Even the most secure people need reassurance sometimes. It’s part of being human. Even if you need lots of validation, this is nothing to be ashamed of.
Many of us didn’t receive enough reassurance growing up. We didn’t get the memo that we’re lovable, wonderful, or just ok as we are. A reassurance deficit may keep us on the wheel of continually looking outside ourselves for validation to help us feel valued and grounded.
If we grew up with lots of shaming, criticism, or neglect, we may not have developed a secure internal base. If we didn’t have a healthy attachment with caregivers, we may not feel a secure and stable inner platform from which to operate confidently in the world.
The Reassurance We’re Really Seeking
Our sense of self develops through our interactions with others. We don’t exist as isolated entities. Seeking reassurance can be a healthy expression of our vulnerability. Our emotional well-being requires validation and reality checks from others.
But there are pitfalls to giving and receiving reassurance. Have you ever revealed your concerns or fears to a friend and your friend tried to reassure you by offering advice or saying “There’s nothing to be afraid of” or “Everything will be ok”? Although their intention is good, their advice may leave you feeling worse! If you are feeling afraid, you may now have an added dose of shame — believing that something is wrong with you for feeling that way!
The reassurance we seek doesn’t usually come by getting false reassurance or advice, but by feeling validated for whatever we’re feeling. We feel comforted through 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 that’s scary,” or “I’d be afraid too if that were happening to me,” or “Sure, how could anyone not feel anxious in that situation?”
Of course, if a person is seeking advice, you might offer your viewpoint — or direct them toward a source of potential help, such as a therapist to explore an issue, or a medical practitioner if it’s a health concern. But most often, people simply need your empathic ear and caring heart. A human connection usually offers the most comfortable reassurance, rather than your advice or perspective. Feeling heard offers the reassurance that your friend is not alone. Being with them in their struggle is inherently reassuring.
If you find yourself needing reassurance, it doesn’t mean you’re an insecure person; it simply means you’re human. It takes courage to reach out and ask for help or support when needed.
You might begin a conversation with a friend by saying something like, “I’m feeling a need for some reassurance (or support) right now. Do you have some time… or when would be a good time to talk?” Or, “There’s something bugging me. Would it be ok to talk with you about it?” A friend may be touched by our vulnerable expression and trust… and be happy to listen.
You might also want to say 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 say, “If you have any thoughts, input, or perspectives on what I’m saying, please let me know.”
Be a bit careful about taking too much time when seeking reassurance from a friend. People have limited time and attention spans. You may want to check in with the person or use your intuition about when it feels like enough—when you or your friend has reached a limit. A good friend may tell you. Others may not want to offend you, but may distance from you if there is not a balance between speaking and listening.
At some point–or on a different occasion–you can reciprocate by offering your presence, attention, and caring to your friend. 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 this: Do we let it in when we get it? Continually seeking reassurance may be a sign that we’re not fully soaking it up when it drifts our way. I’ll address this more in a future article.
It’s human to seek reassurance. No one is totally self-sufficient, even if they pretend to be. The most insecure people are those who don’t acknowledge their fears and insecurities. It’s a blessing to find people with whom we can be vulnerable and talk to them when we feel anxious or insecure. A reciprocal sharing of our humanity, including our need for reassurance, builds trust and connection.
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