Everyone has suffered from insecurities at some point in our lives. That nagging feeling that you are not good, smart, rich, famous, popular, or attractive enough is a common plague that afflicts all humans. The larger than life images on social media that tempts us to compare our lives with the sometimes air-brushed, photo-shopped images of others only deepens these feelings of inadequacy. Not surprisingly, a Swedish University study titled “Sweden’s Largest Facebook Study,” found that prolonged Facebook usage negatively impacted users’ self-esteem, with women being more affected than men.
Insecurities could feature in life, leadership, love, and looks. However, they are not without consequences, hence, the need to recognise and address them. There is a body of research suggesting that chronic insecurities in relationships are linked to many physical diseases, including obesity. They have also been linked to low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Dr Susan Krauss (Psychologist) who wrote that “Of the many reasons that bosses can be bad, feelings of insecurity on their part must surely stand out as one of the most crucial” suggested that insecurities hinder leadership performance. According to her, “An insecure person, in general, creates havoc in the lives of others, particularly if that individual has what is called an insecure attachment style.”
A crippling perfectionist and highly competitive attitude to life in which one must always have one up on peers is a huge tell-tale sign. A boastful, out-to-impress disposition that in reality is a mask to cover up deep feelings of inadequacy is another feature to watch out for. Insecure people are oversensitive, take things too personal, and become easily offended. They attack or belittle others’ achievements in order to feel good about themselves.
Other features of insecurity include living on social media more than in the present world; and measuring one’s personal worth by virtual followership.
What causes Insecurity?
Insecurity always rests on a weak sense of identity and a deficit of self-compassion. 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 this.
Psychologists have long established strong links between adult insecurity and what is referred to as childhood attachment styles. An attachment style is the “internal working model” that we have of relationships with the important people in our lives. Our relationships are shaped by beliefs and expectations about behaviour ,which we first form in early childhood and the kind of relationship we have with our primary caregiver (usually a parent). Your style of attachment was formed at the very beginning of your life, during your first two years, and can endure through life if unchecked.
The genes we inherit also play a role in causing some humans to have an inherently exaggerated response to emotional threats and be less at ease, thereby causing insecurities. Broken trusts in the form of abuse, abandonment, or betrayal in the past are other reasons insecurities develop.
Awareness, Acceptance, and Action
It takes time and courage to overcome chronic insecurity. Awareness means admitting that this is a personal problem that causes hindrance to living a full life. The next step is an honest evaluation of what can be changed.
There are causes of personal insecurity that are out of your remit to address and are better accepted by changing your narrative of them. Despite your best efforts, you have little control over your social background, ethnicity, personality traits, height, facial features, and accent. Research suggests that even corrective surgery does not always rid the dissatisfaction associated with facial features except the core underlying dysfunctional beliefs are addressed.
Developing a stronger sense of who you are and a genuine affection for that person is crucial to overcoming insecurities. Therefore, on a personal note, I have often found solace in the conviction of unconditional love from my heavenly father, whom the Bible says has fashioned me intricately and designed me fit for purpose. This truth is my fall back to rationalise those nagging inner voices of self-doubt whenever they arise.
There are other pragmatic steps towards addressing insecurity. Taking etiquette tuition, becoming a voracious reader in your field of endeavour, enrolling on leadership courses, and finding a mentor can have a profound effect on boosting confidence in personal and corporate life. Embarking on a weight loss program and helping others through volunteering are other proven ways.
Ironically, confiding in a trusted, non-judgemental ally, be it a spouse, close friend, family member, spiritual adviser or mentor can be empowering and liberating. The reality check that a second opinion affords could start the process of challenging and rationalising disabling insecurities.
It’s time to talk back to your inner critics.