We all have moments of insecurity, whether it is caused by rejection or difficult situations. But, feeling insecure even after can take a toll on your emotional and physical well-being.
In the long-run, personal insecurities may keep you from romantic relationships or job opportunities. They can even lower your self-esteem and devolve into anxiety.
Here are eight signs that you might be insecure about yourself.
We all strive for perfection. To some extent, it is normal and can be helpful if it motivates you. But, perfectionism that seeks fulfillment or approval from others is unhealthy. It leaves you drained, unmotivated and exhausted. Unhealthy perfectionism can cause you to be overly critical, procrastinate, and fear failure. This behavior speaks to a serious problem– waning self-esteem.
What is unhealthy perfectionism, and what does it lead to?
Unhealthy perfectionism is caused by internal pressures, for example, the “shoulds” and “musts” that run through our minds. But, there is also a social component. In an already competitive academic or work atmosphere, social media has opened the door to social comparison. We now feel pressured to lead Instagram worthy lives.
Unhealthy perfectionism causes you to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. This behavior can lead to procrastination and further frustration. In some cases, unhealthy perfectionism can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and sometimes suicidal impulses.
If you are dealing with insecurities stemming from perfectionism, remember to take pause. It’s okay if things do not turn out as planned. Give yourself a break. Focus on growth rather than self-comparisons and treat yourself with compassion. No one is perfect, no matter how perfect they may seem.
It is difficult to imagine someone who seems confident in their abilities as insecure. But, for some people, their drive to always one-up others stems from a source of deep insecurity. Their self-esteem is tied to how others perceive them and their achievements. They feel superior to others when they do well but distraught and ashamed when they do not.
Displaying overly competitive behavior may be due to the following: competitive environment, fragile self-esteem, narcissism/ sociopathy, or a scarce resource model. All these reasons point to an attempt to protect a superiority complex.
Alfred Adler, a Viennese psychoanalyst, and colleague of Sigmund Freud expanded ego psychology to include the development of personality traits. While Freud focused on the internal processes, Adler focused on the individual. He believed that external and internal factors need to be taken into account to understand a person’s psychology.
Adler was most famous for his theories surrounding inferiority/superiority complexes. He looked towards early childhood as a source of these behaviors. An Adlerian psychologist would state that someone who is overly competitive has a superiority complex.
Adler states that throughout infancy a child feels inferior and looks towards a parent to feel secure and protected. When a parent ignores their child’s physical or emotional needs, that is when a complex develops. The child grows up feeling the need to compensate for their unmet needs. There are cases where the child’s desire to be accepted becomes too strong that compensation no longer matters.
Some examples, are Demosthenes and Napolean. Demosthenes was born with a terrible stutter but became a Greek statesman and one of the greatest orators in Greece. Napolean was constantly made fun of his height and his social rank but became a military leader and ruler of France. Both cases are examples of competitiveness born out of a need for validation that came from childhood.
If you’ve noticed this behavior in yourself or others, ask where is this feeling coming from?
Another sign of self-insecurity is humble bragging. While it is normal and even healthy to give yourself a pat on the back, a humble brag often presents itself as a call for validation or acknowledgment.
Humble-bragging has become popular on social media. On one hand, we want our achievements to be acknowledged, but on the other, we don’t want to appear self-absorbed.
Despite our intentions, humble-bragging is greeted with disapproval and skepticism. If there are no merits to rely on, then the brag is the same as personal opinion. But, there are deeper reasons for why people humblebrag.
Humble-bragging may have a psychological source– an inferiority complex.
If being overly competitive is a superiority complex masking a feeling of inferiority, then humble-bragging is an inferiority complex masking a feeling of superiority. (Adler, The Science of Living, chapter 2, page 2).
Though intends to come off as humility, humble-bragging has more to do with narcissism. In his article “False Humility,” Dr. Gordon states that our expressions of inferiority serve as ways to remove our accountability in situations where we are accountable. However, the act of removing accountability from ourselves is an expression of power. (Gordon, Psychology Today).
If you have noticed that this behavior in yourself or others, be cognizant of your audience, and be genuine about your feelings. If you want recognition for something you did, don’t be afraid to ask for it. But, ultimately the only person you should seek validation from is yourself.
Kindness is a virtue. But, kindness that comes at the expense of your well-being is not kindness.
Though often confused as kindness, people-pleasing is a sign of insecurity and a self-worth issue. People pleasers hope that by agreeing to everything asked of them, others will like and accept them. But, this behavior can have negative effects on your mental health.
There are many ways to overcome this insecurity. You could start by saying no. No is a very empowering statement. In saying no, you are asserting your opinion and setting boundaries. This could be the first step to gaining confidence.
Being detached or aloof can be seen as a sign of insecurity. It shows that you are not comfortable with others or do not trust them easily. This could be linked to your attachment style.
The theory of attachment was developed by the British psychoanalyst, John Bowlby.
John Bowlby developed the theory of attachment after observing parent-child relationships. He defined attachment as the “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” (1958). The important factor of the attachment theory is that it does not have to be reciprocal. Through Bowlby’s studies established the dynamic of attachment behavioral system, Mary Ainsworth classified and further explained the different types of attachment.
Mary Ainsworth conducted a study where she observed parent-child interactions. When separated from the parent, approximately 60% of the children behaved the way Bowlby described– they cried when the parent left, sought the parent’s attention when they returned and felt comforted. But, some were inconsolable when the parents left and had a difficult time feeling comforted when the parent returned. They also showed signs of “punishing” the parent for leaving. This she labeled an anxious-resistant attachment. The third pattern Ainsworth and her colleagues noted was the avoidant attachment. Children with this pattern did not seem affected by the separation and actively ignored the parent when they returned.
Though this attachment style was conducted in infants, it was later applied to adults. In 1987, two psychologists, Hazen and Shaver, applied Bowlby’s research to attachment in romantic relationships. They posited that adult romantic relationship attachments bear similarities to the infant-caregiver relationship. However, the motivational system is different. Unlike infant-caregiver relationships, the motivational systems in a romantic relationship allow for caregiving and sexuality.
What does this have to do with insecurity?
Adults who have anxious-resistant attachment types are more likely to feel insecure in their relationships with others. They often worry that others do not love them or that they will not fit in.
Though attachment styles are created during infancy, they can change throughout adulthood. Working with a counselor on your attachment style can be an effective way to alleviate attachment insecurity and develop a secure attachment.
A source of insecurity may be a highly critical inner voice. This inner dialogue is borne out of painful or hurtful early childhood events. For example, if a parent consistently tells their child that they are worthless and cannot do anything right, the idea will be instilled in them and the child will grow up unconsciously believing that they are worthless out and cannot do anything right. This idea may keep them from trying new things or jumping into a relationship.
The inner critic also can be borne out of too much praise. Studies show that children whose parents praise them rather than their effort or actions developed critical dialogue. The reason for this is because the child conflated the action to their own personal value. Thus, making them unwilling to attempt challenges and become more fearful of failure.
Typically, your inner critic becomes louder the closer we get to your goals. It often tells you that you are incapable or insufficient. You react to these thoughts and become physically or emotionally insecure. The best way to combat this voice is by challenging and interrupting these thoughts.
Ask yourself: what experiences from your past help shape these thoughts? Where are they coming from?
This will help you separate your self-worth from the negative ideas and allow you to feel self-compassion.
Get offended easily
It is normal to take offense when someone insults you, but exploding into a fit of rage may be a sign of insecurity. This insecurity arises when you attribute what is said about you or your actions as a reflection of your self-worth.
A weak sense of self-confidence causes you to become inflamed in the face of criticism and eventually push back, especially if the comment strikes a chord of self-doubt.
When you receive a critical comment, there are various ways to deal with it before taking it to heart. You could try to remove any biases regarding the person’s intent or ask yourself if your reaction is proportionate to the statement.
The last sign that you may be insecure about yourself is if you are too self-aware. Though self-awareness is good, being too self-aware can have downfalls.
Being too self-aware can cause you to second guess yourself and become too self-conscious. There are different types of self-awareness: internal (observing our metacognitive process) and external ( viewing ourselves through others’ eyes). Although these processes help maintain are social appearance, it can spiral into self-consciousness.
Self-consciousness is a type of insecurity in how we perceive ourselves. People who develop internal self-consciousness have high internal awareness. Because they know themselves too well, they tend to monitor their thoughts and actions. They also have a tendency of focusing on the more unpleasant and negative sensations. A negative internal awareness can magnify feelings of stress and anxiety. On the flip side, those with an external self-consciousness tend to monitor their actions based on how others will perceive them. because of this, they are prone to always follow social norms and avoid “risky” situations (i.e any situation that they perceive can cause humiliation or embarrassment). Having high external self-consciousness often produces social anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia.
There are many ways to cope with being too self-aware. The best way is to find something that grounds you in your environment and takes you out of your head.
We all face moments of insecurities when faced with rejection and doubt. What defines the moment is not the insecurity, but rather how we react in the face of it.
Hope this article has been helpful to you. Let us know of anything that has helped you deal with your insecurities in the comments below.
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