What Is Insecurity? Exploring The Definition, Symptoms, And Treatments

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Insecurity is a common feeling, often prompted by emotions like sadness, loneliness, jealousy, envy, or self-loathing. Whether you feel like your career is going nowhere, don't believe your partner loves you, struggle to act confidently, or have difficulty believing your worth, insecurity may influence you. If you're living with insecurity, looking at the definition, symptoms, and treatments for this challenge may be advantageous. 

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Insecure definition: What is insecurity?

According to the American Psychological Association's Dictionary of Psychology, insecurity is a sense of inadequacy in one or more areas of your life, a lack of self-confidence, and difficulty coping with uncertainty, abandonment, failure, or hardship. Individuals might feel shy and insecure about goals, abilities, or relationships, among other challenges.

What does insecurity look like?

Insecurity can look different for everyone. However, there are a few common signs insecure people have, including the following:

  • An overwhelming sense of inadequacy in many aspects of life 
  • Low self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem
  • Poor communication and the tendency to value others' needs over your own
  • Difficulty making eye contact
  • Frequently apologizing, even when you haven't made a mistake 
  • Difficulty believing or trusting others and building healthy relationships
  • Feeling unable to cope with stressors 
  • Feeling overwhelmed by life's responsibilities 
  • Making excuses when they may not be necessary
  • Experiencing a desire to avoid social situations in favor of being alone
  • Having uncertainty about the world and your role in it
  • Difficulty giving and receiving compliments
  • Perfectionism and a tendency to struggle to feel satisfied with results
  • Consistently overcommitting due to difficulty setting boundaries and saying "no" 
  • Experiencing anxiety about relationships 
  • Difficulty making fast decisions
  • Difficulty asking for help, favors, or promotions
  • Portraying yourself as more confident than you feel
  • Being overly critical of yourself and others 

What areas of life can cause insecurity?

Insecurity can be present in many areas of life, and the word insecure can be used in many contexts. For example, you might hear someone say they made an “insecure investment” or hear about “insecure borders” on the news. However, when it comes to personal insecurity, the mental health community has identified several core categories where people often feel insecure, including the following. 


Some people have difficulty feeling safe in their relationships. They may experience difficulty in believing that they matter to friends, families, and romantic partners. Relationship insecurity can make it challenging to trust that others will love and support you when needed. It may lead to resisting emotional vulnerability or being open with those you love.  

Social situations 

If you lack self-confidence in your ability to succeed in social settings and behave in a way that doesn't embarrass you or lead to ridicule may be a sign of insecurity. Social insecurity often overlaps with the symptoms of social anxiety disorder, which involve fear and worry over appearing awkward, misbehaving, struggling to carry an intelligent conversation, or failing to understand jokes in social situations.

Body image

Some people feel insecure about the way they look and associate their value with the perception of their appearance. Body image insecurity often focuses on weight, hair, skin, or a specific body part's size or shape. If you're experiencing excessive preoccupation with food or weight, you might be living with an eating disorder, so talking to a professional may be beneficial. 

If you are experiencing a crisis related to an eating disorder or would like further resources, contact the ANAD Eating Disorders Helpline at 1-888-375-7767 from Monday through Friday, 9 am to 9 pm CT. 

Your career 

When a person doesn't feel valued at work or keep in their ability to hold their position reliably, they may be experiencing job insecurity. Constantly worrying about losing your job can make remaining engaged and dedicated to work difficult. It can also make you less likely to ask for a raise or other benefits, which is why many companies use it as a motivating strategy. However, job insecurity can hurt both workers and employers. 

Basic necessities

If you don't have necessities such as food, shelter, or clothing, you may have basic needs insecurity. You may also refer to this as being economically insecure or housing insecure. Research shows that when you don't have the basics, it can have a severe negative impact on mental health.

What causes insecurity? 

While insecurity can present differently for everyone, some common causes are found among people with insecure tendencies, including the following: 

  • A lack of emotional support from close friends and families
  • A shy or withdrawn temperament 
  • Adverse childhood experiences with parents or caregivers
  • Dissatisfaction with body image
  • The inability to meet essential life needs such as food, housing, or safety
  • Inadequate emotional intelligence 
  • Being bullied 
  • Resistance to openness with close friends, family, or romantic partners
  • Being disagreeable, irritable, or unkind 
  • Aging 
  • Underlying medical or mental health conditions
  • Overdependence on other people 
  • Disapproval, ridicule, or judgment from others
  • Learning disabilities and difficulty succeeding academically 
  • Guilt or previous failures
  • Past traumatic experiences and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

How to overcome insecurity and become a less insecure person

Psychotherapy is often the most effective treatment for insecurity. However, you can also try a few other strategies to overcome these feelings. In addition to speaking with a licensed therapist, try the below methods.  

Take a step back to evaluate

In some cases, you may feel so close to a situation that you struggle to see it as it is. If your concerns are unlikely or irrational, try taking a step back to reevaluate the situation. Make an effort to look at the circumstances objectively for a new perspective. For example, if you think, "I'm not pretty enough," you might try reframing it as "I often compare myself to other people online, and that is a habit I want to work to change." The second option allows you to validate that you’ve felt insecure but want to be optimistic about the future. 

Identify and address the source of your insecurity

Examine the stressors in your life and identify the source of your insecurity. Working with a licensed therapist can allow you to build emotional awareness, intelligence, and literacy to recognize, understand, and express your feelings. 

Take action toward meaningful change

If you are unsatisfied with your life, relationships, or career, identify one step you can take and take action toward making a meaningful change. As you progressively overcome each insecurity, you may gain more self-confidence. 

Accept what you can’t change

Some aspects of your life may be beyond your control or ability to change. Accept that you don't have the power to affect every situation. Devote your time and attention to issues where you can make a difference. If you struggle with acceptance, you can try a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skill called radical acceptance through the following steps: 

  1. Observe how you might be questioning or fighting your reality.
  2. Remind yourself that your reality cannot be changed in this situation.
  3. Try to note any causes for the reality. 
  4. Practice acceptance with your mind, body, and spirit. Use positive self-talk to tell yourself you are willing to accept this situation, even if it is difficult.
  5. List all the behaviors you'd partake in if you already accepted this situation. Then act this way until you find it aligns with your reality.
  6. Cope ahead by thinking of ways to accept the situation if it worsens.
  7. Attend to your body sensations using mindfulness or meditation to connect with yourself.
  8. Allow disappointment, sadness, grief, or anger to arise if they do. Note them and do not act on them. Give them the space to exist.
  9. Acknowledge that life can be worth living, even when there is pain.
  10. Create a pros and cons list if you are resisting acceptance further.

Practical unconditional compassion for yourself

Start with yourself rather than relying on others for compassion, validation, and love. Practice unconditional kindness and self-love, noting that sometimes, it's okay to make mistakes and fail. 

Engage in regular self-care

Taking proper care of yourself may safeguard your mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being. Ensure you eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and maintain healthy sleep hygiene.

Set achievable goals and celebrate progress

If you're feeling insecure about your career progress, ability to perform, or prospects for advancement, try breaking up your goals into more achievable milestones and making time to celebrate your progress. 

Know when to reach out for help

If insecurity becomes severe enough to interfere with your functional ability or adversely affect your life and relationships, you might choose to reach out for professional support. Working with a qualified therapist can help you identify and work through the underlying causes of your insecurity while learning healthy ways to communicate your feelings and needs to people in your life. 

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How therapy can help you manage insecurity

If you struggle to manage the effects of your insecurity and it interferes with your relationships, work, school, or other aspects of your life, consider working with a licensed therapist. Therapists can be found online or in person and can provide expert guidance.

Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp can help you learn healthy ways to reshape your perspective and thought patterns to build self-confidence and healthy relationships. Flexible appointment formats can make fitting treatment into a busy schedule easier. In addition, online therapy is often more cost-effective than face-to-face treatment. 

Researchers at the American Psychological Association found that online counseling can provide similar results to treatment in the traditional clinical setting, often with lower costs and shorter wait times. Many patients feel the extra physical distance of teletherapy can make giving intimate information about themselves easier, and the convenience of attending from home made it possible for them to participate more reliably. 


Insecurity can influence how you act in relationships and your daily life. If you're living with insecurity, coping techniques like self-care and self-reflection may be beneficial. However, if you find that this feeling is overwhelming or taking over various aspects of your life, you might consider reaching out to a licensed therapist for further support.
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