People who are overly confident on the surface but deeply insecure usually have these personality traits

There’s a wide gulf between real confidence and surface-level confidence. 

In fact, they couldn’t be more different. 

Those who are truly confident, contain a deep inner security about their value and their mission. They navigate life’s ups and downs with aplomb, doing their best to learn from failure and build on success. 

Those who are fake confident, contain a deep inner insecurity about their value and mission. They seek validation at every step and engage in a number of toxic behaviors and patterns. 

Here are the most crucial traits of those who are confident on the surface but actually insecure inside. 

1) Bragging and inflated self-confidence

They often have an exaggerated sense of confidence that doesn’t seem quite natural. 

That’s because it’s not natural: it’s a put-on. 

They can often be  found boasting about their abilities and accomplishments as well as exaggerating their achievements or talents.

The reason is that they are trying to compensate for their underlying feelings of inadequacy. 

Hailey Shafir, M.Ed. has it exactly right:

“A lot of people who seem too confident in themselves are actually deeply insecure. For them, bragging might be a way of masking their insecurities or getting help from others to build up self-esteem.”

2) Looking for attention and praise

They constantly seek validation and attention from others in a way that stands out as needy. 

It is needy, and even if they try to make it low-key, this search for attention is quite obvious if you look for it. 

Examples include frequently telling jokes that look for a reaction, making controversial or offensive statements, dressing in a way that’s bound to get commentary or going over the top in showing they are a “good” person.

The bottom line is that their confidence and outgoing behavior is really a vehicle for their search for validation that they are “good enough,” because they don’t truly believe they are. 

3) Frequently comparing themselves to other people 

They constantly compare themselves to others in a way that makes them look better. 

Even if it’s disguised as a joke (“oh my God, did you see what she posted on Instagram?”) these comparisons are intended to boost them and their image. 

This is just another way to seek reassurance that they are better or more successful. 

This ties directly into the next trait of those who ape confidence but don’t really have it: 

4) Seeking external validation and praise

They rely heavily on external validation, constantly seeking approval and praise from others to feel worthy. 

In many ways (career, relationships, friendships, hobbies) they strive to be told they are the “best” and to get attention. 

Social media is also another massive magnet for such individuals, since it allows them to carefully curate an idealized image and mythos. 

“Someone with a compulsive need to overshare on Facebook or broadcast their achievements to others may just be looking for attention. 

Some showoffs just do it for the likes or compliments, while others are trying to spark feelings of envy or insecurity in other people,” notes Shafir.

5) Getting defensive when questioned or criticized

phrases men often say when they lack emotional maturity 1 People who are overly confident on the surface but deeply insecure usually have these personality traits

Nobody enjoys being slandered or insulted, but fair criticism has its place. 

Those who are faking confidence can’t take any kind of criticism or negative feedback, however. 

They tend to become defensive and hostile when they are challenged or questioned. They demand that their opinion, their excellence and their view of things be affirmed. 

When it’s not, they become downcast, bitter and angry, lashing out with unwarranted recriminations. 

Psychologists Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D. and Roy F. Baumeister, Ph.D. conducted two studies in which they explored the connection between narcissism, negative interpersonal feedback, and aggression in 540 undergraduate students.

As they discovered, “people who are preoccupied with validating a grandiose self-image apparently find criticism highly upsetting and lash out against the source of it.”

6) Difficulty opening up or being vulnerable

They have a hard time showing vulnerability or admitting weakness, even in situations where doing so wouldn’t be looked down on.

It is as if they need to maintain a facade of always being on top of things and thriving. 

This can feed into toxic positivity and becoming so chipper and upbeat that people feel nothing fazes this person: they’re indestructible! They’re epic!

Or so it seems. In reality they just never open up or admit when they’re not doing well, as this would threaten their carefully constructed facade of competence and excellence.

7) Workaholic tendencies and perfectionism

They set impossibly high standards for themselves and fear failure or making mistakes, which can lead to perfectionism

Under the surface the deep insecurity about not being good enough keeps clawing away at their sense of well-being. 

So they dive headfirst into work, seeking accolades and milestones that will shut up the critical inner voice inside. 

They line all their degrees and accomplishments on the wall and make sure everyone knows they’re a big deal. But inside, that scared self is worried that they’re just not important at all and nobody loves them. 

As author Jullien Gordon says

“Workaholics fill any space in time with busy work because they feel insecure doing nothing. The insecurity comes from not knowing their value.  They believe that the busier they are, the more important they must be.”

8) Controlling behavior and possessive tendencies

They strive to maintain control over situations and people in many situations, which can sometimes be disguised. 

They may play the savior role in codependent relationships, for example, or always check if their partner or friends are OK in every situation. 

This comes across as confidence (“I got you! I’ll be right over to fix this”) but really it’s a need to feel needed. 

They want to be everything for somebody and fix every problem, but deep down it’s a way to mitigate their underlying feelings of vulnerability. 

If they’re the one saving others and telling others what to do, then they can’t be the one who needs help and doesn’t know what to do. At least that’s what they hope. 

9) Impulsive reactions to opportunities and challenges

The externally confident but innerly insecure tend to be very impulsive. 

When they are faced with an opportunity or a problem, they tend to jump at the first thought or instinct they have and go for it. 

They make impulsive decisions or take foolish risks to prove themselves, seeking instant gratification or validation. 

This is something we all do at times, of course, but with such individuals it crosses the line into a kind of self-sabotage. They refuse to put real thought into what they’re doing and behave with a kind of over-the-top bravado that often proves to be their own undoing.

“We all engage in impulsive behavior from time to time, especially when we’re young. As we mature, we learn to control our impulses for the most part,” notes Ann Pietrangelo.

Time for real confidence

Real confidence is much more about internal reality than external. Outer behavior is only the quiet echo of the inner security that already exists. 

The process of coming into a loving and empowered relationship with ourselves is key to developing real confidence. 

Encouraging more authenticity and vulnerability is also key to helping those who are faking confidence but are actually feeling insecure and scared. 

None of us can change for the better in a lasting, meaningful way, unless it is driven by a core of self-acceptance and self-ownership. 

Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on and visit his website at

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