When people think of emotional insecurity most assume it’s a personality trait—a characteristic you’re born with that predisposes you to a life brimming with crummy self-esteem and crippling anxiety.
Insecurity can put undue strain on personal relationships, often thanks to heightened sensitivity and the inevitable arguments that follow.
If you can learn to recognize your insecurities, you can reduce the negative impacts on your partner, family, friends, and coworkers, as well as yourself.
1) Constant criticism
Criticism isn’t always such a bad thing. We all need the ability to analyze the people and situations in our lives so that we can make informed decisions.
For example, if you want to endure an unhappy marriage, ignore all those red flags and just concentrate on planning your wedding reception. It kind of works in the short term only to come back and bite you in the backside down the road.
We know the ability to think critically is an important life skill, but like anything else, sometimes it can be taken too far.
Insecure people often criticize others as a way to boost their pitiful self-esteem. This is because people who are insecure almost always feel bad about themselves. Since they lack the tools to feel better in a healthy way, they may resort to criticizing others.
The thing is, criticizing other people doesn’t help you improve your self-esteem. In the long run, being overly critical of other people can make you feel worse about yourself which only adds to your insecurity and worries.
But sure, criticizing others makes us feel better by comparison. For about five minutes.
2) Chronic worry
Many people convince themselves that their state of chronic worry is necessary because somebody has to think about the potential problems of a situation, right?
Good point. But here’s the rub: worry is no replacement for effective planning and problem-solving skills.
Worry is unproductive rumination about possible trouble in the future. The only thing worry produces is tons of stress and anxiety today and insecurity tomorrow.
So why do people do it? Why expend so much energy worrying if all you get for your trouble is anxiety and self-trust issues?
Worry makes us feel like we have some semblance of control. Let’s face it. Life is full of horrible and heartbreaking things. And sadly, our ability to change most of those things is pretty limited.
But consciously confronting our helplessness is wicked scary. So we worry instead because it makes us feel like we’re at the wheel and can control the situation.
But it’s all an illusion: You can’t control nearly as much as you would like. After all, you can live a healthy lifestyle and still die of cancer at 40.
Better to face reality than live in a state of chronic worry and all the insecurity it inevitably brings along with it.
3) Toxic positivity
This one is my favorite. In fact, not too long ago I posted this on social media:
“Toxic positivity is at least as damaging as toxic negativity. It’s also far more annoying.”
I think the reason is obvious: toxic positivity is simply denial in disguise. Don’t be fooled.
Now, let me say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being optimistic. I think that’s a great gift from the universe. Or so I hear. I think was absent the day they handed optimism out, but that’s a “me” problem.
But toxic positivity is a far different animal because it means using fake positivity as a distraction from something that is authentically negative or too painful to deal with.
Say your bestie calls you to catch up and asks how everything is going. You just had an epic argument with your partner and you’re worried about the future of your relationship.
But you brush that all aside, summon every last ounce of cheerfulness you possess, and tell your BFF that everything is going awesome for you.
We’ve all done it because sometimes it’s just “easier.”
Except it’s not easier. By putting a positive spin on everything, you’re permitting yourself not to deal with what’s wrong.
Your bestie would’ve been there to support you, but you let the opportunity slide because you were too embarrassed to admit the truth.
I’m not saying you’re in any way obliged to discuss your problems in public. Your business is your business. But it’s very easy to avoid scary, negative things by putting up a wall of fake positivity all the time. And it’s a hard habit to break.
Aside from distracting you from dealing with your very real problems (which include an F- in managing your own painful emotions), there’s another major downside to toxic positivity:
It’s just a facade, a mask you wear to interact with others.
And it’s impossible to maintain any type of intimate relationship with someone who always wears a mask.
So, to feel less insecure, be willing to express negativity when warranted. You’ll feel empowered, I promise you. There’s something to be said for telling it like it is.
4) Passive aggressiveness
Have you ever wanted something but were too afraid of conflict to ask for it directly? So you set a trap through subtle manipulation instead?
Most people have at one point or another. But when passive-aggressive behavior is your typical M.O., you need to ask yourself why.
This is bottom-of-the-barrel communication because it combines passivity presenting as fear, and aggression as a means to control others.
Passive-aggressive people disguise their manipulations so they don’t have to take responsibility for them. For example, sometimes people who are chronically late resort to saying they were stuck in traffic even when they weren’t. They absolve themselves from blame and place it on imaginary traffic.
But like so many other habits of insecure people, acting passive-aggressive only solves your problem temporarily.
You may be getting what you want from everyone right now, but before you know it, people will tire of these games and leave you feeling resentful and lonely.
5) Can’t say no
One of the reasons insecure people remain that way is because they’re reluctant to say no to people.
Say your mother-in-law calls asking if she can stop by and spend time with the kids. You’re having a rough day and having company really isn’t your idea of a good time at the moment.
But because you’re afraid you’ll insult her otherwise, you say yes through gritted teeth.
If you never learn to say no, you end up sacrificing your own life to live someone else’s. And if you’re too afraid to live your own life, how could you ever hope to feel confident in yourself?
You can’t. You must stand up for yourself and your own needs if you ever want to cultivate your own sense of security and self-respect.
Your needs are just as important as anyone else’s. Remember that.
6) Seeking validation
When you constantly seek reassurance from others, you’re training your subconscious mind to believe you can’t handle anything on your own. Tell yourself that often enough, and it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When you’re anxious and feeling paralyzed, outsourcing your decision-making relieves your anxiety. In the moment, anyway.
When you fear being judged for choosing one option over another, asking for outside validation reassurance relieves your mental anguish.
It’s OK to ask a trusted friend’s opinion when facing a big life decision. The problem arises from chronic reassurance-seeking and how it destroys your confidence over the long term.
If you always need other people to feel better when you’re stressed, you’ll never learn how to self-soothe. This is not only a disservice to yourself, but the people in your life always tasked with guarding your state of mind.
Friends are usually happy to help friends unless the exchange is exceedingly skewered in one person’s favor. Friendship is reciprocal, so if you’re taking far more than you’re giving, don’t be surprised if it alienates people over time.
Doing the needed work to strengthen your self-confidence is well worth it not just for you but everyone in your orbit.