Insecurity is painful, and insecurity can damage almost everything it touches. Unfortunately, it can be a common issue challenging many who walk among us, and thereby, it becomes an issue for those who don’t battle the personality trait themselves but must interact with those who do. However, let’s be sure to understand that we all most likely suffer from some form of insecurity, so don’t develop any high and mighty feelings of superiority over someone who is struggling.
Insecurity in others has touched my life and the life of my family in more ways than I’m comfortable with in recent years. In some cases, I addressed it directly, and in other cases I didn’t address it at all, although I probably should have. However, some battle are just not worth fighting. For the sake of sanity, it’s often best to walk away. And, I did. But, those years have caused me to do some research on the subject of insecurity and the toxic traits that can often pour forth from the life and actions of an insecure person.
Insecurity is characterized by feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and a diminished view of their self-worth, although everyone suffering from insecurity doesn’t display those feelings in ways that we might think. Read on.
Jennifer Guttman, Psy. D., says:
“...it’s estimated that roughly 85% of people worldwide (adults and adolescents)
have low self-esteem. Low self-esteem has been linked to violent behavior,
school dropout rates, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic achievement.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more deaths are caused by suicide
every year than homicide or war.”
(Jennifer Guttman, Psy. D, “The Relationship With Yourself,” Psychology Today, June 27, 2019)
Insecurity drives damaging and even dangerous behavior. Common personality traits of insecure people can be negative self-talk or self-depreciation, but insecurity can also manifest itself outwardly and into the lives of others. It can reveal itself in jealousy, approval-seeking behaviors, bragging, flamboyant narcissism, competitiveness, obnoxious bullying, a negative mindset toward seemingly everything they encounter that is “not their idea” and outright aggression towards others. Insecurity can often bring about unnecessary drama and toxicity into the lives of those who must engage with those suffering from this increasingly damaging personality trait.
But, how do we deal with this? Should we deal with this?
First off, we must call it out for what it really is—a problem, and in most situations, I would say that we should confront it. The confrontation is hard, because it will most likely not be well received, and discussing it in a way that promotes peace, love and understanding can be difficult.
I’m not an expert at anything here, but my own research in both Christian-based and mainstream psychological studies has led me to the following conclusions:
We Must Hear Them Out
Let the insecure among us talk, regardless of the conversation; give them space to breathe; and let them air their narrative. Dismissing an insecure person could possibly make the situation worse and add to their own insecurities. No one responds well to being “dismissed” from the conversation. Instead, include them, but regardless of whether they venture into self-deprecation or extreme narcissism (or anything in between), the insecure elements should then be identified, examined and prayed over, and a decision should be made whether their actions are detrimental to themselves or others to a degree that they need to be addressed. If they do, then address them. Looking the other way may only serve to empower and escalate the same behavior.
Wait For The Right Time
The correct time to confront an insecure person may not be in the middle of a display of insecurity. If emotions are running high, then it would almost always be more fruitful to wait to address your concerns with them. I would say a private conversation, at least initially, is not only more productive but also a display of Christ-likeness. Private conversations may lead them to open up and reveal some of the more relevant issues that are causing them to display a behavior that is damaging to themselves or others around them. Addressing it publicly could be viewed as an attack and cause a bad situation to spin out of control. The goal is to help, to heal and to unify. If you’re going to address damaging behavior, be sure that you’re doing it at a moment when your own mind is calm, collected and seeking to understand and help.
Understand the Process
Understand that you’re not their savior, and your confrontation of the situation may not be the counseling they necessarily need to hear. You may not be the person God has called to counsel them through this difficulty and truly help them, but God has someone who can. Point them in a direction toward people who can help.
Never have the expectation that calling out bad behavior will change it immediately. There’s a process involved that is probably greater than your intervention. Pray diligently that God would lead them to people who will genuinely understand, care and engage them with love and grace. In turn, you show love and grace while the process takes place.
Create Healthy Boundaries
Each of us needs to examine our definition of healthy boundaries, for our own happiness and personal mental health. On the more docile side of insecurity—if an insecure person constantly seeks validation from you, this can distract you from things in your life that are more important. Frankly, it can also lead you to develop a little of your own personal brand of narcissism, so be careful.
On the more damaging side—if insecurity is leading someone to be personally aggressive towards you, or if they develop into a bully or narcissist, then you must examine how much of that behavior you intend to tolerate, based on your boundaries. There’s a saying that “What you allow is what will continue.” I believe this to be true in every sense of the word. Don’t allow the insecurity of others to take command of your mind, your life, or your organization.
If healthy boundaries can exist, then they need to exist. Determine your boundaries, and clearly communicate your boundaries and tolerances.
Know When to Cut Ties
If you’re reading my blog, you probably identify yourself to be a Christian, and I hope you do know Jesus. Scripture tells us to have love and compassion for others, even our enemies. It’s hard for a follower of Christ to eliminate another person from their life, because we feel it violates our call to be Jesus to our world. However, the sad truth is that there are people among us who are toxic, and they simply don’t want to be any other way. When this is the case, there is a time to cut ties with them. Even God, in Romans 1:28, gave some over to a depraved mind—those who thought the knowledge of God was not worthwhile. Don’t pursue a relationship that is grounded in toxicity. You don’t have to. Pray for them, love them, but understand that there may come a time for you to move on.
Luke 6:27-28 tells us, “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
If all of the aforementioned fails to bring an understanding or change of behavior, then walk away. We can’t effectively fight every battle that rages inside of another person’s mind, even if their own battles spill over into our personal lives. And, do it all with a mindset of love, constantly looking for an opportunity to reconcile that relationship with the same grace that Christ has reconciled us unto God.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!