When you think about someone who’s insecure, you might imagine a person who’s very concerned about superficial impressions, or someone who feels a lot of jealousy in their relationships. But there are many other hidden signs of insecurity that are more subtle, and that we all can fall prey to from time to time. As an experienced therapist and life coach, I can tell you that everyone has insecurities, and they can affect all aspects of your life, from your career, to your relationships, to your overall happiness and wellbeing. So, how insecure are you? Read on to learn about the hidden signs of insecurities and discover ways to tackle them head-on so that you can become more secure in yourself and your relationships.
People-Pleasing and Insecurity
Are you a bit of a people pleaser? Insecurity is at the root of this personality style. When you don’t feel confident about your own worthiness, it’s natural to work to get other people’s approval. People pleasing is about trying to avoid conflict and earn love and respect, because you don’t feel solid enough on the inside to withstand disapproval from others.
Comparing Yourself to Others
Constantly comparing yourself to others signals underlying insecurity. If you feel bad about yourself when your coworker gets a promotion, or when someone you follow on Instagram posts a photo of their vacation, those are signs that you’re engaging in comparison. And it’s definitely something you want to work on — studies show that excessive social comparison leads to dissatisfaction and lower self-esteem, and this habit can be turbocharged by social media (learn more about social media and mental health).
If you struggle to be vulnerable in relationships, even with people you trust, that can be a sign of insecurity. When you don’t feel good about who you are at your core, it can feel too scary to expose your true self to others. Unfortunately, without vulnerability, it’s impossible to build strong, intimate relationships. Working with a good therapist can help you heal from toxic shame, become more secure, and grow more comfortable being open with others.
Excessive Self-Criticism and Insecurity
Continuously beating yourself up over perceived flaws and mistakes is a classic sign of insecurity. If you have a tough inner critic, then the antidote is self-compassion — treating oneself with kindness and understanding. Becoming more self-compassionate can help counteract self-criticism and increase your self-love, helping you feel more secure.
Needing External Validation
Do you worry a lot about what other people think? Do other people’s opinions feel more important than your own? Relying heavily on external validation is a sign of insecurity. This can be a tricky one to detect, because most people who depend on external validation aren’t aware that they’re doing it. Working with a good therapist or coach can help you learn how to validate yourself so that you can be guided by your own internal compass rather than external validation.
Perfectionism and Insecurity
Does it bother you when you can’t do things perfectly? Being a perfectionist is often a symptom of insecurity. People who struggle with perfection often have a subconscious belief that if they do things perfectly, then they will be “good enough” — and if they can’t do things perfectly, then they’ve failed.
“I know my boyfriend loves me but I feel insecure.”
If statements like this feel true for you, that can be a sign of insecurity. Unfortunately, when you don’t feel secure in relationships, you might be more likely to engage in relationship sabotage.
When people don’t believe that they are worthy of love and respect, they often engage in self-sabotage to bring the reality of their lives into alignment with the way they feel on the inside. This insecurity can show up as pushing away people who think you’re great, because their high regard for you doesn’t match your self-concept. In practice, this might look like “commitment issues,” an attraction to emotionally unavailable people or people who just aren’t that into you (while feeling kind of repelled by those who are), or avoidance of emotional intimacy and vulnerability.
Chronic Procrastination and Insecurity
Are you a real-deal procrastinator? If so, insecurity could be at play. Sometimes we put off tasks because we fear failure. This kind of procrastination is linked to being a perfectionist and having low self-esteem. Chronic procrastination can also be a sign of ADHD, depression, or simply never having learned certain organizational skills.
Do you ever feel like a bit of a fraud at work, despite ample evidence that you’re competent? When you’re insecure, it can feel unnatural to have other people look to you for guidance. You might have trouble taking a compliment, or you might feel like you’re just acting when you are doing your job well. These are signs of imposter syndrome, and of underlying insecurities.
Reluctance to Share Success
Do you ever feel like you don’t get enough credit? Does it bother you to share credit for a job well done with others? Being reluctant to share success with others is a sign of insecurity. When you feel like success is scarce, and like you need external accolades to prove that you’re valuable and worthy, it makes sense that your tendency would be to hoard success rather than sharing it. But this tendency can be hard on your relationships, especially your relationships with coworkers.
Insecurity and a Victim Mindset
Habitually feeling like a victim can be a hidden sign of insecurity. There’s a link between a victim mentality and feelings of powerlessness. When you’re insecure, you don’t recognize your own agency to create good things in your life and to overcome your challenges, so it can feel like bad things are “just happening” to you. Adopting a growth mindset can help you become self-empowered so that you can feel more secure.
Chronic Negative Thinking
Negative thought patterns can be self-protective when you’re insecure. It can feel like you’re keeping yourself safe from disappointment by not daring to expect good things from yourself or others. Unfortunately, a pattern of negativity is bad for your mental health and your ability to accomplish your goals. Working to change your mindset into one that’s more positive and empowering is important if negative thinking is a pattern for you.
How to Be Secure in Yourself
So, how insecure are you? If you ticked a few of these boxes, don’t panic. We all have insecurities that we need to work on, and working with a good therapist can help you learn to be secure in yourself, and it can make a huge difference in your confidence and self-esteem. Doing this work can help you feel better about yourself, more capable of achieving your goals, and more satisfied and at ease within your relationships. Recognizing these signs of insecurity for what they are is the first step.
If you’d like to do this work with a clinician on my team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation.
P.S. — For more advice to help you answer the question “how insecure are you,” overcome insecurities, and increase your self-love, check out my Emotional Wellness collection of articles and podcasts.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.