7 everyday phrases that make you appear self-doubting and insecure

Confession time: I used to be a perpetual apologizer.

For real, I put “sorry” into every sentence—anything from ordering a coffee to asking for my chair back.

I was a master of making myself smaller in every possible way. It was as if doubt clung to me like a second skin.

It wasn’t until a friend—a way, way more confident friend—pointed it out to me, that I saw the light.

Gradually, I made the decision to become bolder and louder in my life. Instead of staying hush, I spoke up for myself in my personal and even professional life.

After all those years, it felt so good to take up the space I deserved (and had always deserved). And guess what? You deserve to know this same joy.

As I embraced this new mindset, I noticed a change in how I carried myself. I wasn’t hiding anymore.

I felt stronger and more sure of who I was. My clothes changed too… no more dull colors! I started wearing bright and bold things that matched my new confidence.

Now, I’m a totally different person. I’m not afraid to be myself, and I sure as hell don’t apologize for it.

If you’re looking to undergo this same kind of change, then you might want to take a little look at yourself. Specifically, the things that you say.

Language has this very covert way of shaping the way we see ourselves and in turn, the way others do.

Here are 7 everyday phrases that might mean you’re coming across as insecure, starting with one you might be using in the workplace.

1) “I’m not sure this makes sense, but…”

Let’s take a look at a little under-recognized saying that might be holding you back in the workplace.

Maybe you’re in a work meeting and the ideas are flowing—and you’re about to drop one of yours.

So, you offer it up, but then it’s rapidly followed by you saying: “I’m not sure this makes sense, but…” And just like that, you’ve completely undermined your own idea.

By saying this, you’re pretty much dishing out a pass for others to question your own competence and validity as an employee.

Whether you’re pitching an idea, proposing a solution, or just sharing your thoughts, confidence is key.

Besides, your ideas have inherent value. You may not believe it, but you’ve put thought into them, and spent countless hours analyzing and strategizing—so don’t go ahead and sabotage yourself with unnecessary disclaimers! Own that brilliance.

Plus it all boils down to the power of persuasion. Think about the last time someone presented an idea at work with conviction. Didn’t it make you think, “Wow, they really know their stuff!”

Now, I’m not advocating for arrogance. Absolutely no ego here! Instead, it’s all about finding the balance between confidence and humility.

You can still be approachable without dripping in self-doubt. Sorry—but it’s true!

So, I’m giving you a little piece of practical advice here. The next time you’re in a work meeting, switch things up and frame your ideas positively.

You can try this by saying, “I believe this approach could work because…” or “One way to look at this is…” This way, you’re positioning your ideas as ones that are worth considering.

Who knows, you might even get a promotion out of it eventually!

2) “Oh, no. I am not that great at all!”

Who doesn’t love a compliment? Turns out, some of us really don’t!

When they receive praise, instead of basking in that special glow, they swat the compliment away like flies. They might even fire off a “Oh, no. I am not that great at all!” in response.

But let me tell you this: unconsciously broadcasting insecurity and self-doubt is certainly not doing you any favors.

When you deflect praise, you’re essentially telling others you don’t believe in yourself or your achievements.

So, the next time someone applauds your efforts, resist the urge to downplay it and flash that confident, unique smile and say, “Thanks! I appreciate that.”

That’s it! That’s all you have to say! Not so hard, eh?

3) “I look horrible in that color/outfit.”

Who dictates what suits you best? Spoiler alert: you do!

Personal style all boils down to uniqueness and confidence. After all, picture a world where everyone dresses the same. Bleh.

The next time you catch yourself saying, “I always look horrible in that color/outfit,” hit pause and rethink how you’re approaching it.

Now, here’s a radical idea: rather than dismissing a color or outfit outright, experiment with it and have fun with it!

Mix things up, toss in some jewelry and new shoes, and presto—you might discover a new go-to look that will last you years.

4) “I’m so bad at that thing.”

Doubtful of herself 7 everyday phrases that make you appear self-doubting and insecure

Let’s just come right out and say it: we all have moments of self-doubt!

And it’s totally fine to recognize areas where we can improve—but have you ever thought about the impact self-deprecating words can have on your mindset and how others view you?

When you say to others, “I’m so bad at that thing,” it’s not just a statement, rather, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Why? Because you’ve already convinced yourself that you’re going to fail—and fail hard.

It doesn’t matter if that “thing” is painting, rollerblading, or setting up an IKEA flatpack, these words might just be quietly sabotaging your confidence.

The next time this happens, you might like to swap that negative statement with a growth mindset.

Rather than saying that you’re “bad” at it, go for, “I’m still learning, but I’m getting better every day!”

Notice the little shift here? You’re acknowledging the learning process and leaving room for improvement.

I think it always pays to remember that those words of yours pack a punch, and by changing your mindset, you’ll strengthen your confidence and abilities, plus you never know, you might even open doors to new possibilities.

5) “I could never pull off that outfit, but you sure can.”

A sentence that could momentarily show that you doubt yourself is: “I could never pull off that outfit, but you sure can.”

It might seem like a compliment for another person (/fashionista) but it’s way more than that, it’s a remark that directly undermines your ability to pull off a certain look.

I try to remind myself that fashion and style isn’t an exclusive club reserved for the chosen few, despite what ad campaigns and Instagram tells us.

So the minute we start categorizing certain styles as off-limits for ourselves, we’re building unnecessary barricades.

This begs further questioning: why limit yourself with self-imposed fashion boundaries? Who decided that specific styles are reserved for certain body shapes, ages, or any other ridiculous criteria?

Shoot for the sartorial stars, I say.

6) “I can try, but I’ll never be as good as them.”

When you say: “I can try, but I’ll never be as good as them” you might not realize it, but you’re actually doing yourself a huge disservice.

By saying this, you’re assuming that your potential is fixed and that there’s a hard limit on your abilities.

Newsflash: you’re not a product with a set expiry date! You’re a fascinating, ever-evolving human being capable of growth and improvement.

Plus the comparison thing is one nasty beast. By saying you’ll never be as good as someone else, you’re measuring your inherent worth against external benchmarks.

This not only undermines your confidence—it also doesn’t factor in the fact that everyone’s journey is wholly unique. And folks, that’s just not a fair game.

Plus there’s the undeniable psychological toll of it all.

Resigning yourself to the idea that you’ll never measure up can create a harmful and frankly, dissatisfying, cycle of unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities.

After all, everyone starts somewhere. But what does it take?

Well, effort, persistence, and a dash of self-belief for starters—the rest is up to you!

7) “Sorry to bother you.”

“Sorry to bother you” might at first read as a perfectly polite and considerate thing to say.

But let me hurl this question your way: why are you apologizing for taking up space?

Starting a conversation with this common phrase instantly puts you in an inferior position.

It’s like saying you believe you’re not as important or valued as the person you’re speaking to.

But here’s the classified info: You are important! Your thoughts, queries, and very presence pack a punch. Own it!

By tossing aside unnecessary apologies, you’re not just saving time—you’re projecting that magical little thing… confidence.

After all, confidence is magnetic, and trust me, people cannot resist it.

So, if you notice yourself about to say, “Sorry to bother you,” why not sub it out for something different, like, “I’ve got a quick question for you,” or “Mind if I pick your brain for a sec?”

There—no apologies needed!

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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