Are your insecurities wrecking your relationships? Psychologist Lisa Firestone has studied why we feel insecure — and how to tackle self-doubt head on
Things could be going perfectly well in your relationship, but let your insecurities creep in, and it’ll destroy even the most loving of equations. You may feel that just because you don’t question your partner’s moves, or generally act like a jealous/protective/possessive partner, you aren’t letting your insecurities affect your relationship. But you are. Expressed or not, these insecurities eat away at your sense of comfort in your relationship, paving the way for unhappiness. Unsurprisingly, experts have found that individuals with lower levels of self-esteem are more likely to experience (and express) insecurities in their relationships. But that is hardly the only contributing factor. Read on to find out if you are manifesting any of the hallmarks of insecure behaviour in your closest relationships, as described by psychologist Lisa Firestone:
In the very initial phases of relationship insecurity, you don’t begin by questioning your partner — you actually begin by questioning yourself. This internal questioning is almost rhetorical in nature. You “ask” yourself questions you’ve already assumed you know the answers to. So it’s a very short leap in your thinking from “Why doesn’t he/she pay me as much attention as earlier, or spend as much time with me?” to “It’s clearly because he/she has found someone more interesting”. And from there, it’s an even shorter leap to “It was bound to happen, I’m so dull to be around”. That kind of internal argument can be toxic when kept up over time.
Why we suffer
What’s the connection between low self-esteem and experiencing greater insecurity in a relationship? Well, Lisa points out that this is because of two reasons: Not only does someone with poor self-esteem need their partner to see them as better (than they see themselves), they also have trouble believing that their partner actually thinks of them in a positive way! And then, the pressure of having to assuage your constant insecurities can drive your partner away. So it’s a vicious cycle indeed.
Recognising why you’re insecure
Unless you find out what the root of all your insecurities is — you’ll never be able to triumph over your incessant doubts. Was it your previous experiences? Old relationships in which you experienced a breakdown of trust? Was this the kind of relationship you witnessed between your parents, where one of them was constantly bogged down with insecurities while the other tried to address them (or ignored them)?
Lisa further attributes feeling insecure to the “inner critic” all of us carry around. This is the voice within you that is constantly bombarding you with terrible thoughts about yourself: “I’m dull”, “I’m unattractive”, “I don’t deserve love” etc. Turning down the volume of that critic (if you can’t switch it off entirely) is one of the important steps you can take towards resolving constant feelings of insecurity.
There are no shortcuts to resolving your insecurities — it’s a process that requires the support of loved ones (or experts, if warranted), and you may experience setbacks at various stages. But Lisa gives a few pointers that will help start you in the right direction:
Don’t ‘act out’ — yes, you may be feeling insecure, but not giving into jealous behaviour, screaming at your partner, spying on them or becoming sullen or withdrawn is a good way to negate at least some of the effects of your insecure thoughts.
Learn to be independent — don’t use your partner as a crutch to prop up your sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Work to maintain your identity and space, distinct from who you are as one-half of a couple.
Evaluate your actions — are you doing something that is pushing your partner away? What might that be? Observe your own behaviour in a detached manner and come up with what you feel could be the problem areas.
Don’t hold back — don’t let your fears and insecurities prevent you from investing your emotions and time in the relationship. Be open to being vulnerable.
Stop comparing your current relationship to past ones — it’s unfair to your partner, and unfair to yourself.