How to Help an Insecure Friend

Three Methods:Talking to Your Friend About Being InsecureHelping Your Friend Improve Their Self-esteemShowing Support

You may have noticed that your friend puts themselves down a lot or is not very confident. You may not know what to say or how to handle the situation. As a friend, your job is to be supportive and understanding. Through encouragement and positive reinforcement, you can help your friend feel better.

Method 1
Talking to Your Friend About Being Insecure

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    Discuss the subject. Your friend may or may not be aware that he or she is insecure. Let your friend know that you have noticed. This can encourage your friend to open up to you and share their feelings.[1]
    • You may say, “Hey, I noticed you were really hard on yourself when you got your report card back. Are you alright?” or “You seemed upset when we were shopping for clothes the other day. Is everything okay?”
    • If your friend is not aware of their insecurity, this may bring it to their attention.
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    Listen to your friend. When your friend is talking, you may feel the urge to give advice, offer a solution, or judge. Because your friend is insecure, it may be difficult for them to share their feelings.[2] You want your friend to feel comfortable speaking to you and know that you are not going to criticize.
    • Make eye contact and give your friend your full attention.[3] Don’t look through your phone or do anything else that will distract you.
    • Use neutral statements and nodding to show you are listening. Try saying things like, “uh-huh,” “yes,” and “I see” to demonstrate that you are paying attention. You can also nod your head as you listen.
    • Try asking questions to show that you are listening and clarify what your friend means. For example, you might say something like, “So you’re saying that you don’t like to eat around other people because it makes you feel like they are judging you?”
    • Being a good listener also tells your friend that you value their opinions and feelings and that they are important to you. You don’t need to solve your friend’s problems. You’re offering a lot of help just by listening.
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    Ask how you can help. Instead of telling your friend your opinion, ask if there is anything you can do to help. Are you willing to look up information on the internet for your friend? Can you help your friend pick out some new clothes or explore a new hobby?[4]
    • For example, if your friend says that he or she is severely depressed, then you might offer to help your friend find a counselor.
    • You may say, “I noticed that you ___. I want to help you. Is there anything that I can do?”[5]

Method 2
Helping Your Friend Improve Their Self-esteem

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    Compliment your friend. Let your friend know how much you care about them and that you are happy that you two are friends. This will make your friend feel like they are valued and important to you.[6] Be specific and tell your friend the things that you like about them. [7]
    • You may tell your friend that you like their laugh, their sense of humor, their smile, or their kindness.
    • The positive attributes you describe can be big or small. Just be genuine. Your friend may be surprised by how you view them.
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    Encourage your friend to try new things. Trying new things can help your friend find talents and skills that they are good at and begin think more positively.[8] Suggest activities that your friend may like. If you are comfortable, you can offer to try the new activity with your friend. Some new activities may be joining a new club at school, volunteering for a local charity, or taking an art class.
    • Be sure to encourage your friend no matter the outcome. If they are successful or if they do not get it right at first, be encouraging.[9]
    • Celebrate the small victories with your friend. Tell your friend, “I am so proud of you for ___” or “It’s great that you tried ____.”
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    Give positive feedback. Positive feedback includes praise, encouragement, and recognition of something your friend has done. It helps improve confidence and can be a source of motivation.[10][11] Not only are you telling your friend that they are important and valuable, you are teaching them how to acknowledge their accomplishments.[12]
    • For example, if your friend did well on an assignment, you may say, “You did such a good job on your assignment.”
    • If your friend helped you with something, you may say, “Thanks for helping me. It means a lot.”
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    Discourage negativity. You may hear your friend being critical or saying negative things about themselves. Never join in if your friend is saying negative things about him or herself. Remind your friend that speaking this way will only make them feel badly about themselves.[13]
    • You can also help your friend focus on something more positive if he or she starts to get negative. For example, you might say something like, "I don't think so. I have always thought you are a very attractive person, not only because of the way you present yourself, but because of all your attributes.
    • If your friend says, "I look so ugly today," then you may say, "I don’t think so.”
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    Have fun with your friend. Friends are there to support and help each other, but friends are also people that we can have fun with. Having fun with your friend will help your friend focus on more positive things. Also, your entire friendship should not be about you trying to make your friend feel better.
    • You can have fun doing many things like listening to music, watching movies, going to the park, reading magazines together, or eating good food together.
    • Anything that gets both of you to laugh will do the trick.

Method 3
Showing Support

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    Validate their feelings. If your friend is complaining about how they look, do not automatically compliment them and tell them how great they look. Although you are trying to help, your words will not help your friend feel better about their appearance.[14] This approach may backfire and make your friend feel like you do not understand them.
    • Instead of trying to cheer your friend up, listen to them and acknowledge their feelings.[15]
    • For example, if your friend says, “My hair looks ugly today,” you could say, “Yeah. Bad hair days happen to all of us.” That response is better than telling your friend that their hair looks great.
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    Suggest other resources. Helping an insecure friend can be overwhelming and take a toll on you.[16] If you are a minor, encourage your friend to speak to a counselor, trusted adult, or a parent. If you are an adult, suggest that your friend seek the help of a professional therapist.
    • It is never too soon to suggest that your friend seek some outside help.
    • You may say, “Hey, have you ever tried talking to someone about how you feel. I think it could really help you.”[17]
    • Your friend will need to see a counselor if they are engaging in self-harm, abusing drugs or alcohol, has an eating disorder, or seems to be depressed.
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    Show empathy. You probably think your friend is wonderful and has no reason to be insecure. However, that does not change how your friend feels. Always acknowledge your friend’s feelings. Let your friend know if you have experienced anything similar.
    • You may say, “I understand that” or “I know how hard that can be.”
    • Your job is to support your friend and show them that you understand and accept them.[18]

Article Info

Categories: Overcoming Shyness & Insecurities | Supporting Friends