The issue with insecurity is that it takes on many different forms.
If I say that insecure people overapologize and make self-degrading jokes, you’ll probably nod along and say, “Obviously.”
But if I say that they can also act overly confident and put on a cool front, you might agree that this is where things get a little bit more complicated.
How come insecure people exist on such opposite sides of the spectrum?
Well, it all boils down to their coping mechanisms. Everyone reacts to insecurity slightly differently, and while some people may try to make themselves look smaller, others will strive to look bigger in order to convince the whole world they aren’t insecure at all.
The following list is a mix of both. If you see these 8 small signs, the person you’re talking with probably feels deeply insecure.
1) They fidget and exude nervous energy
Starting off with one of the most obvious signs, if the person you’re chatting with keeps fidgeting, playing with their necklace, shifting their weight from foot to foot, and generally acting like they’re unsure of themselves…
Well, then things are probably exactly as they seem.
Don’t overthink it. This person is clearly nervous, and while nervosity doesn’t necessarily translate into insecurity – we’re all nervous from time to time – it might mean that the person in question is unsure of themselves in your presence.
If you hold a position of power or if they have a crush on you, for instance, this makes complete sense. Their whole body just screams, “Help, I’m stressed out!”
If you want to help them feel a little less nervous, make jokes, don’t act too serious, and give them a nice compliment.
2) They speak way too quickly
Not everyone who speaks quickly is insecure. Not at all. In fact, there are plenty of reasons for why people talk excessively or way too fast – for example, they might be trying to keep up with their thoughts.
However, speaking quickly could also signal anxiety.
As the expert on communication, Preston Ni, says: “Some individuals speak quickly out of nervousness and anxiety—they increase their rate in order to get their communication ‘over with,’ but at the expense of clarity and diction, resulting in mumbling or jumbled speech.”
If you ever find yourself mumbling or trying to get all the words out as fast as possible, try to consciously slow down. A slower rhythm will help you sound more confident.
And if the person you’re talking with is rambling on and on… well, it might mean they feel insecure around you.
3) They over-explain themselves
Let’s have a look at two scenarios.
In scenario one, someone tells you, “I’m sorry, I can’t come tomorrow. I’m busy.”
In scenario two, they say, “I’m sorry, I can’t come tomorrow because I’ve got a doctor’s appointment and then I’ve got to go home to feed my cats and then it’s basically afternoon already, so I have to get ready for yoga. I’d come if it weren’t for the appointment! Maybe next time? So sorry!”
You’ve probably already guessed that the latter signals insecurity – instead of simply declining the invitation, the person you’re talking to feels like they have to explain themselves to you although their personal life is none of your business.
This is because they feel so bad for “letting you down” that they think they have to prove to you just how many obstacles stand between them and accepting your invitation.
As someone who used to be a big people-pleaser, I know the struggle.
4) They try too hard to get in your good books
You know those people who try just a little bit too hard?
Yeah. There’s a high chance they feel insecure around you, which is why they do everything in their power to please you – from doing you favors you haven’t asked for to fussing over you and making sure you feel okay.
They are so worried you don’t like them that they will do anything to get in your good books, not realizing that their proactive approach can get a little bit overwhelming or even irritating.
If you’re ever in a situation like that, try having an honest and unserious conversation. When I tried too hard to people-please in the past, I found it incredibly helpful when someone laughed and told me, “You’re worrying too much. Just relax a little!”
I knew then that it was my cue to chill out, and since the statement was delivered in an unbothered and friendly way, it made me feel less nervous.
5) They never disagree with you
Sometimes, the person you’re talking with is really just on the same page as you when it comes to politics, hobbies, lifestyle, and everything and anything you can think of.
But sometimes, the only reason they never disagree is that they’re too scared to have a confrontation with you and stand up for what they believe in, forcing a persona that’s at odds with who they are on the inside.
It’s always better to be authentic and disliked than the other way around, but say that to the people-pleasers – I speak from personal experience when I say that it can be very hard for us to face a confrontation, however mild.
But that’s exactly why we should go outside our comfort zones and do it. Throughout the years, I’ve forced myself to have honest disagreements, and I’ve grown a lot through those conversations and arguments.
So, if you’re chatting with someone who agrees with you 100% of the time and exhibits other signs of insecurity, mention how much you value honesty and authentic disagreements somewhere in the conversation.
They might take the hint and feel encouraged to say what they really think.
6) They strive to make you feel insecure
Alright, let’s move on to the opposite side of the insecurity spectrum!
This is where people try to “fake it till they make it” as it were – they act so overly confident that their behavior screams insecurity, simply because they are trying way too hard.
And one of the worst things a person like that can do is to try to make others feel bad about themselves in order to come out on top.
If you ever have a friend or a colleague who keeps talking down to you or purposely tries to make you feel bad, remember that they might just be projecting their own insecurities onto you.
Of course, that’s no excuse. It does, however, offer an explanation that may help you navigate the situation a bit better.
7) They casually bring up their achievements in almost every conversation
“Oh yeah, when I was representing my country at an international Olympiad, this happened to me too…”
“This feels almost as good as when I won a medal last year.”
“I almost never showed up to my lectures whilst at university, but it didn’t matter because I got a first-class degree anyway.”
If they’re quite highly empathetic, though, they might realize they need to put a stop to it if the people around them never give them the kind of acknowledgment and praise they’d like.
8) They refuse to show any sign of vulnerability
Vulnerability can be very attractive. When you’re a tiny bit vulnerable, you’re showing not only honesty and openness but also courage, which signals inner strength.
If someone absolutely refuses to open up even a little bit whilst talking with you, it means that they either don’t want to deepen your connection (which is fair enough) or that they are so insecure they don’t want you to see any mark on their shiny armor.
Refusing to show any vulnerability is actually one of the biggest hallmarks of insecurity – if you can’t make fun of yourself, act authentically, and say what’s truly on your mind, it usually means you’re not entirely confident in who you are and are too scared of rejection.
As the motivational speaker Brene Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.”