Emotional Insecurity: Causes, Traits And How To Overcome It

Emotional insecurity or simply insecurity is a feeling of unease or nervousness that is triggered when a person perceives themselves to be insignificant or not good enough that they don't measure up especially in relation to someone else. It is a complex mental issue which often results in low self-esteem and at times in too high self-esteem, which eventually manifests itself as arrogance or a sense of superiority.

Emotional insecurity or simply insecurity is a feeling of unease or nervousness that is triggered by perceiving oneself to be worthless, unloved or not good enough that they don’t measure up especially when compared to someone else.

Emotional insecurity is also mostly a big part of some mental disorders like borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. These types of mental disorders often result in low self-esteem and at times in too high self-esteem, which eventually manifests itself as arrogance or a sense of superiority.

And on top of that, being emotionally insecure, that is – constantly worrying about not being good enough, lacking confidence, and all kinds of self-doubt, can trigger depression and anxiety as well. An emotionally insecure person is pessimistic and sometimes antisocial. They also suffer from social anxiety, body dysmorphia and self-centeredness among other emotional states.

Most insecure people suffer from some degree of isolation. The greater the insecurity, the more isolated person will be. But before we dig deeper into knowing more about emotional insecurity, let’s get to know how it differs from emotional security.

Emotional security is the ability in which a person has a complete control over his emotional state. An emotionally secure person is the one whose mental and emotional health are free from any kind of distress, and are psychologically resilient.

Dr. William E. Blitz was the first person to develop a theory of emotional security. According to him, security is a state of mind in which one is willing to accept the consequences of one’s behavior; all aspects of an individual’s behavior in all areas of his life can be interpreted in terms of security. Unlike a person who is emotionally secured, an insecure person does not have control over his emotional state. They tend to be neurotic; and are generally selfish and egocentric.

Emotional Insecurity

So what causes insecurity?

The root of all insecurity is fear, but it’s generally influenced by your past experiences. Because as an infant, you didn’t come innately hardwired to think like you’re worthless or imperfect. But as you grew into adulthood, you received input from environment around you and the people you generally come in contact with.

Each time you interact with people, let’s say family friends, fellow students, co-workers, acquaintances, they leave you with some kind of imprint. That imprint can be supportive and encouraging, but sometimes it can be detrimental, which can negatively affect your mental well-being.

You may also come across people who are able to just shrug off negative experiences with you or whoever they come in contact with. They are the victims of their own insecurities, but they remain grounded in their sense of self and it doesn’t shake their self-esteem.

Some people find themselves deeply affected by negative interactions with other people and situations that may be difficult. And this can really take a toll sometimes on their sense of self-worth and their confidence.

When it comes to developing your sense of self perception and your sense about yourself and your competency, feedback or responses from your closed ones or loved ones are really important. However, if the information that you take in from their feedbacks is not positive or supportive as you’re learning to develop your sense of self, the roots of insecurity and self-doubt can begin to grow.

You know how destructive this negative type of self-perception can be. You begin to experience the world where you see yourself as incompetent and totally useless. And with each passing day, your sense of self-worth will begin to deteriorate, making you more and more vulnerable.

What are the traits seen commonly among people with emotional insecurity?

An insecure person is psychologically weak. He believes he has certain flaws and he is not as perfect as he should be. He starts compensating for those flaws or shortcomings by certain actions like bullying, aggressive behavior, conflicts, arrogance, jealousy and hatred. Many of us have self-doubts, but an insecure person will try to confirm his doubts by the way people treat him.

Let’s say a guy thinks he is unattractive and constantly worries that his wife will leave him for a good-looking guy. When he feels ignored by her, he concludes she is interested in another better looking guy than him. Now, he will try to compensate this by adopting abusive behavior towards her.

Also, most insecure people are selfish and self-centered. In a relationship, an insecure man will only be focused on his pleasures and desires. If his needs are not fulfilled by his partner, his insecurity will increase and will make it hard for his partner to survive the relationship.

Insecure people are defensive when someone points out their flaws and errors, because they simply can’t take criticism. They have controlling personalities, because they feel threatened by other people, they want to crush them. So they take out their frustrations on others.

Other signs of an insecure person include over-jealousy, being materialistic and too competitive. They just want others to be impressed by them. So they will do anything to make people believe that they’ve everything a successful and a perfect person should have.

Insecurity is not only dangerous for the person suffering from it, but also those around him. Insecure behavior can devastate relationships and ruin a person’s chances to have a happy and successful life. One should try to overcome his insecurities rather than hiding them.

Overcoming insecurities is not an easy task, because it is a complex mental issue with different reasons behind.  Just give these tips a try and see the changes they bring to your life.

  • First of all, you have to realize that you will get nothing by hiding your fear and insecurities, try to fight them.
  • Don’t try to be that ‘perfect image of yourself’ you have in mind. Just be yourself.
  • Don’t chase perfection, but improve yourself step by step.
  • Concentrate on your strength, not weakness.
  • Trust yourself.
  • Think positive. Identify your negative thoughts and get rid of them.
  • Don’t blame yourself for unfortunate events. Learn something from them.
  • Stop comparing yourself or what you have to others or what they have.
  • Focus on your aims and hope for the best.
  • Share your insecurities with people you are emotionally attached with. They will know how to help you once they understand you better.

Initiating the above mentioned tips requires practice. But in case you find difficulty doing that, here’s what you should do.

The first thing you should do is try to acknowledge your self-doubt, insecurity and fear when you feel them. If something comes up and it makes you feel afraid rather than calling it nervousness or anxiety, try to understand that it’s fear. Once you have acknowledged it, you can set a plan in place for some practical methods of dealing with it. Now take a moment to examine it and then ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, where you are on that spectrum. Take a look at how much fear or insecurity are actually experiencing.

The next thing you should do is ask yourself how insecurity or self-doubt or fear serves you. Do they keep you from taking risks or possibly being embarrassed? Have a look at that and examine the pros and cons of any behaviour. This is going to put you in a good place to be able to make healthy changes by acknowledging the whole picture.

The other side of examining thoughts that feeds self-doubt or insecurity is to begin to challenge those thoughts. Giving thoughts or feelings the power of fact can rob you of any sense of self-confidence or efficacy. In other words you become a victim of your thoughts and feelings which may have no basis in fact. So examining what’s going through your head, what’s going through your heart can help give you the tools to begin to dismantle faulty ways of thinking that have become unhealthy for you.

Now imagine how your life would have been if you were no longer held back by feelings of insecurity or fear or a low self-worth. Ask yourself “What would you be able to do that you don’t feel you can do now?” And then give one of those things a try.

As mentioned above, the root of all insecurity is fear. Realizing that is the first step to getting rid of insecurity. The next step in to dismantle your assumptions. You can probably create an entire scenario in your imagination but remember it’s in your imagination, it’s not happening in fact in real life. Also, no one knows yourself better than you; you know your strong and weak points.

Further readings and references:

[Image via DevianArt]


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  2. I think everyone should be insecure. You either pursue health or perfection. But you are a pathetic idiot if you think that this world regards health over how you stack up in quality. We all have some level of insecurity. We shouldn’t fight it, but be enraged by our flaws. We should be determined and dedicated towards perfection. And if you think perfection doesn’t exist, the collective conscience would tell you otherwise. Society favors a common denominator of quality. If you don’t fit that criteria you are worthless. We need a perfectionist society to conquer insecurity. If the Nazis won the war we’d have a very confident bunch of people roaming the world today. Now we have fugly asians, mexicans, blacks, etc.

  3. I struggle with insecurity and recognise many of the conditions described above .But i find that it is deeply embedded in my character and although over the years i have recognised, fought, conquered and turned many of the negative consequences to positive solutions.( which can be confusing , traumatic and messy process for all concerned),I now feel confidently i am in control of the consequences but the insecurity still remains.
    I have lost full and loving relationships through my emotional insecurity.
    Now,to avoid potential trauma and pain to loved ones i live alone .Which really does not help me is a constant struggle finding confidence without appearing desperate for companionship and understanding.
    To compound this condition i am Dyslexic,and sometimes have a different understanding of situations .
    Difficult ,because to all intents and purposes i am a competent,presentable,useful, responsible,credible member of society.

  4. Interesting article, but do you think it’s a little too black and white? Everybody is emotionally insecure sometimes and no one has “complete control” over their emotions all of the time.

    In fact, I wonder if the person who has complete emotional control all of the time is not the one who would be a little deranged? IMHO, LOL

  5. I have met insecure people and I have dealt personally with insecure people. Definitely draining! But recognizing the root of their insecurities can do so much to bring about stability of mind.
    Helpful information here!
    Thank you for the like on Shadow-Part II!

  6. I think you are right about sharing insecurities with trusted friends. It provides for a reality check and an opportunity to gain other perspectives. Also transparency is a great way to shed light into the dark places of our thinking. The Bible says the truth will set us free. And, definitely, we have to wage war against the tendency within ourselves to go to the dark side in our thinking. The Bible says to focus on things that are good, true, lovely, praiseworthy, excellent and cast down imaginations that are unhealthy and self destructive. Good tips!

  7. Insecure people ruin relationships. STAY AWAY FROM INSECURE PEOPLE! They don’t believe that you care about them and so they treat you like crap. Then when you start avoiding them because of how they behave they think they have even more ‘reason’ to treat you like crap. Then if you try to contact or interact with them again they absolutely refuse to have anything to do with you and act as though they hate you!

  8. Borderline Personality Disorder is no longer a valid diagnostic category. The condition to which it refers is increasingly understood to be Complex PTSD, with dissociative elements and attachment challenges, arising from severe, repeted childhood trauma The key to really helping is often addressing the dissociation.

  9. This is exactly what people dealing with this issue need. Reassurance that they are not alone is a powerful tool in combatting the darker moments of depression. Very insightful! I can not think of one family I know that isn’t touched by mental illness in some shape or degree.

  10. Thanks for this post! All of which has happened to me. As you know from looking thru my blog…..I can tell you that the path I’m on, and blogging about, has done a great deal of dissolving most of these problems….I keep plugging along to finally totally wake up! (TY for stopping by and liking my post!)

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  12. Good stuff, enjoyed reading it, especially as someone who has suffered this way in the past. Can definitely concur that sharing helps, as the more you tell your story the more you realize that many people are affected and then you all get to help each other. 🙂 Thanks also for liking my blog post: “Suz’s Special “Hot ‘n Spicy” Fried Rice (Vegan/Vegetarian/Organic/Gluten-Free/Healthy)”. Cheers, Suz

  13. A well written article. I’ve ‘saved’ it to my account at Pearltrees so I can refer to it later while I’m developing the antagonist for my novel.

  14. You paint a pretty clear picture of my husband. Thing is…. he has no idea and will never change. When I began reading, I was thinking, hey, a lot of this is me. the farther I got, the more I realized, nope it’s him. I’m just co-dependent and suffering from my own struggle with depression.
    It’s hard to tell the voices in my head who speak with self-deprecating words to shut the heck up. They keep telling me I’m stupid. I have a freaking Masters in Accounting, I am not stupid, yet the voices insist.
    Anyhoo, Back to the hubby. He is a classic replica of what you describe here but there is no way he would change. I tried Marriage Counseling but he backed out after a few sessions. He thinks there is nothing wrong with him,
    Well, I have babbled on long enough. Thanks for the post.

  15. Wow! This is so true. I was married to a narcissist for 39 years. But, this described him down to the last word. I guess I didn’t realize he was insecure, I just thought he was full of himself and thought he was better than everyone. Maybe not. The good news is, I don’t have to deal with it anymore.

  16. Very insightful! I’m also interested to know how do we help those people, esp. those important to us, who are suffering from this malady, Ghazal. What would you advise?

    1. Emotional insecurity is something that only a person suffering from it can change.What people around such a person can do is to make him realize his potential or talent by ignoring his/her anger outbursts, by indirectly making him realize his/her bad habits, by doing anything that does not hurt his self-esteem as emotional insecure people have a low or too high (Narcissism) self-esteem and that’s the reason behind their abnormal behaviors, but in the end a person himself must realize how insecure s/he is because s/he can change only if they want to.

      1. Emotional Freedom Technique – self-administered acu-pressure can help. Maybe a topic for your blog. It was developed by a Standford Engineer Gary Craig, and receiving a lot of attention just now, not least by the British medical fraternity. despite initial scepticism by some doctors. Lots of video examples on YouTube. Brad Yates is good.

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