Monday, February 9, 2009

Insecurity and defense mechanisms

A conversation I had today got me thinking about the many manifestations of insecurity I see in the people around me, and the defense mechanisms they use to hide the way they feel.

The critic
For instance... some people manifest their insecurity by being overly critical of others. Some people feel the need to put others down or to be overly demanding of others in order to make themselves look better. It's as if they're saying, "If I make this person look or feel like an idiot, then I will look and feel better by comparison." People who feel small want to make other people feel just as small. People who have a healthy self-confidence want to make others feel confident, too.

The flaunter
Some people manifest their insecurity by overcompensation. Some people feel the need to have the latest fad gadget, the most expensive car, the biggest house, the best big-screen TV, the designer clothes and the diamond jewelry... and they are often the people with the greatest insecurities. It's as if they're saying, "I don't think very highly of myself, so I want to have the best of everything so that other people will think highly of me." A lack of self-confidence creates a void in your emotional being. By attempting to define yourself by the things you have, you show me you aren't comfortable with yourself as a person and need something else to fill the void.

The obsessive
Some people manifest their insecurity by obsession. I have seen this in numerous ways. Some men, when they feel emasculated by the women in their lives, develop an obsession with things that make them feel "manly." Sports, violent video games, fast cars, guns. Some women, when they feel insecure, develop an obsession with things that make them feel worthy. Fitness, fashion and beauty endeavors are common ways women attempt to validate themselves. The obsession can often become a way for these people to prove to themselves that they are good enough. It's as if they're saying, "I don't feel good about myself, but if I pour myself into this one thing, I will feel better."

The slut
The slut syndrome is another way insecure people attempt to validate themselves. For some people, having sex with various partners makes them feel better about themselves. It's as if they're saying, "If all these people wanted to sleep with me, then I must be worth something, I must be sexy, I must be special." It's a very common mechanism for people who have felt rejected in a relationship.

The sarcastic
Some people manifest their insecurity by using sarcasm as a relationship barrier. This is the category I generally fall into. Some people (including me) use sarcasm as a way to keep people at a distance, to keep people from getting too close. It's a mechanism that (supposedly) keeps insecure people from getting hurt. It's as if they're saying, "If I don't let you get near me, you won't see my flaws and you won't reject me."

The attention whore
Some people manifest their insecurity by demanding attention from everyone around them. Some people aren't happy unless they are in the spotlight and everyone in the room is focused on them. The attention whore often takes drastic measures to be the center of attention. They tend to be very likeable people, but they may brag a lot about themselves and their accomplishments. It's as if they're saying, "If I can get all these people to pay attention to me and think I'm worth something, I will feel reassured of my worth."

All of these manifestations of insecurity are perfectly normal, but all of them are harmful to you and often to those around you. And so, some brief words to each of you.

To the critic...

Learn to focus on positives, in yourself and in others. Look for the good in other people, and check yourself when you start criticizing. Recognize your tendency to be critical, and stop to think about when you feel those tendencies and why.

To the flaunter...

Learn to focus on who you are rather than what you have. Nice things are nice, but don't let things define you. You are more than things. You are a person, and your heart, your soul, your mind, your goals, your dreams, your relationships and your life are all a million times more important than the things you have. You want people to love you for you, not for your stuff. Recognize your tendency to fill your void with nice things, and think about when you feel those tendencies and why.

To the obsessive...

Learn to focus on the big picture rather than the individual things that you think will get you what you want. An obsession with one thing in life will not make you feel like a complete person. A complete, whole life is made up of a balance of many components. Recognize your tendency to obsess, and stop to think about when you feel those tendencies and why.

To the slut...

Learn to focus on building deep relationships rather than momentarily validating ones. You will feel more secure in yourself by realizing that a few people love you for who you really are, rather than many people loving you for a passing, meaningless moment. Recognize your tendency to seek validation from sexual partners, and stop to think about when you feel those tendencies and why.

To the sarcastic...

Learn to focus on letting people see the real you rather than a pre-determined mask or barrier. Open yourself up. You may not get hurt if you don't let people get close to you, but you also won't be able to love and be loved. Take a chance. Recognize your tendency to use sarcasm to push people away, and stop to think about when you feel those tendencies and why.

To the attention whore...

Learn to focus on other people rather than on yourself. You may be surprised to find how much self-confidence can be gained by paying attention to others and not worrying about what they think of you. Recognize your tendency to draw attention to yourself, and stop to think about when you feel those tendencies and why.


What are you insecure about? How do you manifest your insecurities? What can you do to deal with your insecurities in a healthy way?


Anonymous said...

I'm a first time reader, I stumbled upon this while trying to research a dream I had. I really enjoyed this and I can see not only myself (also sarcastic) but many other people I know came to mind while reading this. I'll be bookmarking your page, so keep up the good work :)

Grace said...

Thanks, Melyssa! Your comment was very encouraging. Feel free to comment any time you like... all feedback is greatly appreciated. :)

Loyne said...

Hey, I quoted you in a thread I made in


Shilpi said...

Very informative and nicely put information.

Anonymous said...

Hi Grace,
This was very wounderfully compiled article.Thank You.