Insecurity is defined by WebMD as “a feeling of inadequacy (not being good enough) and uncertainty. It produces anxiety about your goals, relationships, and ability to handle certain situations.”
For you, maybe you feel that you are overweight, stupid, or ugly. Or perhaps you feel that you aren’t good enough, are unlovable, or aren’t talented. These are your insecurities talking. Everyone suffers from insecurities, though they are not all the same for each person. But where does this negative self-talk come from?
Three Common Causes
Writer Melanie Greenberg from Psychology Today talks about insecurities, “Most of us feel insecure sometimes, but some of us feel insecure most of the time. The kind of childhood you had, past traumas, recent experiences of failure or rejection, loneliness, social anxiety, negative beliefs about yourself, perfectionism, or having a critical parent or partner can all contribute to insecurity.”
Below are what Greenberg says are the three common causes of insecurity.
- Those based on rejection or a failure
- Insecurities stemming from social anxiety
- Those driven by perfectionism
While these three causes are the most common, they are not the only ones. Sitting quietly and self-reflecting on yourself and how things affect you can help you discover your own insecurities. Identifying the areas in your life where you feel that you are not good enough is a good place to start. Once you have recognized those areas, consider what might be the causes of your feelings.
Failure or Rejection
Humans typically have a hard time dealing with failure. Psychology Today writer Guy Winch says that, “…failure also distorts your perceptions of your actual abilities by making you feel less up to the task. Once you fail, you are likely to assess your skills, intelligence, and capabilities incorrectly and see them as significantly weaker than they actually are.”
Failure can be a major cause of your insecurities because it negatively distorts how you view yourself and your abilities. While it is painful to fail, keep in mind that you are going to be experiencing a lot of failure throughout life. It would be nice if we could do everything right the first time, but this is not possible. No one enjoys failing, but it is something that you should get comfortable with and learn to live with and react positively to.
Greenberg suggests giving yourself time to heal, engaging with life, reaching out to friends and family, getting feedback, moving forward, and more to move past failure or rejection.
Bridges to Recovery lists the major defining characteristics of social anxiety as:
- “Intense fear of social interactions in a wide variety of contexts
- Anticipatory anxiety that leads social anxiety sufferers to avoid opportunities for conversation or public speaking
- Extreme symptoms of anxiety experienced during unwanted or stressful social interactions
- Poor verbal communication skills, complicated by a person’s inability to think clearly while experiencing anxiety
- Overly critical self-evaluations of performance after conversations or spoken presentations are finished
- Low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence, which are reinforced by constant self-criticism”
When we are by ourselves, we don’t have to worry too much about looking silly, doing the wrong thing, or taking more than one try to get something right. As social creatures, we humans worry about what our peers think.
This worry about their opinion or viewpoint of us can have some very negative effects. While not everyone has social anxiety, a lot of us do because of the many things that can cause it.
Social anxiety can be caused by stressful life events and childhood traumas such as:
- Abuse – physical or mental
- Being teased or bullied in school
- Family issues
- Domestic violence
- Abandonment, such as being disserted by a parent or a parent dying
Greenberg suggests talking back to your inner critic, setting realistic goals, not avoiding social situations, and more to deal with social anxiety. If your social anxiety gets too severe and causes you a great deal of pain or makes you avoid all social situations, going to therapy is a good option to look into.
Healthline author David Heitz writes about perfectionism and says that “Some people mistakenly believe that perfectionism is a healthy motivator, but that’s not the case. Perfectionism can make you feel unhappy with your life. It can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-harm. Eventually, it can also lead you to stop trying to succeed. Even mild cases can interfere with your quality of life, affecting your personal relationships, education, or work.”
While everyone wants to be perfect, this is a very unrealistic goal. Perfection is unattainable and a very unhealthy way to live. Everyone is going to make mistakes at some point and in fact, mistakes can be great to help you learn and grow.
However, if you aren’t able to make mistakes and learn from them because you are so worried about meeting some invisible level of flawlessness, your life will not be easy.
He says that you might be experiencing perfectionism if you:
- “feel like you fail at everything you try
- procrastinate regularly — you might resist starting a task because you’re afraid that you’ll be unable to complete it perfectly
- struggle to relax and share your thoughts and feeling
- become very controlling in your personal and professional relationships
- become obsessed with rules, lists, and work, or alternately, become extremely apathetic”
Greenberg suggests self-evaluation based upon effort, learning to like yourself when you don’t do well and more to combat perfectionism.
Discovering your own personal causes of insecurity is the first step at becoming less insecure. Whether it be a recent failure or rejection, social anxiety that is causing a lack of confidence, perfectionism, or something else; learning your own cause can be the catalyst to feeling more confident in yourself.
Take some time today to discover what makes you insecure. These things might be minor in your life or they might consistently have a devastating impact on you. Knowing how to grow from these and lessen your insecurities will only improve your life and way of living.