All of us feel insecure from time to time – it’s only human. Still, frequent feelings of insecurity are detrimental to your mental health. Whether you’re in a brand new relationship, or you’ve been married for decades, insecurities can come up and impact your happiness, well-being, and the health of the relationship itself. Below we will explore the nature of relationship insecurities, why we get them, and what you can do about them.
The first and most important tip to help you learn how to stop being insecure in a relationship, is to work on your personal insecurities. Have you noticed that the same insecurities seem to show up even in different relationships?
You might blame a feeling of low self-worth or invalidation on a partner and then get rid of that partner to help yourself feel better, only to notice the same feelings arise with your next partner. Relationship insecurities reflect your personal insecurities, and will continue to persist unless you address the root cause of why you feel so insecure.
What Causes Insecurity in Relationships?
Insecurity in relationships has several possible causes. Understanding the root causes of your insecurities is an important step toward overcoming them. Below we have outlined some of the most common causes of relationship insecurities. Consider if any of the following apply to your experience:
1. Emotional Baggage
Most of us carry some emotional baggage from our past relationships. Perhaps you had a negative experience, such as betrayal of trust, abuse, or emotional unavailability. The fears and worries that came up in your past relationship may have been the reason you left your partner.
Ideally, the negative thoughts, feelings, and memories of that relationship would be left in the past along with that partner, but this isn’t always the case. We often carry emotional baggage from our previous relationships into our new ones and, deep down, believe that the same pattern of dishonesty or emotional distance will happen again.
This anticipation of negativity is a major cause of insecurity, and is detrimental to the health of the relationship. Thinking negatively about a partner’s past, current feelings, or future behaviors is a destructive habit that has led to the loss of countless partnerships.
2. Attachment Style
Attachment researchers John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth conducted a series of studies in the mid 20th century, in which they investigated the behavior of babies in different situations involving their mother’s presence or absence.
Known as the ‘Strange Situation Classification’, their research led to the establishment of Attachment Theory – the theory that there are four different attachment styles often seen in children; secure attachment, insecure-resistant attachment, insecure-avoidant attachment, and disorganized attachment.
Secure attachment is the ideal attachment style. Babies who developed a secure attachment to their caregivers were found to grow up to have healthy, trusting, mutually beneficial relationships. Babies with insecure or disorganized attachment were more likely to grow up to experience mistrust, fear, and abuse in their adult relationships.
Of course, no parent or child is perfect, and many of us have some degree of insecure attachment but still manage to have healthy relationships. Still, if you’re feeling insecure in your relationship today, it may be worth considering if that insecurity has something to do with your earliest relationship – that with your primary caregiver.
3. Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence are some of the leading causes of relationship insecurity. If you feel bad about yourself, can’t see your inherent worth, and struggle to feel confident in your own life, how can you expect to achieve happiness and confidence in a relationship?
Low self-esteem often relates to a person’s upbringing. If as a child you were told that you weren’t good enough, or didn’t receive attuned support and affection from a parent and other family members, you may have learned to see yourself in a negative light.
Relationships can be a breeding ground for feelings of low self-esteem and low confidence because of their emotional intensity. If you doubt your own emotions, don’t believe in yourself, and worry that you’re not good enough, the emotional intensity of a relationship can exacerbate these feelings and lead to deep insecurity.
4. Level of Fulfilment
Your level of personal fulfilment, or lack thereof, is closely linked to how secure or insecure you will feel in a relationship. Before you and your partner found each other, there were unique aspects of yourself that made you who you are, such as your hobbies, your opinions, your career, and your life goals.
People often lose sight of the unique aspects of themselves when they enter a relationship. The excitement and fascination we feel toward a new partner can make us want to almost become one with them. We might want to do what they do, or neglect our own lifestyle just to be with them. These are unhealthy behaviors and do not necessarily apply to all people in a new relationship, and you may even think that such behavior is extreme or far-fetched, but it’s more common than you might think.
If, in a relationship, you neglect your own sense of self and instead focus heavily on your partner, you are likely to be disappointed when you realize that you’re not as fulfilled as you thought you would be. It’s unreasonable to expect anyone to fulfill us and make us happy – these are things we must do for ourselves.
If we rely on a partner to make our lives feel fulfilled and meaningful, there is often a subconscious desire or expectation for them to feel the same. We want them to get their meaning and fulfillment from us. If they don’t, and instead fulfill themselves elsewhere as well in the relationship, we’re highly likely to feel insecure or that we’re ‘not enough’.
How to Stop Being Insecure in a Relationship
1. Practice Mindfulness
When insecurities come up, you might get hot-headed, angry, or feel like bursting out crying. You might clench your jaw and boil under the surface, thinking the worst about your partner and eventually resenting them. You might imagine that you’re being betrayed, that you’re not good enough for your partner, or that they don’t really love you.
What a lot of stress! When you’re feeling insecure, your racing thoughts and uncomfortable sensations can get the best of you. Help yourself stay present and grounded by practicing mindfulness in times of insecurity. In fact, mindfulness works best when practiced daily, not just when you’re feeling insecure. If you are consistent with the practice of deep breathing, acceptance, and letting go, it will be easier to apply these skills when you really need them.
There is a wide variety of mindfulness-based tools and resources available online. One of the leading experts on mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
2. Accept Responsibility for Your Feelings
Understand that your feelings are your own, and not the fault or doing of your partner. If you can claim and accept responsibility for how you feel, it becomes easier to move past projection and insecurity, ultimately making it easier to really connect with your partner and enjoy an authentic, mature relationship.
If you feel insecure, embarrassed, or worried, don’t be afraid to communicate those feelings to your partner. You may wish to suppress the feelings and avoid communicating them altogether, but this only serves to create emotional distance in the relationship, which can exacerbate your insecurities. Let your partner know how you feel, but don’t suggest that they are responsible.
Emphasize that by letting them know how you feel, you’re letting them in on your authentic self, not trying to blame them for your feelings. If your partner is able to listen to your vulnerability and honesty with non-judgment, the relationship may even grow stronger than before.
3. Identify What You’re Insecure About
If there is something specific making you feel insecure, it’s crucial to accurately identify it. Unidentified insecurities have a significant impact on your well-being because they cause worry and stress without a reasonable explanation, which itself can be stressful.
If your partner is doing something that upsets, scares you, or makes you feel uneasy, try to discuss it with them in an open, healthy way. Instead of getting revenge or being passive-aggressive towards them, try to talk to them about it with a calm and collected approach.
Try to work together on finding a solution to the problem. Remember that healthy communication is key to a healthy, successful relationship.
4. Practice Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal when it comes to achieving and maintaining good mental health and well-being. With self-compassion, you take the power and influence away from the harsh inner critic and replace it with mature, kind, and compassionate perspectives, beliefs, and attitudes.
When you are insecure, you probably talk to yourself in a negative way. Even though the relationship may seem to be the source of your insecurity, it’s roots likely lie in your own feelings of shame, guilt, or low self-worth.
Be mindful of how you talk to yourself when you experience insecurity. You may tell yourself that you’re not good enough, that you’re unlovable or that you’ll never be able to satisfy your partner.
Would you talk to a friend that way? If not, why do you talk to yourself like that? Your relationship with yourself is your most important relationship, so try to be your own best friend.
5. Maintain Your Independence
While some amount of healthy dependence is normal between partners, make sure that you keep your own independence, too. There is nothing that hinders the health and quality of a relationship like neglect of one’s own independence.
Focus on the hobbies and goals you had before you found your partner. Spend time cultivating your goals on your own, and live a life that you can say you’re proud of. The more independent you feel by yourself, the more confident you will be around your partner, and confidence is extremely attractive.
To help you cultivate independence. start challenging yourself daily. Get outside your comfort zone and take on a new hobby, or meet new people. Challenging yourself and stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone is one of the most productive and healthy things you can do to move past your insecurities.
Know When to Seek Help
We are rarely as emotionally vulnerable as we are in a romantic relationship. Our deepest worries, fears, and insecurities can rise to the surface when we give and receive intimacy and affection. If you’re in a relationship and you’re experiencing mental health issues related to feelings of low self-worth and insecurity, it might be a good idea to speak to a professional therapist.
In this article we have outlined some practical tips on how to stop being insecure in a relationship, but if your insecurities are having a significant impact on your mental health and well-being, a trained therapist can help.
In therapy, an attuned and compassionate therapist or counsellor helps you address the roots of your negative feelings. They may offer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – an evidence-based psychotherapy that identifies and addresses the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Eventually, the work you do in therapy may help you stop feeling insecure.
Relationship insecurities may be a sign of a deeper problem, such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders, or eating disorders. Insecurities often stem from not feeling good enough or able enough to maintain and satisfy a partner, and these feelings may have their roots in an underlying mental health condition.
Of course, just because you’re feeling insecure doesn’t mean you have mental health issues. Still, if you’ve tried the tips above and still can’t seem to overcome your insecurities, consider calling in the support of a professional ally.