People who appear confident but struggle with self-doubt often exhibit these 8 behaviors

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You can’t always take someone’s apparent confidence at face value. Yes, they might speak loudly, smile a lot, and seem like high achievers — but it doesn’t mean they’re completely stable on the inside. 

Sometimes, characteristics that seem to signal confidence can actually be signs of an inner struggle with self-doubt. 

It’s healthy to talk about yourself (self-expression is generally a good habit), but have you ever encountered someone who can’t seem to talk about anything else?

It’s also good to believe in yourself and want things done correctly, but when does the need for perfection become too extreme? 

From time to time, we meet people who seem confident at face value, but when you take a closer look, you get the gist that there’s something unsettled with their sense of self. 

In this article, I’ll cover eight behaviors that often disguise self-doubt behind a veil of confidence. It might help you gain a deeper insight into that friend of yours who you can’t seem to pin down. 

1) The paradox of perfection

You know the type — their work is always top-notch, deadlines met with precision, presentations flawless. Yet, they’ll always be the first to say, “It could be better.” 

The drive for perfection can be a double-edged sword. While it propels excellence, it can also be an Achilles heel. When you’re never satisfied with your own work, you don’t give yourself the gratification you deserve. 

When your drive for success constantly leads you to circle around an endless cycle of self-criticism, it stops being a positive thing. 

That’s not all — academics have highlighted the relationship between perfectionism and burnout. It turns out that aiming for the stars all the time can actually drive you straight towards the ground. 

Burnout can be a serious issue and it can have a major impact on your practical life and mental health. 

Signs you might be suffering from burnout include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Troubled sleep
  • General emotional imbalance
  • Tendency to drink or abuse substances
  • High blood pressure
  • Taking more sick days

Still think being perfect is the way forward? It might just be the thing that ends up holding you back the most.

2) “I just keep thinking about me and how I…”

When every second or third word you say is referring back to yourself, it’s a clear sign that you’re not fully at peace with yourself. People often do this as a way to attract attention to themselves, but why so desperate to be noticed all the time? 

When people are obsessed with themselves, it doesn’t necessarily mean they like themselves a whole lot. 

Narcissistic personality disorder is a good analogy to use here. 

People with NPD might seem ultra-confident and self-loving, but they actually lack self-esteem. Their self-esteem is contingent on being praised and noticed, which is why they also want to be the center of attention. 

But it gets tricky because low self-esteem can also manifest in the opposite direction. You know the people who never want to talk about themselves? 

They’ll shower you with questions just to divert the attention away from themselves.

3) “You, you, you. Let’s keep talking about YOU!”

It’s not just small talk. For them, it’s a strategic move to steer the conversation away from themselves

It’s like they’re saying, “Let’s focus on anything but me.” 

By keeping the conversation centered on the other person, they effectively build a wall around their personal life, thoughts, and, more importantly, their insecurities.

This tactic diverts attention and masks their self-doubt. 

Next time you find yourself on the receiving end of a one-sided conversation where the focus seems perpetually fixed on you, take a moment to pause and reflect. 

While it’s flattering to be the center of attention, consider flipping the script. Sometimes, people just need to know you’re genuinely interested in them before they can open up.

4) Saying yes to everything 

For the confidently doubtful, overcommitting can be a way of seeking validation

They fear that saying no might make them less likable and it can lead to them overstretching themselves and agreeing to things when they really don’t want to.

Like with perfectionism, overcommitment leads to burnout, and burnout dims even the brightest star. 

It’s a vicious cycle that whispers, “You’re not enough unless you’re doing everything.” 

Remember, it’s okay to say no. It’s necessary.

If someone you know seems caught in an unending web of saying yes — even to their detriment — trying introducing them to the idea of setting boundaries. 

5) The feedback frenzy

Seeking feedback is a healthy habit. It’s good to care what other people think of you. 

Have you ever met someone who says “I don’t care what anyone else thinks about me”? 

Those people are either lying, or they’re just extremely arrogant

We’re social creatures, and historically, our lives would depend on what other people thought of us. Humans are biologically hardwired to assess and care about how other people feel about them. 

Of course, it’s easy to cross the threshold where the need for positive feedback becomes pathological. 

When you find yourself asking for opinions on every decision you make or constantly seeking validation on minor things, it’s time to pause. 

This behavior is a telltale sign of someone battling self-doubt, cloaked in a robe of confidence. It’s as if their internal compass needs constant calibration from external sources. 

6) Blending in or disappearing?

Adaptability is a skill, but constantly changing colors to match your surroundings? That’s a survival tactic. 

People who seem confident but struggle with self-doubt often morph their opinions and behaviors to align with those around them. 

It’s their way of avoiding conflict and ensuring acceptance. But at what cost? 

Authenticity takes a back seat. 

That’s not to say you should stomp your boots and insist on everyone noticing your unique personality or being intentionally controversial. 

It’s more about following your own taste and being honest about who you are. 

If you’re laughing at jokes you don’t get and trying to cover yourself in camouflage to blend in, you might want to take a closer look at why you do that.

7) The laughter cover-up

Humor is a powerful tool. 

It can: 

  • Disarm people and break the ice
  • Entertain a room
  • Defuse tense situations 
  • Heal you emotionally

It can also serve as a shield. You know what I’m talking about — that fragile nervous laughter?

Laughing off compliments or using self-deprecating humor are classic moves of the confidently doubtful. 

It’s as though they’re saying, “Don’t look too closely, you might see my flaws.” 

Yet, in doing so, they deny themselves the warmth of genuine praise and the growth it can foster.

8)  Deceptive solitude

Spending time alone is necessary to recuperate and process everything that goes on in your life. However, when you confine yourself to your own company because you don’t feel comfortable around others, it might be worth asking why. 

Some people wear solitude like a shield and seem to carry a sort of stoic and lonely strength. 

From the outside, it seems like they’re so comfortable with themselves that they simply don’t need other people. 

What’s really going on? 

A reluctance to socialize can also stem from:

Don’t be fooled into thinking someone’s just so comfortable with themselves that they don’t need or want a social life. 

They might just need someone to pry their doors open before letting a friendship flourish. It could be that their just trying to create a mirage of strength when really they feel fragile. 

Final thoughts

Lots of behaviors that seem like confidence at face value actually disguise a deeper battle with self-doubt. 

When getting to know people (and yourself), it’s important to look beyond the veil of first impressions to get a deeper understanding of what’s going on underneath the surface. 

Understanding these nuances and intricacies not only helps you steer your own path towards something more wholesome and happy but it can also give you tools to help others who might be stuck in a rut of low confidence. 

Whether it’s prying a little more when someone seems reluctant to talk about themselves or simply encouraging them to share their unique thoughts or interests, you never know the impact you can have by nudging people in the right direction. 

Marie Lamb

Marie is a writer with an academic background in psychology and neuroscience. She’s also a qualified yoga teacher with more than 10 experience in Eastern practices. When she’s not writing about psychology and life, she’s reading and crafting stories, poetry, or prose.

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