Are you dating someone, or friends with someone, that keeps acting in strange ways?
Maybe you are wondering why a family member makes you feel uncomfortable or why you feel you are always in the wrong.
If so, it could be that they have hidden insecurities.
Read on to spot some of the most common ways that hidden behaviors show up in relationships.
1) They frequently put you down
This is a HUGE red flag. While giving loving feedback is one thing, someone who is regularly finding ways to put you down is quite possibly a narcissist.
Although there are various theories on what causes narcissism, my life experience has shown me that narcissism arises in people who had inconsistent parents. Perhaps one of them was neglectful, abusive, or critical, and the other was overly attentive. Or maybe both were neglectful.
This leads to people feeling torn about themselves, at once thinking they are amazing, but underneath fearing that they are worthless. They do everything they can to cover up the part that feels worthless, even to themselves. One of the telltale signs that this is what you are dealing with is constant criticism.
To give you an example: In my early 20’s I dated a narcissist. For three months he didn’t act strange and told me he loved me. Then when we were on holiday together he told me, in a ‘kind’ manner, that my friends didn’t actually like me. And that I had done nothing of value with my life.
As time went on the criticism became more angry and less couched in fake concern.
If someone is putting you down a lot, take time to consider why this is, the chances are it’s their hidden insecurities. If you can’t resolve this with the other person, it might be time to end this connection.
2) They project their problems onto you
Have you ever had someone get angry at you about their issues? This is a sign of a lack of self-awareness and hidden insecurities.
Here’s an example:
Let’s imagine two co-workers, Lily and Jack. Lily is a compassionate and empathetic person who always lends a listening ear to her friends. Her colleague, Jack, often struggles with work-related stress and feels overwhelmed.
One day, Jack explodes with frustration, blaming Lily for not being supportive enough and failing to understand his workload.
What should Lily do?
Luckily, Lily recognizes that Jack is projecting his own feelings of inadequacy onto her. Instead of reacting defensively, Lily validates Jack’s feelings and expresses her willingness to help him find better ways to manage his stress.
She encourages him to seek constructive solutions rather than projecting his frustrations on others.
3) They don’t seem authentically themselves
Do you know someone that always seems to be trying too hard? Or one day has one opinion and the next day another.
It’s ok for people to change their minds.
But sometimes this can be a sign that they don’t feel comfortable being themselves, and this is usually because they are feeling insecure.
This can show itself in many ways. I once dated a guy who was not overweight but not skinny either. I liked the feel of his big body. But then I noticed him sucking in his belly. This actually was a slight turn-off, as confidence is sexy.
But I understood that it was a sign of insecurities, and was patient, and with time he didn’t feel the need to pretend to look different.
The same can go for what people say and do. As their friends, the best thing we can do is to show them that we love and accept them without judgment, and encourage them to be who they really are.
4) I hate you – don’t leave me
This is actually the title of a book about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus.
If you’ve ever been close to someone who seems to oscillate between intense mood swings and anger about small things, to insecurities and fear of abandonment, it may be that they have BPD.
According to the NHS, some of the signs of BPD include:
- Emotional instability – such as intense emotions like anger, grief, guilt, anxiety, fear, and sensations of emptiness and isolation.
- Distorted thinking – eg irrationally thinking they are a terrible person or becoming paranoid in their relationships.
- Impulsive behavior – such as substance misuse, excessive spending, gambling, and risky sexual encounters.
- Struggling to maintain stable and healthy relationships
If you suspect that you or someone you know has BPD, do seek out help, these days there are many ways to get helpful treatment.
5) They frequently judge – you, themselves, and others
This one is simple. Do you know someone who always seems to be judging themselves, you, and other people? If so, the chances are that they are insecure about certain things but have not yet admitted it to themselves.
If you come across this behavior in someone you care about, try these steps:
- Reflect on your own reactions and approach the issue with empathy.
- Have a private conversation expressing concerns about the impact of their behaviors.
- Encourage them to consider why they judge, by asking open-ended questions.
- Offer support and reassurance, showing that you genuinely care.
- Suggest personal growth opportunities like therapy or self-help resources.
- Set boundaries if the behavior continues to negatively impact you.
- Remember that personal growth takes time and patience.
6) They get angry at small things
In less severe cases than the example above, you may still find that someone who is generally calm and loving gets angry at a small thing. This can be a result of past trauma.
To give you an example, in a recent Reddit post that went viral, a guy described a problem he had with his fiance and secure relationship of four years. Let’s them Dave and Claudia.
Dave (who is heterosexual) had a fantastic romantic dream about a man. He enjoyed the dream so much, that he called out the man’s name in his sleep, ‘Julio’. When he awoke, Claudia was very upset and questioned him relentlessly saying that “dreams are what the subconscious wants or thinks.”
Dave was confused at her reaction which he said was “was very out of character for her”. However a few days later, she came to him and apologized.
It turns out that her previous long-term relationship had some similarities to theirs. Claudia’s ex-partner, who was initially in the closet, eventually came out as gay and cheated on her with a guy. This experience made her hesitant to enter into serious relationships again.
However, Dave assured her that regardless of his sexual orientation, he is committed to the relationship and would never cheat because she is the love of his life.
Claudia believed him, which led to a good thing for their relationship. Why? They shared stories that they had not before, and became closer as a result.
Not everyone would be as self-aware as Claudia, so if someone you know irrationally reacts to something out of character, keep in mind that it may be a result of something in the past that they still need to deal with.
7) They apologize all the time
I’ve discussed a lot of the ways that insecurities can show themselves in overtly negative ways, such as criticism, anger, or projection.
But there are other ways that hidden insecurities can manifest, especially if that person is a people pleaser.
Do you know someone who is always apologizing? Now I’m not talking about the entire country of Britain (disclaimer, I’m English, and we say sorry way too much, almost like a verbal tic!)
Instead, I’m talking about someone that feels like they don’t really deserve to be there, and it shows up by them continually saying sorry even for things that are clearly not their fault.
Another way to notice that is through their body language. They may shrink down or bend their heads. Again this can be a sign that they feel that they ‘shouldn’t really be there’, due to hidden insecurities.
If this person is someone close to you, you might want to try and help them out by:
- Creating a safe space for open communication.
- Encouraging self-reflection to help them become aware of their behavior.
- Validating their feelings and offering empathy.
- Challenging negative self-perceptions by highlighting their strengths and achievements.
- Providing constructive feedback about unnecessary apologies.
- Suggesting self-confidence-building activities and professional support.
- Being patient, supportive, and celebrating progress.
Hidden insecurities can show themselves through various behaviors, affecting relationships and personal well-being.
Recognizing these signs allows us to deal with this with empathy and understanding.
If you want to help someone with hidden insecurities, it’s important to encourage them to engage in open communication with you.
By validating their feelings, challenging negative self-perceptions, and offering support, we can help those close to us navigate their insecurities and foster personal growth.
Seeking external support from a counselor or therapist may be another good option, and can even be vital if the insecurities manifest in a lot of anger or criticism.