So you’re feeling down about yourself again. You’re doubting your abilities and wondering why you just can’t seem to measure up. But is it low self-esteem, or are you just feeling insecure? There’s a difference, you know.
Feeling insecure is usually temporary and situational. Low self-esteem is more lasting and impacts how you view yourself overall. If you’re constantly doubting yourself and your self-worth in many areas of your life, you may be dealing with low self-esteem.
But don’t worry; there are things you can do to build your confidence and self-esteem. Keep reading to better understand the difference between insecurity and low self-esteem and find strategies to help you value yourself.
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What’s the Difference between; Low Self-Esteem vs Insecure?
Low self-esteem and insecurity are both negative feelings that can affect your well-being and happiness. However, they are not the same thing. Low self-esteem is a negative perception of yourself, while insecurity is a feeling of uncertainty, anxiety, and a lack of confidence in yourself. Insecurity can also be a characteristic of low self-esteem.
It can be confusing, but here’s how to tell them apart:
Insecurity refers to a temporary lack of confidence in your abilities or worth. It’s usually tied to a specific situation, event, or circumstance. For example, you might feel insecure in a new job or relationship. But insecurity is often fleeting once you gain more experience or comfort.
Low self-esteem, on the other hand, refers to an ongoing lack of confidence and self-worth that spans many areas of your life. It develops over time through negative experiences and self-perception. If you have low self-esteem, you are likely to:
- Doubt yourself and your abilities frequently.
- Have a hard time accepting compliments or praise.
- Focus on your perceived weaknesses and flaws.
- Feel like you’re not good enough or unlovable?
- Have trouble setting boundaries because you want to please others?
The impacts of low self-esteem also tend to be more significant. It can lead to anxiety, depression, unhealthy relationships, and difficulty achieving your goals.
But it can be improved by challenging negative thoughts, practicing self-care, surrounding yourself with supportive people, and acknowledging your strengths and accomplishments. It will take work, but you can overcome low self-esteem by learning to appreciate yourself for who you are, imperfections, and all.
While feeling insecure at times is normal, low self-esteem is something you can address. The first step is simply recognizing the difference. With compassion for yourself, you can build confidence from the inside out.
Signs You May Be Insecure
Feeling insecure from time to time is normal, but if you frequently doubt yourself and your abilities, you may have low self-esteem. Here are some signs you may be insecure:
- You constantly seek approval and validation. You rely heavily on what others think about you to determine your self-worth.
- You avoid taking risks. You don’t go after opportunities or new experiences out of fear of failure or not being good enough.
- You’re overly self-critical. You harshly judge yourself for perceived mistakes, flaws, and imperfections. You hold yourself to unrealistic standards.
- You feel like an imposter. You believe you’re not truly capable or deserving of your achievements and success. You feel like a fraud.
- You have trouble accepting compliments. You deflect or dismiss praise from others because you don’t believe it’s genuine or feel you deserve it.
- You feel jealous of others. You compare yourself to people around you and become envious of their lives, accomplishments, relationships, skills, or perceived happiness.
Signs You May Have Low Self-Esteem
Find out if you have these signs.
1. You have trouble accepting compliments.
When someone pays you a compliment, do you have trouble simply saying “thank you”? Do you feel the need to deflect praise or make self-deprecating remarks? Having trouble accepting compliments is a sign you may have low self-esteem. You likely don’t feel worthy of the praise, even if you’ve earned it.
2. You constantly seek approval and validation.
Do you feel like you always need to please others and win their approval? Are you worried about letting people down or not living up to their expectations? Needing constant approval and validation from those around you suggests you lack self-confidence and don’t value yourself for who you are.
3. You dwell on your mistakes and imperfections.
Everyone makes mistakes and has things they want to improve about themselves. But if you obsess over your flaws and imperfections, beating yourself up over small errors, that points to low self-esteem. You likely hold yourself to unrealistic standards of perfection. Try practicing self-compassion instead of harsh self-criticism.
4. You feel like you’re not good enough.
Do you feel like an imposter in your own life, as if you don’t measure up to your peers? Do you believe you lack the skills, talent, or competence to achieve your goals, even when there’s evidence to the contrary? Feeling like you’re not good enough is a hallmark sign of low self-esteem. The truth is, you are good enough, and you have so much to offer.
The Causes of Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem and insecurity often stem from events in your past that have shaped how you view yourself. Recognizing the root causes of these feelings can help you start to overcome them.
1. Childhood experiences
The way you were treated as a child has a huge impact on your self-worth as an adult. If you were criticized, neglected, or made to feel like you weren’t good enough, it’s natural for those beliefs to persist into adulthood. Work to challenge those old assumptions by surrounding yourself with people who appreciate you for who you are.
2. Traumatic events
Going through a traumatic experience like abuse, illness, injury, or the loss of a loved one can damage your self-esteem. Be gentle with yourself and allow time to heal. Speaking to a therapist or support group can help you work through painful emotions.
3. Social comparisons
Comparing yourself to others, especially on social media, fuels feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Remember that people only post their highlight reels on social media, not their behind-the-scenes struggles. Focus on your journey rather than comparing yourself to an unrealistic standard of perfection.
4. Lack of purpose or meaning
Feeling like your life lacks purpose or meaning can contribute to low self-worth. Pursue hobbies, activities, and social connections that ignite your passion and give you a sense of purpose each day. Helping others through volunteering or community service is a great way to boost your self-esteem.
Self-esteem and security come from within, not from external factors like appearance, achievements, or relationships. Make the choice each day to practice self-care, follow your purpose, and surround yourself with your true supporters. In time, you’ll build your self-worth and confidence from the inside out.
How Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem Affect Your Relationships
Insecurity and low self-esteem can negatively impact your relationships in several ways:
1. Difficulty trusting others
When you have a poor self-image, it’s hard to believe that others could care about you or find you worthy of their time and affection. This can make it difficult to build closeness and intimacy in relationships. You may have trouble opening up to others or trusting their intentions and motivations.
2. Jealousy and clinginess
Feeling unworthy often leads to jealousy, possessiveness, and clingy behavior in relationships. You may constantly seek reassurance from your partner and worry that they will leave you for someone better. This behavior only serves to create distance and push people away.
3. Not speaking up for your needs
People with low self-esteem tend to be “people-pleasers.” You may bend over backward to meet the needs of others in your relationships while ignoring your own wants and desires. Learn to value yourself, and don’t be afraid to speak up for what you need to feel happy and fulfilled. Compromising and finding the right balance of give and take.
4. Difficulty setting boundaries
If you don’t feel you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, you’ll have trouble establishing proper boundaries in your relationships. Be very clear on what is and isn’t acceptable to you, and don’t be afraid to communicate those boundaries to others. Stand up for yourself if those lines get crossed. You teach people how to treat you by what you accept from them.
Self-esteem and security can be built over time through conscious effort and practice. Focus on self-care, pursue your interests, acknowledge your strengths, and surround yourself with people who love and support you. Learn to value yourself for who you are, imperfections, and all. With work, you can develop healthy, balanced relationships where you feel secure in yourself and your ability to trust others.
Effects of low self-esteem and Insecurity
Low self-esteem and insecurity can have significant effects on your life. Recognizing the signs and impacts can help you build confidence from within.
1. Difficulty accepting compliments
When you have low self-esteem, you likely dismiss or downplay compliments from others. You may think the other person is just being nice or doesn’t mean what they say. Learn to simply say “thank you” and accept the compliment.
2. Constant self-criticism
You likely criticize yourself for perceived mistakes, flaws, and imperfections. This negative self-talk reinforces your poor self-image and undermines your confidence. Try to notice negative thoughts and re-frame them more constructively.
3. Fear of failure
Low self-esteem makes you feel like you’re not good enough, so you avoid taking risks or trying new things for fear of failure or embarrassment. But failure is how we learn and grow. Start with small risks and challenges to build your confidence over time.
4. Difficulty setting boundaries
You may have trouble saying no or feel guilty about putting your own needs first. Learn that it’s okay to say no, and your needs and wants matter too. Start with small boundaries and practice self-care.
5. Anxiety and depression
Feeling poorly about yourself can contribute to anxiety, worry, and depression. Make sure to also address any mental health issues, as that will help strengthen your self-esteem. Speaking to a therapist or counselor can help you work through these challenges.
The effects of low self-esteem and insecurity are significant, but you can build confidence and overcome them. Focus on self-care, challenge negative thoughts, accept yourself, set small boundaries, and take calculated risks. With time and effort, you can develop a healthier and more positive self-image
Strategies to Build Your Confidence and Self-Esteem
To build your confidence and self-esteem, try incorporating these strategies into your daily life:
1. Practice positive self-talk.
The way you talk to yourself has a huge impact on your self-esteem. Replace negative thoughts with more constructive ones. When you catch yourself being self-critical, re-frame your thoughts into something encouraging. Speak to yourself with the same compassion you would show a friend.
2. Do things you’re good at.
Engage in hobbies, activities, and pursuits that you have a natural talent or skill for. Set small goals and acknowledge your wins, no matter how small. Achieving mastery or progress in an area that is meaningful to you builds a sense of competence and self-worth.
3. Appreciate yourself.
Learn to appreciate yourself for who you are, flaws and all. No one is perfect, so avoid comparing yourself to unrealistic societal standards. You are a unique, multifaceted human being. Focus on your good qualities and the things that make you you. Self-acceptance is a journey, so be gentle with yourself along the way.
4. Help others
Do small acts of kindness each day. Helping people in need takes your mind off your worries and boosts your self-esteem by increasing feelings of value and purpose. Even simple gestures like a kind word, a smile, or a door held open can make a difference.
5. Face Your Challenges
Don’t avoid challenging situations that make you feel insecure or inadequate. Take a chance and push through the discomfort. On the other side, there is a sense of empowerment and courage that feeds your self-confidence. With each fear faced, your self-doubt diminishes. You’ve got this!
Building self-esteem is a continuous work in progress. Be patient and consistent with these strategies, and your confidence will grow over time. Learn to see yourself through kinder eyes, focus on your strengths, and celebrate small wins. You deserve to feel good about who you are. The journey starts today!
Simple Habits to Practice Daily for Improved Self-Esteem
To build your self-esteem, practice these simple habits daily:
1. Speak kindly to yourself.
How you talk to yourself has a huge impact on your self-esteem. Replace negative self-talk with more constructive ways of viewing situations. Notice negative thoughts and re-frame them in a more positive, compassionate way. Talk to yourself with encouragement and praise, not harsh self-criticism.
2. Do small acts of self-care.
Make time each day to do something kind for yourself. Things like exercising, meditating, reading, or pursuing a hobby can help you de-stress and boost your confidence by helping you achieve small goals. Staying in good shape physically and mentally will make you feel better about yourself overall.
3. Celebrate small wins.
Don’t just focus on big accomplishments—pat yourself on the back for small victories and milestones along the way. Did you make it to the gym after a long day at work? Did you cook a healthy meal instead of ordering takeout? Reward yourself for these wins, no matter how small they seem.
4. Do one thing each day that scares you.
Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone in small ways. This could be starting a conversation with someone new, learning a skill that intimidates you, or tackling a task you’ve been avoiding. Face your fears and doubts, and you’ll build self-esteem through these small acts of courage. With regular practice, your comfort zone will expand.
5. Accept yourself.
Learn to appreciate yourself for who you are, flaws and all. No one is perfect, so avoid comparing yourself to unrealistic societal standards. Surround yourself with people who love and support you unconditionally. Choose to be kind to yourself and make the most of the qualities that make you uniquely you. Self-acceptance is the foundation of self-esteem.
With regular practice of these habits, you’ll strengthen your self-esteem and build confidence from the inside out. Be patient, and remember that real change happens gradually. You’ve got this!
Tips to Overcome Insecurity
Overcoming feelings of insecurity and self-doubt can be challenging, but with conscious effort and practice, you can build your self-confidence. Here are some tips to help overcome insecurity:
1. Focus on your strengths.
Make a list of your best qualities, skills, and accomplishments. Refer to this list when you’re feeling insecure to remind yourself of the things you’re good at. Play to your strengths whenever possible.
2. Challenge negative self-talk.
Notice the negative thoughts you have about yourself and try to challenge them with more positive and realistic thoughts. For example, if you think, “I’m not smart enough for this job,” challenge that by saying something like, “I have the skills and experience for this position, and I can do it.” Replace negative self-talk with encouragement and praise.
3. Stop seeking approval.
Don’t let the perceived opinions or judgments of others determine how you feel about yourself. You can’t control what others think of you; you can only control your reactions and opinions. Focus on your approval rather than seeking approval from people who don’t matter.
4. Find Ways to Face your fears.
Do one thing each day that scares you but that you know you can handle. This helps desensitize the fear response in your brain and builds courage and resilience. Over time, facing small fears helps build self-confidence to face bigger fears and challenges.
5. Practice positive self-care.
Make sure to engage in regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, pursue hobbies and activities that you find meaningful, and maintain a good sleep schedule. Taking good care of yourself physically and emotionally will boost your confidence and self-esteem. When you feel good, you feel more secure and confident.
With regular practice of these techniques, feelings of insecurity and self-doubt will fade, replaced by a growing sense of confidence in yourself and your abilities. But be patient through the process—building self-esteem takes time and conscious effort. You’ve got this! Stay focused on being your best self.
FAQs: Answering Common Questions on Low Self-Esteem vs Insecure
Here are some common frequently asked questions.
What causes insecurity and low self-esteem?
Several factors can contribute to feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem:
Harsh self-criticism: constant negative thoughts about yourself, your abilities, and your worth.
Unrealistic expectations: holding yourself to impossibly high standards that you can never achieve.
Negative experiences: Going through traumatic events like abuse, neglect, or bullying can severely impact your self-image.
Lack of purpose or meaning: not having pursuits or activities that you find personally fulfilling or meaningful.
Social comparison: comparing yourself negatively to others on social media or in real life This can fuel feelings of inadequacy.
How can I overcome insecurity and build self-esteem?
Here are some tips to help overcome insecurity, build confidence, and boost your self-esteem:
1. Practice self-care. Exercise, eat healthy, engage in hobbies, and pursue new interests. Taking good care of yourself will help you feel better from the inside out.
2. Challenge negative thoughts. Notice negative thoughts about yourself and try to adopt a more balanced perspective. Look for evidence that contradicts your negative views.
3. Accept yourself. Learn to appreciate yourself for who you are instead of measuring your worth against unrealistic standards. You are enough.
4. Do things you’re good at. Engage in activities and pursuits that you find meaningful and that play to your strengths. This builds a sense of competence and confidence.
5. Stop comparing yourself to others. Focus on your journey and celebrate your wins, big and small. Everyone has struggles—don’t assume other people’s lives are better or easier than your own.
Now you know the difference between insecurity and low self-esteem. So, remember that both can be improved with conscious effort and practice. Start by challenging negative thoughts about yourself and focusing on your strengths and accomplishments. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you for who you are.
Do small things each day that make you feel good about yourself. Learn to accept yourself—flaws and all. No one is perfect, so avoid comparing yourself to unrealistic societal standards. With time and practice, you’ll gain confidence from the inside out. Remember, you are enough, just as you are. Believe in yourself and keep your head high.
- To Overcome Your Insecurity, Recognize Where It Really Comes From by Svenja Weber & Gianpiero Petriglieri ,June 27, 2018, published in Harvard Business Review
- Self-Concept and Self-Esteem. by Manning, M. A., Bear, G. G., & Minke, K. M. (2006). Self-Concept and Self-Esteem. In G. G. Bear & K. M. Minke (Eds.), Children’s needs III: Development, prevention, and intervention (pp. 341–356). National Association of School Psychologists
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