3 Ways to Sniff Out Insecurities and Improve Relationships

When you let your insecurities dictate your relationships, you do a disservice to yourself and the people you work with.


At the start of my career, I thought I didn't like women bosses. My first boss was a woman, and we did not get along. I even thought I would never work for another woman again. When I left that company and my second boss, a man, was wonderful, I thought this confirmed my suspicions. However, my third boss was also a man, and working for him was not pleasant, so I had to recalculate.

This is when I realized my aversion wasn't to working with women but rather with insecure people. Insecurity breeds fear, and once fear has you in its grips, you stagnate. Too afraid to make mistakes, you hold yourself back from moving forward and never end up making headway in a company. When you let your insecurities dictate your relationships, you do a disservice to yourself and the people you work with. On the other hand, by resolving these insecurities in yourself and others, you strengthen your interpersonal skills.

Here's how to do it.

1. Realize That Everyone Can Feel Insecure

In the world today, it can be hard to feel like you fit in. As a result, it's easy to feel insecure. This may be why women are reluctant to help other women. While I hate to generalize genders, in my experience, men find it easier to be more confident while women often express more insecurities. This creates competition among the insecure, each looking to prove to others that they deserve to be there.

Among men and women, even highly intelligent individuals can be very insecure. In my first supervisorial role, two men reported to me: a technologist 10 years older than I was and a salesperson 20 years older. The technologist was a whiz at what he did, but he was so insecure that working with him was difficult. The salesperson, on the other hand, at 60 years old, had achieved his level of success and was confident about where he was in his work. This isn't to say that age is the key to confidence. The point is that insecurities can exist in anyone.

2. Learn to Resolve Your Insecurity

While you can sniff out insecurities pretty quickly, you can't change them quickly. When the insecure person in question is a boss, the issues that this causes can be especially hard to manage. Remember that snide remarks about insecurities will only hurt them, and this puts you in a precarious position, so just be genuine. Attempt to build a real relationship with the insecure person so you can at least change the measure of insecurity between the two of you. They may even start improving their relationships with others as a result.

When possible, seek out insecure people, whether they're your bosses, employees or coworkers, and try to manage their insecurities. Maybe they feel insecure reporting to others or having others report to them. Identify where they feel the need to compete or overcompensate and when they begin to doubt their own abilities — then help them dissolve those doubts.

Some people can learn to manage their insecurities and improve their interpersonal skills. Others may never change, and they should be dealt with differently.

3. Recognize When it Holds You Back

Unless you can manage to dissolve their insecurity, you can never build a genuine relationship with someone, and in those cases, your best bet is to leave them behind. Keep an eye out for people who go over the top in trying to make sure they look better than you or are consistently "putting you in your place." Especially when that person is a boss, this can have a really deteriorating effect on your confidence and cause insecurities of your own the longer you put up with it.

While we may stereotype men as being more confident, women leaders may see these types of hard-line insecurities in men who work for them. One engineer who reported to me could never talk with me in an authentic way. He would hide information, insisting it was because I wouldn't understand since I'm not an engineer. He was brilliant, but it was clear that he would never be able to work for me, which meant he would never be able to work for the company. Those types of people won't ever change, and you're better off without them.

Insecurities hold you back from success, and this is how I manage all my relationships — even the ones I have with my family and friends. Insecurity is perhaps the least understood and most overlooked challenge in the market, so it's really helpful to self-assess our own insecurities and what situations can make them worse. Without identifying them, your insecurities may unknowingly manifest in ways that prevent you from success, but learning how to get over them can open up doors for growth.

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