11 signs someone is deeply insecure, according to psychology

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Insecurity can manifest in various different ways.

Especially in the complex landscape of the human experience, it’s important to look at our mental well-being as a vast and colorful picture.

As in, just because you can relate to one or two things on this list, doesn’t mean you’re doing life entirely wrong.

Although how you respond to the things you resonate with might tell you a bit more about yourself – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The point is that understanding insecurities from a more nuanced perspective can help us recognize our own struggles better, as well as foster more empathy in our relationships.

Let’s get psychological – here are 11 signs someone is deeply insecure.

1) Constant need for approval

One of the prominent signs of deep insecurity is a relentless thirst for external approval.

Individuals will seek approval from others to validate their self-worth – usually a behavior that stems from childhood wounds of not feeling good enough.

Perhaps they were overly criticized, emotionally neglected, or were simply not given the space and encouragement to form their own perspectives.

Which is different from validation in a sense that validation doesn’t necessarily mean you are putting all the power in other people’s hands for how you feel.

This incessant need for affirmation can manifest in various ways – from personal relationships to professional accomplishments.

For example, excessively people-pleasing at work in order to be favored by everyone, but not really investing the same level of effort into your personal growth.

2) People-pleasing

The inclination to please others at the expense of your personal needs is a common manifestation of insecurities.

People who neglect themselves in this way will have a strong fear of rejection, failure and abandonment – which causes them to have a strong need to be liked to avoid them. 

But not in a genuine way where they are seen and appreciated for their authentic selves. Instead, it will come from a place of perfectionism.

They will rarely say “no,” apologize unnecessarily, take the blame like a trained scapegoat, and will have very little self-awareness.

And because of the need to over-accommodate, very weak or little boundaries.

3) Inability to set boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries is necessary if you want to maintain your personal well-being.

However, individuals with deep insecurities will find it challenging to establish and maintain them.

This creates a cycle of conflict that’s exacerbated by their fears – robbing them of the opportunity to respect themselves.

Other than being able to say “no,” poor boundaries can pertain to how confident you are about your own choices

For example, second-guessing yourself if someone has a different opinion than you can make having boundaries with yourself difficult.

So like anything, a healthy self-esteem starts from within, along with a healthy ego that knows how to hush the inner critic.

4) Excessive self-criticism

Because they feel a void within, insecure individuals may resort to excessive self-criticism when they are alone.

This excessive inner critic becomes a pervasive thought pattern that keeps them from experiencing new things.

Perfectionism is the main theme here as they strive for unrealistic standards by using it as motivation, but feeling inadequate if they don’t meet them.

This is called a High Performers Paradox!

Though these individuals may not be explicitly negative, they can have a lot of judgments that they project onto others.

Almost as if they are trying to convince themselves of their own worth through you by simultaneously confirming their negative biases.

5) Tendency to put others down

Being a bully is an overt way someone will verbally abuse you to feel superior

But there’s something called “disparagement humor” which where someone will essentially… roast you.

There’s even terms for those who enjoy laughing at others (katagelasticism), those who fear being laughed at (gelotophobia), and those who enjoy being laughed at (gelotophilia).

In our context, those who enjoy humor at the expense of others use jokes to avoid being the one who gets laughed at.

On the other hand and less light-heartedly, there are also individuals who are more prone to “hating”.

Where they project their fears of the “other,” which is really a fear of themselves.

For example, people who join hate groups were most likely taught to fear certain groups of people that pose a threat to their perceived identities.

And speaking of deriving our identities from how we relate to others…

6) Comparing themselves to others

Comparison is another way we fill the void by creating a set of standards we cannot live up to.

This can include measuring one’s self-worth against the perceived achievements and attributes of others – especially in an unfair way.

For example, you shouldn’t compare yourself to someone in your field if they’ve had 10 years of experience ahead of you.

I’d even say that certain jealousies can be a tool that can help you overcome your insecurities – if you manage them in a healthy way by helping you highlight hidden feelings.

However, when not dealt with, it can have an effect that intensifies already existing insecurities.

And overtime, when you have a certain image in your head of who you think you should be, it can be hard to receive constructive criticism.

7) Inability to handle criticism

When you’re unable to accept failure, or anything but perfection, criticism can feel like the world is ending.

Even when it’s constructive and coming from a genuine place.

Instead of seeing it as an opportunity for growth, they may interpret it as a personal attack. Therefore resorting to defensiveness and a resistance to change.

There’s even evidence where those who have ADHD may struggle with something called, “rejection sensitive dysphoria” simply because the structure of their brain is different.

So whether or not you have ADHD, it’s important that you emotionally regulate, as well as become more self-aware of how your mind functions to maintain a healthy sense of self.

8) Toxic positivity

Truth of the matter is that positive things and negative things in life don’t always cancel each other out.

They are two sides of the same coin, and in our context, toxic positivity can create a lot of pressure for an individual.

Perfectionism has a way of breeding a skewed perspective of oneself, which can translate to a skewed perspective of how life should go.

This can include feeling excessive amounts of guilt for feeling less than okay, and dismissing other people’s difficult emotions as well.

Of course, everyone deals with things differently and optimism isn’t inherently bad.

The point here is that negative emotions deserve a place in a person’s life, and no one should feel like their worth is dependent on how positive they are.

9) Difficulty trusting others

According to Oxford Dictionary, trust is defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability and strength of someone or something.

Someone who is deeply insecure didn’t just end up that way, they likely have been through a lot of traumatic experiences that influenced how they view life.

For example, someone who was cheated on will doubt their ability to be “good enough” for others, especially in a new connection.

Some signs a person struggles to trust are always assuming the worst, sabotaging new relationships, and having a hard time forgiving themselves and others.

It’s worth mentioning how insecurities aren’t always about how you feel about yourself – they can also be about your ability to view life with an open mind

10) Difficulty accepting compliments

Just like how rebuilding trust is a process and a practice, so is the ability to accept compliments.

For people with deep insecurities, they might deflect, reciprocate, or discount the positive feedback they receive.

They essentially feel as though they have to be transactional in their relationships in order to compensate for how they don’t feel worthy of that compliment.

With that being said, it can go beyond how they feel about the compliment itself.

But rather, how they only believe in their worth in relation to others, instead of feeling deeply rooted in their internal qualities.

Instead of feeling deeply connected to others!

11) Overemphasis on physical appearance

Now, now – there’s nothing wrong with having fun and putting effort into how you look.

But superficiality and insecurity have a lot more in common in how they are afraid to look deep within.

It’s safe to say that high self-esteem is so much more than just liking yourself, it’s about how deeply you know yourself.

Because when you know yourself, you aren’t shaken by how others perceive you. And you don’t have a hard time saying no to what isn’t for you.

When a person doesn’t make room in their life for self-discovery, they will overcompensate by putting a lot more effort into how they look.

If not how they literally look, then by having a lot of superficial elements in their life, like their relationships!

It’s easy to look at these traits and feel turned off by insecurity.

But the truth is that we are all insecure at different points in our lives regarding different things. 

Which can happen during points of transformation or major growth. Meaning insecurity can have its purpose if you take the initiative to work through them.

Not to mention, we could all afford to be a little more compassionate towards each other.

After all, we’re all just human beings trying to figure it out with the cards we’ve been handed.

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