If you live with insecurity, you are well aware of how bad it feels to always be unsure of yourself in relationships, to always be second guessing yourself, and even judging yourself for feeling insecure.
Insecurity usually develops out of early relationship experiences in childhood and sometimes traumatic events or major stressors that occur in your family.
Even when you come from a great family, parents and caregivers have a huge job to do in detecting and meeting your emotional and physical needs. They don't always guess your needs correctly or have the skills to meet them adequately.
Sometimes difficult and uncontrollable events occur in good families that leave a child’s needs for security and emotional attunement unmet. These very early experiences, even those we don't remember, have an influence on our developing brain and can contribute to characteristics of being unsure of ourselves when relating to the world and others later in life.
You might see insecurity as a deficit but there are also a lot of strengths that are commonly present in those who struggle with insecurity.
As children, when our needs aren’t getting met, we develop other “muscles” to protect ourselves emotionally and to find ways to make the best of our circumstances. These strengths are often highly developed and when honed, can offer so much value to your relationships and your community.
What are they?
5 common strengths in people who often feel insecure
1. Sensitive to others needs.
2. Perceptive of the emotional nuances others are experiencing. They pick up on facial cues easily and quickly.
3. Considerate and polite.
4. Loyal and supportive of friends.
5. Introspective and work hard on personal growth.
Now, here is the caveat.
I suspect some of you are thinking that it is the above traits that tend to get you into trouble in relationships and in life, to leave you feeling hurt and misundertood.
It is true that the above strengths can leave those who feel insecure vulnerable in relationships as adults. The thing about strengths is that if there is an imbalance in another area, the strength is not always able to function at its highest potential. If you only worked out one of your legs and not the other, one leg would be super-powerful, but you might limp or you might not be able to stand well on the weak leg in order to kick with the powerful leg.
The weak leg in this analogy usually represents the part of yourself that doesn't recognize, believe in, or care for your own thoughts and feelings. It's the part of you who puts so much effort into others that you leave yourself behind, the part that values others over yourself to the point of hurting yourself.
But weak legs can get strong.
It just takes acquiring some new skills, gaining insight (which insecure people tend to be good at), and practice. Self-confidence and developing healthy, secure ways of relating are characteristics that can be learned.
Here are five new behaviors you can begin thinking about to move in the right direction.
5 behaviors you can develop in order to make the most of your strengths:
1. Set limits so that you don’t give too much too quickly to people who haven’t yet earned it.
2. Allow others the space to take care of themselves even when you know or feel something is wrong.
3. Learn to take care of yourself even when others have needs.
4. Don't be too quick to blame yourself for others feelings and experiences.
5. Recognize and believe that you can and should have requirements of others in relationship with you (attention, support, honesty, reliability etc.).
Some of these ideas might seem abstract right now. It can take some time and some guidance to move into a new way of being. But you can begin reflecting on these ideas and see whether any make sense in a particular area of your life today.
Making change isn’t easy. It involves taking some risks and learning new skills. Sometimes the help of a therapist, mentor, support group, or good friend is needed in learning to detect your needs and to become more effective at getting them met.
An individual who struggles with insecurity often has a large capacity for introspection and self-growth. That ability can help you rise out of insecurity and develop a strong sense of genuine self-assurance with others.
For further exploration:
What Are Personal Boundaries? How Do I Get Some? by Darlene Lance, JD, MFT
Kristen Neff's famous Tedx talk on Self-Compassion. Self-Compassion is a pillar to healing insecurity.
Codependency No More--a classic book on how to start taking care of yourself and stop finding your security in pleasing others.
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About Melissa King
I am a licensed mental health counselor in New York City with a psychotherapy office in the neighborhood of Murray Hill in Manhattan. Find out more about me here. I'd love to hear from you. Email me if there's a topic you'd like to read about here.