How to Overcome Doubt and Chronic Insecurity
Chronic insecurity and doubt can render us incapable of making decisions.
Posted May 11, 2022 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
- Those with chronic insecurity tend to underestimate their own abilities, overanalyze decisions, and procrastinate.
- Pathological doubt stems from the need to evaluate all possibilities and potential negative consequences of taking a specific course of action.
- Those with chronic insecurity can learn to take small risks; those with pathological doubt can learn to drop the illusion of reasoning perfectly.
“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” ―Voltaire
Chronic insecurity, which is a problem we are seeing with increasing regularity in employees, couples, and single adults, can now even be observed as growing in children and adolescents. As a problem, this is not in and of itself pathological or diagnosable, but it can block us in our everyday lives.
Chronic insecurity cannot be called a form of "disease," but as a generalized perception, it becomes a disabling source of frustration, rendering us incapable to make decisions and take effective action. Many of our patients have experienced this affliction and they often report feeling condemned to live with it. They experience it as akin to a curse, and they believe it to be an unchangeable aspect of who they are. However, I fully reject any terminology that would convict people to such a life sentence for any human difficulty.
Delay and Procrastination
With this problem, people feel constant uncertainty about decisions and find themselves unable to implement even basic actions. They are continually seeking certainty before they act. The mechanism leading to the formation of such a deep-rooted distrust in their abilities is that they have a tendency to overanalyze things.
While seeking certainty initially has the appearance of a person being careful or conscientious, it eventually leads to a detrimental effect of overestimating others' capabilities and underestimating their own capabilities. In fact, the more insecure someone is, the more they overestimate others and see the difficulties they have to deal with in everyday life through a distorted lens that exaggerates their gravity. This further leads to a delay in taking action, creating more fear and increasing their state of physical anxiety. Delaying action often presents itself, even in those specific areas of life in which the person may well know that they are proven to be capable.
The repetition of these tactics of postponing something increases their contempt for themselves, exacerbating further their feeling of impotence and incapability compared to others and their life generally.
Obsessive-Compulsive Insecurity and Doubt
There is also a variant of chronic insecurity that derives from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. This type of problem is known as pathological doubt. In this case, the dynamic that leads the person to delay action is not the tendency to underestimate themselves or to overestimate others’ abilities, but the obsessive need to evaluate all possibilities and potential negative consequences of taking a specific course of action. Exciting new developments in the effective treatment of OCD will be explored in a later post.
Two Problems, One Effect
In both of these problems, we see that people often appear completely blocked in their lives because they can not take any kind of responsibility or at most, limited types, and therefore become incapable of carrying out tasks of all kinds. I also find that they can connect with people whom they feel offer protection and that this help and protection-seeking in relationships often creates a real form of relational dependency through another mental trap—the trap of "help that actually hinders."
The Practical Solution
In the case of people who feel incapable to make decisions, we have to create in them a fear of asking for help—blocking, on one hand, the relational dynamic that feeds the disorder, and then in tandem, dealing with the phobic part of avoiding decisions. They should also be taught how to take very small risks and decisions at the start, progressively increasing to more and more complex situations and decisions until they reach confidence in their own resources and in building their self-confidence.
If the problem is more the obsessive-compulsive type with pathological doubt, then treatment will be very different: We will want to focus on short-circuiting their process of excessive reasoning and their "illusion" that we can reason perfectly. In order to deal with this, we must remind them of what the philosopher, Immanuel Kant essentially said, that "there is no correct answer to an incorrect question." We must maintain our intervention until the vicious circle between their provision of answers to their irrational or hyper-rational doubts is blocked and by doing this we completely dismantle their problem so that they can take effective action and liberate themselves from this common trap.
Gibson, P. (2021). Escaping The Anxiety Trap. Strategic Science Books.
Gibson, P. (2021) 12 Most Common Mental Traps. Strategic Science Books.
Gibson, P. (2022) The Persuasion Principle. Lettertec Books.
Portelli, C., and Papantuno, M. (2017). Le Nuove Dipendenze, Riconnescerle, Capirle Suparle. San Paolo.