecure person. First, we need to meet our physiological needs like sleep, water, and food. . Once these needs are satisfied, a person strives for safety, love, esteem, individuality and the need to establish competency or independence. Working towards self-actualization, reaching our full potential, is a constant process so being patient with oneself and focusing on personal development is key.
Remember That We're All Insecure People - Which Will Help Dealing With Them
We all have our insecurities which may manifest in a variety of ways. Bullying is an all-too-common behavior present in both children and adults, defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior along with an underlying power imbalance. Actions associated with bullying include threats, physical or verbal attacks, spreading rumors, intentional exclusion, or other intimidation tactics.
The urge to cause pain in another person may stem from underlying internal insecurities manifesting in verbal or physical aggressiveness. Getting someone else to change their behavior is much more difficult than changing your own. Looking inwards can be a daunting process and something you might be afraid to do alone. That's why working with a therapist can be helpful when you're trying to understand who you are and how to work with someone with insecure traits.
Other Ways to Productively Deal with Insecurities
The best way to cope with the insecurities of others may depend on the situation because these people can pop up anywhere. Here are a few things that may be helpful when dealing with insecure people, when they are close to you (such as a friend or family member).
- Help them to see the good in themselves. Help them to recall a time when they felt good about themselves. When someone is insecure, you can help them regain confidence by reminding them of character traits they possess that you value.
- Let them know you care. If you are dealing with someone you love such as a family member, let them know you'll support them, and tell them you're willing to work with them to improve the relationship. Be willing to listen to them, and make thoughtful suggestions if they ask for your opinion.
- Offer to spend time with them. Sometimes spending time with them to do something fun and productive can take their mind off distressing feelings. Plus, it may help them open up about their troubles, especially if they are looking for someone to be with them during a time of need.
Encourage them to talk about their feelings or what may be bothering them. Doing so may help them get to the root of their insecurity. It may also be effective to work with a mental health professional to explore emotions in deeper details. You can learn how constructively provide support without feeling uncomfortable. It's important to remember that you're a friend or family member, and not a trained therapist. There's a fine line between being supportive and being taken advantage of. If the insecure person makes you feel uncomfortable, stop spending as much time with them. If that's not possible, then point them to a professional who can help. Your mental health is your priority, and it may be hard to hear, but your job isn't to take care of someone who's insecure.
Taking advantage of the online services provided by professional counselors at BetterHelp has helped many people understand different forms of insecurity and how it affects their lives. Counselors know this is a difficult topic to talk about, but they will work with you at your own pace to help you feel comfortable confronting what is bothering you. With BetterHelp, you can explore ways to deal with insecure people in confidence. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"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."
Learning how to deal with insecure people includes understanding how their thoughts and perceptions affect others. There are effective ways to learn about these emotional habits and to express feelings to them without damaging the relationship. Using the tools and resources mentioned in this article can help you make positive changes, so you can have better relationships with the insecure people in your life. A therapist can help you decide if it's healthier to end the relationship with them altogether. Either way, with the right tools, truly fulfilling relationships are ahead. Take the first step today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is an insecure person?
Any person can feel insecure. By definition, an insecure person is a person who feels shy or uncertain around others and lacks confidence or self-assurance. Despite attempts by themselves and others, insecure people often find it difficult to feel good around others. Face to face contact or communication may cause them to feel uneasy.
What are the signs of an insecure person?
The signs of being an insecure person vary from one individual to the next. Typically, people who feel insecure often have a fear of not being good enough, or not having enough to offer others. A person who feels insecure may suffer from an inferiority complex, which makes them believe they will never be good enough to be loved or wanted. Others may exhibit controlling or manipulative behavior. While many people associate a sense of control with strength, when people feel insecure, their controlling behavior is usually a response to fear of rejection. Many people with insecurity issues also have increased anxiety and feel the need to be “people pleasers.” If people who feel inferior or insecure, they may discover that if they find a psychiatrist or therapist to address these issues with, they can learn to overcome insecurities. If face to face communication with a therapist is uncomfortable, it may be a good idea to find teletherapy options.
Can insecure people be toxic?
Unfortunately, insecurity is often the root of many toxic relationships. While people who feel inferior or insecure would, undoubtedly, prefer not to feel that way, without proper intervention and measures to increase confidence, many may not be able to handle the issue alone. Because insecurity causes feelings of low self-esteem and uncertainty, it’s easy and quite common for insecure people to develop unhealthy attachments with others. Unhealthy attachment styles can lead to difficult or toxic relationships.
How do you deal with an insecure person?
People who feel insecure can be difficult to deal with. However, it is not impossible. One of the important things you should consider when dealing with people who feel insecure is what is causing their insecurity? If the person who is insecure is a close friend or loved one, offering support to them without allowing them to be overly dependent upon you can be helpful. Also, validate their feelings. Insecurities often develop in early childhood when healthy attachment styles fail to be established and may last into adulthood, if the person does not find a therapist or a mental health treatment center to deal with the issues. Remember, you can offer support, but it is not your job to make someone else take the steps necessary to overcome their insecurities.
Is bragging a sign of insecurity?
In some cases, bragging can be a sign of insecurity. In fact, many people who feel insecure tend to brag or boast to hide their feelings of inferiority or insecurity. On the other hand, some personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder may present with signs of self-centered behaviors, such as bragging or thinking that one is better than others.
Why do insecure people hurt others?
While not everyone who feels insecure hurts others, there are some people who feel insecure that seem to feel a need to make others feel their pain. Some mental health professionals believe that insecure people who hurt others intentionally use this behavior as a way to reflect on their pain by seeing it mirrored in someone else. They seem to believe that this is a way to work out their own pain without having to pay the price for what their behavior. No matter what the reason, hurting others is never okay. If you feel insecure or are having issues with low self-esteem or self-worth, it is a good idea to find a therapist or counselor who can help you work through these feelings.
How can you tell if a woman is toxic?
A woman who is toxic may exhibit any of the following character traits.
- Always the victim: A toxic woman can take any situation and make it appear as if she was the victim, even if she was not. She may be manipulative and may make you feel like you are always the one in the wrong.
- Extreme insecurities: A woman who has toxic characteristics will likely have a constant need to be praised or complimented. She may appear to be very needed and you may be left feeling as if she is using you to work through her insecurities.
- Drama queen: Although in the beginning she may seem to do everything with fervor and passion, the fun typically does not last. In fact, the behavior can become frustrating rather quickly. She may make a big fuss over trivial things and then blame you when you don’t agree with her.
It's important to note that the toxic qualities described above can apply to anyone, regardless of gender.
What's a toxic trait?
Toxic traits may not always be something that are easily recognizable. However, once you learn how to identify toxic traits, they become much easier to pick up on in others and yourself. Toxic traits are any trait that involve a person viewing themselves as better than others, or willing to use or manipulate others for personal gain.
Some toxic traits that people may exhibit include:
- A toxic person rarely takes responsibility for their own actions or feelings. Instead, they like to project their thoughts on others and have no problem defending their own point of view while dismissing yours.
- Manipulative behavior: Toxic people generally have a “what’s in it for me” mentality. Using others for personal gain is a common manipulative behavior of toxic people.
- Judgmental personality: A person who is toxic may pretend to care about what you say or do but may just as quickly use what they know about you to judge you or to try and bruise your self-esteem or sense of self-worth, especially if it makes them feel better about themselves.
Is insecurity a mental illness?
Insecurity is not an independently diagnosable mental illness. It is, however, often associated with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and attachment disorders. The negative impact that insecurity can have on life and relationships may only compound the symptoms of such disorders. Therefore, it is important for people who feel inferior or insecure to seek the help of a counselor or therapist to help deal with any insecurities and for treatment of any mental health conditions.
How do you stop feeling insecure?
Experiencing feelings of insecurity can be frustrating. Feeling inferior to others or insignificant can have a profound impact on day to day life. However, there are some things you can do to help overcome feelings of insecurity.
There are people who want to see you succeed and there are others who would not be bothered if you don’t. Learn to know the difference between the two and surround yourself with the ones who will encourage you and celebrate your successes, no matter how minute you feel they may be.
Second, understand that although insecurity may feel like the elephant in the room, it is invisible. It is okay to feel insecurities at time, but you don’t have to feel like everyone you meet knows what is going on in your mind. Sometimes taking the focus off your insecurities by not talking about them to everyone and instead focusing on positive things, you can learn to calm some of your own fears.
Challenge yourself. Overcoming insecurity can feel overwhelming at times. It’s not impossible, though. Make a conscious effort to do something each day that makes you feel personally challenged. It doesn’t have to be some complicated or elaborately planned thing, just something that gets you out of your comfort zone a bit. You may decide to go to speak to someone in a store that you would otherwise avoid because of anxiety or open the door for a stranger instead of shifting your gaze away from them. Each time you do something that is a personal challenge, celebrate your triumphs!
What's a toxic relationship?
Any relationship that causes emotional, spiritual, or mental damage may be considered a toxic relationship. Toxic relationships typically involve some measure of fear, manipulation and deception. It’s important if you feel like you are in a toxic relationship to reach out for help from a counselor or therapist. While it is possible to handle the issues of a toxic relationship and to make decisions on your own regarding the status of the relationship, the long-term impact that a toxic relationship can cause emotionally may require the help of a professional.
How do you deal with a toxic man?
Dealing with a toxic person can feel like a challenge. When you realize that a man in your life is toxic, you need to consider what role that person has and if you want them to continue to be a part of your life. While it’s not always feasible to think that you can end every relationship or all communication with a person who is toxic, there are some ways that you can take control of a situation and protect yourself emotionally and mentally.
The first thing you need to realize is that you cannot change a toxic person. Trying to change a toxic person will likely end up leaving you feel frustrated and having little effect on the person you are trying to change.
Set boundaries. Decide what behaviors you are willing to put up with and what you are not and make that clear to the person. Just because someone else doesn’t like or want boundaries, does not mean that you should not establish them for your own well-being. When you decide what behaviors you can live with and cannot, make it clear to the toxic person what you feel and what you expect from them. Be firm and establish consequences for when your boundaries are not respected.
As mentioned earlier, anyone can display toxic characteristics, regardless of gender.
Why do I attract toxic friends?
If you feel like you are always surrounded by toxic people, you may wonder if you have done something wrong or if there is a way to change the type of person that is attracted to you. There is nothing wrong with you. In fact, people who seem to have several friends or acquaintances who have toxic characteristics are usually the ones who seem to “have it all together.”
Toxic people seem to have a way of seeing things in negative ways, even if they don’t come across like that at first. Typically, they are drawn to people who are their opposite. For example, toxic people tend to gravitate toward people who are outgoing, positive, and compassionate toward others. You don’t have to change who you are. If you find that you seem to attract toxic friends, identifying their toxic behavior and setting boundaries can help decrease any sense of anxiety or tension that you feel regarding those people. If setting boundaries does not seem to work because a toxic friend is not willing to behavior differently, the decision is up to you whether you continue to pursue the friendship or decide to disconnect from that person.
What are red flags in a relationship?
Being in a relationship that is toxic or where your partner is exhibiting behavior that feels uncomfortable to you can cause you to feel overwhelmed. Being able to identify red flags in a relationship and knowing how to handle them is an important part of protecting your own mental and emotional well-being. Some warning signs to watch for in a relationship include:
- Your partner gaslights you: Gaslighting is a type of psychological abuse that involves one person causing another to doubt their own perception of reality. The person who is gaslighting knows that what you think or believe is accurate but will try to make you second-guess your thoughts and may make you feel like you are going crazy.
- They talk bad about their exes: Chances are, if your partner talks negatively about their ex, they will do the same about you at some point. Generally, people who talk bad about others have not taken the time to consider the things that they have done that may have caused trouble in a relationship.
- Unwilling or unable to account for time and money: It is completely okay to spend some time alone and to spend money on yourself from time to time. However, when one partner seems to be unable to account for time away from you or when money is missing and they can’t seem to recall what they spent the money on, this could be a major red flag. While you don’t have to know every step your partner makes or where every penny spent was used, a committed partner should not have secrets from you.
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