Everyone has personal insecurities they must cope with every day. While we all feel unsure of ourselves sometimes, an overly insecure person suffers more and considerably limits their growth and happiness. Regardless of where we stand on the insecurity continuum, all of us can benefit from learning how to cope when we experience self-doubt. While not all forms fit neatly into one type, most people can identify with seven common types of insecurities. Awareness of the types that impact your life is the first step to tackling them. (Estimated reading time: 13 minutes)
“The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.”– Maya Angelou
Jealous. Arrogant. Extremely confident. Dominating. Loud. Aggressive. Passive-aggressive. Overly competitive. Needy for validation and assurance.
These characteristics describe a specific type of person that makes us uncomfortable in their presence. Unfortunately, our world abounds with them. They’re in our homes, our workplaces, and anywhere we frequent.
While all of us can display these traits in certain situations, an overly insecure person will rarely deviate from them. Their behavior consistently proves that they don’t feel good about themselves and will do whatever it takes to take you down with them.
Insecure people have been embedded in our cultural psyche since the beginning of time. Folklore, fairytales, movies, and TV shows would not be complete without at least one that displays one or more of the types of insecurities. Often taking on the “villain” role, they represent a deviant side of human nature.
Disney movies are full of these figures. Female villains like Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Ursula the sea witch, and Snow White’s evil queen are jealous of their counterparts’ beauty, youth, cheerful disposition, and better social standing.
The male villains are envious for other reasons. Scar, Dr. Facilier, Frollo, and Jafar are consumed by their need for power and are fixated on destroying the protagonist to get what they feel they deeply lack.
One might argue that these characters exhibit full-blown sociopathy akin to nefarious real-life criminals; the truth is that many of them are riddled with insecurities rooted in trauma and challenging experiences that scar them for life. Consequently, recent Disney live-action remakes have added a backstory for their villains, not to justify their actions but to humanize them.
In the 2015 live-action remake of Cinderella, there is a scene where the stepmother, played by Cate Blanchett, lets Cinderella know that she found her glass slipper and is aware that she is the girl who won the Prince’s heart. Holding the glass slipper, she says, “Are you looking for this? There must be quite a story to go with it. Won’t you tell me?”
The stepmother goes on to share her story:
“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young girl who married for love. And she had two loving daughters. All was well. But, one day, her husband, the light of her life, died. The next time, she married for the sake of her daughters. But that man, too, was taken from her. And she was doomed to look every day upon his beloved child. She had hoped to marry off one of her beautiful, stupid daughters to the Prince. But his head was turned by a girl with glass slippers. And so, I lived unhappily ever after.”
The stepmother’s narrative evokes sympathy and, intentionally or subconsciously, reflects a hidden, shadowy aspect of ourselves that we have repressed due to social conditioning. A significant part of that shadowy side is fueled by feelings of not measuring up and losing what we value the most. Villains mirror this to viewers.
But we don’t want to hurt others or sabotage our lives like they did. Instead of letting our types of insecurities consume us, we acknowledge their presence and manage them whenever they are triggered. Knowing the types of insecurities that plague us the most will provide a pathway toward a place of self-love, wholeness, and kindness to ourselves and others.
What are insecurities?
Most people know what insecurities are and what it feels like to feel insecure. Whether you acknowledge these feelings or not, you know firsthand that they can take a toll on you and those involved. These anxious emotions and overall sense of uncertainty make us feel inadequate about our worth, value, abilities, and skills.
We feel insecure when we lack self-confidence, whether in our professions, relationships, because of our appearances, or our worth. It is often exacerbated by social comparison. When we compare ourselves with those who we perceive to be better in some way, our insecurities are triggered. No matter what types of insecurities we harbor – they get intensified when we feel we’re in danger of losing something or someone valuable.
Here are some typical signs to help you recognize and understand how insecurity manifests in your life:
- Negative self-talk and self-doubt
- Overly critical of yourself and others
- Controlling behavior
- Irritability and inability to cope with stress
- Stonewalling or withdrawing
- Feeling jealous and comparing yourself to others
- Questioning your worth
- Lack of trust
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Feeling uncertain about the future
- Trying to portray yourself as being more confident than you are
- Avoiding social situations
- People-pleasing behavior and a need for constant validation and assurance
Keep in mind that you may not display all these behaviors at once, but having some of them indicates that you harbor some insecurities that need your attention.
What causes us to feel insecure?
Insecurities arise due to a variety of factors. Bad and unpleasant experiences where we felt hurt, unloved, ignored, or discriminated against can leave an impression that affects our feelings of self-worth.
This can happen as early as childhood. If a parent or caregiver was critical, abusive, or absent, or we were bullied in school or grew up destitute, we can feel a void. Even adults can develop insecurities after painful experiences like being cheated on and rejected by a partner, unexpectedly losing a job, or becoming bankrupt due to economic crises or political issues.
Failures in our professional lives and relationships, especially if they happen repeatedly, can also cause insecurities because of inherent fears of repeating past failures.
Some studies show that the tendency to be insecure can be inherited. This inherited trait is passed down through generations and appears in our personalities and temperaments. Types of insecurities are also associated with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder.
Low emotional intelligence and the inability to understand and monitor our emotions can cause existing insecurities to wreak even more havoc. This is common for people who display narcissistic traits, a self-centered orientation towards life, and who refuse to connect deeply and see the good in others.
On the flip side, it can also occur when we’re too focused on outside factors and become overly attached and dependent on others’ opinions of us.
How insecurities impact our success and wellbeing
Insecurities significantly impact our lives and severely limit our growth and progress. People who suffer from insecurity may fear taking risks because they fear failing and how people will respond.
If someone is too anxious to speak up about their proven abilities and promote themselves, clients and higher-ups will not know their worth. They’ll miss out on gaining customers, getting a promotion, or new opportunities for growth in their career. This further perpetuates their sense of lack.
Insecure individuals also suffer in their relationships. Not only do they find it difficult to form relationships, but they find it hard to be in one. In close connections, they find it hard to share feelings and are often needy, drama-prone, and clingy because they fear abandonment. They may also seem preoccupied with wealth, outward appearances, and status to cover up their emptiness.
They may come across as shy, anxious, and uneasy, which can lead to distancing themselves from people. Some get so consumed with their insecurities that they prefer to stay home to keep people at bay. They feel safer when they’re not under the spotlight.
Some types of insecurities are associated with mental health conditions like social anxiety, depression, and dementia. If not connected with a health condition, it can affect people’s psychology, causing symptoms like negative moods, trust issues, and irritability. This can manifest in the body in the form of headaches, heart disease, hypertension, and gastric problems.
7 types of insecurities that impact our lives
Everyone has personal types of insecurities that they must cope with every day. While not all forms fit neatly into one type, there are a few common types of insecurities that most people can identify with. Some are more common in certain genders than others.
The first step to tackling your insecurities is to figure out which of these seven types of insecurities you’re dealing with:
1. Financial insecurity: worrying about money and your profession
Financial insecurities center on excessive concerns around money and one’s financial future. Money insecurities happen for several reasons: spending beyond one’s means, having an unstable income, having a dependent partner or family member spending too much, not saving enough for retirement or an emergency fund.
Financial insecurities are often coupled with professional insecurities, where a person is concerned about their job’s stability and is unsure of their continued employment. It can be due to feeling inadequate and like they can be replaced at any moment, but massive layoffs in the company can trigger a person working for a bad economy.
Students in all levels of school may question their ability to perform well on tests and achieve the grades they need to get admission into college or an entry-level job. They may question their abilities and intelligence, especially if their peers are doing better than them.
2. Physical or body Insecurity: worrying about appearance and body image
Physical insecurity is when a person feels dissatisfied with their body and appearance. They struggle with what they see in the mirror and fixate on their perceived bodily flaws.
This type of insecurity is prevalent in a world with shallow standards of beauty, where images of beautiful people surround us – whether that be onscreen or in our social media feeds. It’s also more prevalent among those who have experienced body shaming in the past.
The ideas of perfection are perpetuated everywhere, telling us the sort of physique, hairstyle, skin, makeup, clothes, and style society requires for us to be considered physically attractive. If you’re not careful and fail to create your personal standards based on your own strengths, you’ll feel like you fall short and unworthy of love every time you see a person who represents your ideal body.
If physical insecurities impact you, focusing on and accentuating your strengths rather than obsessing over your flaws is essential. Appreciate the multi-dimensional person you are and everything you bring to the table.
Focus on self-love by developing a self-care practice, replacing negative self-talk with positive inner dialogue, and focusing on being your personal best instead of trying to be like someone else.
3. Social insecurities: difficulty making friends and fitting in
People with social anxiety find it difficult to build meaningful connections. It stems from a lack of confidence, self-doubt, and a fear of judgment. Some people have higher levels of social anxiety than others, and it might be due to trauma from early childhood experiences like being raised by critical parents or being rejected by peers in school.
People with social insecurities avoid group settings and have a tough time getting outside their comfort zone to befriend people, start conversations, share information about themselves, or allow new people into their lives.
They worry about appearing awkward and not being smart or fluent enough to contribute to a conversation. Often feeling like outsiders in social gatherings, some of them believe that they won’t be accepted for who they are or that their friendship will not be reciprocated.
If you’re someone who struggles with social insecurity, you’ll need to find the root cause of your anxiety, possibly with the help of a mental health professional. Make an effort to connect with people regularly and exercise your socializing muscles. Spend quality time with existing friends and open up about the details of your life to those you feel comfortable with. Join groups, try a new hobby or travel to places where you can engage people in genuine interactions.
4. Relationship insecurity: fear of rejection and abandonment
Similar to social insecurity, a person who is insecure in intimate connections is uncomfortable with being vulnerable and trusting others. They find it difficult to believe what someone is saying to them, leading to jealousy, anxiety, and clinginess that can damage the relationship.
Single people fear being alone and not finding a partner. This is common among those who have past failed relationships and bad experiences in dating, but it could also be due to self-esteem issues related to body image or age. Some people tend to seek out dates with partners who they know are wrong for them to avoid emotional intimacy.
Insecurities in relationships happen when someone doesn’t feel worthy or good enough for love and affection. They may need constant validation and reassurance from their partner to feel secure. To avoid overwhelming partners with our insecurities, we need to work on building our confidence from the inside out – focusing on our assets and accomplishments. Develop a support system of friends and family who believe in you, and learn to feel secure from within rather than dependent on others.
If a person fears that their partner will leave for someone else, seek help to overcome past traumas, heal past wounds, and do things to boost yourself up. Learn to communicate your needs to your partner, listen to theirs, and work on building mutual trust and respect.
5. Intellectual insecurity: not feeling intelligent or mentally competent
Intellectual insecurity is based on feelings of inadequacy related to our mental abilities and intelligence. People with this type of insecurity worry that they are not clever or smart enough, either in a particular subject or in general.
Some associate it with their academic success or earning potential, while others are concerned about their social image. Doubting your ability to grasp complex concepts and learn new skills is another symptom of intellectual insecurity.
People with intellectual insecurities hesitate to discuss their thoughts, perspectives, and opinions. They would rather stay silent than risk feeling embarrassed by making a “silly” comment that makes them appear unintelligent and lacking in knowledge and expertise. This is exacerbated when we compare ourselves to those we consider smarter and better at communicating their thoughts.
Overcoming intellectual insecurities begins with overcoming negative self-talk, believing in yourself, and knowing that you are capable and have a bright mind capable of growth. By making an effort to expand your knowledge and seek out learning resources, you can become intelligent and well-informed.
Challenge yourself to learn new things – read books, take classes, pick up a new hobby, surround yourself with intelligent people, and master a subject of your choice. Also, improving your communication skills will enable you to effectively deliver your ideas and opinions.
6. Basic needs insecurity: afraid of not having basic needs met
Insecurities about basic needs such as food, housing, and health are sadly a concern in many countries where these necessities are not guaranteed.
Some people have a life of plenty in their current circumstances but suffer from insecurities because of past struggles. For instance, people who grew up in an era of conflict, like the World Wars or under corrupt leadership and an unstable economy, can suffer basic needs insecurity for a long time after unless they address it.
Living can be challenging if you’re constantly worried about where your next meal will come from, where you’ll sleep at night, and if you have the mental and physical capacity to go through life.
To overcome this stress, you’ll need to ensure that you have these requirements met at a basic level and that you have an emergency fund that’s large enough to ensure that you don’t slip into a life of hardship. It might also help to get some counseling if the trauma runs deep.
7. Attachment insecurity: worry about getting too close to another person or losing them
Attachment insecurities occur when one partner finds it hard to develop an attachment to their partner. Sometimes, a person deliberately prevents themselves from getting too close to someone and eventually leaves their partner before their partner can leave them or even deal with their issues. On some level, they need to protect themselves to avoid getting hurt. This type of person is often referred to as emotionally unavailable.
The other extreme is attachment insecurity, which can cause a person to become too clingy and needy and demand constant attention. This can cause a person to be uncomfortable with allowing a partner to be out of their sight because they’re afraid that their partner will find someone else and leave them.
Attachment insecurity often originates from childhood and painful past experiences in our adult lives. If you experienced unpredictable, inconsistent, or absent love and affection, you’ll need to heal the pain from those memories to overcome your unhealthy attachment style.
Choosing a partner who acknowledges them and is sensitive to your pain is essential in overcoming attachment insecurity. But remember, do not burden them with your issues – they are there to support you, but only you can walk the path towards healing.
Behind every hurtful word, behavior, and choice is an insecurity. If all of us can endeavor to overcome and manage our insecurities in our own lives, imagine the impact that would have on the global collective. There would be fewer wars and more cooperation. Less hatred and more love. More understanding and less conflict. And ultimately, more harmony and peace and less divisiveness and hate. When we heal ourselves, we heal the world.
All my best on your journey,
Questions for you: What types of insecurities do you (or did you) have? What coping mechanisms and tools do you use to deal with them?
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