Insecure: Define And Manage It

By Stephanie Kirby

Updated February 17, 2020

Reviewer Laura Angers


We all want to live a life rich with happiness and fulfillment. Unfortunately, some emotions keep us from living the true potential of our dreams. Self-doubt and insecurity can have a devastating effect on the way we live our lives.

How Do We Define Insecure?

Being insecure can manifest in two ways:

  • In the person: lacking confidence or doubting one's abilities. This involves a person feeling inadequate about personal traits like physical appearance, intelligence, or accomplishments.
  • In objects or situations: believing things are not fixed or safe. This could include relationships, jobs, and financial stability.

Abraham Maslow, the famous American psychologist, described the insecure person as one who "perceives the world as a threatening jungle and most human beings as dangerous and selfish; feels rejected and isolated, anxious and hostile; is generally pessimistic and unhappy…is troubled by guilt feelings, has one or another disturbance of self-esteem…and is generally egocentric and selfish."

As you could tell, Maslow didn't have a very high opinion of those struggling with insecurity. He does do a great job, however, addressing the core beliefs of some of the most insecure people. Not everyone with insecurity is bad to the core, though. Some just had previous negative experiences affecting their self-confidence and esteem.

What Makes Us Insecure?


When a person feels threatened by losing relationships, careers, acceptance, and whatever else is important to him or her, the fears often lead to lower self-esteem and confidence. Here are some common causes of insecurity:

  • Temperament: Inborn personality qualities like may make someone more susceptible to insecure tendencies. This could include introversion vs. extroversion and be reactive vs. calm.
  • Parenting: Our parents play a significant role in our formative years. Over critical parents and ones with very high expectations may make a child feel inferior or like a failure from a very early age. This, of course, could lead to issues later in life. Also, overprotective parents can prevent their children from doing necessary things for the growing process. This robs children the chance to grow from the experience and become more self-confident.
  • Bullying: The anti-bullying movement has been strong over the last decade or so for a good reason. Children picked on for things they can't control-gender, race, looks, and ethnic differences-often feel powerless about their situations.
  • Body Image: The media has no problem glamorizing beautiful and fit people. Unfortunately, most of us can't live up to the airbrushed, surgically enhanced images found everywhere. It's easy to feel insecure in a world obsessed with beauty.
  • Learning problems: Those with learning disabilities or struggling in school or work often feel inferior to those around them seeming to thrive.
  • Guilt: If there are things in your life you rather hide from others, the insecurity of having them revealed and being vulnerable could cause a fear of others' disapproval.
  • Life failures: The frustrations of life do no favors for self-confidence. Divorce, losing jobs, and unfulfilled goals may make you feel inferior to the successful people around you.
  • Trauma: A traumatic experience could quickly whisk away your sense of safety and security. Those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often fear to relive the experience and the distressing feelings it caused. This withdrawal and isolation from potentially traumatic experiences may make them feel inferior and less connected with others.
  • Aging: As we get older, our health, looks, and independence often fade. Relying on others as well as seeing that aging image in the mirror can make us feel inferior to our more youthful self.
  • Instinctive biological insecurities: Through evolution, our brains were wired to pick up on signs of disapproval or anger in others. Prehistoric humans who didn't realize others were unhappy were often thrown out of the protective group. Those with the intuitive sensitives stayed in the group and passed their genes to modern civilization.

Depending on the person's emotional resilience, one or a combination of these factors could contribute to his or her lack of self-confidence. If your life experience included any of these causes, it might be affecting your sense of security.

Define Insecurity In Yourself

Lacking self-confidence is something we all go through from time to time. Sometimes we may act insecure without even knowing it. By knowing the common signs of insecurity, you can determine if it's having an impact on your life. Do any of these behaviors describe you?

  • Difficulty giving and receiving compliments. If you are unsure of yourself, a compliment can be hard to take or accept. Often, those with insecurity dismiss or deflect praise directed to them.
  • Unable to maintain eye contact. Holding the gaze of someone else is difficult for those lacking confidence.
  • Excessive apologies. Insecure people often apologize for their statements or behaviors because they fear being corrected or challenged.
  • Difficulty sharing personal information. Those with insecurity have a fear of being judged or feeling vulnerable by revealing too much about themselves.
  • Trouble making decisions. Asserting choices is difficult for insecure people because they don't want to be held accountable for making the wrong choice.
  • Making too many excuses. People unsure of themselves often give explanations when none are required. Like making decisions, insecure people don't want to be put on the spot.
  • Inability to say "no." Those lacking self-confidence often let others dictate their lives.
  • Trouble asking for favors. Difficulty with self-assertion leads to the anticipation of rejection or disapproval from others.
  • Desiring the spotlight. It is not only the meek that suffer from insecurity. Some people seek constant recognition as a way to validate their existence and cover up their insecurities.


Tips For Managing And Overcoming Your Insecurity

If you feel insecurity is impacting your happiness and relationships, taking an active role in managing it is necessary. Here are a few tips to help you overcome insecurity in any aspect of your life:

  • Take a step back and create perspective. Do you have irrational beliefs about your relationships, career, or accomplishments? Do you feel the need for everything to be perfect in your life? Look at the world around you. Nobody is perfect. And that's okay. Regardless of what the media says, what others tell you, or how you view the rest of the world, we all have flaws. Embrace who you are and what you have, and focus less on your perceptions of others.
  • Challenge outdated beliefs. Insecurities linger long after the original cause even if they are no longer relevant. Write down your beliefs, and insecure thoughts then take a hard look if they are doing you any service.
  • Take action. Instead of recycling insecure beliefs, take action when possible. By actively working to change the things making you insecure, you may find a new source of self-confidence and control. If you are not happy with your looks, try adopting a healthier lifestyle. If you have insecurities about a relationship, work together to improve the relationship. Start with small, manageable steps to increase your chance of
  • Accept the unchangeable. There are some things in our lives we just can't change. Accept them and move on. When you find yourself focusing on these things, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself to accept what you can't change.
  • Get better at what you love. Focus on the things you like about yourself and work to improve them. If your mind is constantly swimming in insecure thoughts, chances are you are taking your strengths and talents for granted. Write down the positive skills and abilities you have in your life. Make a plan to improve them if possible.
  • Do something that makes you happy. Engaging in meaningful activities you love will help you get out of your head. Have some fun. Treat yourself. Find ways to give back to others without bragging about it later.
  • Get support. If insecurities are crippling the way you live your life, seek assistance from a professional. Therapy can help you identify negative beliefs, find their causes, and make necessary changes.


Be Able To Define Insecurity In Others:

Some people feel the need to bring others down. Severely insecure people are in constant search of boosting their self-esteem regardless of the effects it has on others. Their inferiorities and self-doubt leave them striving for superiority. When you could define insecurity in these individuals, you are less likely to absorb the effects of their negativity.

James Brooks (2015) conducted a study to help define insecure behaviors and the tendencies these people used to bring down others while feeding their troubled egos. His study found four clues in helping to define narcissistic, insecure behaviors.

  • Sharing their misery. Do you know a person always overcompensating to devalue others self-worth? If you don't feel insecure around others, but a certain person makes you feel that way, chances are the insecure person is projecting his issues onto you.
  • Boasting about accomplishments. People constantly bragging about their lifestyle, job status, or amazing family may be doing it to convince themselves they have worth.
  • Dropping the "humble brag" often. Scanning your social media pages is a great way to find many "humble brags." This involves a person complaining about something they are really trying to brag about. For instance, their kids having difficulty deciding which ivy league school to attend or the amount of time they have to spend watching their child's championship soccer team.
  • Complaining things aren't good enough. An insecure person loves to show what high standards they have trying to prove they are better than others. This snobbish behavior attempts to hide their insecurities.

How Do You Deal With These People?

The simple answer is trying to phase them out of your life. Of course, this may not be so easy. They may be family members, romantic partners, co-workers, and even supervisors. The next best answer is to define insecure behaviors like the ones mentioned above and realize they may be causing your self-doubt. By not giving these people the power to bring you down, you take the steps in making your own life happier. If a particular person still finds ways to get under your skin, take a deep breath and step back. Try to empathize. Remember Maslow's definition and be aware their inner turmoils may be much worse than anything they can make you feel.

If insecurity is having a negative effect on your life and well-being, therapy can help. By working together with a therapist to determine each your core beliefs, you could define insecurity and how it is impacting your relationships and happiness. If a traditional therapy setting is too expensive or not a possibility, online counseling is available. The certified and accredited therapists at provide affordable, convenient therapy services to help you work through the issues negatively impacting your life.



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