I’ve struggled with insecurity for a good majority of my life. I remember when I was probably no more than 4 or 5 years old, looking down at my legs and thinking I hated the way my knees looked. What a strange thought for a child to have, right? But this insecurity went deeper than just my physical appearance.
Deep down, I’ve long battled with the belief that something is inherently wrong with me. Every little thing about myself that was different from those around me felt like a glaringly obvious flaw in my personhood. Why wasn’t I like my friends or my siblings?
As a child, I liked to play alone (for the most part), I liked to think about things deeply, I felt a lot of strong emotions, and I was overwhelmed by seemingly “little” things that didn’t bother other kids — like simply attending school or going to sleepovers at friends’ houses. Overall, I felt very “weird” and different from kids my age.
Even now as an adult, I find there are still some very obvious differences that make me feel like an outlier. I don’t particularly enjoy large parties or crowded bars. I find most conventional forms of entertainment (such as sports, the news, TV dramas, and social media) to be a real drain on my energy. I still enjoy spending time alone, I still like to think deeply, and yes, I still have a tendency to be overwhelmed by things (like a lack of sleep or a too-busy schedule), more so than your “average” adult.
Sometimes it feels really lonely to be different, or at least, to feel different than others. It wasn’t until I discovered that I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP) that these differences started to make sense — and I started to feel less alone. To find out there are other people who experience the world in a similar way felt refreshing and comforting.
Still, the journey to accepting my own sensitivity — in what seems like a very insensitive world — has been a difficult one. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply “fit in”? (The answer is no, and trust me, I’ve tried!)
As a wellness coach, I know that a big contributing factor to one’s overall wellness is determined by mindset. How we handle adversity, how we deal with uncertainty and setbacks, how we cope with stress, whether or not we build resilience, how positive or negative our thoughts are, and how we feel about ourselves… all these factors affect the state of our mental and emotional wellbeing.
And as a highly sensitive person, it’s my experience that these factors are the most difficult to remedy, particularly the thoughts/feelings/beliefs we have about ourselves.
Let’s take a closer look at what causes insecurity for HSPs, plus I’ll share with you my advice to start overcoming it.
What Causes Insecurity
In a Psychology Today article, Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., attributes feelings of insecurity to three main causes, all of which seem fitting for the highly sensitive person:
1. Insecurity based on recent failure or rejection
Whether you’re an HSP or not, failure and rejection can prove fatal to your self-confidence. Maybe you weren’t blatantly rejected due to your sensitivity — or maybe you were — but chances are you’ve felt different or a little “off” because of it. Or perhaps you attempted something that required a lot of you emotionally or physically, and you weren’t able to keep up with non-HSPs, like a wild “girl’s weekend” away or a job in a fast-paced, hyper-competitive field. This left you feeling like a failure.
2. Lack of confidence because of social anxiety
HSPs are deep thinkers, lean more towards introversion (although there are exceptions), and tend to be empathetic — all qualities that are wonderful but can contribute to social anxiety under some circumstances. Anxiety because you don’t enjoy small talk; you’d rather talk about deep, meaningful things. Anxiety because you don’t prefer crowds or large get-togethers; you prefer one-on-one or small group interactions where you can focus deeply. Anxiety because other people’s emotions can grate on you like sand paper and leave you feeling like you need to apply soul balm after being around them for too long.
3. Insecurity driven by perfectionism
As a highly sensitive person, it’s likely that you see a lot. More than other people see. You see (and tend to focus on) the inconsistencies, the injustices, and the things that are “not quite right” in the world. Because of this, it’s easy to develop perfectionist tendencies. You want things to be and feel “just right,” kind of like Goldilocks. So when things don’t measure up to your standards, it’s hard to feel good or secure about anything.
These are all very important areas to understand, and Greenberg’s article does a wonderful job providing helpful tips for overcoming these three issues. However, I’d like to add another cause of insecurity, one that I believe may be even more potent for HSPs — shame.
Shame is a deep belief that there’s something wrong with you, and that if only you could fix yourself, you’d feel secure. So how can you, as an HSP, learn to overcome this belief and find security and confidence? I have a whole course devoted to this topic, but here a few quick tips to help you get started.
How You Can Overcome Insecurity as an HSP
1. Start using your voice — speak up!
Do you find it difficult to share your feelings or opinions with others? I know I do. One thing that keeps us feeling insecure is the inability to open up and share who we really are.
Trust me, I get it. You don’t want to be the loud mouth who rambles on incessantly and plows over everyone else to get in their “two cents.” And you don’t want to say something insensitive or contribute before you’ve really thought something through all the way. But there comes a point when you have to start using your voice and expressing how you feel and what you think. It’s freeing to use your voice, and with practice, you’ll begin to find you actually have a lot to say and a lot to contribute!
Tip: As you get started, practice first with close friends, family, and loved ones who you know love and support you.
2. Directly ask for what you want and need.
Everyone is unique in what they want and need in this life to be happy, healthy, and secure. Even two HSPs who share a lot of needs for happiness can still differ in many regards. Chances are you’ve gone through most of your life attuned to what other people want and need and are doing your best to accommodate… all because you care.
I’m here to tell you that not asking for what you want and need is a recipe for insecurity. Just like not using your voice, if you never acknowledge, let alone ask, for what YOU want or need, it’s like saying you don’t matter. Now this isn’t about being selfish or not caring about others. This is about acknowledging that just like everyone else on this planet, you, too, have things you want and need — and that’s perfectly okay.
Join the HSP revolution. One email, every Friday. Posts that heal, transform, and make you feel understood. Subscribe here.
Tip: The next time someone asks what you want, try responding with what you actually want, not what you think they want you to say. This was a hard one for me, but trust me, it will get easier with time!
3. Believe in your own value.
What makes someone or something valuable? Most everyone will have a preconceived idea or belief around this, whether they know it or not. As an HSP, you might have a very strong belief around what is considered valuable. I want you to take a moment to think about it.
Now, let me challenge you and ask that you forget your definition of “valuable.” The truth is, everything and everyone has value, it’s just that we, as humans, judge how valuable something is based on our own beliefs, desires, and needs. But judging someone’s value, including our own, is not our job or our responsibility. And if we are the caring people we claim to be, then it is certainly more caring and loving to believe that all people have inherent value — including ourselves!
Tip: Try starting the day with a positive mantra. It can be as simple as “I am valuable.” Use this whenever you’re feeling insecure.
Helping people build confidence and live healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives is something I’m passionate about, because it’s something that I’m working toward every day, too. It’s a journey, not a destination, and we are all en route. As an HSP, I know it can feel lonely, overwhelming, and even scary to make changes and move forward on your journey, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Keep learning, practicing, and using the tips I’ve shared — you can do it! I believe in you.