If someone uses these 9 phrases in a conversation, they are secretly insecure

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Lots of people are insecure.

We all like to put on a show of confidence in ourselves, but often, the show is exactly that. Scratch the surface, and you’ll find many people are riddled with insecurities, self-doubts, and fears.

But we live in a world that celebrates confidence and self-reliance. For that reason, many people try to hide their insecurities beneath a show of bravado.

Still, there are certain phrases that can give away a person who is hiding some insecurities. Keep an eye out for these phrases that can tell you someone lacks confidence in themselves.

1) “Sorry”

Let’s start with a tricky one. The single word ‘sorry’ can be a sign of insecurity, but because it is so much a part of regular conversation, it’s not always easy to tell.

The thing is, we are all human. We all make mistakes. And when we do, the best course of action is to apologize for it. That just shows that you’re an emotionally mature adult who can accept responsibility for their actions and has the empathy to understand when they’ve upset other people.

On the other hand, sorry can often be a sign of someone who is unsure of themselves.

“Over-apologizing — or excessively saying sorry when you don’t need to — is a bad habit that can undermine your authority, and more importantly, it hurts your self-esteem,” writes author and human behavior professor Melody Wilding.

Often, excessive apologizing comes from a desire to present yourself as nonthreatening and make people like you. But it can have the opposite effect.

Constantly apologizing for things that are not your fault reveals a lack of confidence that causes people to lose respect for you, just as you lose respect for yourself.

2) “Yes”

It would be hard to imagine having an entire conversation without ever using the word ‘yes’.

But I’m not talking about saying yes the regular amount to agree with people. Instead, I’m talking about people who have a hard time saying no.

“People over-commit to a range of things and often feel like they have to say yes to every opportunity that might come their way,” writes psychologist Ahona Guha.

There’s an art to saying no, and it requires a certain level of self-esteem and self-confidence.

People who lack that often find themselves saying yes to requests that almost anyone makes them because they are afraid that saying no will make others dislike them.

They will agree to stay behind at work if their boss ask them to. They will agree to host family events at their home, even when they shouldn’t. They will ignore their own needs in favor of everybody else’s and fail to maintain appropriate boundaries.

3) “I’m probably wrong, but…”

Sometimes, insecure people have a habit of minimizing what they are about to say with phrases like this.

It can almost seem like they want people to contradict them.

In reality, this is a way of trying to protect themselves from rejection by anticipating it before it happens. So instead of speaking with confidence, they will bracket their speech with phrases like this.

These phrases can also represent a reluctance to share an opinion. After all, when you share an opinion, you open yourself up to the possibility of others disagreeing with you. And that’s something insecure people really struggle with.

Although it seems that preparing themselves for rejection makes it easier to take when it comes, the reality is, the opposite is true. By undermining their own opinions, insecure people make it more likely that others won’t take them seriously.

4) “I’m so clumsy/forgetful/dumb, etc.”

In writing, these might seem like obvious signs of insecurity. But often, insecure people will use phrases like this as self-deprecating humor.

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of self-deprecation for humorous effect. The problem comes when people use it as a way to mask genuine insecurities and self-doubt.

It can be hard to tell the difference between someone who is joking and someone hiding genuine insecurity. However, if they are always putting themselves down and making it seem like a joke, it’s a good sign that there is actually some truth to their low opinion of themselves.

5) “I’m not good enough”

Again, this falls into the category of slightly more obvious signs of an insecure person.

The trouble is, insecure people genuinely believe this. If they have trouble doing a particular task, they see it as a reflection of themselves and their own self-worth.

Often, this will cause them to give up too easily and make it harder to achieve their goals.

There are lots of phrases that fall into this category. I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I don’t look good, and others can all be signs of someone struggling with insecurity.

6) “I got lucky” 

When a person who lacks confidence does achieve something, they will often try to minimize that achievement.

That’s because insecure people are often very uncomfortable with praise, even when it’s deserved.

So if you tell them they did something really well, they may deflect your compliment by saying they got lucky, or that other people helped them. Tell them they look good, and they will deny it. Tell them they are smart, and they will dispute it.

This is actually quite common. As psychologist Guy Winch says, “People with low self-esteem are often uncomfortable receiving compliments but not everyone who is uncomfortable receiving compliments necessarily has low self-esteem.”

On the other hand, if someone seems completely incapable of taking a compliment, it may well be a sign of insecurity.

7) “I messed that up, right?”

This is subtly different from the self-deprecating comments I mentioned before. That’s because comments like this, phrased as a question, are actually attempts at getting validation from others.

You see, insecure people lack ways to validate themselves and their own behavior. That leads to them looking for validation from other people.

There are lots of different ways they do this, but one of them is to ask leading questions like this.

This is a sign that the insecure person wants you to argue with them. They want you to disagree and tell them that actually, they didn’t mess up. That they are competent or smart or attractive or whatever the issue they are bringing up is.

These leading questions are a good telltale sign of someone with poor self-esteem.

8) “They always get what they want”

Sometimes, a lack of self-confidence can show itself in jealousy of others.

Insecure people are always comparing themselves to others. Whether it’s people with more money, more career success, better romantic relationships, or a better family life, they can’t help looking at others and wondering how they measure up.

And this can show itself in phrases like this, that show the jealousy and insecure person has toward others.

They may focus on how others always get what they want. They may express envy of the confidence or success other people have.

Ultimately, it’s a good sign of someone with deep insecurities. Because if they were more secure in themselves, they wouldn’t waste their time worrying about what other people have and they don’t.

9) “I’m better than them”

Finally, this phrase might seem like it’s the opposite of what an insecure person would say.

But humans are complicated, and often, we have a way of saying the exact opposite of what we really mean.

Phrases like this are a way for an insecure person to point out the flaws in other people. In this way, they hope to deflect attention from their own flaws and failings.

They may say things like, “I’m better than them,” or, “at least I’m not as bad as that person.”

Phrases like this are a way for an insecure person to compare themselves favorably to others, and hopefully get you to agree. That way, they can get the external validation they crave to make up for their inability to find their own source of self-worth.

Recognizing insecurity 

Often, being insecure is just one more thing insecure people are ashamed of. That’s why they may go to great lengths to hide their insecurities from others.

But phrases like this can show you a person who lacks self-belief and is insecure about themselves and their achievements.

Keep an eye out for these phrases, and you’ll be able to recognize insecure people, even when they try and hide it.

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Ethan Sterling

Ethan Sterling has a background in entrepreneurship, having started and managed several small businesses. His journey through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship provides him with practical insights into personal resilience, strategic thinking, and the value of persistence. Ethan’s articles offer real-world advice for those looking to grow personally and professionally.

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