14 subtle signs someone is secretly insecure (even if they seem confident)

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Most people are familiar with the classic signs of insecurity, such as seeking validation from others and body language cues.

But there are times when insecurities show themselves in subtle, more insidious ways that are more difficult to detect, as some people hide their insecurities behind a mask of false bravado.

So how can you tell if someone’s bluff and bluster is a facade to hide their insecurity?  Here are signs that someone is secretly insecure, even if you’d never guess it from their public persona.

1) Contrary

An insecure person may try to prove they are intelligent by pointing out the flaws in other people’s opinions. 

You know the type. If you say the earth is round, the contrary insecure person will insist that it’s flat. Furthermore, they’ll provide references that back up their stance and prove they’re right while everyone else is … not. 

An insecure person may lack the ability to accept another’s point of view without feeling threatened. Their irresistible desire to be right all the time diminishes the other people in their lives and makes them feel stupid and resentful.

An insecure person only feels safe when they are putting other people down because they think that by doing so they elevate themselves by contrast.

2) Arrogance 

A secretly insecure person may tend to be haughty and behave as if they’re superior to everyone else in their world, be it at home or work. 

Behind the snotty facade, arrogant yet insecure people are panic-stricken on the inside. This is because they suffer from imposter syndrome and are afraid that someone will see through them and call them out. 

Insecure people use arrogant behavior as a cover to protect their fragile egos and low self-esteem. In other words, you’re insecure and doing everything in your power to hide it from the world.

3) Defensive

People who are insecure hate losing an argument and will do anything to avoid it, especially if it’s regarding something vital to their sense of self. 

Insecure people may utilize unneeded defensive responses to comments that go against or threaten their core beliefs. 

People fall back on emotionally defensive behaviors to avoid feeling like a failure or perceiving themselves negatively—two scenarios that insecure people can’t abide, especially publicly.

4) Lack of eye contact

Eye contact is an important form of nonverbal communication because it enables people to connect with others and intuitively understand them. 

Insecure people have trouble making and especially maintaining eye contact with others because they fear that type of intimacy and what it may reveal about them. 

5) Self-isolation

Some secretly insecure people suffered through traumatic childhoods with distant parents. This causes them to grow up and develop an insecure-avoidant attachment style.

Insecure people with avoidant insecure tendencies try very hard to be self-reliant.

They may prefer living alone and avoid socializing. They probably prefer watching TV or surfing the internet rather than socializing.

So that seemingly introverted loner you know may be grappling with insecurity, and finds it easier to isolate than risk exposing themselves to scrutiny.

6) Freeze response

An insecure person may literally shrink themselves if they are in an uncomfortable social situation that they have no control over. 

People who suffer from insecurity instinctively get small in stressful situations, and automatically defer to a ‘freeze, flight, fall, or faint’ response. 

During the freeze response, insecure people tense up and will keep their legs and feet close together with their arms right by their sides. 

If you see someone react in this manner, they may be trying to hide their lack of confidence but their body language gives it away. 

7) People pleaser

Do you know someone who always lets everyone else decide what movie to see and what restaurant to eat at after? 

A friend who always puts other people’s needs and wants before their own?  

This could be a sign that they’re not just laidback, they’re low-key insecure.

Someone who struggles with anxiety or who has a history of psychological trauma may manifest their insecurity through compulsive people-pleasing. 

People pleasers are also susceptible to making poor decisions because they won’t – or can’t – stand up for themselves even when the situation is dicey or even dangerous. 

Instead, insecure people follow the crowd instead of following their heart, because they lack the tools to act automatically and say what they think.

This kind of behavior is counterproductive and can only end badly. Because there is no universe where any person is liked by every other person.

The only person who needs to like you is you, and it takes confidence to realize this. 

8) Overly chatty

People talking too much – or not talking at all – can also be an indication of insecurity. Those who are anxious or lack confidence tend to be self-focused instead of outwardly focused. 

This makes it difficult for them to pick up on normal conversational cues that more secure people can do with ease.

Lacking these social skills will negatively impact someone’s self-esteem, leaving them to feel exposed and awkward. 

9) Requires constant reassurance

Insecure people often present with a cluster of behaviors that are collectively called clinging vine insecure traits.

These traits may include constantly seeking reassurance to relieve their anxiety about the stability of their relationships. The clinging vine’s insecurity also leads to jealousy over the connections other people close to them have.

This is particularly pronounced in their romantic relationships as they usually feel threatened if their partner interacts with anyone but them.

The insecure clinging vine person is terrified of losing control, so they try in vain to exert control over everyone else in their orbit, especially their partner.

10) Uses objects as armor

Have you ever seen anyone make a beeline for a dark corner of a party, just to plop on a couch and clutch a throw pillow to their belly? 

If so, they may be shutting their psychic windows to hide their insecurity. 

People lacking confidence generally are more comfortable in social situations when they close up their body windows. 

We all have these body windows which include our eyes, mouth, upper chest, and the palms of our hands. 

People who are secretly insecure may close their windows by buttoning up their coat or wearing sunglasses.

We all do these things occasionally, but insecure people make a habit of it. 

11) Prefers sex over intimacy 

If someone feels the urge to sleep with someone not long after meeting, that could have more to do with their need for external validation rather than their libido. 

Some insecure people will trade in on their sexuality to feel loved and accepted, if only in the minute.

Now, I’m not blaming grown adults for what they do in the bedroom. As long as both parties are consenting, a purely sexual connection can be worthwhile if you’re not interested in a long-term commitment.

But if one of the people has low self-confidence, it could potentially have negative ramifications. 

Because if you don’t spend time sharing your lives outside of the bedroom, you won’t sweat being dumped for who you really are because you keep prospective partners at arm’s length. 

12) Love anxious

Love anxious is the term for those who are insecure in love, and live in a state of constant anxiety over a relationship. 

They tend to crave others rather than love them and incessantly worry about whether their partner loves them back.

If you’re late for a date or don’t text them immediately back, their mind cooks up all sorts of fictional scenarios that fuel their anxiety.   

13) Feigns agreement 

Another common trait of insecure people is the tendency to nod in agreement even when it’s not how they really feel. They prefer not to make any waves by speaking their mind.

This reluctance to rock the boat often springs from a desperate desire to be liked. Since insecure people have trouble saying no for the same reason, they often say yes in the hopes people will like them better if they agree. 

Instead of behaving authentically and staying true to themselves, they’ll take on more than they can handle or stuff they’d rather not do in the hopes of winning external validation.

This outside approval makes a person lacking self-confidence feel more secure. 

Insecure people would rather have external validation than risk people disliking their true selves. 

14) Tics and tells

We all display nervous tics occasionally, but insecure people often have more than usual. 

For example, insecure folks may cover their mouth when they’re lying or trying to hide that they’re upset. It’s instinctual to put our hands over our mouths when we don’t want the truth to come out. 

People who lack confidence may also may soothe themselves with body-hugging motions we remember since babyhood. 

When secretly insecure people feel anxious as adults, they repeat these actions to console themselves. 

Final thoughts 

Insecurity is incredibly common, and secret insecurity is more widespread than you’d think. 

The most important thing to remember is to practice compassion with others and also with ourselves.

We all have our inner battles that we’re internally fighting every day, so why not err on the side of kindness? 

It doesn’t cost anything, and it may even provide intangible riches more valuable than any lottery ticket.

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Kathleen Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

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