We have all felt insecure at some point in our life. In fact, you’ve likely felt insecure more than once. Perhaps you felt insecure the first time you got behind the wheel of a car, when you took a test without studying enough, or before making an important life decision.
Insecurity is a feeling that warns us that we can make mistakes. When we are in doubt about the way forward, we can experience a degree of insecurity. This insecurity is often accompanied by a feeling of discomfort and tension that can reach considerable proportions.
If we are not able to deal with that feeling of insecurity, it will continue to grow within us, paralyzing us more and more. In fact, many people carry certain types of insecurities for years, allowing them to dictate their decisions, limit their potentialities, and flood them with frustration, guilt, and anguish.
The 5 most common types of insecurities
Insecurity is a deeply personal experience, so there are as many types of insecurities as there are people. Insecurity can arise from different sources and spread to multiple areas of our life or even permeate it completely. However, there are some fairly common types of personal insecurity that often become the basis from which all other doubts, conflicts and uncertainties emanate.
1. Insecurity in interpersonal relationships
This type of insecurity is usually born from the fear that the others will harm or disappoint us, so that we do not give ourselves completely in relationships, but we maintain a certain emotional distance. That distance acts as a shield that keeps us “safe”, but also keeps the others away.
People who are insecure in their relationships are unwilling to show their vulnerabilities and do not fully trust the others. As a result, they tend to develop more superficial relationships in which they do not allow the other – be it a partner, a close friend, or even children or parents – to get close enough for that intimate contact between two souls to occur.
Insecurity in interpersonal relationships is born from an avoidant attachment. The person has difficulty expressing his emotions and is afraid of intimacy, so when he feels that the other is getting too close, he moves away. This insecurity and mistrust ends up generating insecurity and mistrust in the other, preventing the creation of a solid foundation for the relationship to bear fruit.
2. Social insecurity
The person who experiences this type of insecurity has no problems relating to those who make up their circles of trust, but usually avoids social contexts. He feels deeply uncomfortable in large groups or when he has to interact with a stranger.
Social insecurity is often due to a lack of confidence in our abilities to perform adequately or have a certain level of success in social settings. Deep down, the fear of criticism and social rejection are fed. When we worry too much about what the others think of us, we will feel more anxious and insecure and will not know how to behave.
The person who suffers this type of insecurity usually avoids social contexts because these situations generate great tension and inhibit him. He is afraid of making mistakes, making a fool of himself, not knowing what to say or of transmitting a wrong or negative image of himself. As a result, he ends up limiting his social life and miss out on opportunities just to avoid exposing himself publicly.
3. Body insecurity
Physical appearance, whether we like it or not, is part of our business card. Our body and our face add or subtract points to the first impression we generate on others. In addition, in a society like ours, obsessed with physical appearance and certain aesthetic ideals, personal appearance takes center stage.
So when people are uncomfortable with their body image, they can experience great insecurity that extends to virtually every sphere of their life. Body insecurity comes from not feeling comfortable in our own skin, from the rejection of parts of our body that we do not like.
Deep down, people who experience this type of insecurity do not usually have a balanced view of their physical characteristics, but tend to focus on that part of the body that they do not like and amplify its importance. They believe that the others will judge them exclusively by their image, so they end up being their worst judges.
4. Professional insecurity
In some cases, insecurity is concentrated in the workplace. Since we spend a large part of our day working, this type of insecurity can be devastating, affecting that part of our “self” that identifies with the profession.
If a person feels he doesn’t have the knowledge or skills to do his job successfully, he may feel deeply insecure. In the most extreme cases he can even feel like an impostor; In other words, the insecurity makes him believe that he is not qualified to carry out that job.
Deep down, professional insecurity implies a questioning of our intelligence and capabilities, as well as a hidden fear of criticism and disapproval of those people we perceive as more intelligent or capable. In fact, a study carried out at the University of Hong Kong revealed that job insecurity is not closely related to job performance, which means that we can have an adequate or even good level of performance and still feel deeply insecure. This is because insecurity, once it sets in, is quite resistant to evidence to the contrary.
5. Personal insecurity
Among all types of insecurities, personal insecurity is probably the most insidious and difficult to eradicate because it is not linked to certain contexts such as social or professional insecurity, but rather spreads like a stain to practically all spheres of life.
It is a deep insecurity, often developed during childhood or adolescence, which implies a fear of what the others think of us, of not being enough and of disappointing the expectations of the others. It tends to feed on low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence.
However, at its base there is a deep disconnection with our “self”. Personal insecurity is the reflection of unresolved internal conflicts, of a “self” that does not know what it wants and does not dare to decide one direction or another. As a result, the person suffering from this type of insecurity can spend much of his life paralyzed, making decisions only when circumstances force it.
How to deal with the different types of insecurities?
A study conducted at Brigham Young University found that authoritarian people, those who want to control everything, experience higher levels of insecurity. In fact, deep down, the different types of insecurities hide a deep fear of the uncertain, of what is beyond our control and its consequences. For this reason, insecurity is fought by making way for the uncertain.
• Immerse yourself in insecurity. It might seem like a contradiction in terms, but since you can’t run from yourself, you can’t run away from your insecurities either. Denying them will only cause them to grow out of proportion. Instead, observe what you feel when insecurity invades you. Do not pay attention to your thoughts, but only to the sensations and emotions that you experience. Turn into that experience with curiosity, as if you were a child experiencing it for the first time. Do not try to fight it, do not judge or recriminate yourself, just live it as it comes.
• Suppress the urge to act. Whatever type of insecurity you experience, the discomfort it creates is likely to be so great that it spurs you into action. Do not act by letting yourself be guided by that feeling of insecurity. Don’t let insecurity take over. Just stay calm and pay attention to your first impulse. What is that you want to do? It can be postponing a decision, escaping from a place, giving up something … Don’t do it! Stay in the insecurity for a little while longer. Without acting.
• Relax in insecurity. It may seem impossible, but it is not. The weapons of insecurity, with which it perpetuates itself and pushes you to act, are inner tension and anxiety. Therefore, you have to learn to contrast those sensations with relaxation. You can apply techniques like diaphragmatic breathing to learn to be comfortable with those feelings, until you understand that they won’t hurt you and that they have no more power over you than you give them.
• Fill yourself with gratitude. Insecurity is not fought with security. Security is a pipe dream. Life is insecurity, unpredictability and uncertainty. And that’s good! Therefore, now that you are stopped in that sea of insecurity, trying to relax, look for a feeling of gratitude within yourself. You experience gratitude even for that insecurity, because it is a sign that you are alive, thinking and feeling.
This way you will find the balance you need to keep going. You will not get rid of insecurity. There’s no need. But it will stop bothering or paralyzing you. As the yogi Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev explains “When you feel insecure you try to avoid life, and that generates deep misery. But in this life we are passing through. We have nothing to lose because we arrive with nothing and leave with nothing. We decide if we want to live it with all its insecurities or let them paralyze us”.
Grand, H. L. et. Al. (2008) Who Suffers More from Job Insecurity? A Meta-Analytic Review. Applied Psychology; 57(2): 272-303.
Larsen, K. S. & Schwendiman, G. (1969) Authoritarianism, Self Esteem and Insecurity. Psychological Reports; 25(1): 229-230.