Refrains of "they're so insecure" are heard often, but I don't think that insecurity is really the problem. Everyone is insecure about some aspect of their lives. It's how you deal with it that causes the issues.
Three basic ways of dealing with insecurity. Repression, resistance, and acceptance.
- Repression is essentially denial. In this case, you ignore the negative feelings created by the insecurity, or deny they exist. Someone insecure about their weight will ignore try to ignore confrontation at all with their obesity. Externally, you can identify someone like this because they may become very agitated when the topic is even brought up, though from their perspective they don't realize they are repressing.
An repressor, if asked: does this make you feel anxious?, despite being visibly anxious or upset, will say "no" and in their own mind truly believe this is true. That is, it's not an attempt of looking a certain way for other people (impression management), but they internally cannot accept this for themselves.
In this case, the person's insecurity about their weight isn't the problem - it's that they react in a way which creates exaggerated reactions stemming from their hostility about themselves and directs it to the people around them. They may adopt controlling behaviors.
It can be managed by learning to monitor your own emotions in response to certain situations and "triggers."
- Resistance seeks to minimize the importance of something. Resistance is more conscious than repression. Someone who is actually very insecure about their freckles might say "well, it's not really a big deal" but not actually accept this internally. This is not to be confused with someone who really does believe there freckles aren't a big deal. With resistance, you may see visible strain or discomfort on someone's face. It elicits a feeling of real discomfort. Someone might be upset that they weren't accepted, but may say things like "whatever" or "I don't care" to make it appear like less of an issue than it really is to them.
In this case, choosing to minimize the problem prevents the growth that can come from acceptance, and in cases where the insecurity involves interactions with other people, it can escalate conflicts when people feel threatened when other people point out their flaw. You could argue that insecurity over freckles might be alleviated by other people just not talking about freckles, but if the insecurity is something like a fear of social rejection, and other people choose not to accept that person (but may still have to work with them), then it's a real problem.
In this case, the issue isn't the insecurity, but it's that it creates unnecessary conflict and reactivity.
- Acceptance means internally confronting the typically negative feeling of shame, guilt, or inadequacy and processing them. Someone who is insecure about their earning potential might say "this makes me feel threatened that other people will think I'm poor." Acceptance doesn't have to result in a desire to change whatever they feel insecure about, though it might. An alcoholic might say "this creates real problems in my life so I'm going to try and change this instead of getting upset/lying about it and drinking to ease the pain". A little person "dwarf" might accept they are never going to get taller but stop letting their insecurity prevent them from doing what they can do while accepting that people may make fun of them for it. This doesn't mean they enjoy being made fun of, on the contrary, they admit they don't like it or work against it instead of resisting by acting like it's not a problem (if it is, for them).
In this case, people cope with their insecurities by accepting that they have them. They may choose to change themselves, or they may be more comfortable just staying the way they are. The root of the insecurity doesn't go away, persay, but it is processed.