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Health > Mental Health > Insecurity


Insecurity happens to all of us. Starting a new job, moving to a different town, taking examinations, speaking in front of a group of people , and a host of other life situations, are bound to bring forth feelings of unsure ness about ourselves.

Insecurity happens to all of us. Starting a new job, moving to a different town, taking examinations, speaking in front of a group of people , and a host of other life situations, are bound to bring forth feelings of unsure ness about ourselves. Our worries may be exaggerated, but usually we can summon up the courage to handle the situation, so long as there are other areas in our life which we feel secure.

However, there are some people who are so wracked with anxiety that they are unable to stand back and see things in perspective. Their worries are not simply responses to isolated evens: they are far more deep-rooted and have become almost a permanent state of mind. They feel inadequate not just in certain situations, but in coping with life in general. Lurching from one fear to another, they have lost contact with reality and are unable to build up confidence through experience as a more balanced person can.

Insecurity-regardless of whether it is a transitory phenomenon or more deep rooted-can be controlled, provided the person can come to terms with the situations which give rise to it and to the feeling itself.


Generally, our feelings of insecurity arise from childhood experiences. Individual personality probably plays a large part as well. But why one person should be basically more secure than another is not fully understood.

From very early on in a person’s life, attitudes and behaviour patterns are established and, if nothing is done to change them, they will carry on into adulthood.

Security, or insecurity, is first established by the way parents treat a baby, and since their treatment of the child is the child’s only guide to his or her own image, that is the self-image which will be established.

Thus, if parents are distant, unaffectionate, unencouraging and unresponsive to demands for attention, the child will feel unwanted, and think that he or she is not worth caring about. Because no warm and close relationship is formed a child will be unable to see him-or herself as loveable and, having had no experience of loving, will either not be capable of giving love or will lack the confidence to offer love. All their future relationships may well be jeopardised by this lack of emotional security.

Of equal importance to providing a secure emotional base in the need to foster enough confidence in the child to handle new situations. Such independence cannot be gained if parents constantly shield the child from experience, or arouse fears about carrying out tasks, or are overly critical, which will only serve to dampen initiative in the child, and create an even greater dependence on the parents.

Such a child will thus grow up having a timorous nature, afraid to do things alone, and uncertain about his or her own abilities to do anything without help. Additionally, there will be the fear of being criticised-or rebuffed-and because the child hasn’t the confidence to handle this, he or she will opt out rather than risk failure and disappointment.

Without this happy balance between emotional security and independence, a child will grow up feeling anxious, made to feel like an outsider, and an unlovable one at that. He or she will be fearful of new situations, confused about talents and capabilities, particularly if the parents are over-critical and have, at the same time, overly high expectations, the child will develop into an insecure teenager and then into an insecure adult.

If the insecurities are few and defined, it may well be that other aspects of personality or character will be able to provide some compensation. And although the person may remain insecure in those area, the general trend of his or her life will be largely unaffected.

However, it is only when the person’s insecurity begins to dominate his or her existence, and becomes the immediate response to relationships, opportunities, changes in circumstances and so on, that it will limit a full life and be a breeding ground for neuroses.


Making a small child feel secure requires a great deal of effort on the part of the parents. However, such selfishness should not be at the complete expense of the parent’s own lives.

Babies and small children recognise ‘caring’ from the age of three months. Their feelings of security will be increased by the amount they are smiled at and cuddled, played with and talked to. In the first year they may become panicky if you leave them for more than a moment; at this point you should keep them with you as much as needed, but you have to get them sued to being with other people. When the small child is actually learning - to walk and talk - be patient, supportive and very encouraging.

Children are prone to a host of fears - being alone in a room at bedtime, seeing strange animals at a zoo, starting school. Never laugh at their fears; instead try to put the situation in perspective, explain it in simple language, and support the child without being overprotective. He or she will soon gain confidence so long as he knows you are there as a safe base.

As children grow older, they will confront an increasing number of new life situations and many of them may arouse insecure feelings. You must stress that these feelings are totally natural, and that the child or adolescent is not alone in having them. One of the most worrying things for young people is the fear of failure, of disappointing themselves and their parents, or perhaps their friends and teachers. The emphasis here should always be on ‘doing your best’, and as long as they try, their best is enough. At the same time, it is important to ensure that children know that not everyone excels at everything, and that other people’s skillfulness in a certain area may be balanced by a lack in other areas. In this way, some measure of self-esteem can be established, as well as confidence. Children and adolescents need to have a sense of identity, a feeling of worth, which will enable them to accept and use positively all sides of their personality to cope with many kinds of life situations.


It is rare that people reach adulthood overflowing with confidence. Certainly they will have fair idea of their strengths and weaknesses, although it must be said that they have probably exaggerated those weaknesses and, in doing so, have simply reinforced their insecurity.

Because of this, when new situations present themselves, a person’s first response is fear which, in the grossly insecure, can often be carried to paranoid lengths. What the insecure person should realise is that older people feel similarly, and that such insecurity is not abnormal. If necessary, insecure people should think about all their achievements: everyone is good at something, and it is merely a question of findings something which they are good at doing it. They should try to think positively and confidently about themselves, rather than see themselves in negative terms: from this true confidence will follow.

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