With media, social media, and technology echoing in a self-absorbed and immature generation, why are so many young adults insecure? Watching college and university students becoming overwhelmed and paralyzed by the results of an election, you might question what is missing in their development. Safe spaces, safety pins indicating safe people, playdough and puppy dogs in law schools, soothing music, and comfort food, are all being offered to young adults who can’t cope with stress.

These young people have been disabled by their inability to cope and are overwhelmed by fear; ultimately they become the adults who can’t make commitments, take responsibility, or face the obligation necessary for intimacy. When parents and teachers foster and promote temper tantrums, they are contributing to a young adult who can’t handle the pressure of failure and who quits rather than fights for his goals.

Insecurity, when unrecognized and unidentified, can impact and influence both self-esteem and behavior. And we are seeing this played out daily with young adults on our college campuses and on our public streets. What we are viewing is a profoundly insecure generation, unable to hear opposing viewpoints or face defeat. One of the easiest ways for you to recognize your own insecurity is by paying attention to how much negative self-talk you do each day. This is the inner critical parent that measures your behavior, comparing you to others, and alienating you from yourself. And the only way to silence and conquer this destructive inner dialogue is to confront it, by understanding where it’s coming from.

In 2013, I attended a TED conference at which Dr. Eleanor Longden gave a powerful TED Talk. She was discussing her own personal battle with schizophrenia. But what was most interesting about her talk was her experience with inner hostile voices that diminished her self-image and self-esteem. As part of her recovery, she came to realize that this negative talk was not merely a symptom of schizophrenia, but a mechanism that she had learned early on, which allowed her to cope with her difficult childhood. And by understanding what those critical voices were saying, and why they were saying it, she found compassion for herself and the ability to heal without, I might add, medication.

In a sense, that hostile inner dialogue represented the injured parts of herself. The question she learned to ask herself, as part of her recovery, was, “What happened to you?” rather than, “What’s wrong with you?” At the end of the talk, someone from the audience asked Dr. Longden if she still hears voices, and her answer was affirmative: “yes.” But now she coexists with those voices in peace, with respect and empathy for them. And, she added, before she went on stage that very day, that she said to those voices, “I hear what you’re saying, and I know you’re from my history, my low self-esteem past, and I’m going to be fine.”

It is your history with your family of origin – the good, the bad, and the ugly – as well as your learned patterns of behavior that evolve into critical dialogue. This is your way of coping and compensating for psychic injury. And those experiences that bruised you emotionally, either directly or indirectly, contribute to your sense of insecurity.

And, believe it or not, even parental negative talk, that has nothing to do with you, but focuses on parental insecurities – statements such as, “I’m ugly or fat. I don’t like my hair or skin.” – affects you as well. This is because a child feels a part of his parent, and identifies so closely, that when a parent criticizes herself, the child feels involved as well. And because bonding is so important to your child’s sense of security, your absence, whether through work or play, can also contribute to his insecurity.

So what can you do to help your child overcome his insecurity? I’ll share several tips in my next blog post.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.