10 subtle things you don’t realize you’re doing because you lack self-confidence

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You’d like to think you’re a confident person.

After all, you’re poised, extroverted, and you can lock eyes with even the most powerful people.

But here’s the thing: those aren’t signs of real confidence. 

What if I tell you that there’s a chance you actually lack confidence but you don’t just realize it because the signs are so subtle?

To know for sure, see if you can relate to these 10 things.

1) You stay in a dead-end job

Sorry to tell you that nope, staying in a job you hate is not commitment—it’s fear.

And if you lack self-confidence, you’d shudder just even typing the intro of your resignation letter.

It’s a subtle sign because your mind can find so many legit and valid reasons to stay.

You tell yourself “Well, at least my colleagues are nice.” or “I know this is just a stepping stone. I’ll leave eventually.”

But it’s been almost a decade, and you’re still there.

Instead of maximizing your potential, it’s keeping you stagnant and stuck. And your lack of self-confidence is definitely to blame.

2) You stay in a toxic or unfulfilling relationship

Whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship, staying in any toxic or unfulfilling relationship is a sure sign of low self-confidence.

It’s a subtle thing because your mind might frame it under love, compassion, or even empathy.

Except that what’s really happening is you’re worried if you leave, you’ll have no one.

Again, fear.

Worse, you might even blame yourself for why it isn’t working out and then strive towards making it work by pouring more effort. Low self-esteem.

A high self-confidence is the total opposite of that. 

A person with high self-confidence simply doesn’t allow for anyone to treat them terribly.

It’s not because they see themselves as better than others, it’s just that they see themselves as worthy and deserving of healthy relationships.

So they’ll distance themselves from toxic friends and start forming new friendships even if it’s lonely or scary at first.

3) You can’t just say “thank you” when you receive a compliment 

Someone gives you a compliment and your reaction? 

You duck or immediately throw it away like a hot potato.

The habit of diverting or deflecting praise or  compliments is one subtle sign of low self-confidence that you may not realize.

“But isn’t this etiquette? Isn’t this just being humble?,” you might ask. 

Actually, receiving compliment or praise graciously is etiquette. 

And newsflash, saying, “Thank you,” doesn’t make you an egomaniac!

While you may think it’s because you’re humble, I’m sorry to tell you that deep down, it’s likely because you lack self-confidence and this is why you are so uncomfortable with praise.

So try to be comfortable with it rather than swatting it away like a fly. 

See how it feels to receive it, maybe even keep a list of as fertilizer for your self-confidence.

4) You self-deprecate

Every time someone brings up something about you, you’ve got a funny anecdote (or ten) to let them know they’re wrong. 

A colleague says “thank you” for your attention to detail?

You immediately bring up the time you misspelled your professor’s name and it ended up being a slur. 

Or someone praises you for holding an event that is so well-organized?

You talk about how you almost burned your house last night because, “I’m always such a scatter-brain.”

While making fun of yourself every now and then can help diffuse the tension from too serious interactions, it may also be because your self-confidence is low.

You don’t even realize that you’re shooting your own leg by drawing so much attention to your faults.

While it’s good to be able to laugh at yourself, dial it down! The things you say about yourself actually impacts your self-confidence.

5) You always need a thumbs up before making important decisions

“But doesn’t everyone do this?,” you might ask. 

Actually, no. 

People with solid self-confidence often decide without even consulting their closest friends or circles, especially on matters that mean the most to them.

It’s not because they’re know-it-alls or they don’t care about other people’s opinions.

They’ve just cultivated it in themselves to not care too much about what other people think. 

More importantly, they know how important it is to protect one’s self from being too heavily influenced by others opinions.

So ask yourself, why do you need to consult?

How much do you trust them? And how much do you trust yourself? 

If you trust their opinions more than yours, then your self-confidence needs work.

6) You’re a perfectionist

The perfectionist is usually pegged as someone with high self-confidence but on the contrary, it’s a subtle sign someone is lacking in it!

People with high self-confidence aren’t concerned about being perfect at all—ever! I mean it.

It’s not because they’re lazy that’s why they don’t think perfectionism is a virtue to be proud of.

In fact, it’s unhealthy and it’s likely keeping you away from the learning curve that can only come from the freedom to make mistakes. 

For people with high-self confidence, their sense of self is solid enough because they haven’t attached their identity and their worth to the work they do.

But if you feel like less of a person every time your work isn’t perfect, then it’s a subtle sign that your self-confidence is in need of a boost.

7) You’ve never failed 

Wait, but isn’t this a sign of excellence? 

Not necessarily.

It can be a sign that you’re not taking risks or pursuing greater things.

And yes, if that’s the case, it’s definitely a subtle sign that you lack self-confidence.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, you’re setting the bar too low for yourself.

Or as the saying goes, “Big fish in a small pond.”

It’s also likely because you know that you don’t have the self-confidence to handle failure or rejection.

So that dream job? You’ll never apply.

That awesome girl you’ve always wanted to be in a romantic relationship with? The most you’ll probably do is just say, “Hi.”

8) You don’t like interacting with people who’ve made it “big”

And before you delude yourself, it’s not just because you’re just an introvert who’s not into networking.

People with high self-confidence don’t feel small even in interactions with people who’ve made it big in their respective careers. 

So if you find yourself crossing your arms and avoiding them, it’s a subtle sign you lack self-confidence.

Why? 

If your self-confidence was steady, you’d be open and relaxed to meeting and even learning from people who have found success. 

And mind you, openness doesn’t mean sucking up to them.

9) You get extremely annoyed by people who show their work

A subtle sign you may be lacking self-confidence is when you get so irrationally annoyed when people put out their work.

Whether it’s their masters thesis, their artwork, or new dance moves, you cringe when they share it because it feels so grating for you to see other people put their work out because…well, because you can’t.

You hide away work because your lack of self-confidence is protecting you from criticism, but it’s also keeping you away from recognition.

If you could develop more self-confidence, you’d be comfortable with showing some vulnerability instead of keeping an impenetrable facade. 

And you probably wouldn’t cringe so much when people show their work.

10) You don’t let anyone get too close to you

The person who lacks self-confidence is often portrayed as the loner in the party in the far corner. 

But a subtle thing you may not realize you’re doing because you lack self-confidence is keeping people at arm’s length.

Sure, on the outside, it may seem that you’ve got a solid social life and relationships.

But the truth is, no one is really close enough to you because you don’t allow them to really get to know the real you.

It doesn’t feel safe so you step away before things get too intimate.

So you’ll likely party with friends and have drinks, but hanging out in their homes one-on-one makes you feel so awkward.

You’ll join work dinners but when a colleague asks if you’d like to travel with her out of town, you decline and say you’ve got plans already (even when you don’t and you really want to go to that town).

Self-confidence means removing the barriers that keep you from having deep connections and having fulfilling relationships.

If you’re the type who keeps her barriers up, then you might be lacking in self-confidence.

Final thoughts

If you checked out quite a lot of the items on this list, the good news is, self-confidence isn’t a fixed thing.

With self-awareness and a support system, it’s possible to rehabilitate your flagging self-confidence.

You can start by doing more of the things you enjoy and the things you are good at. 

Surround yourself with people who love the authentic version of you and make sure to keep your negative thoughts in check. 

With constant innerwork, your self-confidence will be solid in no time. 

Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang blends Eastern and Western perspectives in her approach to self-improvement. Her writing explores the intersection of cultural identity and personal growth. Mia encourages readers to embrace their unique backgrounds as a source of strength and inspiration in their life journeys.

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