If someone uses these 8 phrases in a conversation, they lack self-confidence (according to psychology)

If someone lacks confidence, it often seeps through in their actions. But did you know it can also be subtly evident in the phrases they use?

Certain sayings or expressions can be clear indicators of a lack of self-belief, and being aware of these can help you understand the person better.

Psychology offers us insights into these verbal cues. And while these cues might not be universal (as every individual is different), knowing these 8 phrases could help you navigate conversations more empathetically.

So let’s dive in and explore these phrases that signal a lack of self-confidence, according to psychology.

1) “I’m sorry, but…”

This phrase is often a telltale sign of a lack of self-confidence. It’s a common qualifier that individuals with low self-esteem use before stating their opinions or ideas.

For instance, you might hear someone say, “I’m sorry, but I think we should reconsider our strategy.”

The underlying message here is that they feel their thoughts might not be valued or good enough.

Using “I’m sorry” unnecessarily can make one appear less confident and, at times, even apologetic about their own thoughts. It’s as if they feel they need to apologize for having an opinion that might differ from others.

This behavior can be a manifestation of their struggle with self-worth.

Remember, we’re talking about unwarranted apologies here. Not the ones that are necessary when you’ve actually done something wrong.

Understanding this phrase’s significance could help you respond more empathetically in conversations, reinforcing the person’s value and encouraging them to speak more confidently.

2) “It’s just luck”

When someone consistently attributes their success to luck rather than their own hard work or skills, it can be an indicator of low self-confidence.

They might say something like, “Oh, I just got lucky,” when they’ve clearly put in the effort and demonstrated abilities to achieve their accomplishments.

This tendency to downplay one’s own achievements is often associated with a lack of belief in oneself.

They may have a hard time accepting their own competence and talent, steering clear of acknowledging the role they played in their own success.

Understanding this phrase can help you better support and affirm the unconfident person’s abilities, helping them to recognize their own worth and potential.

3) “I’m no expert but…”

This is another phrase individuals with low self-confidence tend to use as a way of cushioning their opinions or ideas.

They may preface their statements with “I’m no expert but…” as a way to shield themselves from potential criticism or disagreement.

The reality is, humans are more likely to downplay their knowledge than overestimate it.

This phenomenon, known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, explains that people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability, while people with high ability tend to underestimate their competence.

Recognizing this phrase can help in reinforcing the validity of the someone’s thoughts and ideas, emphasizing that they don’t need to be an expert to contribute valuable insights.

4) “Do you think it’s okay if…”

If someone frequently asks for permission when it’s not necessary, it might suggest they’re struggling with self-confidence.

Phrases like “Do you think it’s okay if I…” or “Would you mind if I…” often indicate that they are seeking validation or approval for things they have every right to do.

It’s important to understand that this isn’t about manners or politeness, but a sign that they might be unsure of their own autonomy or afraid of overstepping invisible boundaries.

Hearing these phrases gives us an opportunity to reassure the person lacking confidence that their actions and decisions are just as important and valid. Doing so may help to instill a sense of confidence and self-assuredness in them.

5) “It’s probably a stupid question but…”

Many of us have been in a situation where we’ve prefaced our questions with “It’s probably a stupid question but…”.

This is often an indication of low self-confidence, where individuals doubt the value of their queries or thoughts.

The truth is, there is no such thing as a ‘stupid’ question. All questions are stepping stones to learning and understanding something better.

Recognizing this phrase can remind us that everyone’s curiosity and doubts are valid. Encouraging such questions can help unconfident people trust their thoughts and become more confident in expressing them.

6) “I can’t do it”

This is a phrase we’ve all heard, and perhaps even used ourselves at some point.

A friend of mine, an incredibly talented artist, would often say “I can’t do it” whenever faced with a new challenge or technique.

Despite her clear talent and creativity, she doubted her capabilities to take on something new.

This self-deprecating phrase is often a sign of low self-confidence. It’s a way of saying that one feels they lack the skills or abilities needed for a particular task or challenge.

But when we understand and recognize this phrase, we can offer encouragement and remind the person using it of their potential. Doing so might just help them overcome self-doubt and build their confidence.

7) “I’ll probably fail”

This phrase is a classic example of self-defeating prophecy.

When someone continually predicts their failure before they even start, it’s a clear sign they’re grappling with low self-confidence.

While it’s important to be realistic about potential outcomes, assuming failure from the outset can be a barrier to trying at all. It’s the fear of failure disguised as foresight.

Recognizing this phrase for what it is allows us to challenge this mindset, encouraging the individual to give things a shot.

Along with encouragement, we can remind them that success is born from effort and persistence, not just innate talent or luck. 

8) “I’m just not good enough”

This is perhaps the most direct phrase that indicates a lack of self-confidence.

When someone regularly believes and vocalizes that they’re “just not good enough”, it’s a sign they’re struggling with self-worth.

Remember, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and failures. No one is perfect and no one is expected to be.

But believing you’re not good enough isn’t an objective truth, it’s a subjective feeling.

Recognizing this phrase can give us the chance to remind the person of their worth, their abilities, and the fact that they are, indeed, good enough just as they are.

It’s essential for us all to remember this – we are all good enough in our unique ways.


Recognizing these phrases is more than just understanding psychology—it’s about empathy, kindness, and helping others grow.

This article provides insight into identifying signs of low self-confidence, but remember, it’s not about labelling or judging others. It’s about understanding and supporting them in their journey towards self-belief and confidence.

Being truly empathetic means you’re wise enough not to let these phrases alter your perception of a person, but instead use them as a stepping stone to provide encouragement and reassurance.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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