9 Common Causes of Insecurity

Most people deal with insecurity in one form or another. Read about the 9 common causes of insecurity and see examples of each in scripture.

9 Common Causes of Insecurity

The last couple of weeks we’ve been talking some about self-worth and self-image (see the posts here and here).  Those of us who have negative pictures of ourselves deal with INSECURITY.  Actually, I would venture to say that most people deal with insecurity in one form or another.  This is also not just an issue that women deal with (notice most of the examples in the scriptures below are from insecure men). 

Insecurity is not a gender-specific issue.  I’ve learned that even though men and women may be insecure for different reasons, the root causes and overcoming them are the same.  I’ve also discovered that there are 9 common causes of insecurity (there are definitely more, but these are the most common).

9 Common Causes of Insecurity:

  1. Comparing yourself to others 
  2. Appearances and imperfections (external or internal)
  3. Acceptance by others (i.e. fitting in, other’s opinions, etc.)
  4. Feeling unloved or unwanted
  5. Not measuring up to the standards of others (culture/society, media, etc.)
  6. Fear
  7. Failure (fear of OR previous failures, bad decisions, wrong living, etc.)
  8. Tragic incident or circumstances (death, abuse, infidelity, etc.)
  9. Getting significance in wrong things (job, gifts/talents, spouse, children, appearance, material possessions) 

Examples in scripture:

“Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest.” Luke 9:46 (NLT)  The disciples were comparing themselves to each other.

“But Moses pleaded with the lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Exodus 4:10 (NLT)  Moses felt that he had an imperfection that would hinder him from doing what God wanted.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)  Paul was explaining to Timothy not to let his young age (or people who didn’t respect him because he was so young) get in the way of his ministry.

“So Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “The lord has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me.”” Genesis 29:32 (NLT)  Leah felt unloved by her husband (and rightly so) which made her insecure and believe that if she gave her husband children then he might finally love her.

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” Judges 6:15 (NLT)  Gideon didn’t feel that he measured up to the standard of a “mighty hero”.

  • Fear (see posts on overcoming this here and here)

“But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!”” Numbers 13:31 (NLT)  Ten of the twelve Israelite spies were afraid to enter the land that God had promised them, and because of their fear they remained in the desert for another 40 years.  Fear kept them from continuing on toward what God had already promised them.

  • Failure (fear of OR previous failures, bad decisions, wrong living, etc.) (see posts on overcoming this here and here)

“For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.” Psalm 51:3 (NLT)  David’s sin and failure (adultery and murder) haunted him.

“But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her … But now Tamar tore her robe and put ashes on her head. And then, with her face in her hands, she went away crying … so Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.” 2 Samuel 13:14, 19, 20b (NLT)  Tamar was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, and she felt shame and lived in desolation thereafter.

  • Getting significance in wrong things (job, gifts/talents, spouse, children, appearance, material possessions)

“This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!”” 1 Samuel 18:8 (NLT)  Saul got his significance from his power, accomplishments, and the praises of others, and when he lost these things he became very jealous of David.

I know I personally have dealt with my fair share of insecurity.  Honestly for me, it’s probably snowballed from a variety of things over many years.  Here were some of the things that have contributed to my insecurities:

  • Not making the cheerleading squad in junior high
  • Cheating boyfriends
  • Participating in activities where I was not gifted (i.e. sports, choir, anything crafty or décor oriented…)
  • Media (magazines, commercials, entertainment industry)
  • Basing my significance on the things I did well
  • Pageants (HUGE issues here from physical appearance, to comparing myself and being compared to others, feelings of not fitting in and not measuring up to certain standards)
  • Post-pregnancies (issues after having a c-section with my first—feelings of failure and inadequacy, feelings of missing out on the experience of childbirth; issues of appearance; miscarriage—more feelings of inadequacy, self-blame, what’s wrong with me)
  • Marriage “issues”

Probably definitely the most impactful for me were the cheating boyfriends and pageants.  Dealing with infidelity in relationships certainly causes the “I’m not good enough” mentality.  I was constantly dealing with thoughts like “I’m not pretty enough”, “My body’s not good enough”, “I’m not fun enough”.  I had feelings of being unloved, unwanted and unworthy and feelings that I was never allowed to make a mistake.  I was constantly making comparisons to the “other” girl(s) and feeling like I could never measure up (especially if pornography was involved—who can compete with that?!).  I honestly could write a whole SERIES of posts on insecurities from infidelity (maybe even a book!). Haha!  Stay tuned… 😉

How I REALLY felt... Here are some things that caused me to feel insecure...

I developed my fair share of insecurity from pageants too.  I didn’t do very many pageants—just a small hometown pageant in high school, two Miss Oklahoma preliminaries and competing once in Miss Oklahoma.  I think I can honestly say that this is a lot of where my issues with physical appearance and comparing myself to others rooted.  I can remember the exact moment when it started too…My pageant director (she was pretty hardcore) took me to a “pageant consultant” who had me stand in front of her in a mirrored room wearing just a sports bra and spandex shorts while she poked, prodded and pulled on me all over (including my boobs and butt—talk about invasion of privacy!).  I was told about each and every one of my perceived imperfections and flaws.  I was informed that I needed to lose weight, tone just about everything, get rid of my poochy belly (I think the word “fat” may have even been used), duct tape my boobs for added lift and cleavage, cut my hair a certain way, and on and on.  I left that place feeling HORRIBLE about myself and have remembered that experience ever since.  It was pretty traumatic.  I think I was around 20 years old at the time and weighed less than 125 pounds.  I really don’t remember having a negative self-image prior to that experience, but it definitely shifted after that.

On top of this incident, the whole pageant process was combination of comparisons–me comparing myself mostly, but also being judged by a panel of “experts” against other contestants.  Of course, there was also the issue of fitting in.  I met some very wonderful girls through the process, and I was VERY grateful to have one of my best friends, Michelle, by my side most of the time.  However, as a “rookie” at Miss Oklahoma you stand out like a sore thumb (and are often even pointed out).  There were also the stereotypical mean girls there.  It did get pretty catty at times (imagine putting 40 insecure young women together for a week).  Don’t get me wrong…pageants are not all bad.  I’ve talked to several other friends who had very different experiences.  I also gained so much good from my limited involvement in pageants.  The interview training was priceless, it definitely made me stronger and more confident in several areas, and I earned some excellent scholarship money and got some pretty cool stuff.  I just wish I knew more about my true identity and worth prior to that experience.

Thankfully, I’ve learned to overcome a lot of these thoughts, feelings, and insecurities.  Nevertheless, I am definitely still a work in progress.  I continue to deal with insecurity on a daily basis, but now I have the tools and knowledge to do so. 

It’s just up to me to actually USE them.  As I do, little by little, I am getting better and stronger and I can better recognize the areas where I still need more work (i.e. when I’m being critical of others!).

There are many, many causes of insecurity.  We’ve discussed some of the most common ones.  I’ve shared a just a few of my personal ones.  In the next couple of weeks, I’ll continue to share how we can gradually adjust our mindset, some practical ways to overcome with each of these common causes of insecurity, and some things that have helped me personally.

Take a practical step:  Look at the list of symptoms of insecurity below.  Do you exhibit any of these symptoms?  Start doing some self-evaluation and see if you can determine some of the root causes of your own insecurities.  Write them in a journal.  If you’re not sure, pray and ask God to give you wisdom in this area and to reveal them to you.  “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)  Identifying WHERE they come from is the first step in making a plan to “uproot” them.

Symptoms or “tells” of insecurity:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Shyness or talking too much
  • Nervousness
  • Hesitancy
  • Self-condemnation
  • Isolation
  • Attempting to earn acceptance or love
  • Arrogance
  • Bullying
  • Condescending or patronizing attitude
  • Critical of others, belittling others, pointing out flaws in others

Take a moment to take this poll here:

What causes you to feel the MOST insecure?

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What are some things that have caused YOU to feel insecure? Leave a comment below (or click “Read in browser>>” if you’re viewing through e-mail).

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2 thoughts on “9 Common Causes of Insecurity

  1. MC

    Such a great post. I identified with so much of it. I compare myself to others and feel I fall short. I know we are all made unique for a reason. I just want to find joy in who I am and who God made me.

    1. Tracy Post author

      Thank you! I think I just recently (w/in the past 5 years or so) discovered that I find the most joy when I’m fulfilling who God made me to be. For me it was finding out what my TRUE gifts and talents were and start cultivating them and using them for a greater good (helping others). A sense of purpose has given me tremendous joy and has helped me to look outside of myself.

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