Insecurity is a common feeling that most of us will experience due to a lack of confidence, anxiety, or uncertainty. According to The American Psychological Association, insecurity can impact both mental and physical health. So where does insecurity come from?
Think back to your own life. When was the first time you felt insecure or lacked confidence? Were you at work, at school, a social gathering, or applying for a new job?
Since insecurity seems like an unavoidable part of life, it’s important to know what is driving it. The 5 most common causes are comparison, rejection, social situations, past experiences, and perfectionism.
Many people try to hide their insecurities. For example, a person who is insecure about their weight may wear baggy clothes to hide their body size. A person with social insecurity may stand in the corner alone at a party or avoid group gatherings altogether. This is not a good long-term solution.
Instead of enjoying the moment, feeling insecure takes the fun away and replaces it with fear of failure.
While there is no instant fix there are behavioral changes that can help anyone to conquer insecurity.
Stop comparing yourself with others. This is a slippery slope and very evident on social media. Even though most people know many images on social media are manipulated, they can still bring up negative feelings about how we look or what’s going on in our own life. Instead, remind yourself that everyone has challenges. Focus on what you like about yourself and if there are things you would like to change, create a plan and go for it.
Nobody wakes up wanting to be rejected, yet it is a pretty universal experience that can lead to intense pain. According to Seattle therapist Brian Jones, rejection can provide opportunities for self-discovery and growth.
For example, you apply for a job you really want and have a great interview, but you don’t get the job. At first, you feel rejected and devastated. After reviewing your resume, you realize there are some skills you can improve to obtain your dream job.
The best way to overcome rejection is to avoid setting unrealistic expectations. Should you find yourself feeling rejected, ask: “what can I learn from this experience?”. Remember, rejection is not the same as failure. It’s just another opportunity for personal growth.
Social insecurity or social phobia causes someone to experience intense and persistent fear and anxiety in specific or all social situations (verywellhealth.com). While the easy solution is to avoid social situations, it is not always practical or possible.
Instead of throwing yourself into situations that cause you fear, try to slowly build up your confidence and tolerance to social situations. For example, you might start out making small talk with the cashier at the grocery store and work your way up to hosting a group of friends at your home.
Past experiences can negatively affect self-confidence and trigger feelings of inadequacy. For example, being bullied at school, filing for unemployment, or getting a divorce.
There is an internal dialogue that accompanies our feelings of insecurity. This is called the “critical inner voice,” says Dr. Lisa Firestone, co-author of the book Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice. “The critical inner voice is formed out of painful early life experiences in which we witnessed or experienced hurtful attitudes toward us or others close to us. As we grow up, we unconsciously adopt and integrate this pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others.”
Try these three tips to help you avoid letting past experience influence your future:
- Process unresolved feelings. It’s important to let go of things that have happened in the past. Dealing with and resolving these feelings is possible. Think of your feelings as clothes in a suitcase. You can choose to leave them there or unpack them so that they don’t take up valuable space meant for better things.
- Stay focused on the present. You can’t change what happened in your past but you can change how you think about it. It’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. One of the benefits of getting older is learning that the past can’t hurt us unless we let it. Your past experience is not a true representation of the person you are today.
- Re-examine relationships. It is natural for people who have been abused, abandoned, or betrayed in the past to be wary of future relationships. Don’t let past relationships psych you out. When you build healthy relationships, you gain confidence and erase insecurities.
The inability to be satisfied with progress and the desire to control the outcome of any project until it is perfect can be a sign of insecurity stemming from the feeling that you or your performance is never enough.
The first step to changing the perfectionism within oneself is to recognize it. When one is trapped in this thinking they tend to check and recheck their progress, apologize for minor mistakes, and spend too much time redoing things. Perfectionism is a myth and should not be used as a tool for measuring your performance.
Finally thought: Not all people experience insecurity so intensely that it disrupts their life and ability to function. If insecurity is impacting your mental health and you can’t seem to conquer it alone, you may want to try cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is often preferred to traditional psychotherapy because it can quickly help identify and offer solutions for specific challenges. It generally requires fewer sessions than other therapies and is done in a structured way (mayoclinic.org).