Learning to feel, describe, and respond to our emotions isn’t as easy as it sounds. It can be difficult for some people to even be aware of their emotions, much less be willing to face them and get to the bottom of them. This is especially true for negative feelings like insecurity and fear. These two emotions in particular have a curious relationship with each other and with the people feeling them.
How do insecurity and fear play off of each other? How do they affect the person feeling them? And how can we use what we know about each of them to handle them in a healthy and productive way?
Defining insecurity and fear
First, let’s get on the same page about what exactly we mean by “insecurity” and “fear.”
Insecurity is defined by Oxford Languages as “uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence,” or “the state of being open to danger or threat; lack of protection.”
The same source defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
At first glance, the only thing these two words seem to have in common is that they’re both negative emotions. But when we really think about it, we can see important commonalities that link the two.
- Uncertainty. Both fear and insecurity deal in uncertainty. Insecurity reflects uncertainty about yourself and your capabilities. Fear involves uncertainty about what could happen as a result of the perceived threat. Remember: fear is the belief that something is dangerous, not the indisputable fact that it is dangerous.
- Low confidence. Insecurity is directly related to low confidence. Similarly, fear is stronger when you don’t have confidence in your ability to face or handle the threat in front of you.
- Perceived threat. When you feel insecure, you feel exposed to a threat. Not only that, you might even see yourself as the threat; that is, you don’t trust yourself to be able to accomplish what you want to accomplish. Likewise, fear is all about perceived threats. Whether something is actually dangerous or not, it’s the perception of it as dangerous that matters.
How insecurity can lead to fear (and vice versa)
Because there is some overlap between insecurity and fear, it’s no surprise that they often coexist. In fact, insecurity and fear can exist in a cycle: one leads to the other, which leads to more of the first, and so on.
How insecurity leads to fear
When you feel insecure, it’s easy to feel afraid of the world. You are insecure about how others will perceive you, which can morph into a fear of being rejected or ostracized. You are insecure about your appearance or social habits, which can turn into a fear of being alone. Or, you’re insecure about your abilities as work, which could lead to a fear of being fired or being unsuccessful.
Even minor insecurities, if not addressed, can end up creating or fueling fear.
How fear leads to insecurity
On the other side, fear can also lead to insecurity. Fear can leave us feeling incapable, like we are powerless against the threat we’re facing. When we feel unable to overcome our fears, it creates a sense of insecurity.
Similarly, some people are afraid of things they think they “shouldn’t” be afraid of. They tell themselves that their fears are silly and not valid. Their confidence starts to diminish as they start to see themselves as a weak or fearful person, rather than as a normal person with normal fears.
In these ways, fear can also point you towards insecurity.
As insecurity and fear feed off each other, you’re the one who suffers. You’re left feeling both negative emotions, with no idea how to pull yourself out of the cycle and into a place of courage, confidence, and love.
Overcoming insecurity and fear
So how do you break that cycle? How can you let go of insecurity and fear so you can start moving toward a happier, more creative life?
Recognize the fear or insecurity for what it is
A crucial step in overcoming insecurity and fear is recognizing them and being able to call them what they are. If you just generally feel like something is “off,” you won’t be able to focus your energy in the right places in order to work through it.
Part of this is determining whether you’re feeling fear or insecurity.
|You’re feeling INSECURITY if you…||You’re feeling FEAR if you…|
|Are concerned about other people’s opinions|
Are struggling to make decisions
Find yourself comparing yourself to others
Think negative thoughts about yourself (your appearance, your abilities, etc.)
You feel like you are constantly putting on a show for others
Make excuses to not get started
Catastrophize situations (i.e. expect the worst)
Have a physical response (e.g. hands shaking, heart beating faster, etc.)
Once you recognize what you’re feeling, it’s easier to pause the cycle and work on addressing the right problem.
Working through insecurity can be tough, especially since your insecurity is based in a lack of belief in yourself. It’s easy to think things like, “I’m not smart enough to figure this out” or “I’ll never be able to fix myself, or this problem.” But there are some things you can do to help you work through those insecure feelings.
Make a “ta-da!” list.
We’ve all heard of the “to-do” list—a list of things you need to do. Well, when you’re trying to overcome insecurity, it can help to make a “ta-da!” list—a list of things you’ve already done. This can help you build confidence as you recognize and give yourself credit for the things you’ve accomplished. I like to focus my “ta-da!” lists on things I’ve done on any given day (it always amazes me how much I can actually get done on a daily basis), but you could cover any time period you want.
Revisit your priorities.
Insecurity stems from being unsure about yourself and your capabilities. It’s easy for this to become a downward spiral of “I’m not good at anything!” When this happens, remind yourself that you don’t have to be good at everything. In fact, you should be focusing your time and energy on the things that matter most to you. Revisiting your priorities helps you feel more confident as you remind yourself you don’t have to be super-human to live a happy life.
Affirmations can be a great way to rewire your brain and redirect your thoughts away from harmful thought patterns and towards more positive, uplifting ones. Write affirmations focused on confidence and loving yourself. Tell yourself the things you would tell someone else if you were trying to help them feel empowered and capable. Repeat your affirmations to yourself often, and allow yourself to consider the possibility that they may be true.
Overcoming fear is one of the most important things creatives can do. Why? Because fear is a huge stumbling block for the creative community. Fear keeps you from trying, keeps you from extending beyond your comfort zone, and keeps you from envisioning and embracing a new reality for yourself. Fear holds you down.
Overcoming fear might look different than you’d expect. Here are a few things to try as you work to overcome fear.
Give the fear the respect it deserves. Fear is powerful and, like I said, it can keep you from your dreams in a way that few other things can. As you acknowledge your fear, however, you take away some of its power. You’re showing courage by choosing to look your fear in the eyes and face it head on. And the more courageous you act, the less room there is for fear.
Fear is all about the negative—what bad things could happen, what poor choices could you make, etc. Gratitude, on the other hand, is all about the positive. It brings you into the present and forces you to see the good that’s already around you.
Unfortunately, it isn’t realistic to expect fear to go away completely. That’s why it’s important to learn to act in spite of the fear. One of the best ways to do this in a way that rejects fear is to take risks. When you take risks, you show yourself that even though you might be afraid, you aren’t going to let fear hold you down.
We’ve talked a lot about overcoming fear here on Design.org. Check out these posts for more insights about fear and overcoming fear:
- Love vs. Fear
- How to Reframe Your Fears
- Fear Only Exists in the Mind
- Find Your True Self by Overcoming Fears
Insecurity and fear are the enemies of creativity, positivity, confidence, and love. If you want to “create happy” in your life, you need to learn to recognize insecurity and fear, and how to take steps to overcome them.
Believe in yourself. You can and will overcome anything you work to overcome.
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