By: Lisa Philippart
Many people think of emotional insecurity as a personality trait, something you are born with that makes you anxious and creates low self-esteem. And while it can certainly feel that way to people who have been insecure most of their lives, the real reason we often feel constantly insecure is more subtle. Whatever caused your insecurity initially, it’s your habits that keep you feeling insecure. So, if you can identify the habits that are maintaining your insecurity, you might be able to escape this cycle. Let’s examine some of these common chronic, unhealthy, and self-doubting habits.
The capacity to be critical is not always a bad thing. After all, to navigate life successfully we have to be able to discriminate and analyze the people, problems, and situations in our lives so that we can make good decisions. However, this important life skill can be taken too far. Insecure people often use criticism of others as a way to feel better about themselves. Those who are insecure often don’t know how to feel better about themselves in a healthy or productive way. In the short term, being critical makes you feel better by comparison. For example, when you think to yourself how dumb someone’s comment was during a meeting, what you’re implying is that you are smart. And that feels good. Helpful criticism is about making the world a better place. Unhelpful criticism is about making yourself feel better. If you want to be less insecure, stop using criticism to artificially inflate your sense of self.
A lot of people convince themselves that their chronic worry is inevitable or even necessary. But worry is fundamentally different than effective planning and problem-solving. By definition, worry is unhelpful thinking about negatives in the future. Planning and problem-solving can be difficult, but they lead to results…they’re productive and generative. The only thing worry leads to is stress and anxiety in the moment and low self-confidence and insecurity in the long term. So why do we do it? Because worry does something for us…it gives the illusion of control. Unfortunately, you can’t control nearly as much as you’d like. Better to face up to the reality than continue to live in constant worry and all the insecurity it produces.
I have found that one of the biggest reasons insecure people stay that way is because they are afraid to say no to people. For example, your mother-in-law asks you if she can drop by and hang out with the kids. You’re having a rough day and really don’t need the added stress of hosting her. But because you’re afraid she’ll think badly of you, you say yes anyway. The problem with never saying no is that you end up living other people’s lives instead of your own. And if you go for days, months, or years not living your own life, how could you hope to feel confident and secure in yourself? If you want to feel more secure, you must learn to stand up for yourself and your own wants and needs. Your wants and needs are just as valid as anyone else’s.
We will continue this conversation on insecurity in my next article.
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor