Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem: Living on a Tightrope

Self-esteem isn't static. After a bad relationship, for example, your self-image can take a nosedive, along with your self-love and sense of security. In today's article, we'll talk about what you can do in those situations.
Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem: Living on a Tightrope
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Insecurity and low self-esteem are directly related. Many people live on a kind of tightrope, walking carefully, afraid of making a mistake, falling, and being laughed at. When you feel like a failure, it’s impossible to achieve happiness.

Nathaniel Branden, a Canadian psychotherapist and author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, once said that it’s impossible to face the most basic challenges in life if you lack the internal security that gives you confidence and helps you truly love yourself. Social relationships, work, the ability to reach your goals, personal development, and even love become impossible.

All of these aspects of your life become shaky when you lack the solid foundations of confidence and self-esteem. Also, there’s another undeniable fact to consider: the world isn’t good or kind to people who feel this way. An insecure child is often a victim of school bullying and abuse. Adults who don’t defend themselves run the risk of ending up in codependent relationships, which affect much more than their self-esteem.

Do you struggle with low self-esteem? Here are some coping strategies.

A woman suffering from insecurity and low self-esteem.

Insecurity and low self-esteem: living on a tightrope

Low self-esteem always has a cost. Your emotional balance depends on the psychological muscle that’s one of the most important variables of your well-being. Psychiatrist Luis Rojas-Marcos, in his book Self-Esteem, says that one of the factors that explain this is the way people speak to each other.

Beyond the factors that tend to be behind the link between insecurity and low self-esteem, it’s easy to forget about how relevant your inner dialogue is. Your inner monologue should always be kind, affectionate, and focused on the positive. Otherwise, it’ll slowly eat away at your mental health.

In fact, low self-esteem can lead to many psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

What causes insecurity and low self-esteem?

You know that the way you talk to yourself can affect your self-esteem, so why do you do it? Why are we often our own worst enemies, calling into question our value and abilities? The first thing that’s important to note is that self-esteem isn’t static. It fluctuates and is affected by our experiences.

  • The root cause of low self-esteem often lies in your childhood and the way you were raised. If you had insecure attachments, insufficient emotional support, or extremely demanding parents or suffered from abuse, you might grow into an insecure adult.
  • Traumatic events can also affect your self-esteem. For example, the death of a loved one, an accident, or being bullied can have a major impact on the way you see yourself.
  • Toxic relationships are also to blame. A relationship based on criticism, humiliation, emotional blackmail, and jealousy can destroy your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Traits of people with low self-esteem

Most people believe that individuals with low self-esteem are indecisive, meek, and shy. While that’s sometimes true, low self-esteem can also lead to aggressive and even narcissistic personalities. When an individual is aware of their faults and weaknesses, they sometimes develop defense mechanisms to protect themselves and attempt to fill those voids.

  • Someone who doesn’t want to experience psychological frustration or anxiety and, instead, expresses themselves in an aggressive way.
  • The opposite can also occur. Instead of being the aggressor, you end up on the receiving end of that behavior. You’re the victim who doesn’t know how to defend themselves.
  • Low self-esteem can affect your potential, your opportunities, and your life. Lack of self-confidence makes you stay in your comfort zone, where nothing ever happens.
  • Last but not least, insecurity and low self-esteem are related to multiple mental and physical health problems.

For example, studies show that there’s a close link between low self-esteem and eating disorders. The Infanta Leonor University Hospital in Madrid, Spain conducted an interesting study that showed that low self-esteem is a risk factor for developing one of these serious disorders.

A serious guy with rolled shirtsleeves.

How can I stop being my own worst enemy?

You can’t “fix” your self-esteem overnight, especially if you’re carrying around the burden of a traumatic childhood, years of being the victim of workplace mobbing, or the consequences of a codependent relationship. But don’t lose hope, as you can take some steps to feel better about yourself.

  • Psychological therapy is the best resource to work on the root causes of these insecurities. Dealing with these triggers and acquiring tools to improve your inner dialogue is the best strategy.
  • Keeping a journal can also be a helpful tool. Writing down your thoughts and feelings makes it easier to identify unhealthy thought patterns, negativity, and irrational thoughts. It can also help you be more aware of the way you talk yourself and focus on being more encouraging instead of tearing yourself down all the time.
  • Setting small, simple goals for the day can also be an interesting strategy. These little wins can make you feel better about yourself.

Experts also recommend starting new projects, as this can help you to discover new aspects of yourself that you might not have known were there. It’s time to recognize the person inside you who’s excited about life and believes in themselves. That’s the key to happiness and well-being.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Abbate-Daga, G., Gramaglia, C., Federico, A., Marzola, E. y Secondo, F. (2010). La inseguridad del apego, la personalidad y la insatisfacción corporal en los trastornos alimentarios. El Diario de Enfermedades Nerviosas y Mentales, 198 (7), 520-524. doi: 10.1097 / NMD.0b013e3181e4c6f7
  • Mora, F., Fernandez Rojo, S., Banzo, C., & Quintero, J. (2017). The impact of self-esteem on eating disorders. European Psychiatry41(S1), S558–S558.
  • Yuan, W., & Wang, L. (2016). Optimism and attributional style impact on the relationship between general insecurity and mental health. Personality and Individual Differences, 101312-317. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.06.005

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.