Constantly fretting about what others think of you? Always looking for applause and compliments? Prone to descending into gloom at the slightest criticism? Trying to be a good sport but forever suspicious of everybody else’s motives? Wanting to be one up at all times? If you answered yes to all these questions, you’re in trouble.
Experts define all these characteristics as perfect traits of insecurity of the mind – a personality aberration which, if not checked, can snowball to monstrous proportions. Lack of confidence and self-esteem coupled with false ego and a negative bent of mind are all manifestations of insecurity.
Like in most other personality disorders, insecurity carries the danger of collateral damage. An insecure person is fully capable of ruining not just his own life and relationships, but also creating bitterness in his professional world. Says psychologist, Dr Surbhi Soni, senior consultant, Fortis Health Institute, "Insecurity affects an individual’s day-to-day relations and functionality. Besides, in severe cases, it can also lead to depression and aggravated mental problems." gene factor But what makes a person insecure? The reasons, say experts, are a combined result of environment and genetics.
"But genes actually play a minute role," explains Dr Kersi Chavda, consultant psychiatrist, Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, who blames the upbringing of a person for the insecurity trait. "If children are subjected to constant comparisons with siblings or other children or are always told that they’re not good enough, they tend to develop low self-esteem. They then tend to become extremely conscious about themselves and always do things to prove their worth – to themselves and others around them. They also develop this constant fear of being abandoned, making them unsure and insecure in their personal relationships," explains Dr Chavda.
Perhaps that was what troubled businessman Vikrant Seth’s wife Neerja. "My wife’s severe insecurity took such a toll on our personal life that it ruined not just our marriage but also my work life. I had to quit my MNC job because my wife just wouldn’t let me work. She couldn’t handle the fact that I had women colleagues," he says. Incessant calls, constant questioning and going to the extent of surprise checks in office, she did everything. "No amount of love, affection or even fighting helped," he says. Seth even tried to get his wife to work "to keep her idle mind occupied" but that too didn’t help. "Things got so bitter that I couldn’t concentrate on my work and had to quit – both work and marriage," he says. Now two years after his divorce, Seth is just about recouping. He has started out on his own and has sworn to stay away from anything and anyone even "remotely insecure and negative."
Ego trip While accepting the point about constant comparisons and low self-confidence, Dr Soni also points to a reverse reaction. Insecurity, she feels, also tends to make people overtly egoistic, sensitive, and prone to take failures very badly. "Insecurity can develop if one is constantly told by parents or teachers that they should or can never go wrong. Such children tend to develop false egos and react severely to failures."
Such an attitude can be catastrophic, especially professionally, feel experts. "Ego trips, constant games of one-up manship, being suspicious of each and every move of colleagues, subordinates or bosses, finding fault and taking credit for everybody else’s work doesn’t work well in professional scenarios," says HR consultant Aparna Verma. "Each working individual needs his/her share of appreciation and an insecure person makes matters very difficult," she adds. The situation becomes tougher if the insecure party happens to be the boss.
"No one really wants to report to or work for someone who is constantly negative and takes away all credit for good work. It’s the same in the case of colleagues too. Such attitudes generate office politics and can make work life very vicious," says Verma. The worst, however, is the constant negativity that such people generate. "They can never see the positive aspects of anything, be it love or a promotion," says Dr Soni. "It’s a cliché but it’s true: such people can never look at the glass as half full, for them it’ll always be half empty. Nothing in their life is good enough and they feel shortchanged at every point."
The key issue here is: how on earth does one deal with such insecure people? Vikrant Seth could opt for a divorce, but that may not be an ideal escape route for everyone. Neither is quitting a job or politicking against an insecure boss or colleagues the solution. Experts say you will need a lot of patience and clear communication; and you will also need to make a sincere effort at boosting the low self-esteem of the insecure partner or friend in question. This is the only thing that will help "Friends and spouses can play a big role in moulding the other’s personality defects back into shape," says Soni.
"Just the way constant dismissal is damaging, vocal appreciation, balanced criticism and clear communication with no hidden agendas help build up a positive outlook. It assists the insecure party to become more confident and secure. And when the help comes from a confidante, partner or friend, the effect is much better. This works in both personal and professional situations," asserts Dr Soni.
Once the confidence is back, the road to recovery say experts, is simpler. While this may be enough for most people, chronic cases (like those suffering from depression), may need medication and therapy too. Says Dr Chavda, "Once they are willing to listen, it becomes easier to talk to them, make them understand their situation and start treatment." And then they may finally be on the road to recovery.
Are you always defensive? – Insecure people tend to be very sensitive to criticism and invariably respond defensively. They can’t accept that they might be flawed. Don't be – Be comfortable in your own skin. No one is perfect. And it’s okay to have flaws.
I, me and mine, that’s the mantra – Insecure people tend to talk about themselves constantly. For them, only their opinion matters. Open the doors – Pause and look around you. There is a big world out there. And there are other people, other perspectives. And they matter too.
Can’t be a runner up -Competitiveness is part of a healthy emotional makeup, but over-competitiveness is a sign of a problem. If you’re in the habit of indulging in emotional outbursts when you lose, you lack confidence.
Don’t be a loser – If you can’t take defeat, you are a loser. It’s quite okay to lose sometimes. Winning the next time will be more satisfying.
Spend, spend - One way of coping with insecurity is to keep buying things you can’t afford. The latest TVs, fast cars, everything that’s in fashion.
Save, save – Don’t spend money unnecessarily. There’s no point in buying things you don’t need. You will end up looking like a wannabe. Try saving instead.
seriously bad news Insecure partner Control freak – Starts telling you how you should behave, what you should wear, eat, etc, because it makes him/her happier. Jealous –Jealous over seemingly minor things, and not because he/she cares. It is because he/she feels threatened.
Martyr – Will always tell you all that he/she has done for you and want to make you feel guilty.
It’s your fault – Any disagreements or fights are always your fault and creation. He/she is never accountable for their own behaviour.
Sorry game – Very quick to say sorry and promise never to repeat the behaviour, especially if there is a fear of losing you. But there is no guarantee. Usually goes back to the original bad behaviour once he/she thinks they have won you over again.
Praise me – Wants constant reassurance about how you perceive him/her and how your friends perceive them. However, puts down all naysayers and berates them. He/she finds their critics stupid and insignificant.
Insecure Boss n My way or the highway – Insists on absolute control over everything in the department or office. Rules with an iron hand and refuses to delegate any real authority. He/she doesn’t trust anyone and has few allies or friends.
Nitpicker – Constantly interferes in your work. Second guesses and is always judgmental.
Can’t do wrong – Constantly defends his position. Even a hint of criticism is treated as a challenge to his authority. Hates the fact that you could have a mind of your own.
Perfection freak – An insecure boss is most often an absolute perfectionist. You just cannot make a mistake with him/her. And if he/she makes a mistake, will blame it on someone else.
Fickle – Resists making decisions.
Is not funny – Finds it next to impossible to laugh at himself, but is quick to laugh at others.
From HT Brunch, July 17
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