Everyone gets a little insecure at times – and that’s okay! That said, security is a basic human need, but it’s even more important in erratic and uncertain times like these. But how can you feel more secure?
Firstly, it’s a good idea to acknowledge that a little insecurity is a good thing, because it helps us stay motivated. However, insecurity is only good in moderation and constantly feeling insecure or unsafe will not lead to a happy life. There are many ways to feel more secure, some of them as simple as changing your posture and some as difficult as reaching out when you’re used to handling everything alone.
In this article, I’ll take a look at why feeling secure is so important and more importantly, some tips on how to feel more secure.
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
Why is feeling secure so important?
As a child, I would spend my summers playing a version of hide-and-seek, where the objective was to rush from your hiding spot to the “home base” and yell “Free!” or “Safe!”. I can still vividly remember how good it felt to be “safe” after reaching the home base.
As an adult, I’ve found similar feelings of security and relief after successfully extending the lease of an apartment or solving a relationship-related problem. You probably have your own examples of uncertain times and how good it was to feel secure afterward.
Feeling secure is a basic human need
Feeling secure is a basic human need in several ways. Firstly, there is the physical security – we need to be protected from the elements and other dangers. But mental security is just as important – we need to feel that we belong and that we have control of our lives, that we are safe.
Being and feeling safe is the foundation to living a fulfilling life. If we’re not feeling safe, our thoughts and energy are directed towards finding safety and security. For example, I’ve met children who have trouble doing their homework at home because of the unpredictable moods of an alcoholic parent, and it’s completely understandable – how are you supposed to focus on your math homework if you have to keep an eye out for your mom’s mood swings and whims?
Insecurity causes negativity
On the other end of the spectrum, being insecure in yourself can also cause problems. In a relationship, an insecure partner may suppress their needs to serve those of their partner, or overcorrect and come across as overbearing and controlling.
That’s why feeling secure on all levels is so important. We can’t learn or develop, or even just enjoy life, if we aren’t safe physically or secure in both our relationships and in ourselves.
“All of us, from the cradle to the grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.”John Bowlby
In practice, this means that children develop trust if they have a relationship with an attachment figure (usually a parent), who meets their needs and is emotionally available, someone who children can turn for comfort. Just like in the hide-and-seek game, the attachment figure is a safe “home base” that children can return to after exploring.
But adults need secure bases, too. For most people, it’s their significant other who they can always turn to and who gives them encouragement to explore the world, but it can also be a friend.
My favorite example of a secure base in adulthood is the “work bestie” – that one coworker who’s fun during lunch break and has got your back when you’re preparing to ask for a raise.
In defense of insecurity
With all that being said, it’s normal to feel a little insecure at times. Starting a new job or relationship, or moving to a new town are all big changes in life and it’s completely normal to feel a little wobbly.
It takes time to adapt to new surroundings and situations. I’ve recently switched up my sleep schedule and after two weeks, I still wake up scared that I have missed my alarm and unsure if I’ll make it to work in time.
Even if everything is going fine, you shouldn’t panic at the first sign of uncertainty. It’s completely normal to feel insecure sometimes, it’s just a part of the wonderful and varied experience of being a human. Additionally, sometimes happiness can be found outside of your bubble of security.
Insecurity is also important for self-honesty: nobody’s perfect and it’s often insecurity that drives self-improvement and growth. While not impossible, growth is highly unlikely if you think you’re already good enough at everything.
How to feel more secure
While insecurity can be motivating, it’s completely understandable that people seek security, especially in uncertain times like these.
Unfortunately, there is no VPN for mental security, but there are ways to feel more secure.
1. You’re not in it alone
In our insecure moments, we might feel like the world is against us and no one’s on our side. But that’s not true – there is always someone who’s there for you and you just have to reach out and find your secure base.
Maybe it’s your family or friends, maybe it’s your significant other. If your personal relationships do not feel secure right now, try seeking help from a counselor (face-to-face or online) or a support group, if you’re struggling with a specific problem that’s making you insecure.
Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerable side: remember, it’s completely normal to feel insecure at times. But be mindful of others, too – just like it’s your right to reach out, it’s their right to reject your request. That’s why it’s a good idea to have several supportive relationships.
2. Check your body language
Look confident and your mind will follow. This doesn’t mean that you have to put on your best suit or rock a full face of make-up – but if it makes you more confident, then go for it! Often, a change in posture is all it takes.
When we’re insecure, we tend to make ourselves smaller – we droop our shoulders, lower our head and hunch our back. Depending on your personality, your mannerisms might be quiet and meek or nervous and anxious.
I tend to do these things all the time. At work, I find myself hunched protectively over the keyboard as I type out a non-confrontational letter to confrontational parents. I wring my hands as I talk to some of the more intimidating teachers.
If you recognize yourself here – maybe you’re drooping your shoulders right now – I invite you to do the following:
- Straighten your back
- Push back your shoulders
- Lift your chin and gaze straight ahead or make eye contact
How does it feel? Try to change your posture every time you feel insecure. Not only will it make you feel more secure and confident, but it will make others believe it, too.
There’s science to back this up, too. A 2010 study found that power posing – adopting open, expansive poses that signal power – for only 1 minute decreased the stress hormone cortisol and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk.
3. Do what you love
People love being good at something, because it makes us feel accomplished and capable. When you’re feeling insecure about something in your life, it’s a good idea to remind yourself of the things you’re good at.
It doesn’t matter if you enjoy running or golf, knitting or calligraphy. It’s important to have a regular hobby or pastime that makes you feel good about yourself and your skills. Just watching a movie or reading a book may be the ticket if you love it.
Trying out a new hobby is also a good way to develop and learn new skills and to feel accomplished. In this case, it’s important to remember that perfection takes time and setting smaller goals is the key to success.
4. Be more optimistic
Often, insecurities arise from general negativity in our lives, like some sort of snowball: one thing goes wrong and the snowball is set in motion, gathering size and momentum as it rolls through your life.
Yes, multiple things can go wrong at the same time, but there are always things to be grateful for and optimistic about. Even if it’s just the basics, like having a roof over your head and food on the table, or trivial things, like finally getting to binge the new season of The Crown on Netflix.
Noticing the good things also helps to shine a light on the things that are under our control. Watching Netflix means that while you might not have control over your living situation right now, you have control over your entertainment.
Having a home means having your own safe space that you can decorate and fill with the things you love, even if there’s a global pandemic wreaking havoc outside.
5. Trust yourself
This probably isn’t the first time you feel insecure, and it won’t be the last. Sometimes, it’s useful to jog your memory and remind yourself how you beat insecurity last time around.
If you can’t quite remember, that’s okay – trust yourself to handle this. You’ve got this. Think of the hard times you’ve been through.
One way to build trust in yourself is to try affirmations, or positive statements about yourself. Some good trust-building affirmations are:
- I can do this!
- I am enough.
- I’m going to make myself so proud.
- I will succeed today.
- I have the power to create change.
Feeling secure is a basic human need, and while insecurity may have some benefits, security is the key to a happier life. It’s okay to feel insecure at times, but when it starts getting in the way of your happiness, it’s time to intervene. Security can be found in a positive mindset, looking confident, reaching out and spending time on things you love. While not always easy, these are all worth a try.
What do you think? What’s your take on the importance of feeling secure? Have you every felt unhappy due to a lack of security? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Maili TirelSchool psychologist
School psychologist, teacher and internet counselor from Estonia. Passionate about coffee, reading, dancing, and singing in the shower, much to the neighbors’ dismay. Counseling catchphrase: “It’s okay!“