We all love feeling self-assured, competent, and secure.
Some days we feel like we can take on the world and go out and mingle with other people in complete confidence.
It would be nice if we all lived our days like this—being our best selves, feeling happy and positive, and connecting effortlessly with others.
But we don’t always feel this way. As human beings, we all have days when we feel absolutely down and plagued with self-doubt.
I’ve had these episodes myself—days when I struggle to see my worth, days when I think I’m so incompetent, days when I have social anxiety…the list goes on and on.
If you’ve found yourself in such a state, I’m here to help.
In this article, I’ll discuss why we go through periods of insecurity and how we can overcome them.
What is insecurity?
First, what exactly does feeling insecure mean? Is it a feeling that we’re inadequate? Is it a sense of uncertainty and anxiety about the world and other people?
Yes, that’s precisely what insecurity is all about.
Many might think it should be easy to shake it off and move on, but unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Overcoming insecurity is challenging, and the first step lies in understanding what causes it.
What are the causes of insecurity?
Some people experience pervasive and chronic insecurity.
On the other hand, others feel insecure only from time to time, a totally normal thing that happens to the best of us.
If you’re generally a confident person, but you find yourself feeling insecure all of a sudden, it pays to look at the possible causes and the ways to overcome them:
1) Failure or rejection
A study on the effects of success and failure on self-esteem showed that success boosts self-esteem, and failure lowers it.
So, it’s no surprise that we become confident when we succeed at a task. Conversely, failure lowers our confidence level.
If you’ve recently been rejected or failed to reach a goal, you might feel downhearted and begin doubting your abilities. Or worse, your self-worth.
Unhappiness also influences self-esteem. If you’ve just gone through a breakup, a job loss, or any other negative event, failure and rejection can heighten your unhappiness even more.
And if you already have low self-esteem to begin with, it can become a vicious cycle of insecurity.
It might help to understand that failure is a universal experience—no one succeeds at everything they do all the time.
Here are some other ways you can overcome insecurity that’s based on failure or rejection:
- Allow yourself time to heal and readjust your mindset to the new normal.
- Go out and engage in activities that interest you.
- Lean on your family and friends for support and comfort.
- Reflect on the experience and consider the lessons worth taking from it.
- Don’t give up—revisit your goals and formulate a plan for the future.
And above all, practice self-compassion.
Think of yourself as a friend. What would you tell a good friend who has just suffered a setback?
I’m pretty sure you’d be kind and supportive, wouldn’t you? Then, why not extend this same compassion to yourself?
Accepting your flaws instead of self-judging and criticizing will make it easier to bounce back to your confident self.
2) Social anxiety
I once walked into an office party, feeling chic and glamorous in my favorite red dress.
When I got there, I saw everyone standing around in little clusters, drinks in their hands, all dressed up and looking completely relaxed.
Immediately, a wave of anxiety washed over me. Everyone looked absolutely fabulous, and I suddenly felt like a country mouse in comparison.
I looked down at my outfit. My red dress suddenly looked tacky, and my (fake) pearl necklace looked, well, fake.
Suddenly, I felt inferior and unable to talk to anyone, a far cry from my usual friendly self.
If you’ve ever felt like this, you know what I’m talking about.
Insecurity due to social anxiety involves the fear of being judged by others.
When it strikes, we feel uncomfortable and self-conscious in social situations. Sometimes, we may even feel like we don’t belong or deserve to be there.
Unhealthy self-consciousness is more prevalent in people with social anxiety disorder (SAD). However, it’s still happens to almost everyone from time to time.
In this case, you may feel insecure because you think that other people are looking at you, judging you, and criticizing you.
Psychologists have a name for this—the “spotlight” effect.
This phenomenon refers to our tendency to overestimate how much others think or notice about us.
In short, we feel like there’s a spotlight shining on us, illuminating our every flaw.
But while it can feel so real, the truth is that people probably only notice about half of what you think they’re noticing.
Conquering social anxiety is a bit tricky—many people say that the more they try to overcome it, the more self-conscious they become.
So, what’s the secret?
Four words: focus on other people.
As counter-intuitive as that sounds, it actually has a sound psychological basis.
Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen talks about what actually happens when you’re in a socially anxious moment.
In this situation, your focus is on yourself—you’re trying to make a good impression and monitoring how you look, talk, and behave.
The problem with this is that it uses up all your energy, and you can’t really engage or pay attention to what’s right in front of you.
And unfortunately, the more you do this, the more your mind tricks you into believing it’s all going wrong, keeping you in an insecure state.
That’s why it’s wise to turn it all around. Focus on anything other than yourself. This works like magic and frees up your energy to accommodate other people.
When you focus on the person you’re talking to instead of yourself, your inner monitor stops whispering critical things into your ear.
Author Dale Carnegie summed this up in a really helpful quote—”If you want to be interesting, be interested.”
It’s incredible how much of your fear will fade away once you realize that no one notices things about you as much as you think they do.
In a competitive world like ours, it’s only natural to want to aim for the highest marks, whether at work or in our personal lives.
It’s human nature to want to have it all—the best job, the highest grades, the most fabulous house, the perfect figure, the most stylish clothes, the ideal family, and so on.
Sadly, life doesn’t always work out that way. No matter how much you try, perfection is impossible to achieve all the time.
If you have unrealistic standards and get crushed when you don’t meet them, you might be struggling with perfectionism.
Perfectionists are people with lofty goals and, as the name implies, accept nothing less than perfection.
They judge themselves based on results or outcomes, not on their effort.
It’s an all-or-nothing mindset—even “almost perfect” is considered a failure for a perfectionist.
The problem is, with life being the unpredictable roller coaster that it is, you can’t always meet your goals.
And if you’ve got a perfectionist mindset, this can lead to insecurity and even depression.
The science bears this out. Research shows that perfectionists have lower self-esteem and higher stress levels and self-doubt, all ingredients for insecurity.
In contrast to socially insecure people who compare themselves to others, perfectionists compare themselves to an idealized or perfect version of themselves.
Plus, they have conditional self-esteem. They believe that their worth depends on meeting certain criteria.
Unfortunately, if you’re a perfectionist, this means your view of yourself is only see yourself only as good as your last achievement.
The more attached you are to your impossible standards, the harder it will be for you to accept reality, especially when you make mistakes.
So, how do you manage perfectionism and say goodbye to insecurity?
Here are some ways to veer away from the perfectionist mentality:
- Evaluate yourself based on the effort you put in, not the result.
- Learn to like yourself even when you’re not doing well. Think about your inner qualities rather than external aspects like your achievements.
- Practice self-compassion and talk to yourself kindly.
- Stay flexible so that you can deal with inevitable changes and surprises.
- Expose yourself to situations you usually avoid due to fear of failure.
- Don’t dwell on mistakes and negative thoughts.
- Stop excessively checking and re-checking your work.
Lastly, and most importantly, have a sense of humor.
As a person with perfectionist tendencies myself, I’ve discovered over the years that being able to laugh at my mistakes is the single most effective strategy that helps me cope with failure.
Insecurity affects every one of us, and it can be hard to stop the harsh and critical internal dialogue that comes with it.
To be our best selves, we must learn how to break the patterns of destructive thoughts we fall into whenever we encounter failure or unpleasant situations.
Hopefully, this article has shown you how to deal with insecurity and return to being the confident and wonderfully unique person you are.