The Tender Heart: Conquering Your Insecurity

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9780684871677: The Tender Heart: Conquering Your Insecurity

Insight, explanations, and practical solutions for overcoming insecurity and sensitivity -- from a top psychologist
In simple language, Joseph Nowinski explains that insecurity is not a flaw or shortcoming, but rather a personality trait that reflects both temperament and life experiences. And, most important, he shows how insecurity can be conquered so that one can thrive -- especially in work and love.
The first book to investigate insecurity, The Tender Heart sheds light on its common causes and provides guidelines for overcoming the self-doubt, debilitating self-consciousness, and chronic lack of confidence that prevent many people from enjoying life to its fullest. Combining personality quizzes and case histories of people who have conquered their insecurities, The Tender Heart offers expert advice on:

  • Healing insecurity
  • Avoiding emotional predators who seek out sensitive people
  • Coping with a tough-hearted partner or colleague
  • Finding your emotional mate
  • Raising children who are self-confident

The Tender Heart is for anyone who has experienced times when their own insecurity or the insecurity of others has interfered with valued relationships or prevented them from realizing their potential.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D., is a psychologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center. The founder of the Institute of Interpersonal Sensitivity, he also has a private practice in Tolland, Connecticut, where he lives.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1: Insecurity

Perhaps you know someone who reacted severely -- to the point where it struck you as irrational or pathological -- to the loss of a relationship. Perhaps you know someone who gets deeply depressed or feels unnecessarily betrayed in response to the slightest criticism. Maybe you yourself tend to react this way. Then again, maybe you are one of those people whose heart gets broken more often than seems fair, or who is drawn to exactly the wrong kind of person -- one who is insensitive and inevitably hurts you.

The intense reactions associated with a dysfunctional response to loss, rejection, or criticism are the result of insecurity. Insecurity may mean different things to different people. In general, though, whenever I ask people for their impressions, they typically associate insecurity with someone who is constantly second-guessing himself, whose feelings are easily hurt, and who seeks continual reassurance. These commonsense definitions accurately capture the essence of insecurity.

In this book the word insecurity has a particular meaning, and a particular cause. Insecurity refers to a profound sense of self-doubt -- a deep feeling of uncertainty about our basic worth and our place in the world. Insecurity is associated with chronic self-consciousness, along with a chronic lack of confidence in ourselves and anxiety about our relationships. The insecure man or woman lives in constant fear of rejection and a deep uncertainty about whether his or her own feelings and desires are legitimate. In men as well as women, insecurity comes from a combination of a sensitive disposition and experiences of loss, abuse, rejection, or neglect. However, while insecurity has the same causes in men and women, outwardly men and women usually express insecurity in different ways.

The insecure person also harbors unrealistic expectations about love and relationships. These expectations, for themselves and for others, are often unconscious. The insecure person creates a situation in which being disappointed and hurt in relationships is almost inevitable. Ironically, although insecure people are easily and frequently hurt, they are usually unaware of how they are unwitting accomplices in creating their own misery.

Although the two can be related, insecurity is not the same as sensitivity. It's entirely possible, in other words, to be sensitive but not insecure. In fact, one goal of this book is to give parents guidance in how to foster sensitivity in their children without creating insecurity. Another goal is to help insecure people shed their insecurity without sacrificing their sensitivity. We'll be looking much closer at what kinds of experiences tend to make an interpersonally sensitive person vulnerable to becoming insecure, what kind of experiences can make insecurity worse, and what kinds of experiences can help to heal it.

HOW INSECURE AM I?

This is a question that most people would like an answer to. Since most of us can relate to the idea of being insecure sometimes, the bigger issue is just how much insecurity is an issue in our lives. You can begin to find the answer by assessing your own level of insecurity (or that of someone you love) as it is right now. To do this, complete the following questionnaire by checking off all statements that describe you (or your loved one).

Insecurity Inventory

___I often worry about my relationship.

___I do not like being in the spotlight socially.

___I often feel that others don't take me seriously.

___I am an exceptionally jealous person.

___I'm forever thinking that others are smarter, more attractive, or more interesting than me.

___I worry that my partner is going to leave me for someone else.

___I would describe myself as very self-conscious.

___I've been told that I'm thin-skinned, overly sensitive.

___I often seek other people's approval, even if I don't particularly respect them.

___I've been told by friends and partners that I expect too much from myself and others.

___If someone hurts my feelings I have a hard time letting go of it and tend to dwell on it for a long time.

___I am very hard on myself when I make a mistake.

___I often ask my partner for reassurance that she/he still loves me.

___I get either angry or depressed if someone I care about disappoints me.

___I cry easily.

___I am very sensitive to criticism.

___I worry about how I look.

___I have a hard time trusting my partner not to cheat on me.

___I have a strong desire to make amends whenever I do or say something that seems to hurt someone else.

___I'm more inclined to think too little than too much of myself.

___Sometimes I feel anxious for no apparent reason.

___I worry about being disapproved of.

___I've been told that I'm very defensive if I'm criticized even slightly.

___I have often felt let down by people, even the ones who love me.

___I secretly feel that I'm not smart enough or attractive enough.

___I sometimes worry that even my best friends don't really like me.

___Most of the time I would sooner give in than fight for what I want.

___My feelings are easily hurt.

___If I do something that gets my partner angry I have a hard time getting it out of my mind.

___I often don't have confidence in decisions I make.

___It really bothers me when I think someone doesn't like me.

___If someone hurts my feelings I am more likely to give them the cold shoulder than to confront them.

___I often make up excuses rather just telling the truth.

___I worry more than most people about what other people think of me.

___I will do almost anything to avoid conflicts with others.

The more items you checked off, the more likely it is that the person you are rating -- either yourself or someone you love -- is insecure.

It's important to understand that insecurity is not something that a person either has or doesn't have, period. Just as people's reactions to loss (or abuse or rejection) can vary, people can differ a great deal in how insecure they are. There is no sharp boundary line separating those of us who are secure from those who are insecure. Few if any of us could say that we have never experienced any symptoms of insecurity. Most of us have some degree of sensitivity, and most of us have experienced at least some significant losses or separations, abuse, or rejection in our lives. On the other hand, not all of us have reacted to these experiences by becoming intensely insecure. The issue, then, is not whether any of us has any insecurity, but rather how severe and debilitating our insecurity is.

Human beings seem programmed to form attachments -- to people, places, even things. The more sensitive we are by nature, the more this is true. One route to insecurity is through experiencing broken attachments. In general, the more significant the attachment is and the younger we are when it happens, the more a broken attachment affects us. This is all the more true for those who are sensitive by nature. Attachments can be broken by physical separation, as when a parent dies or our parents divorce. They can also be broken through abuse or neglect. It's important to keep in mind that children experience emotional coldness, physical abuse, and chronic criticism as loss, just as surely as they experience physical separation that way.

When they think about broken attachments, most people think about very young children who are either separated from their parents or abused. These kinds of experiences do place young children at risk for becoming insecure. It's also true that broken attachments throughout childhood and adolescence have the potential to create insecurity. In contrast, while losses can affect us as adults, they typically don't create insecurity in a person who is not already insecure. The most vulnerable period for the development of insecurity, then, is childhood.

Few of us could say we have never suffered the loss of an attachment, or experienced at least some of the symptoms of insecurity. Who has not experienced at least a little hesitancy or distrust following the breakup of an important relationship? And how many people can honestly say that they've never had their hearts broken? The exceptions -- people who cannot relate to such experiences -- turn out to be people whom we need to watch out for, and avoid getting into relationships with, if possible.

If insecurity is to some extent unavoidable, then the key question becomes this: at what point does insecurity become dysfunctional? I believe that when insecurity is so intense and lasting that it seriously undermines our self-esteem and interferes with our ability to enjoy life, to build and keep satisfying relationships, and to achieve our career potential, it is dysfunctional. At that point the insecure person has a distorted self-image and lacks a sense of their place and value in the world. At that point insecurity leads us to harbor totally unrealistic expectations for relationships, or else leads us to choose partners who use or abuse us. At that point insecurity definitely is dysfunctional, and at that point it is worth doing something about. In fact, if that kind of insecurity is not identified and addressed, sooner or later it can and will cause us great pain, sabotage our potential for success, and very likely destroy our relationships.

This leads us to a second question: how can insecurity be overcome? First, we must be able to recognize insecurity for what it is and to see how it has affected us. It helps a great deal in overcoming insecurity to understand how it has roots both in our disposition and in our experiences.

Insecurity operates in strange and varied ways. It can sometimes lurk beneath the surface for a long time, even in a seemingly healthy individual, until some experience comes along to set it off, often with disastrous results.

Peter and Helen, both forty-eight, made an appointment to see me because, as Peter explained over the phone, he was feeling angry. Though his tone of voice was mild, Peter's words were not. "It's intense," he explained, referring to his anger. "I just can't get past it. I've been feeling this way for nearly a year, and it's at the point where we -- or I should say I -- am seriously considering separating."

The urgency I sensed in Peter's voice made me decide to meet with him and Helen two days later. Then, when I met with them, I found myself wondering why I'd sensed that urgency. From the moment they sat down I was impressed with the respect and consideration they showed each other. I had expected tension and stress, but all I saw was a couple whose gentleness was the most striking feature of their relationship. Even when Peter brought up the subject of his anger and spoke of separation, his regard for Helen was plain.

I wasn't sure what to make of what I was seeing. Caught off guard, I just sat back, invited them to talk, and listened.

I listened for half an hour as Helen and Peter described the history of a twenty-six-year marriage and a family life that most would consider not just satisfactory but downright enviable. Both professionals and both attractive and fit, they told the story of a marriage in which they had managed to support each other's careers at the same time that they'd raised two children, both of whom were now college educated and gainfully employed. They described their family as close, and it was apparent from the way they spoke, and from the expressions on their faces, that Peter and Helen shared a deep sense of pride in their children. When I asked them how many of their twenty-six years together had been happy ones, they immediately agreed on the answer: "All but one," said Peter. "The last one."

Why would this couple, whose relationship seemed so blessed for so long and who regarded each other with such obvious respect, rather suddenly be contemplating separating? What was I missing? There had to be something hidden. Had one of them suddenly committed some unforgivable offense that hadn't yet been mentioned?

Regardless of what I didn't know, one thing was pretty clear to me: this was a marriage between two interpersonally sensitive, or tenderhearted, people. What I didn't know then, though, was that one of them was not just sensitive but also very insecure. From our first session on it was evident that Peter, despite the resentments he expressed, remained sensitive to Helen and cared for her. And despite her anguish at the prospect of separation, Helen clearly cared a great deal for Peter and was able to identify with his feelings. Insensitive people don't relate to others in this way. They don't put themselves in someone else's shoes and know what the other person is feeling or wanting. If anything, they are focused on their own needs and desires. Unlike Peter, when an insensitive man is angry he doesn't particularly care about how that anger impacts another person. In certain extreme cases he can find conflict not uncomfortable but actually exciting. This description, though, fit neither Helen nor Peter.

I asked Peter and Helen to explain to me what had brought about the sudden downturn in their relationship, and braced myself to hear some secret not yet revealed. I shared with them my perception that they treated each other with affection and respect. They both smiled, which only added to my sense that the idea of this couple separating was bizarre indeed.

Peter looked over at Helen, who nodded her approval. Then he spoke in words carefully chosen. "Well," he said, "the problem is that for about the last year or so Helen has been, in my opinion at least, extremely angry, and also extremely critical of me. She was never that way before. On the contrary, she's always been an incredibly supportive and nurturing person. But to tell you the truth, the past year has been hell. It's like she's become a different person."

For the first time, Peter's voice began to show a trace of anger; but just a trace. "I know it may not seem that way from the outside," he said, seeming to know very well how he came across, "but the truth is that on the inside I'm incredibly angry at Helen. I'm so angry that I believe my feelings for her have changed. I just feel that I don't want to be her husband anymore."

I looked over at Helen. There were tears in her eyes. Our eyes met. I waited for her to talk. "It's true," she said, an embarrassed smile on her face. "Peter's right. I have been very different for the past year or so. I've been critical and impatient a lot of the time. And I've lost my temper on any number of occasions, for no good reason. I seem to have become a very intolerant person. There are times when I'm so frustrated that I feel like I'm going to explode. I can't understand why. And Peter's right, too, that I've directed a lot of this at him. I've said things I regret, but the damage, I suppose, is done. And one thing that Peter is not saying is that I've also lost all my interest in sex. Lost it totally. We always had a very good sex life -- at least I thought so -- but that's gone now, too."

"What have you been critical about?" I asked Helen.

She sighed. "Oh, just about everything," she said. "You name it. I seem to have suddenly become unhappy with the very qualities that attracted me to Peter -- things like his soft-spoken manner, his neatness, his punctuality. I've no idea why, but this past year I seem to have found virtually everything about Peter intolerable at one time or another."

Peter nodded in response to what Helen said....

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Book Description Touchstone. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 230 pages. Dimensions: 8.4in. x 5.4in. x 0.8in.Insight, explanations, and practical solutions for overcoming insecurity and sensitivity -- from a top psychologist In simple language, Joseph Nowinski explains that insecurity is not a flaw or shortcoming, but rather a personality trait that reflects both temperament and life experiences. And, most important, he shows how insecurity can be conquered so that one can thrive -- especially in work and love. The first book to investigate insecurity, The Tender Heart sheds light on its common causes and provides guidelines for overcoming the self-doubt, debilitating self-consciousness, and chronic lack of confidence that prevent many people from enjoying life to its fullest. Combining personality quizzes and case histories of people who have conquered their insecurities, The Tender Heart offers expert advice on: Healing insecurity Avoiding emotional predators who seek out sensitive people Coping with a tough-hearted partner or colleague Finding your emotional mate Raising children who are self-confident The Tender Heart is for anyone who has experienced times when their own insecurity or the insecurity of others has interfered with valued relationships or prevented them from realizing their potential. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780684871677

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