We’re living in the age of social media, filters, and influencers who make their living off illusions of perfection. With so much pressure on these ideals, most people would be lying if they said they haven’t felt insecure at one point or another. Insecurity comes from deep within and it can seep into many parts of our lives—from jobs to relationships—leading to dissatisfaction, turmoil, and tension. In particular, romantic relationships can suffer if one or both partners are feeling insecure.
Are you dealing with feelings of insecurity in your relationship? There are ways to overcome your personal insecurities and improve your self-confidence to cultivate a thriving, healthy relationship—with both yourself and your partner.
What is insecurity?
“Insecurity is any thought about yourself or your relationship that disturbs your peace,” says Jaime Bronstein, intuitive relationship coach, author, and host of Love Talk Live. “It’s a lack of feeling comfortable with being yourself in the relationship.”
Having some degree of doubt in a relationship is totally normal, especially in a new relationship. Learning to recognize red flags can actually protect you from making bad choices in your relationships. Insecurity, on the other hand, is when a person continuously has doubts without any concrete reason backing them up, or even when presented with evidence to the contrary.
Insecurity can stem from past experiences, like being bullied, cheated on, or surviving abuse. It can also originate from past relationship dynamics with parents or significant others. As we proceed through life after these experiences, they can continue to influence our worldview, in both conscious and subconscious ways.
Signs of Insecurity
When a person possesses a lack of confidence in themselves or their abilities, they have low self-esteem. “People with low self-esteem don’t feel totally comfortable in their skin and with using their own voice,” says Bronstein. Having a low sense of self-worth can contribute to anxiety, depression, problems with substance use, and other negative outcomes--all of which affect not only the person experiencing them, but also their platonic and romantic relationships.
Overthinking is when a person dwells on experiences and decisions for too long. It can be exhausting and can contribute to self-doubt, especially when analyzing decisions that have already been made and can’t be changed. Overthinking when it comes to negative thoughts can lead to low self esteem or feelings of worthlessness.
Overthinking relationship dynamics often manifests in trust issues, which Bronstein considers the “number one” sign of insecurity in a relationship. People who have trust issues may question their partner’s feelings, both internally and externally, frequently seek validation, or engage in behaviors like snooping through a partner’s phone.
Passive-aggressive behaviors are destructive actions that happen when a person expresses negative attitudes indirectly. An insecure person may exhibit passive-aggressive behaviors like withholding information, being emotionally closed off, or stonewalling (shutting down during an argument). Over time, these behaviors can deteriorate feelings of trust and attachment and sabotage relationships.
Insecure attachment style
Insecurity is largely influenced by attachment style, our patterns for relating to and bonding with others. According to attachment theory, there is the secure type of attachment, where a person is confident in themselves and capable of emotional openness. There are also three types of insecure attachment: avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized.
Anxious attachment often presents as clinginess or emotional neediness, and is typically caused by overbearing parents or caregivers. Avoidant attachment is the opposite side of the spectrum, where insensitive responses from parents or caregivers lead to a person being overly independent and unable to let others in as an adult. Disorganized attachment is a result of childhood chaos or abuse that cause a person to be fearful and inconsistent in their adult relationships.
Attachment styles form from our childhood relationships and can persist throughout our lives—negatively impacting those with insecure attachment styles if they don’t work against them.
How to Overcome Insecurity
Do you want to stop feeling insecure in relationships? The good news is that traits like insecure attachment are not fixed. They do not define a person, and they can absolutely change over time, especially if you’re serious about doing the work.
Talk about your insecurity, with both your partner and a trained mental health professional. Finding the root cause of your insecurity, such as trauma and low points from your past, will help you stop overthinking and address the low self-esteem that leads to insecurity.
Learn about your attachment style, and how it may influence your behavior in relationships. Reflect on any unhealthy behaviors you may exhibit. Being honest with yourself can lead to self-awareness that inspires positive change and growth.
“Your past doesn’t need to determine your past or your future,” says Bronstein. “Life happens for us, not to us. Don’t resent the past—your experience can help you grow and learn and become a stronger person.”
And, as always, don’t forget to practice self-compassion. We’re all human beings dealing with complex emotions, and no one is perfect all of the time. A little bit of self-love goes a long way towards building a positive self-image that reflects both on you and the one you love.