How to Face the 3 Types of Insecurity and Improve Self Esteem

CoachHub · 12 January 2023 · 8 min read

You may or may not remember a popular online video that went viral on social media several years ago. The video features a little girl standing and dancing on the bathroom vanity, singing and shouting affirmation at herself. She intones statements like, “I like my hair!” “I can do anything!” I can do anything great!” It’s infectious to watch a young child joyfully express confidence and boost their self-esteem. We connect to it because we want to have that level of joy in ourselves and our abilities both at home and especially at work.

When it comes to acting confident at work and improving self-esteem, you might wonder if you should just fake it or learn techniques to overcome your insecurities instead. It might shock you, but most people experience insecurity. They might question their capabilities in tackling a big project. They might decide they’re unworthy of love or no good as a person in general. Some people are so insecure, including in their professional lives, that no matter how successful they are, they feel like an imposter.

No matter how much self-doubt or lack of security in one’s own abilities, behaving and acting out of insecurities can negatively impact relationships and sabotage career growth. So, what’s the answer? If everyone is insecure, how can anyone overcome their insecurities or step outside of their comfort zone and develop healthier self-esteem?

What is insecurity? Where does it come from?

Insecurity is a lack of certainty about yourself, your abilities, your appearance, etc. It’s that nagging feeling or negative self-talk – the so-called “inner voice”– that says you’re just not good enough. Insecurities can cause feelings of anxiety about any – or every – aspect of yourself and/or your life.

And there isn’t just one type of insecurity or feeling of uncertainty. A person can experience social insecurity, job insecurity, economic insecurity, etc. Again, almost everyone feels insecure sometimes. And some people experience anxiety and insecurities most of the time.

So, where does insecurity come from? For many (not all) people, feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth, i.e., insecurity, typically come from recent failures, childhood experiences, past trauma, social anxiety, having a critical parent or partner, etc.

However, for some neurodivergent individuals, insecurity can stem from differences in neurology, e.g., ASD, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, etc. Although, it’s unclear if the insecurities stem from the neurological differences themselves or from adverse experiences related to how peers and adults, including parents, doctors, bosses, teachers reacted to perceived behavioral and communication differences inherent to their differences either in childhood or after they reached adulthood.


Are there common types of insecurity?

There are many causes and types of insecurity. People also experience varying levels of insecurity. And it’s possible and common to feel multiple types of insecurity. Psychologist, Dr. Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. identifies three of the most common types or causes of insecurities people might face.

1. Recent rejection or failure

Dr. Greenberg claims that there’s research that suggests that “up to 40% of our happiness is based on real- life events. How happy we feel also influences our self-esteem. Any type of rejection or failure can cause a person to feel insecure and lose confidence. And negative experiences like the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, divorce or a breakup, or severe health problems can make you feel even worse. Events like these can cause feelings of guilt and failure that make us lack faith in our abilities in other areas.

2. Social Anxiety

Some people feel varying levels of social anxiety. It might be due to trauma or critical parents. Somebody with this type of social anxiety might have a distorted sense of self-worth. Or social anxiety might originate in fears of being judged for how they appear or communicate in group situations.

For example, a neurodivergent person who grew up having a difficult time making friends or who was bullied by peers for their differences might feel insecure socialising with neurotypical people.

Regardless of the underlying factors, people with social anxiety often avoid group settings in which they might experience debilitating anxiety. Contrary to how a person with social anxiety might feel, the people around them are most likely focused on their own insecurities and aren’t judging. Many people don’t show any outward signs of insecurity. Moreover, the few people who do judge others usually do so to mask their own anxiety and low self-esteem.

3. Perfectionism

Sometimes the experiences that lead to social anxiety can lead to another type of insecurity – perfectionism. Perfectionists put unreasonable expectations on themselves that they can never live up. Perfect is subjective and impossible to reach. And often the outcome of a situation isn’t within a person’s control. For example, perhaps, you lost an important account at work because your client’s budget expectations changed and not because of anything you contributed. If you’re a perfectionist, you still might blame yourself and feel insecure or fear your actions will cause you to lose more clients.

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How we feed our own insecurities

None of us want to feel insecure. Yet, you might think you’re the only person who experiences a lack of confidence. Your insecurities might even cause you to believe that your poor self-esteem is just part of who you are and why you’re inadequate (you’re not). In many ways, you’re like everyone else in that you are your own worst enemy. Why?

It’s that inner voice – also known as the inner critic – that we mentioned briefly at the beginning of the article. Drs. Robert and Lisa Firestone (father-daughter), psychologists at Pyschalive, study insecurity, self-worth and other human emotions as well as what contributes to them. They coined the term “critical inner voice.” This inner critic is made up of our negative experiences and the negative things people have told us during childhood and beyond. This internal voice feeds your insecurities throughout your day.

They developed the Firestone Assessment for Self-Destructive Thoughts (FAST) to evaluate people’s critical inner voices. They’ve discovered several common critical inner statements that many people tell themselves multiple times every day in multiple situations. These situations tend to occur regardless of setting, in relationships and in professional settings. Below is a sampling of some of the negative statements most of us tell ourselves from Drs. Firestones’ observations.

Common general critical commentary

  • “You’re stupid.”
  • “You never get anything right.”
  • “You’re a failure.”
  • “You’re fat.”
  • “You’re such a loser.”
  • “No one will ever love you.”
  • “You’ll never accomplish anything.”
  • “What’s the point of even trying?”
  • The inner critic during relationships
  • “Don’t get too hooked on her.”
  • “He doesn’t really care about you.”
  • “She is too good for you.”
  • “You’re better off on your own.”
  • “As soon as she gets to know you, she’ll reject you.”
  • “It’s your fault if he gets upset.”
  • “Don’t be vulnerable or you’ll get hurt.”
  • The inner critic at work
  • “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
  • “Who do you think you are? You’ll never be successful.”
  • “You’re under too much pressure. You can’t take it.”
  • “You’ll never get everything done. You’re so lazy.”
  • “You should just put this off until tomorrow.”
  • “You’d better be perfect, or you’ll get fired.”
  • “Nobody likes you here.”
  • “No one would hire you.”

Some people are insecure in just one of these three areas. And other people might have issues with all of them. Sometimes, you might feel confident at work, but insecure in your relationships. But then, over time, these might switch. There also may be times when our negative inner voice is relatively quiet. But when we get closer to a goal, e.g., we start a new relationship or job, or we’re about to present to an important client at work or finish a huge project, that the inner critic gets louder and nastier.

Regardless of the type, the effect of insecurity can be the same in one or more areas of our lives. We don’t feel good. As humans, we tend to avoid anything that lends a feeling of uncertainty. However, there is hope. The good news is, there are things a person can do to feel more secure and tackle situations that our out of their comfort zones.

How to overcome insecurities

Insecurities are part of life. It’s unrealistic to expect to never feel insecure. However, you can get to a place where you can cope with your insecurities, silence your inner critic and develop a healthier self-esteem. To become more confident and feel more secure

Open up and talk to a trusted friend about your insecurities

If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, you might talk to them as well. You might be surprised at what you discover. Most people feel insecure. The person you confide in, probably also feel insecure sometimes. Knowing you are not alone can help you see your insecurities in a new light and stop worrying that others will discover you’re not perfect or invulnerable.

Try Drs. Firestones’ “Voice Therapy” methods to quiet your inner critical voice

The Firestones advise several methods for interrupting and challenging your inner critic.

  1. Start by writing out what it says in the third person instead of the first person.
  2. Think about who in your life first said these things to you.
  3. Try to catch your negative critic so you can counter what it says to you with how you really are.
  4. Start to notice how your negative inner voice affects your behaviors in multiple environments, e.g., home, work, with friends, etc.
  5. Make a plan to change your insecure behaviors and act on it. This will involve discomfort no matter how anxious you feel.

Embrace your insecurities

Accept yourself for the wonderful, amazing person you are. Embrace your quirks, your uniqueness and your insecurities. Follow the example of the little girl in the video at the beginning of the article. Tell yourself you can accomplish your goals and that you are capable of success. You can’t eliminate an emotion, including insecure feelings. Instead, your improved self-esteem and confidence will help you face your fears and also be a calmer, more compassionate and accepting person.

Get outside help to face your insecurities and build confidence

Whether you’re having problems building positive self-worth and confidence on your own, or you want to take your fight against your inner critic and your insecurities to the next level, CoachHub has digital coaching that can help, including the CoachHub Wellbeing™ program to support your mental health and make you feel more secure and confident at work.

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