Stop Letting Self-doubt Hold You Back

Why Am I So Insecure? Causes and Coping Strategies


<p>PeopleImages / Getty Images</p>
PeopleImages / Getty Images

Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough? Do you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling like you’re coming up short? Do you hesitate to try new things because you’re sure you’ll be bad at them? Does your inner critic whisper in your ear while you’re at work, spending time with your friends, or even when you’re simply trying on clothes in the mirror?

We know this cycle of self-doubt and insecurity can be exhausting to live with. It doesn’t let you believe in yourself, holds you back from trying new things, and keeps you from living your best life.

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At a Glance

Feeling insecure? You’re not alone. Insecurity often stems from childhood experiences, social pressures, or traumatic experiences. It can zap your confidence and cause you to hold yourself back.

Overcoming insecurity takes time and effort, but it’s possible with self-awareness. It’s important to recognize your triggers, challenge negative thoughts, practice self-compassion, and celebrate your strengths and victories. Every single one of them, no matter how big or small!

Understanding Insecurity

According to the American Psychological Association, insecurity is a feeling of inadequacy and lack of confidence that makes us doubt our abilities and relationships with others.

Insecurity is usually a belief that you’re a failure as a person, says Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Clarity Clinic, Chicago.

Although insecurity can look and feel different to everyone, these are some common signs and symptoms:

  • Constant self-doubt: There’s a nagging voice in your head that makes you doubt your abilities, appearance, and worthiness.
  • Negative self-talk: Your inner critic is constantly focused on perceived flaws or shortcomings, berating you repeatedly for every little mistake you make.
  • Excessive comparison: You frequently compare yourself to others and feel inferior as a result.
  • Approval seeking: You feel like you need the validation and approval of others to feel worthy or accepted. This can lead to people-pleasing behavior or a fear of taking risks.
  • Fear of rejection: You have a strong fear of being judged, criticized, or rejected by others.
  • Sensitivity to criticism: Even minor criticism can feel devastating, confirming your inner doubts and insecurities.
  • Defensiveness: You may react defensively to constructive criticism or feedback, taking it personally and feeling attacked.
  • Overconfidence: Conversely, insecurity can also manifest itself as overconfidence. People who are insecure have trouble taking feedback because they can’t be seen as being less than expert at anything, so they sometimes appear overconfident and put others down, says Dr. Daramus.
  • Social anxiety: You feel on edge in social situations, because you’re worried about being judged or rejected. As a result, you may struggle to make conversations or maintain eye contact with others.
  • Physical symptoms: When your insecurity is triggered, you may experience physical symptoms such as tense muscles, rapid heartbeat, sweating, or a stomach upset.

Factors Contributing to Insecurity

These are some of the factors that can contribute to insecurity:

  • Upbringing: A lack of love, support, or positive reinforcement from caregivers in your early years can leave you feeling insecure about your worth. If the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally don’t, you may not learn to love yourself.
  • Parental pressure: If you were put under too much pressure to perform as a child or were given tasks that were too difficult for you, you may end up feeling like a failure, says Dr. Daramus.
  • Abuse: Negative experiences such as childhood abuse, bullying, rejection, or criticism can leave lasting emotional scars and contribute to insecurity. If you grow up being told there’s something wrong with you, you might start to believe it, says Dr. Daramus.
  • Trauma: Traumatic experiences can leave you feeling unsafe and insecure in the world, impacting your sense of self-worth and trust in others.
  • Past failures: Experiencing rejection, failure, or criticism—in your professional or personal relationships—can chip away at your confidence and make you hesitant to take risks.
  • Perfectionism: Holding yourself to unreasonably high standards can lead to constant disappointment and feelings of inadequacy.
  • Lack of support: A lack of supportive relationships, encouragement, or positive feedback can undermine your confidence and contribute to insecurity.
  • Comparison: Constantly comparing yourself to others, especially in terms of achievements, appearance, or success, can fuel feelings of inferiority and insecurity.
  • Social pressures: Societal expectations around success, relationships, or appearances can also be a source of pressure and insecurity.
  • Social media: Social media, with its curated highlight reels, can create unrealistic beauty standards and fuel feelings of inadequacy.
  • Neurodivergence: Insecurity can also be a sign of undiagnosed neurodivergence, such as ADHD or autism, says Dr. Daramus.

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Effects of Insecurity

Insecurity can take a toll on your mental health, relationships, career, and personal growth. These are some of the effects you may experience:

  • Low self-esteem: Insecurity often leads to low self-esteem, causing you to doubt your abilities, worth, and value.
  • Imposter syndrome: Insecurity may also manifest in the form of imposter syndrome. You may feel like you’re doing badly even when you’re doing well, because you believe so strongly that you could not have succeeded, says Dr. Daramus. For example, she says you could be an Olympic athlete or a Nobel prize winner and still feel small and stupid.
  • Mental health: Insecurity can be a breeding ground for stress, anxiety, and depression. The constant feeling of inadequacy and fear of rejection can take a toll on your mental well-being.
  • Relationships: Insecurity can make it difficult for you to form healthy relationships. You might become possessive or jealous in romantic relationships, or struggle to trust and open up to friends.
  • Indecisiveness: Constantly second-guessing and doubting yourself can make it difficult to make decisions, big or small. You might rely heavily on others’ opinions or miss opportunities due to indecisiveness.
  • Missed opportunities: Fear of judgment or failure can prevent you from taking risks, trying new things, or putting yourself out there. Due to your insecurity, you may not really try, says Dr. Daramus. This can limit your personal and professional growth.

Identifying Personal Insecurities

Becoming more self-aware and recognizing your insecurities can be the first step towards overcoming them. Here are some ways to identify and understand your insecurities:

  • Pay attention to your inner critic: What kind of thoughts pop into your head throughout the day? Are they encouraging and kind, or do they focus on your flaws and shortcomings?
  • Notice your emotional reactions: Pay attention to your emotional reactions in different situations. When do you feel anxious, defensive, or inadequate? These emotions can point to areas of insecurity.
  • Watch for physical signs: Do you experience physical symptoms like anxiety, sweating, or blushing in situations that make you feel insecure?
  • Analyze your behavior: Do you shy away from taking risks or expressing your opinions for fear of rejection? Do you spend excessive time worrying about how you appear to others? Do you prioritize others’ approval over your own needs, in an effort to please them?
  • Keep a journal: If you’re trying to be more aware of your insecurities, it can be helpful to keep a journal where you note down the situations that trigger your self-doubt, negative self-talk, anxiety, or avoidance. Also note down your emotional, physical, and behavioral responses to each situation. This exercise will help you identify triggers and patterns of insecurity, so you can start to work on them.

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Overcoming Insecurity

We asked the expert for some strategies that can help you overcome your insecurities:

  • Confront your beliefs: Instead of accepting negative self-talk, try to confront your beliefs about yourself and where they came from, says Dr. Daramus. She recommends asking yourself, who taught you this about yourself?
  • Practice self-compassion: Offer the same kindness and self-compassion to yourself that you would others, reminding yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Learn to forgive yourself and focus on learning and growing.
  • Embrace self-acceptance: You are worthy of love and belonging just as you are. Instead of striving for perfection, accept yourself as you are, with all your flaws and imperfections.
  • Celebrate your successes: Dr. Daramus recommends keeping a list of your successes, even if they’re imperfect. “You probably already have a mental list of your mistakes, but you need to balance that out by celebrating good work.”
  • Step out of your comfort zone: Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and try new experiences. Celebrate your victories, big and small, to build confidence.
  • Limit social media consumption: Curated feeds and unrealistic portrayals on social media can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy. Consider taking breaks from these platforms, or limiting your daily usage.
  • Build a supportive network: Dr. Daramus says it’s important to spend time with people who like and respect you. “If possible, avoid spending time with people who focus on your mistakes, unless they’re giving you constructive feedback in a kind and supportive way.”
  • Seek professional help: If your insecurities are overwhelming and interfering with your ability to function, consider seeking help from a therapist. They can equip you with tools and strategies to manage negative thoughts and build self-esteem.


Insecurity may be a familiar foe, but it doesn’t have to rule your life. By understanding the roots of your insecurities and taking steps to overcome them, you can build up your confidence. Although it can be a gradual process, every step you take is a win. Remember that you are worthy of love, starting with your own!

Originally published on  Verywell Mind






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