How many relationship problems arise from insecurity? I don't have a precise number or anything, but I bet it's a lot.
"I get jealous when my boyfriend compliments other girls."
"I'm freaking out. He hasn't texted me back in four hours. Does he even like me?"
"I can't possibly understand what she sees in me. I should break up with her; she could do so much better."
"Everything feels like it's going well, but I can't help constantly looking for problems in our relationship."
"He canceled our plans. He probably doesn't want to see me anymore."
These are all examples of relationship problems caused by insecurity. In fact, if you take the time to think about your own relationships, it might seems like almost every problem is rooted in insecurity.
What You Might Be Feeling
Feeling insecure (whether it's in ourselves or in our relationships) can make us...
Obviously, not our most attractive selves. That's a big part of the reason why I hate my insecurities – it's a vicious cycle. You start to feel insecure, and then you show that to your partner, and then you worry that they'll find you less attractive because of your insecurities, and then you get even more insecure. There's only one word for it: FUN! (*Sarcasm.)
How Does Insecurity Affect Your Life?
Whether it's seeping into your self-esteem, or preventing you from being as happy as you could be in your current relationships (even those with friends or family members), there are a ton of benefits to fighting off insecurity.
But how do you do that? Well, the first step is to identify your insecure behaviors – know when your insecurities are wreaking havoc. Observe yourself, your moods and reactions.
Do you feel intensely emotionally vulnerable when opening up to someone?
Do you look for problems where none exist?
When you feel angry or hurt by someone, is it actually because they've dredged up an insecurity of yours?
When your overactive imagination cooks up a worst-case scenario for why someone has acted in a certain way, do you give in and believe it?
Do you act out or become emotional when you don't feel like your partner is giving you enough love?
Do you get nervous when your partner doesn't communicate with you for stretches of time, or when you have to spend some time apart?
Do you look to your partner to address all your emotional needs?
These are all things that insecure people feel. And hey, there's nothing wrong with having insecurities. We all do. Literally, all of us. And even though it's tough, grappling with them absolutely makes us into better people and stronger partners.
The External World Is Unpredictable
Insecurity often results in us seeking security (or love, or comfort, or whatever it may be) from external sources – things outside our selves. You can see this in all of the examples above. So why is that a behavior we need to change? Emma Higgins, a relationship blogger and psychology student, writes wisely:
"The problem is that anytime we are looking externally to feel more secure – we will be inevitably be let down. We might feel better momentarily, but it’s simply not sustainable.
Our partner gets us flowers to apologize for messing up, and we might feel loved again – but it’s a matter of time until something else starts to make us feel insecure. This is because we can never control other people, and so we can never be 100% certain that they will feed our need for security. In fact, nothing about the external world is completely dependable, or without risk. People are unpredictable, our jobs are unpredictable, the world is unpredictable.
Relying on external sources of security only creates a negative feedback loop that makes us feel less secure and even more dependent on those external sources."
The Only True Source of Security
There's only one real source of security, and it doesn't come from a good relationship, a flashy job, or lots of money.
It comes from within yourself.
We can't control the uncertainties of the outside world. From how people behave, to the very circumstances of our lives – there is so much outside our control. But luckily, we can control how we react to the outside world. We can learn to give ourselves the love and comfort we need. We can learn to make peace with our insecurities, and to deny them the chance to control us.
Strategies to Banish Your Insecurity
When insecurity threatens your sense of self, or leads to negative emotions or behaviors, here's what to do:
1. Try to catch yourself.
Upset? Worried? Feeling unloved? Before you continue down the path of that negative reaction, think: Is this being prompted by my own insecurity? If you catch that sneaky little bugger in the act, you can take a step back and change your approach to whatever is prompting your reaction.
2. It's not a "them" problem, it's a "you" problem.
Emma Higgins also gets the credit for this one. When you're angry with your partner for something they did, stop yourself and look inward – did they really do something so horrible, or are you just feeling insecure? Recognize when the issues you're blaming on someone else are really your own.
3. Calmly communicate your insecurities and your needs.
When you're ready (feel free to take a breather if you need it), tell your partner about what made you feel insecure and why. Removing the anger and defensiveness from the equation leaves you free to communicate in a productive way. Plus, you're building intimacy and trust with your partner – which is turn leads to a more secure relationship.
4. Keep working on self-love and self-comfort.
Find ways, big and small, to give yourself the love you need. The journey to self love is not always easy, but it's worth it – stay the course. When you're feeling down, take time to comfort yourself first before turning to other external sources. Strangely enough, when you depend less on your partner to make you feel secure, you'll find your relationship flourishes and actually becomes more secure. You can enjoy your relationship, without trying to control it and make it suit your needs.
A couple more quick tips to help you along your way:
+ Distinguish clearly between reality and your imagination.
+ Make peace with uncertainty.
+ Don't assume; communicate.
+ Never, ever compare. It's the quickest route to unhappiness.
+ Give it time. Changes don't happen overnight.
You've got this, Vinglers. I know many of you have asked me about my journey to self-confidence in the past; this was a big part of it. I had to learn (and I'm definitely still learning... sigh) that no relationship can fulfill me the way my relationship with myself can. I need to stop asking external sources for love and security, and find it within myself.
Do you struggle with this too? Do you have questions or tips to share? I'm positive that many people would be happy to hear them. Feel free to leave them in the comments below. I'll try to come back and answer any questions soon :)