7 Therapist-Approved Tips for When You’re Feeling Insecure1) You are fun and cool. 2) These hacks are gonna make you believe that.
This one goes out to those of us who woke up in a panic at 1 a.m. over how our hair looked on that Hinge date yesterday, the ones who are still semi-convinced they’re very unqualified for their job, and those who cannot stop apologizing for existing. These are the victims of a ruthless criminal known as insecurity.
“Insecurity is the range of beliefs about ourselves, how we’re perceived, and the potential consequences of those perceptions that cause significant anxiety or distress,” explains therapist Amalia Miralrío, LMSW, LCSW, founder of Amity Detroit Counseling.
All of that kind of boils down to the feeling like there’s something about ourselves that worries us, says Miralrío. And, yeah, that something can be preeeeetty much anything.
As you might have suspected, insecurity is super common. But constantly stressing about being judged by other people (or yourself) can become a big problem that sucks the joy out of life real quick.
“Insecurities can trigger us consciously or unconsciously to take actions that protect our perceived vulnerability,” Miralrío continues. Raise your hand if you avoided wearing a bold new ‘fit, or continued to let your co-worker talk to you like you’re in kindergarten, or loaded up on external validation as a means to feel cooler (see: online shopping carts filled with fancy shit).
And the long-term impact of letting your insecurity drive your decisions is, frankly, kinda bleak. “Left unchecked, insecurities can limit our capacity to live our lives authentically,” says Miralrío. “They can limit our ability to take risks in relationships, at school, or at work, as well as in our self-expression. They can stop us from speaking up, showing up on a date, or communicating our feelings.” Insecurities can also take so much energy to manage that you feel tapped out all the time
When we’re exhausted or just too insecure to take those kinds of risks, we can miss out on things that feel good to us and find ourselves living a life that feels unfulfilling, says therapist Aisha R. Shabazz, LCSW, owner of In Real Time Wellness. “Instead of making decisions based on what we really want to do, we make decisions based on what other people want us to do, what we think other people want us to do, or what we think we will get praised for.”
Bottom line, people: If insecurity is keeping you from living your best life, use these expert tips to tell it to STFU (compassionately, of course) when it pops up and build more self-esteem in the moments in between.
1. Allow yourself to go down the rabbit hole.
“Sometimes pushing insecurities away only makes them stronger,” says Miralrío. So instead of dismissing them, it can be helpful to use them as “signals” indicating areas of your life that could use some TLC. For example, if doubting your abilities is getting in the way of your novel-writing goals, dig deeper to see what could be triggering this idea that you’re not good enough. What’s the worst thing people could think or say about your writing? What importance does that have to you? Turning towards the discomfort and looking your insecurity square in the face is a necessary first step in eventually melting it away.
2. Flip the script.
Insecurity can fuel negative self-talk. So when the not-so-nice inner dialogue gets going, fight back by considering whether the opposite is true. “Instead of thinking of all the reasons someone wouldn’t want to hang out with you, ask yourself to come up with all the reasons they would: I tell good jokes, I am kind, I care about my friends, I bring joy to people around me,” suggests licensed clinical psychologist Nicole Hayes, PhD.
“This also works with career insecurity or applying to jobs. Instead of ruminating on all the reasons you shouldn’t be hired, ask yourself why you are a good fit: I have relevant background or education, I work well on teams, I have passion for this field, I learn quickly and with enthusiasm.” This swap basically lets your brain know that there are sunnier possibilities than the ones it tends to imagine.
3. Start asking questions.
When insecurity stands in between you and making a decision, Shabazz recommends asking yourself a series of questions that can guide you in the direction that’s truly right for you. Let’s say you’re considering quitting your job, breaking up with your partner, or becoming a nudist.
First question: What would you do if you weren’t afraid of being vulnerable? Sometimes insecurity blocks us from even considering our true, deep desires, Shabazz says. So this is your opportunity to bust through that wall.
Second question: What’s holding you back from making this decision? If your Aunt Karen judging you is at the root of your insecurity about fulfilling your true passion of joining a nudist colony, well, you’re keeping your clothes on for a rather lame reason, no?
Question number three: How is this choice beneficial for me? If you can, literally list out how said decision would benefit you or be detrimental to you, Shabazz suggests. It’s a good (and quick) reality check about whether you’re avoiding doing something that would be good for you just because you want to avoid discomfort.
Last Q: Is following (or ignoring) what I want to do going to matter tomorrow, a month from now, a year from now, 10 years from now? If going back to school to be a librarian would make your life better down the line, even if you feel insecure about actually making the move right now, you know you’d be selling yourself short by chickening out.
4. Lean on your people.
When insecurity is really cramping your style, check in with someone close to you for a gut check—and a healthy dose of reassurance. “Sometimes saying your insecurity out loud to someone who cares about you can put into perspective how out of touch with reality it truly is,” explains Miralrío.
When you can’t get that TLC right this second (if only your mom could vouch for you during your annual work review), Dr. Hayes recommends using a grounding technique that can help you tap into the love they’d offer you. Place your feet on the ground and feel the connection, knowing that it’s the same ground your friends and family stand on. Imagine their warmth and support running from the ground they stand on, through the floor your feet are on, and right up into you. It’s a simple exercise for feeling more self-assured.
5. Remind your body that you’re good.
Feeling insecure often signals to your body that you’re unsafe, leaving you tense, guarded, and shrunken. “Practice communicating to yourself that you are confident by standing up straight, orienting yourself to anyone you’re talking to, and unclenching your muscles,” suggests Dr. Hayes. This tells your body that this situation is safe and calm.
6. Take note of the positives.
Just as intentionally jotting down things you’re grateful for can help you feel more, um, gratitude, writing down anything that challenges your insecurities can help you feel more at-ease with yourself over time. Dr. Hayes recommends spending a few minutes every night reflecting on reassuring experiences from the day, as well as any positive feedback you received from a friend, partner, colleague, or whoever. Not only can this practice help you see just how awesome you are, but looking back at your entries can snap you out of an insecurity spiral.
7. Explore the root of the issue.
If you want to ditch your insecurities, you have to figure out where they’re coming from.
“One of the best long-term ways of managing insecurities is to understand their deeper roots in our minds,” says Miralrío. “The insecurities we feel in daily life are oftentimes symptoms of deeper fears and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.”
Typically, therapy is the ideal container in which to explore how your upbringing and life experiences shaped the things you feel insecure about, she says. If you don’t have access to individual therapy, though, Miralrío recommends creating space to reflect on what you believe about yourself, how that’s changed over time, and when you can remember first believing that particular thing about yourself. “Sometimes tapping into a younger self can increase your ability to have self-compassion with your current self,” she notes.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.