” Doing something you are afraid of; the surest way to gain confidence”
Feeling insecure about any aspect of your life you’ll be reassured to know is a completely normal part of human development. Even the most confident of people have moments of self-doubt or insecurity of some kind. When we have feelings of insecurity or self-doubt we can learn how to use those moments to help us improve ourselves so that eventually we feel less insecure or doubtful.
Insecurity and self-esteem are closely linked to one another as insecurity can be defined as a person lacking in confidence in their own abilities whereas our self-esteem can be described as how “much we like or value ourselves.”
There are lots of reasons why we may lack security in ourselves or have low self-esteem. For example when we have begun a new relationship with a person we often have a healthy self-esteem, we feel we are worthy of love because someone has finally decided to “love you.” We tend to feel more attractive, have a better mood and feel as though we enjoy our days more. Likewise if we achieve a goal or some positive praise from another source such as our boss or work colleague we feel good about ourselves and more importantly “confident”.
Being confident and wanting our esteem needs to be met is a normal part of development for all people no matter their life story.
But what about when we don’t experience things that can help create a good self-esteem or secure, what if we aren’t in a relationship, have limited friends or don’t seem to be noticed at work for our achievements – what happens to our confidence at that point?
There are other factors at play where self-esteem is concerned, which can help to explain why at times people tend to rely heavily on materialistic gain as a way of boosting their self-esteem to feel validated.Having our needs met to feel secure can be met in a series of stages which was first explained by Abraham Maslow in his “hierarchy of needs.” He believed that for us to live a fulfilled life we need to have certain “necessities” which help to create a sense of satisfaction in our lives. The hierarchy includes;
- Biological and physiological needs– air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep. This is an example of our very basic essentials that any human needs in order to survive.
- Safety needs– protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
- Love and belonging needs– friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
- Esteem needs– which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige). Maslow indicated that the need for respect or reputation is most important for children and adolescents and precedes real self-esteem or dignity.
- Self-actualisation needs– realising personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming”
The purpose of Maslow’s theory was that he believed it gave people motivation for people to meet certain needs and that some needs are a priority over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on. The reason for talking about this is because when you think about your life, and the things you want to do or to be, quite often we find that once we have mastered one thing we strive for the next, to somehow feed our self-esteem needs.
Let’s think about it, when we are young, education plays a big part in our life. We are told how important our education is and why we need to get good qualifications, maybe to go to university, so we do. We work to get our qualifications and we apply for our university. After that, we may get our degree, enter our “dream job”, then when we have made some money, we chase a relationship to fulfil our romantic needs, children and marriage may follow along with a mortgage; which then satisfies our “secure” needs on the hierarchy.
But then at some point, something feels as though it’s missing. What else could a person possibly want after achieving all of the above? The sinking feelings of loneliness may occur; we question whether the career we worked for is now what we truly want. The marriage we dreamed of isn’t quite what you expected, heavy responsibilities dominate your life and what you want most is to feel valued, to be a “somebody” and to feel that your life has had some “purpose” – this is where you are in between “self-actualisation” and your present self. To be self-actualised has much to do with your personal growth, as Some never achieve self-actualisation or completely overcome their insecurities and self-doubt as it is always a lifelong battle, whether we have years of feeling good, secure and confident, a moment can appear which changes that.
When working on overcoming insecurity, think about what it is you need right now to feel “better”. Use the list taken from Maslow and work through them individually, asking yourself for each point if these are the things you feel you need to feel secure or confident:
Are your biological and physiological needs being met? – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
Are your safety needs being met? – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
Are your love and belonging needs being met? – friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
Are your esteem needs being met? (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige). Maslow indicated that the need for respect or reputation is most important for children and adolescents and precedes real self-esteem or dignity.
Are your self-actualisation needs being met? – when you realise your personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming”
Usually, we find insecurity links to points 3, 4 and 5. Depending on our age we find needing to have certain things in our life will vary, for example when we are in our teenage to early adulthood years (17-28) we tend to experience the urge to have a loving and intimate relationship with another person and if we don’t have that, we somehow feel inadequate. Finding ourselves comparing our situation to friends or family who may be married with a family and a home at 27. As we grow into middle adulthood 30-45 we find the need to have a healthy reputation, respect from others, some form of status helps us to feel “validated”. This is often why you find your manager or any other person in an authoritarian position (perhaps parents) wants anything they ask of you to be fulfilled without question, the same reason why people fight for the top position in a company or even why some decide to return to education/study for the first time in order to gain a level of respect for their achievements. Many middle-aged people decide to have a career change or to study as a way of having their esteem needs met.
Having the desire to be in a fulfilling relationship, being established in our employment or being acknowledged for our personal achievements, feeling that we are doing purposeful work; that we have some kind of purpose in life – when we become aware of these things we need, we can find a solution in repairing our self-esteem and insecurity. The most important thing is to remember whether you achieve any of the points above, they don’t take away who you are as an individual. If you have experienced long periods of self-doubt, use the points above to see if anything recommended can help you to feel good again; don’t measure your worth by the things you achieve or own, not unless it makes you truly happy within.
Love and well wishes as always