Feeling like you aren’t good enough? Struggling with poor body image? Experiencing inner turmoil from lack of clear direction? If any of these feel fittingly familiar, you may suffer from a sense of insecurity. By Natasha Liviero, contributions by Clinical Psychologist, Joanna Kleovoulou, Director of PsychMatters Family Therapy Centre

Insecurity comes in several guises, from a lack of self-confidence to feelings of inadequacy and even helplessness.  The origins of insecurity are wide and varied, usually developed early in life, possibly ingrained during childhood.  Furthermore, insecurity is often directly related to self-esteem..  Other causes of insecurity, that develop from fear or angst, may arise from unexpected life events that cause severe trauma and stress, or from being let down by people you trust, or from growing up in damaged, broken homes with unreliable parents or role models.

I’m always described as ‘cocksure’ or ‘with a swagger,’ and that bears no resemblance to who I feel like inside. I feel plagued by insecurity – Ben Affleck

Clearly, unremitting insecurity has the potential for far-reaching consequences because our beliefs and feelings ultimately dictate our behaviour. In any given situation, if we are insecure, we incline ourselves to a less favourable outlook, whereas a ‘secure’ person will naturally adopt a more confident, positive attitude.  “A sense of insecurity can become an immobilising force that limits one’s growth and new experiences. It may encourage overcompensation by presenting in the world as arrogant, aloof, aggressive, or showing up as being shy, paranoid, defensive and socially withdrawn. A sense of perpetual insecurity affects every area of a person’s life – personal relationships, mental states, friendships, work, your relationship with money, your relationship with your body and your relationship with your higher self.” Explains Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist and Director of PsychMatters Family Therapy Centre in Bedfordview, Johannesburg.

Beating insecurity

Fortunately, insecurity can be overcome.  “The first step in overcoming any form of insecurity is by recognizing that you are experiencing this sense of discomfort and then finding a trustworthy person you can share this with. If the insecurity has detrimental effects on your life, seeking professional help, like a trained psychologist, will give you the perspective and skills to move through it.” Says Joanna.  Trained therapists help address underlying faulty belief systems that may determine your response and outlook to the world.

Joanna shares five ways to overcome insecurity:

  1. Make time to listen to your body’s sensations and at what moments you find yourself reacting or defending your positions when relating to another.
  2. Check with a trustworthy person whether your behaviour or response at a given moment has been respectful and assertive or perceived as aggressive and disrespectful.
  3. Work through past ‘unprocessed’ pain that may be replaying itself in the now.
  4. Find time to nurture your body through exercise, massage or touch. Whatever releases endorphins and releases stress will help you feel more internally secure.
  5. Share relationships with significant others that show understanding and empathy while being firm in the encouragement to find more productive ways to relate to the world.

Battling body blues

I’ve always had a body image problem. No self-esteem. And that will never leave me – Elton John

Few people are truly happy with their bodies and there is little doubt the media feeds this wave of insecurity.  While women are far more critical of themselves than men, insecurity in the male of our species is on the rise. The constant bombardment of picture perfect men, women and children, all bearing faultless hair, faces and bodies has aided and abetted this trend. The truth is, these images are not only unattainable for most of the population, but ‘photo shopped’ to perfection, making them unreal too. Some studies suggest the current ‘media ideal’ for women is achievable by less than 5% of the population! The result? A population striving for unrealistic standards and setting themselves up for certain failure!

Body image insecurity affects people in different ways. Poor body image may affect sexual relationships when one partner refuses to allow the other to see them naked. In extreme cases a person may even ‘hide’ away from the rest of the world by rarely leaving the house.

I have the show because I’m insecure. It’s my insecurity that makes me want to be a comic, that makes me need the audience – Ray Romano

Bouts of insecurity affect everyone. It is perhaps fitting, then, that a feeling that causes so much despair may also provide the resolve to stick it out and do your best.  So, the challenge we set for ourselves is to move beyond the image of perfection, rising above it’s crippling manifestations to finally embrace what we do have, while striving to be the best that we can be.

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