9 phrases toxic men use to chip away at your self-worth and confidence, according to psychology

Toxic relationships typically involve one partner (sometimes both) who is emotionally abusive, using their words as a weapon to undermine your self-esteem and confidence.

These toxic individuals often resort to manipulative phrases that can subtly erode your self-worth over time. The damage they cause can be so incremental and insidious that you may not spot it in the early stages of the relationship.

In this article, I’m going to share with you nine phrases toxic men often use to chip away at your self-worth and confidence, as identified by psychology. These statements can act as red flags, helping you identify if you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Let’s get started. 

1) “You’re overreacting”

One subtle way toxic men may try to undermine your self-esteem is by constantly telling you that you’re overreacting. This phrase is a classic example of gaslighting, a manipulative technique used to make you question your own feelings and perceptions.

You might bring up an issue that’s been bothering you, maybe something they’ve done that hurt you. But instead of addressing it, they may dismiss your feelings as an overreaction. They might even add that you’re ‘too emotional’ or ‘overly sensitive.’

The aim here is not to resolve the issue, but to make you feel like your emotions are invalid or exaggerated. Over time, this can lead to self-doubt and a significant dip in your confidence.

Everyone has the right to express their emotions. No one should make you feel guilty for feeling the way you do.

2) “No one else would put up with you”

Another common phrase toxic men use to chip away at your self-worth and confidence is, “No one else would put up with you.” They use it to make you feel like you’re lucky to be with them, despite their toxic behavior.

They might say this during an argument or when you stand up for yourself, trying to make you believe that you’re difficult to live with or love. The underlying message here is that you should be grateful they’re tolerating you.

Over time, hearing such a phrase can make you feel undesirable, unlovable, and unworthy of better treatment. This can trap you in the relationship, making you believe you won’t find anyone else who will accept or love you.

Remember, everyone has flaws and makes mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they’re unlovable. You deserve respect and kindness in your relationships. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

3) “I’m doing this for your own good”

Sometimes, toxic men might use the phrase, “I’m doing this for your own good,” to justify their harmful actions or decisions. This statement can be particularly damaging because it twists their negative behavior into something that appears caring or beneficial.

For instance, they might criticize your appearance or lifestyle choices, making you feel inadequate or insecure. But when you express your hurt, they might justify their criticism as concern for your well-being or personal growth.

In reality, this phrase is a manipulative tactic used to control you and make you second-guess your own decisions.

The thing is, authentic care and concern doesn’t belittle you or strip away your autonomy. You have the right to make choices for yourself and live your life on your own terms.

4) “I’m the best you’ll ever have”

Im the best youll ever have 9 phrases toxic men use to chip away at your self-worth and confidence, according to psychology

A phrase that is raw, yet often used by toxic men to chip away at your self-esteem, is “I’m the best you’ll ever have.” It’s another stark declaration designed to make you feel lucky, yet simultaneously unworthy of them.

When they say this, they’re not only inflating their own worth but also undermining yours. They want you to believe that they’re the pinnacle of what you can achieve in a relationship, and that you could never find someone as good as them.

The unspoken message here is that you should settle for their toxic behavior because you won’t find anything better. This can severely damage your confidence and self-worth over time.

Ultimately, no one should use their love or presence in your life as a weapon to control or belittle you. You deserve a partner who respects and values you, and who contributes positively to your life.

5) “If you really loved me, you would…”

In a kinder, more empathetic world, love would never be used as a bargaining chip. But in toxic relationships, the phrase “If you really loved me, you would…” is often used to manipulate and control.

They might use it to pressure you into doing something you’re uncomfortable with or to concede to their point of view.

It’s a way of questioning your love and commitment to them, making you feel guilty and obliged to meet their demands.

But true love isn’t about manipulation or coercion. It’s about respecting each other’s boundaries and feelings.

So, if someone is using your love for them as a means to control you, please know that it’s not a reflection of your worth or capacity to love. You deserve a relationship built on mutual respect and understanding.

6) “You’re just not good at this”

A phrase that many of us might have heard at some point is, “You’re just not good at this.”

It’s a seemingly harmless observation, but when used repeatedly, it can gradually chip away at your confidence and self-esteem.

Maybe it’s about how you cook, the way you manage finances, or even how you parent. The aim is to make you feel incompetent and dependent on them.

This constant undermining can make you doubt your skills or abilities in areas where you previously felt confident. It can make everyday tasks feel daunting and challenging.

Listen, just because someone criticizes your abilities doesn’t mean you’re not capable. You have the right to learn, grow, and be proud of your skills and accomplishments. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

7) “You’re too sensitive”

A phrase often thrown around in a lighter vein, but with potentially damaging effects, is “You’re too sensitive”. It’s usually said with a laugh or a dismissive wave, making it seem less serious than it is.

If you express hurt or discomfort about something they’ve said or done, they might use this phrase to brush off your feelings. It’s a way to dodge responsibility for their actions and make you feel like you’re the one with the problem.

Over time, being labelled as “too sensitive” can make you hesitant to express your feelings or stand up for yourself. It can make you feel like your emotions are a burden or an inconvenience.

Don’t forget, your feelings are valid and they matter. Being sensitive isn’t a flaw; it’s a strength that allows you to empathize and connect deeply with others. 

8) “It was just a joke”

It was just a joke 9 phrases toxic men use to chip away at your self-worth and confidence, according to psychology

A phrase that really needs to be kicked to the curb is “It was just a joke”. It’s often used as a cover-up for disrespectful or hurtful comments.

If you express your hurt, they might use this phrase to dodge responsibility and paint you as lacking a sense of humor.

This tactic can make you feel guilty for being hurt and might even make you suppress your feelings in the future. Basically, it’s their way of normalizing their disrespectful behavior and making it seem like you’re the one overreacting.

Here’s some tough love – a joke is only funny if both people are laughing. If someone’s humor consistently makes you feel small, belittled, or disrespected, it’s not a joke. It’s not about you lacking a sense of humor; it’s about them lacking respect. You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, always.

9) “You can’t live without me”

Perhaps one of the most harmful phrases used by toxic men is “You can’t live without me.” It’s a stark claim designed to make you feel dependent on them, vulnerable, and fearful of losing them.

They might say this to keep you bound to them, making you believe that your happiness, security, or success is tied to their presence in your life. This can severely impact your self-esteem and self-reliance, making it harder for you to leave the relationship.

The most important thing to remember is this:

You are capable and strong.

You have the power and the right to choose who is a part of your life.

You can and will thrive independently.

Nobody else should hold that power over you. Always believe in your own strength and resilience. You are so much more than any toxic relationship.

So, what now?

If you’ve recognized some or all of these phrases in your relationship, you may be feeling a range of emotions right now. It’s normal to feel upset, confused, and even a little scared. But remember that recognizing these signs is the first step towards protecting your self-esteem and reclaiming your confidence.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and expert on relationships, reminds us, “The tough thing about a relationship with a narcissist is that they often run on hope. Most people, especially in an intimate relationship with a narcissist, these relationships run on the hope of someday being better.”

Being in a relationship with someone who constantly undermines your self-worth can be emotionally draining. You may feel like you’re walking on eggshells, constantly trying to avoid their criticism or appease them.

Unfortunately, as Dr. Durvasula states, “These individuals are unlikely to change their behavior because, from their perspective, they don’t see anything wrong with it.”

In his words, “The only person’s opinion that matters about your worth is your own.”

Having one or even all of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean your partner is intentionally toxic or abusive. But it’s cause for reflection – are these phrases helping or hindering your sense of self-worth? Are you thriving in this relationship?

Take some time to reflect on this information and consider seeking professional help if you’re finding it difficult to navigate your feelings or situation. You deserve to feel valued, confident, and respected in your relationships and in life.

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.