10 phrases condescending people use to undermine your confidence

Ever feel like some people just have a way of making you feel small?

Like, you’re chatting or in a meeting, and someone says something that makes you doubt yourself?

Yeah, it’s not cool.

Some folks are really good at saying things that seem okay but actually make you feel less confident.

Want to know what those sneaky phrases are?

Stick around. We’re about to go through the top 10 things people say that can really mess with your confidence.

Once you know what to look out for, it’s easier to stand your ground.

1. “Well, Actually…”

You’ve probably heard this one before. You’re sharing an idea or telling a story, and someone interrupts with, “Well, actually…”

Then they go on to correct you or offer their “better” version of what you were saying.

It sounds like they’re just being helpful, right? Wrong.

What they’re really doing is saying, “I know better than you.”

This phrase can make you second-guess yourself and feel like your opinion or knowledge isn’t good enough. And that’s not fair.

Next time someone hits you with a “Well, actually,” remember: It’s not always about being right or wrong.

You have the right to share your thoughts without being made to feel small.

2. “No Offense, But…”

Someone says, “No offense, but…” and you already know something offensive is coming your way.

It’s like they think that little intro magically wipes away the rudeness of what they’re about to say.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

When someone starts a sentence like this, they’re basically giving themselves permission to put you down.

And because they said “no offense,” they act like you can’t even get mad about it.

So the next time someone says, “No offense, but…” be ready.

You can call them out or just let it slide, but either way, don’t let it mess with your confidence.

You’re better than their backhanded comments.

3. “If I Were You…”

This is one I’ve personally heard more times than I’d like to admit.

Someone looks at your situation—something you might be struggling with or a decision you have to make—and they say, “If I were you, I’d…”

First of all, they’re not you.

They don’t know your whole story or what’s going on in your head.

Yet they act like they’ve got all the answers, making it seem like you’re missing something obvious.

It’s super annoying and can make you question your own judgment.

Listen, advice can be great.

But there’s a difference between someone offering helpful suggestions and someone acting like they’d totally rock your life better than you do.

When someone says, “If I were you,” feel free to remind yourself (or them!) that they’re not you, and you’ve got this.

4. “You’re So Lucky!”

At first glance, this sounds like a compliment, right?

It’s the kind of thing people say when you’ve achieved something awesome.

But let’s dig a bit deeper.

What they’re really implying is that you didn’t earn your success—that it all came down to luck.

By saying “You’re so lucky,” they’re ignoring all the hard work, sweat, and tears you put into reaching your goal. It’s like they’re saying, “Anyone could have done it if they were as ‘lucky’ as you.”

Ouch, right?

Being called ‘lucky’ can make you feel guilty for your accomplishments, like you don’t deserve them.

But remember, luck might play a small role in life, but it’s your effort and choices that really count.

Next time someone tells you how ‘lucky’ you are, smile and say, “Thanks, but it wasn’t just luck. I worked hard for it.”

5. “Don’t Take This the Wrong Way, But…”

You hear this and your internal alarm bells start ringing.

This phrase is like a warning sign that something uncomfortable or downright rude is about to be said.

It’s almost like the person saying it knows they’re about to cross a line, but they’re trying to put the responsibility on you for how you react.

“Don’t take this the wrong way” is a tricky way of making you the bad guy if you get offended.

They’re putting you in a corner; if you react negatively, it’s as if you’re the one who misunderstood them or can’t take ‘constructive criticism.’

When someone prefaces a comment with this phrase, take a deep breath.

You have the right to be bothered by whatever follows, and you don’t have to twist yourself into emotional knots trying to “take it the right way.”

6. “You’re So Smart!”

Sometimes, people use this phrase to set you up for higher expectations that you may or may not meet.

And if you don’t meet them? Suddenly, you’re not so “smart” anymore.

What’s more, it can create pressure for you to always be the ‘smart’ one, as if making a mistake would suddenly strip you of your worth.

People who use this phrase might act shocked or disappointed the moment you show any sign of being human and fallible.

Remember, it’s totally fine to make mistakes or not know something.

Being smart isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about learning and growing.

So when someone tells you, “You’re so smart,” take it with a grain of salt.

You don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations but your own.

7. “Just Relax, It’s Not a Big Deal.”

Ah, this phrase takes me back to moments when I felt genuinely stressed or concerned, only to be told I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

“Just relax, it’s not a big deal,” they’d say, as if my feelings and concerns were completely invalid.

Here’s the thing: What might be a “small deal” to someone else could be a really big deal to you.

When someone uses this phrase, they’re basically dismissing your feelings.

It’s a way to belittle what you’re going through and make you feel like you’re overreacting.

So the next time someone tries to downplay your concerns with a casual “Just relax,” remember that your feelings are valid.

It’s okay to take things seriously if they matter to you, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

8. “You Wouldn’t Understand.”

Wow, talk about a conversation stopper. This phrase isn’t just rude—it’s a slap in the face.

When someone says, “You wouldn’t understand,” they’re basically telling you that you’re not smart or experienced enough to get what they’re talking about.

It’s like they’re putting themselves on some intellectual pedestal and leaving you on the ground floor.

Look, nobody knows everything, but that doesn’t mean you “wouldn’t understand” if given the chance.

This phrase is a way to shut you out and shut you down. It’s a power move, plain and simple.

When you hear this, don’t let it intimidate you.

You have every right to be part of the conversation and to understand what’s going on.

If someone doesn’t think you’ll get it, that’s their problem, not yours.

9. “I’m Just Trying to Help You.”

Ah, the cloak of benevolence. On the surface, this phrase sounds like it comes from a good place, but let’s be real: it’s often loaded with arrogance.

When someone says, “I’m just trying to help you,” after giving unasked-for advice or criticism, what they’re really saying is, “I know better than you, and you should be grateful I’m even sharing my wisdom.”

It’s like they’re giving themselves a pat on the back for intervening in your life, making themselves the hero of your story—whether you asked for help or not.

This phrase distills what being condescending is all about: asserting superiority under the guise of ‘helpfulness.’

So the next time someone tells you, “I’m just trying to help you,” feel free to ask yourself: “But did I ask for help?”

Because you’re the one steering your own ship, and nobody gets to act like they’re doing you a favor by trying to take the wheel.

10. “You’ll Understand When You’re Older.”

Ah, the age card. This one is a double whammy: it undermines you and it’s patronizing.

When someone tells you, “You’ll understand when you’re older,” they’re basically dismissing your perspective as immature or uninformed, simply because of your age.

This phrase implies that wisdom and understanding are exclusively tied to how many years you’ve been alive, which we all know isn’t true.

You can be young and insightful, just as you can be older and still learning.

Wisdom isn’t an age-exclusive club.

So the next time someone plays the age card, remember: Your views are valuable, no matter how old you are.

Age might bring experience, but it doesn’t automatically grant wisdom or invalidate your perspective.

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Picture of Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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