Are you subtle showing insecurity? 16 body language signs to watch out for

What we say with our mouths matters greatly, but there’s something even more primal and impactful:

What we say with our bodies. 

I’m talking about body language: those nonverbal cues and signs of how we’re feeling and our inner reality that manifest through how we carry ourselves. 

But this is more than just standing up straight. Body language goes very deep, and I want to take a look at subtle signs of insecurity you may be showing without even being aware of it. 

First up:

1) Stooped neck posture

Stooping the neck is a primeval sign of submission. 

It’s what a cavalier does out of respect before being knighted by the king or queen. 

But in nature it’s also what a weaker animal does when around more dominant animals or when the animal doubts its position in the tribe. 

Keep your head up. 

2) Furtive eye contact

The next subtle sign of insecurity is difficulty making eye contact. 

We all know that looking down a lot and not making eye contact is often a sign of deep insecurity and self-esteem issues, but this is subtler. 

You make eye contact, but you find it hard to hold and glance back and forth a lot. 

Keep eye contact, generally until the other person breaks it.

3) Erratic fidgeting 

Fidgeting is a sign of buried insecurity in many cases, or at least of nerves. 

But erratic or occasional fidgeting can be harder to spot:

It’s not that you’re sitting in a meeting clicking and clacking every part of your body, but you are fidgeting sort of absentmindedly and aren’t quite sure why. 

Try your best to compose yourself and become conscious of the urge to fidget.

4) Nervous tics

Similarly to fidgeting, nervous tics are often a subtle sign of some secret insecurity

Examples include awkward, spontaneous laughter, cracking your neck, nodding about nothing in particular, smacking on your gum or putting in a plug of chewing tobacco when you don’t even want it. 

Why are you doing it? Are you in control or are your habits?

Make sure you’re master of your own domain and try your best to reduce nervous tics that are within your control. 

5) Awkward stance

When you’re feeling a bit out of place or not quite sure what to do, how do you stand?

For a person with subtle self-doubts and insecurities the answer is that they often stand leaning on something, kind of awkwardly to one side, or in a way that just doesn’t seem natural. 

You may also find that you stand very primly, with your feet close together, as if not to take up too much space. 

Practice a wide, powerful stance that cements your place in the world. 

6) Weight shifting 

Weight shifting is something you see a lot among athletes such as hockey players during the national anthem before skating out on the ice. 

It’s a sign of adrenaline getting pumped up and being ready to go. 

But if you do it in ordinary situations it usually comes across as a sign of anxiety and not quite knowing what to do with yourself. 

Practice standing in a balanced and secure way, rooted to the earth and resist the urge to shift your weight around. 

7) Leg crossing

Crossing your legs at the instinctive level is a move to protect the vital organs and genitals. 

In some cases I understand that it’s more just about comfort and isn’t a sign of insecurity. 

But if you find that you cross your legs when you feel a bit out of place or awkward, work on resisting that impulse.

Try to cross your legs less, unless it’s only for comfort.

8) Adjusting clothes

Adjusting one’s clothes a lot is another subtle sign of insecurity. 

It generally indicates a kind of worry that one is not fully accepted or a feeling of being uncomfortable in your own body. 

Even if this isn’t consciously what you’re feeling at all, or the clothes you’re wearing are simply literally uncomfortable, it’s helpful to know that this is how it can come across. 

Choose clothes that fit well and avoid adjusting your clothes a lot in public.

9) Sporadic breathing

Breathing shallowly or in halting breaths is another major and often overlooked sign of insecurity. 

You can’t hear most people breath if you’re not trying really hard, but our bodies register how someone is breathing. 

When you draw in shallow or halting breaths or hold your breath it makes your overall confidence level come across as much less around others, as if you’re holding your breath to see what they think of you or how a situation plays out. 

Breathe through it. 

Work on breathing calmly and fully on your own so that it comes naturally when in company.

10) Over-checking smartphone

Checking your smartphone can be a power move when in an awkward situation. 

But checking it too often does the opposite and can come across as tech-addiction and insecure

It’s like watching somebody turn to their phone for validation or to replace a social life they don’t seem to have. 

Take mini digital detoxes and spend less time checking your smartphone.

11) Hands in pockets

Sometimes it’s nice to put your hands in your pockets.

But doing this a lot can come across as trying to hide something or being subtly unsure of yourself at some level.

If you’re a person who puts your hands in your pockets a lot, be aware that it be a sign of subtle insecurity about your own voice and place in the world. 

Try keeping your hands out of your pockets more often (at least when the weather permits). 

12) Self-massage 

Many of us have sore necks and shoulders and may try self-massaging at times.

But when you do this in social situations or around other people randomly, it can come off as a bit insecure. 

It’s like you’re not fully present and have something more pressing to attend to on the muscular comfort level. 

If you’re feeling sore or want a massage, try having a bath or doing it in private. It can come across as being overly casual in an affected way.

13) Strategic coughing

If you cough when you feel nervous it can be a subtle sign of insecurity. 

I’ve done it various times myself, for example when getting into an elevator with somebody I don’t know and trying to defuse the awkwardness. 

When you feel like you might cough to break an awkward silence or just to act casual, try not coughing instead. Just get used to whatever awkwardness is going on and focus on your breathing. 

14) A forced smile

Forcing a smile can come across as insincere and insecure

There’s no need to grin if you’re not in a mood to do so or if the interaction doesn’t merit it. 

Think of a smile as fully voluntary: do it if you want it, and that’s it! 

There’s no need to force a smile if you’re not feeling it. Practice having a neutral expression.

15) Rigid stillness

Standing stock still like you’re in a Greek antiquities museum may look regal, but it also betrays subtle insecurity. 

It can be like you’re waiting to be approved of or “brought to life” by others, which can create an effect of passivity. 

Think of life as a bit of a dance and fluid motion. You’re not a mannequin, so make sure to move around a bit and roll with the punches.

16) Manic movement 

Moving around like a marionette is another sign of subtle insecurity. 

We all know people like this who hop around like mad, and often it’s easy to think they’re just very energetic. 

That may be, but if you do this a lot it can also be a sign that you’re anxious and somewhat running from yourself. 

Connect to the anxiety or excitement behind this compulsion to manic movement and rapid speech. What does it mean? Can you slow it down?

The bottom line

Trying to have confident body language is an uphill battle, and ultra-confident body language can come across as fake and, ironically, insecure. 

Truly powerful and fluid body language comes naturally from pursuing your purpose in life and feeling good in your own skin. 

If you’re generally confident and have a high sense of well-being but some of the subtle signs above are showing up in your body language, it’s an indication that there are still areas you can improve. 

We all have these areas where we still have insecurities and doubts, and they are really a gift to us, to point us to areas of our life, self-image and purpose that we can keep working on and honing. 

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