Why It's OK to Seek Reassurance
Do you feel secure enough to embrace your insecurities?
Posted August 5, 2018 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
Being human means needing reassurance sometimes. Even the most secure people have moments of self-doubt, insecurity, and feeling overwhelmed. Whether you need a little or lots of validation, this is nothing to be ashamed of.
Many of us didn't receive reassurance growing up. We didn't get the memo that we have worth and value—and that we’re OK just as we are. As a result, we may have a reassurance deficit, which propels us to continually look outside ourselves for validation to help us feel grounded.
If we grew up with a heavy dose of criticism or neglect, we may not have developed a secure internal base. If we didn’t have a safe and healthy attachment with caregivers, we may not have a stable inner platform from which to operate confidently in an unpredictable world.
The Reassurance We’re Really Seeking
Human beings are not isolated entities. Our sense of self develops through our interactions with people. We need positive mirroring to feel good about ourselves and life.
Seeking reassurance is a healthy expression of our need for positive contact, validation, and mirroring. But it’s helpful to be mindful of the pitfalls.
Have you ever taken a risk to reveal your concerns or fears to someone who tried to reassure you, but made you feel worse? Perhaps they said, “There’s nothing to be afraid of” or “Everything will be OK."
Their intention is probably good, but what If you are feeling afraid? Your friend may have unknowingly added a dose of shame; you may now think something is wrong with you for feeling afraid.
We don't feel better by receiving false reassurances, but rather by feeling validated for whatever we’re feeling. We’re comforted by receiving caring and empathy.
Rather than hearing “You don't need to be afraid,” we might feel reassured by hearing something like “I can understand how scary that is," or “I’d also be afraid if that were happening to me.”
If a friend is seeking advice, you might offer some—or direct them toward a source of potential help, such as a therapist, a medical practitioner, or a book or article.
But most often, people are simply seeking your empathic ear and kind heart. It's the warm human connection that offers the most comforting reassurance, not your advice or thoughts. Your open, non-judgmental presence offers the reassurance that your friend is cared about and not alone. Non-verbal responses, such as a head nod or some soothing sounds or words (mm-hmm, oh wow, I see), may be more powerful than advice.
If you find yourself needing reassuring presence or validation, it doesn't mean you’re an insecure person; it simply means you’re human. It takes courage to reach out and ask for support when needed.
You might start a conversation with something like, “I’m feeling a need for some reassurance (or support). Is this a good time… or when would be a good time to talk?” Or, “There’s something bugging me. Are you OK if I talk with you about it?” A friend may be touched by your vulnerable expression and trust, and be happy to listen.
In order to orient your friend’s listening position, you might want to express what you need, such as “I just need you to listen” or “I need a sounding board.” Or, if you want a reality check, you might add, “If you have any thoughts, input, or perspectives on what I’m saying, please tell me.”
I suggest being a little careful about taking too much time when seeking a friend’s reassurance. People have limited time and attention spans.
Use your intuition about when it feels like enough—or check in occasionally to see if your friend has reached a limit, or ask them to tell you when they have. A good friend might tell you. There may be others who don't want to offend you, but may distance themselves from you if you speak for too long. After some time, you may want to check in with them to see if there is anything they want to talk about so that it becomes a more balanced sharing.
If you find yourself needing lots of support, there’s nothing wrong with that. But you may want to consider seeking a therapist about a stubborn or recurring issue.
Letting It In
A big obstacle around seeking reassurance is not letting it in when we get it. Continually seeking reassurance may signal that we’re not soaking it up when it drifts our way.
No one is fully self-sufficient, even if they pretend to be. The most insecure among us are those who don't acknowledge their fears and insecurities.
It’s a blessing to find people with whom we feel safe to share our vulnerability when we feel anxious or insecure. A reciprocal sharing of our humanity, including our need for reassurance, builds trust and connection.
© John Amodeo