Things men say that make women feel insecure

You're probably a pretty secure woman. You know you're strong and worthwhile, but sometimes your partner may say something that just makes you want to hide. It's not just you — there are certain things men say that can make even the most confident woman feel bad about herself. I went to the experts to find out what those things are. Guys, listen up: these are the things you're saying that are making your partner feel insecure.

Wow, that girl is so hot

It baffles my mind that some men think it's okay to ogle other women in front of their partners, and it probably surprises you as well. When a man talks about the attractiveness of other women, it's a sure way to make you doubt yourself.

Christie Tcharkhoutian, marriage and family therapist told me, "One of the most disrespectful things that men say in front of women is commenting about and objectifying other women. It makes women feel small and sets them up for insecurity."

She advised that men should be respectful not only about what they say, but "where their eyes wander." She added, "Practice saying kind things to and about your partner, whether or not she is there. This will take you out of the habit of objectification and into appreciation."

That's a dumb idea

Even if you think of yourself as an intelligent woman, it can be a blow if your partner devalues your ideas. And if you doubt your smarts, it's even more damaging when your partner tells you that your ideas aren't valid.

Tcharkhoutian told me, "A study in Science magazine found that as young as six years old, girls already feel that they are not as smart as boys. When a partner confirms a woman's fears about not being smart enough, it can be more hurtful than he may be aware."

She suggested that instead of men shooting down the ideas of their partners, to recognize her intelligence and emphasize her strengths.

You've gained some weight

Unfortunately, many women harbor deep insecurities about their weight. Comments about your weight and body can trigger those insecurities and leave you feeling embarrassed about your appearance.  

Reverend Sheri Heller, licensed clinical social worker, agreed. She told me in our interview, "Women are acculturated to equate self-worth with beauty and desirability. It is a challenge for women to strike a healthy balance with their self concept and vanity in a world that is often more preoccupied with how a woman looks than who she is." She noted that when a woman's spouse or boyfriend makes a comment about weight gain, it can make her feel that she is unappealing.

Tcharkhoutian suggested that the best thing for a relationship is for men to "assure [your partner] that you love her and believe she is beautiful no matter what. Saying anything negative about her appearance, even if well-intentioned, will only create insecurity and a feeling of inadequacy, which is unhealthy for any person or relationship."

That biological clock is really ticking

Many women are all too aware of their age, especially if they want to have kids. One of the worst things a man (or really, anyone), can tell a woman is that her biological clock is ticking, especially because it can often be difficult to conceive.

For a lot of women, Heller noted that there is a challenge to balance the pursuit of motherhood with desires for intellectual and career goals. She shared, "When a man tells a woman her biological clock is ticking, it can trigger deep fears of not actualizing the desire to be a mother and create a family or cause a woman who may not be intent on that goal to feel as if she is not measuring up to being the sort of woman she 'should be'."

Instead, she added advised that men who understand these struggles modern women are facing, and who are sensitive to the way women are being pulled in so many directions, are more able to "engage in a thoughtful dialogue about becoming a parent."

Don't get hysterical

Do you wear your emotions on your sleeve? I know I do. But when men make negative comments about how you express your feelings, it can activate your insecurities and make you feel like shutting down.

Heller told me, "Women who are assertive often carry the onus of being a hysteric or a shrew. When a man makes this comment, he may be condescendingly implying that a woman is out of control. Hence, a woman may doubt the validity of her own authority and question if in fact she comes across as abrasive and tyrannical."

However, she added that if a man is comfortable with a woman's power, he's open and able to debate with one who is also passionate and assertive.

Why don't you smile?

I tend to be pretty serious some of the time, and I've often been told I need to smile more. Interestingly, most of the people who have told me this are other women. But it's also detrimental when your partner expects you to smile or be happy all the time, because it means he's not valuing your other, equally valid, emotions.

Heller shared, "Being a happy ornament denies one's full humanness. Hence, when a man requests a woman to smile or asks why she isn't smiling, it implies that other more serious sides to her are unappealing. It suggests that she be one-dimensional to accommodate another."

She suggests that a man who wants to know all aspects of a woman, not just the "pleasant" parts, really embraces all of her faces.

You don't dress sexy

In the beginning of a relationship, it's natural to pull out all the stops when you're picking what to wear. But when you've been with your partner for awhile, and especially if you live with him, you may wear sweatpants and t-shirts more often than not. If your partner comments on your dress, it can make you feel like you're less desirable because you've allowed yourself to relax and wear what makes you feel comfortable.

Heller told me, "When a man makes this comment, a woman can take it as a rejection of her style, her need for modesty or an implied demand to be more provocative so as to be interesting and desirable."

That said, this doesn't mean a man can never mention the way his woman dresses. Heller elaborated, "If a man playfully requests that his partner dress in a way that evokes his passion, while complimenting her intrinsic appeal and beauty, this wish for her to dress sexy becomes contextual not absolutist."

Are you on the rag?

How do you feel when someone asks you if you have your period? It's a rude way of saying that you're acting irrational or overly emotional, and it probably either makes you feel annoyed or insecure. As Heller noted, menstruation is already bad enough without all of our anger being attributed to our raging hormones instead of valid emotions.

"When a man arbitrarily throws out this comment whenever a woman is moody or annoyed, it sends the message that only a biochemical imbalance could explain her irrationality," she explained. "It shuts down any opportunity to dialogue about what may be ailing his girlfriend or spouse and creates a wall of resentment."

Bringing up past insecurities

While there are some universal statements that will make a woman insecure, one of the worst things your partner can do is intentionally bring up things that he knows make you feel insecure, especially as a weapon during an argument.

Kryss Shane, licensed master social worker explained, "For example, if a woman had terrible acne as a teen and she felt ashamed at the time, if a man calls her pizza face, he is intentionally evoking those childhood memories and bringing up those feelings all over again."

Help her feel more secure

If you're a man looking for ways to make your lady feel more secure, Shane suggests one way is to talk about her positively, especially in front of others, including things like telling fun stories or sharing her successes. Shane elaborated, "This shows her that you value her and that you are proud to be with her at public events."

It's not just about what you say, it's also about how you react to what she says. For instance, Shane suggested that if she is making comments about other women, you can help her feel secure by helping her see that she is just as valuable (and more so in your eyes) than other women. "In addition," she shared, "point out something you love about her that you doubt other women may have or do."

It also helps to really let her shine when she's being celebrated, and to encourage others "to honor her by pointing out what a great job she's done, giving a toast at her birthday party about how much you love her, and simply being there for her."