Nobody, not even the most confident person in the room, is immune to feeling insecure.
Insecurity is one of the more common human feelings–and it’s far worse in some than others.
When insecurity is left unchecked, it can be debilitating, negatively affecting us and our ability to reach our full potential.
Hence, like any ailment, it’s crucial to first identify the signs.
In this article, I’ll run you through the telltale habits people adopt when they develop insecurity.
Once you start recognizing these behaviors, you can move accordingly.
Let’s get to it!
1) They seek constant validation
We all like a bit of praise now and then–but we don’t quite like it as much as someone who is deeply insecure.
The insecure person has a habit of actively fishing for compliments; the ensuing validation gives them a fleeting self-esteem boost.
Social media has provided insecure people with an almost custom-built platform to gain easy and instant, dopamine-induced validation, in the form of likes.
Sure, we all post snippets of our lives on Instagram or TikTok, but the insecure person tends to overdo it via oversharing, exaggerating, bragging, or posting an excess of selfies.
Being proud of your accomplishments, whether it’s a meal you made or a business you opened, certainly deserves to be shared.
But when done in excess, and without tactfulness, you’re communicating your insecurity, and need to overcompensate, with the rest of humanity.
2) They compare themselves to others
The truly self-assured person gains contentment from within.
How others are doing in life in relation to them is inconsequential.
As long as they’re happy, this is all that matters.
Unfortunately, this type of sentiment doesn’t quite resonate with the insecure individual.
Life for them is a perpetual competition.
Instead of being happy for a friend’s success, for instance, they’ll secretly seethe with envy, resentful that they’re “ahead” in life.
They’re preoccupied with everyone else and tend to measure themselves against others as a way of gauging their self-worth.
This invariably leads to feelings of inadequacy, anger, jealousy, and constant discontent, among other things.
So try to take it easy on the comparisons, they truly are the thief of joy.
3) They are perfectionists
Secure people take personal shortcomings in stride, acknowledging that mistakes are simply a part of life.
After all, to err is human.
The insecure person, however, might constantly strive for perfection as a way of concealing their shaky foundations.
They might set unrealistically high standards for themselves, becoming distraught and overly critical when they inevitably fall short.
They feel that to be fully accepted, they must first prove their perfection to everyone else.
4) They avoiding risks
Real talk: The insecure person doesn’t often leave their comfort zone.
They have a deep-seated fear of failure, rejection, and embarrassment—so they take active measures to avoid taking risks or trying new things.
This slowly eats away at them.
Witnessing other people doing exceptional, fun things, while being mentally unable to take the leap and join them, is painful.
The truth is that achieving anything of value in life will inherently involve some risk. Success in this life is never certain.
Look at some of the great innovators of history: da Vinci, Jobs, Edison, Curie.
Do you think they have reached such towering heights in life by idly sitting around and playing it safe?
No, they had enough self-belief to take chances, despite failure always being in the cards.
So unless you’re content with mediocrity, it’s in your interest to start taking the occasional risk.
Take it from great American essayist and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
5) They’re people-pleasers
When you live to please others, people tend to take advantage.
Insecure people often compromise their dignity, needs, and desires just to seem agreeable, and not ruffle feathers.
They’re so preoccupied with what others think of them, that they rarely stand up for themselves; as the latter might be deemed too controversial.
This only reinforces their perceived inadequacy.
Maybe in the workplace, your superiors typecast you as meek and lacking assertiveness, thus making you work longer hours with minimal compensation.
When people sense weakness, they don’t often hesitate to exploit it, trampling on your boundaries in the process.
Unless you begin standing up for yourself, you can fully expect this treatment to continue.
6) They ruminate excessively
Rather than letting go of past events, the insecure person might excessively overanalyze them.
They’ll consider every minute angle, regret things they said (or didn’t say), or conjure up far-fetched ‘what if’ scenarios.
They’re overly concerned about how they come across; and afraid to be labeled offensive or foolish, even though this is rarely the case.
I’ll tell you what is foolish though: overthinking and dwelling on the past–and things you have no control over.
7) They self-sabotage
Some insecure people might subconsciously feel a sense of impending doom, a sense that they will eventually be exposed.
Ultimately, they just don’t feel deserving of their success, even when they’ve worked hard for it–a testament to their deep-rooted self-worth issues.
As a coping mechanism, they might unknowingly begin to engage in self-sabotage practices like procrastination or rejecting key opportunities.
In their mind, they’re protecting themself from failure–which is all but a foregone conclusion.
A decade ago, one of my good buddies started dating a woman he concluded to be severely out of his league.
Instead of getting comfortable and letting his guard down, as one eventually does in a relationship, he was constantly on edge.
Although the rest of us knew she was into him, he felt that it was only a matter of time before she would dump him.
He got so caught up in his neurosis and self-sabotaging thoughts, that he took it to the extreme and “pre-emptively” broke up with her; claiming he “wasn’t ready” to settle down or something to that effect.
Had he been more confident in himself, he might have achieved happiness–but due to his internal issues at the time, he didn’t feel he was worthy.
It’s a shame.
8) They get defensive
Nobody is perfect–this is just one of those unwritten laws of the universe.
Most self-assured folks are open to criticism and feedback (assuming they’re not mean-spirited), using those comments as fuel to learn and become a better person.
When a person has nothing to prove, they’ll act like it, embodying a powerful sense of comfort, conviction, and ease.
This is not often the case with the insecure person.
They won’t just be hurt by criticism, they’ll often react defensively (even violently); almost as if constructive feedback is a personal affront.
There’s a feeling of resistance, a hypersensitivity, an unwillingness to change.
And unless they make some fundamental personality changes, their growth as an individual will sadly be quite marginal.
If you feel insecure and that sentiment is negatively affecting your life, realize that you aren’t alone.
While you can’t change the past, what can you do is control how you act moving forward.
If your goal is to grow in confidence, you’ll get to where you want to be, if you stay focused.
Don’t be ashamed to reach out to others for help.
Seeking out support from a therapist, counselor, or trusted friends to address underlying issues can do you wonders.
Sometimes, you just need an objective party to deliver you greater clarity.
Remember, confidence is always within you, you just have to learn to tap that energy.