People who lack self-esteem often use these 10 phrases in a conversation

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Indications of low self-esteem leaks out of people in many ways. 

Through our posture, self-care, lifestyle choices, and even our facial expressions.  

And also, through our words.  

When we speak, we really expose ourselves, probably much more than we think! 

Humans are adept at reading body language to better understand the mentalities and emotions of those around us.  

But what is often neglected is how much our choice of words says about our mental and emotional states.  

Because it’s not only what we say that gives us away, but also the way that we say it. 

So, are these common expressions that show someone may be lacking self-confidence?  

Yes, there are. Let’s go through them.  

People who lack self-esteem often use these 10 phrases in conversation. 

1) “What do you think?”

It may seem like a polite question to ask someone once you’ve shared an opinion with them. 

But often, it shows that the speaker is unsure of their own assertions and literally pleading with others to validate them. 

They are showing their need to seek external support and validation for their views, their observations, even their own experiences. 

This phrase communicates that they don’t trust themselves and have no faith in their own judgement.  

And from not trusting themselves to putting themselves below others… 

2) “I’m sorry”

I once worked with an extremely sweet woman who never stopped apologising.  

In almost every conversation, she would feel the need to say sorry for something.  

Sorry for (potentially) offending, sorry I wasn’t there, sorry I have to go soon, sorry can I get into the fridge… It was continuous.  

It’s no surprise that she was extremely inoffensive and quite vulnerable.  

Because people who apologize excessively often ack a strong sense of self and proper self-esteem. 

Their apology suggests they are comfortable supplicating themselves to others to avoid confrontation or appearing as a challenge. 

People who say “I’m sorry” regularly, and in situations that don’t require it are seen as sycophantic, people-pleasing, yes-persons.  

No one with healthy self-confidence feels the need to apologize for their existence. 

And neither do they let other people think for them, which brings us onto the next phrase that shows a lack of self-esteem… 

3) “What would you do?”

There’s nothing wrong with asking someone you respect and admire for advice.  

But have you ever noticed that some people seem to ask everyone?  

This exposes a lack of self-esteem because it shows they struggle to be decisive.  

They simply don’t trust their judgement enough to make their own minds up and stand over their decisions.  

And from not standing over their decisions to not standing over their statements… 

4) “I don’t know but…”

Qualifiers like this are often used to water down statements, and people who use them generally do so out of fear of upsetting others or appearing too rigid. 

However, adequate self-confidence would empower them to stand over their statements, and armour them against any potential rebuttals or repercussions.  

Other similar phrases include: “Not that I know anything but…”  

“But I could be wrong…”  

“Maybe that’s just me but…”  

Basically, the speaker’s lack of self-belief means he/she doesn’t commit to anything. 

Onto the next phrase… 

5) “I was blessed”

People with healthy self-confidence can accept praise graciously. 

They don’t doubt their abilities and are thankful and humble when people point out their accomplishments or compliment them. 

But when it’s someone who had poor self-esteem, they will really struggle with this.  

In fact, they are likely to put their accomplishment down to luck and not acknowledge or even value the contribution their talents and efforts have in its achievement.   

Therefore, phrases like, “I was blessed” or “I got lucky” suggest someone is struggling with their self-worth.  

6) “I’m so bad at….”

Saying something like this about oneself to others is not the speech of someone who likes and believes in themself.  

It’s the sort of phrase a person lacking in self-esteem would come out with and would probably do so without even realising how bad it sounds.  

It gives huge insight into their inner world; imagine how negative their self-talk is if this is what they say aloud? 

The chances of them having an encouraging and positive internal monologue are non-existent.  

7) “I can’t cope”

Words are seeds… this is why some people swear by the power of affirmations to improve their mental and emotional states.   

So, if someone makes a statement like, “I can’t cope””, “I can’t do this”, “I’m not able”, it is likely that is exactly how it will be.  

This exposes a deep-seated victim mentality and sense of helplessness that people with low self-esteem often have.  

These phrases communicate someone who is seriously struggling to handle life or has even given up altogether.  

8) “It doesn’t matter”

How many times have you heard someone saying this and known that it was the last thing they really meant? 

I’m guessing a lot! 

This is because it is a classic phrase for those who routinely dismiss their own needs to appease other people.  

And that’s only done by those with chronically low self-esteem.  

Remember, saying “it doesn’t matter” is the same as saying “I don’t matter”. 

That’s something to think about! 

9) “I don’t belong here”

The next phrase used by those with low self-esteem exposes the imposter syndrome they feel.  

But stating that they don’t belong somewhere they are really communicating their feelings of inadequacy. 

A self-confident person wouldn’t feel this kind of unease, even in an unfamiliar situation, because they are secure in their own skin and abilities.  

But someone who struggles with self-worth will be incredibly uncomfortable in certain different situations.  


Because they’re not happy with themselves. 

It really is as simple as that.  

10) “I’m such a mess”

This phrase is as transparent as it gets!  

A person saying this is simultaneously showing their greatest fear and their deepest belief, that they are not good enough. 

Variations include: 

“I’m all over the place” 

“I hate the way I am” 

“I’m such a loser”  

Of all the phrases we’ve been through this suggests the lowest levels of self-esteem and self-worth possible.  

Final thoughts  

We can’t hide who we are. 

Regardless of our status, appearance, accessories, or accomplishments, how we really feel about ourselves will always leak out in our body language and in our expressions. 

And regardless of what we say, the phrases we choose give great insight into our true mental and emotional states.  

So, the only way to avoid exposing low self-esteem is to work on it. 

These types of negative phrases can’t coexist with a positive self-image.

Niamh McNamara

A freelance writer fascinated with human nature and social dynamics, Niamh read literature, history, and philosophy at university before spending time in journalism and PR. Armed with a passion for words and ideas, and a healthy appreciation of the ridiculous, she tries to make sense of it all. Connect with Niamh on X @NBMcnamara123

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