We all feel insecure sometimes. Things don’t always go our way, and even the most self-confident among us can sometimes have doubts about where we stand.
But many people keep their insecurities hidden very well.
But if you look closely at how they behave, and especially at what they say, you might be able to uncover their secrets.
So listen for these dozen words or phrases that are often used by secretly insecure people.
1) “That was great, wasn’t it?”
This phrase can be said in a positive way that expresses appreciation.
Like, “That was great, wasn’t it? I really had a good time with you today!”
But there’s a whole other dark side to this phrase.
So when they do something, especially in a show-offish kind of way, they might immediately ask for that validation rather than just waiting for a compliment to come naturally.
When someone is constantly asking for positive feedback, it’s a sure sign they’re insecure.
2) “Yeah, but listen to this!”
Once again, it’s not the phrase but how it gets used.
Some people have great stories and wonderful experiences that are genuinely entertaining for others. So when someone else brings up something related, they’re happy to jump in with their anecdote.
But for secretly insecure people, it’s not about entertaining. It’s about giving themselves a boost by stepping on others.
They’ll say this after a good story and then follow up with something that so often falls flat. That’s because they’re more interested in looking good and trying to get a piece of the spotlight than actually telling a great story.
If someone’s always jumping into one-up stories but never actually manages to, they’re probably just insecure, and it’s one of those habits that’s easy to pick up on.
3) “That’s dumb. / That’s stupid”
There’s nothing wrong with expressing your opinion, even if it’s critical.
But there’s a good way and a bad way to do it.
Unfortunately, insecure people are often overly quick to shoot down others’ ideas because they feel threatened by them.
Or it might not even be the idea itself but the person it came from. They might be fiercely jealous and don’t want others to look good in front of certain people they see as high-value, and so they shoot down or neg others’ ideas as an almost automated response.
4) “I don’t have time to do that.”
This phrase is actually a very tricky one, and it’s not always a sign of insecurity.
After all, if someone asks for help or for you to do something and you really don’t have time, then this is just simple honesty.
But for secretly insecure people, it could be a bare-faced lie.
When people are insecure, they fear change. They often also have big issues managing their time since they don’t feel confident in choosing what they should prioritize.
So when someone suggests an activity or asks for them to take on a responsibility, this is a sneaky way to avoid it.
It also makes the speaker look good because our culture values hard work and busy bees.
But watch carefully.
If you know for a fact that a person has the time but uses this phrase often, it could be a defense protecting their insecurity.
5) “I’m really quite different.”
Insecure people are big on inflating how unique they are.
I should know, because when I was a teenager, I did exactly that.
I dressed strangely on purpose, listened to weird music loudly, and sought out misfits and oddballs for company.
Yes, I was experimenting with life, but more than that, I was a very insecure person. I used this phrase almost as a personal motto.
But secretly, I was afraid of nothing more than being considered boring or run-of-the-mill.
Trust me on this one – people who are truly unique have no need to point this out to others constantly. If someone does, they’re probably really trying to overinflate things to get attention.
6) “Oh yeah, I’ve done that.”
You know that person who’s been everywhere and done everything?
We all know at least one or two of them, and perhaps one of the two actually has an incredible wealth of experience.
But the other could be secretly insecure.
I know a guy who’s overweight and obviously quite unhealthy but is always telling people he knows everything about nutrition and exercise and has explored it all.
It becomes more than a little ridiculous because it’s so obvious that he hasn’t tried everything.
People like this like to jump into every conversation with an apparently knowledgeable snippet but never seem to have anything real to contribute.
7) “So-and-So doesn’t like me.”
People who are insecure have a tendency to be paranoid about social circles and relationships. When they say that someone doesn’t like them, it could be going in one of two ways.
On the one hand, they may just be saying this to get attention and perhaps sympathy. What they want you to answer is, “No way, that’s impossible! How could anyone?”
But on the other hand, they might be quite serious about their feeling that the person doesn’t like them.
And they’re probably bringing this up actually to turn it into a compliment for themselves.
I have a friend who does this often.
She’ll say, “You know she doesn’t like me. It’s because she’s jealous.”
Or “She just can’t handle how real I am.”
That might be the truth, or it might just be her trying to get attention once again.
Ironically, insecure people are usually oblivious when someone actually doesn’t like them!
8) “What, this old thing?”
Despite being secretly desperate for praise, insecure people try to play off compliments.
That sounds strange, doesn’t it?
Until you look a little deeper into the insecure psyche.
In fact, insecure people are always seeking out compliments and praise, but they don’t want to be seen to be doing that.
So when they do get a genuine compliment that they haven’t gone fishing for, they’re instantly excited but also nervous.
So the easiest thing to do is to downplay it or even turn it back around onto the other person.
They’re the person who gets jittery when told they look good and love to say, “No, you look great!” rather than answering with a simple “Thank you” as a more secure person would.
9) “That sounds risky.”
Insecure people are afraid of taking risks because they don’t feel secure in their abilities or knowledge.
This goes back to an early definition of the insecure person by legendary psychologist Abraham Maslow as someone who “perceives the world and the people in it as dangerous to him.”
So with this orientation toward life and new experiences, it’s no surprise that insecure people avoid taking risks.
Of course, it’s also a very reasonable thing to say when someone asks you to try skeleton or skydiving.
But someone who’s secretly insecure will often be extremely high in risk aversion and will use this statement as an excuse not to do the dishes or go to a new club.
10) “I think I’m better than her.”
Is life a competition? Insecure people seem to think so.
And while others can be happy and secure in their social status, skills, and abilities, insecure people are constantly comparing themselves to others. And the comparisons are usually unfavorable in their own heads.
But when they do find something they think they’re better at, they’re very quick to point that out, even if the comment seems to come out of nowhere.
It comes from somewhere, of course – the insecurities that are constantly influencing their thoughts and actions.
11) “I’m something of an enigma.”
Insecure people are constantly hiding their true selves because they don’t want others to see what they perceive in themselves.
They usually have a poor sense of self-worth but don’t want it to seem this way. So instead, they may choose to stay distant and closed off to others.
Then they can excuse this behavior by saying they’re complex or mysterious, or hard to get.
That sounds a lot more intriguing than “I’m quite insecure and don’t want to let you in,” doesn’t it?
They hide from others because they find it difficult to trust and open up to them.
12) “Things are great the way they are.”
Insecure people fear change.
It’s ironic because they truly need a change in their self-confidence.
But normally, change feels threatening because it represents new challenges that you don’t feel you’ll be able to deal with.
It’s sort of a “the devil you know” situation.
So insecure people, while not very comfortable, truly fear stepping out of their comfort zones.
If you hear people using these phrases or ones that mean the same thing, they might be secretly insecure. And understanding that insecurity might be your first step to helping them deal with it.