People who appear vain on the surface but are actually deeply insecure often display these 10 subtle behaviors

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We all know someone like this…  

On the outside, they seem to have it all. They are well put together, take care of themselves, have a good career, plenty of nice things, and generally seem to live the good life. 

But, deep down, they are far from the image they work so hard to project to others. 

They are, in fact, painfully insecure.  

And their entire persona has been carefully crafted to give the opposite impression of the reality.  

It’s not always easy to spot these people immediately. However, there are things they struggle to control that give them away.  

So, what are they?  

People who appear vain on the surface but are actually deeply insecure often display these 10 subtle behaviors. 

1) They don’t stop talking (about themselves) 

The first subtle behavior of people who seem vain but are actually insecure is that they don’t stop talking about themselves

People who are genuinely confident don’t feel the need to talk themselves up constantly; they let their accomplishments speak for them.  

On the other hand, someone who may appear to be full of themselves but really doesn’t believe they are enough will always seem to be seeking validation. 

Even if they appear to rate themselves highly!  

This could mean acting arrogant or even obnoxious, humble bragging, fishing for compliments, or flat out telling you how amazing they are.   

Even in its subtlest forms, it is attention seeking behavior that screams uncertainty.  

2) Only “the best” will do 

You could be forgiven for assuming that someone super groomed and dressed in the best brands is self-assured and values themselves. But sometimes, this is far from the case. 

Add a streak of materialism to the equation and you could be dealing with a person who is hiding their perceived inadequacy behind expensive clothing and accessories.  

I once knew a man who “wouldn’t be seen dead” (his words) in unbranded clothing… the same guy drove a flashy car he could ill afford and only ate at expensive and exclusive restaurants.  

He was chronically insecure and believed that his luxury possessions would give the illusion of value he was really lacking in himself.  

It’s a sad reality that we tend to judge a book by its cover until we’ve read the book.  

This is why many extremely insecure people will compensate for their feelings of unworthiness with excessive consumerism and materialism.   

And from appearing to ‘have it all’ to…

3) They know it all  

Ever met someone that was an expert on everything? 

Even going as far as to educate you on your area of speciality? 

They may come across as know-it-alls, but people who constantly try to one-up you with information and knowledge are often insecure deep down.  

Another subtle sign is that they disagree with everything… this is their way of getting their voice heard and asserting themselves as competent and confident.  

But here’s the thing… 

People who genuinely believe they are smart don’t feel the need to prove it to anyone.  

And from knowing it all to needing to be the best… 

4) Everything is a competition 

People who are deeply insecure but hide it behind fake confidence always compare themselves to others and are extremely competitive.  

About everything! 

This subconscious compulsion originates with their inferiority complex and lead them to measure their worth against other people.  

So, whether it’s being the fittest, the most health conscious, the most attractive, or the best earning, these people will be in relentless competition with their peers.  

And the more of a threat they perceive you as, the more they’ll compete with you.  

And not only will they compete, they’ll also judge…

5) They judge people, harshly 

Insecure people will welcome any opportunity to discredit others as a way of making themselves feel better.  

They will frequently speak about people behind their back and delight in tales of their misfortune.

They will always have a cutting comment about someone’s appearance, clothes, walk, etc.  

And even if they do it in an eloquent way, the impulse and its origin remain the same.   

Because their outward judgementalism really points to a ferocious inner critic.   

Be assured that whatever shade they throw at others, they throw a lot worse at themselves.  

6) They take instant and enduring dislikes to people

OK, so it’s no surprise that an insecure person is super susceptible to envy… But funnily enough, they are often not aware of it. 

And instead of acknowledging their envy and using it as inspiration to do better themselves, they will instead take against the person that are envious of.  

They may think they are taking a dislike to them for any number of reasons, but chances are, it is because that person has something they lack.  

However, their insecurity won’t let them admit it, so it translates to distain.  

Basically, they feel threatened by people who appear to have or be what they want and won’t like them as a result.   

7) They always need control 

When it comes to people, outward orderliness often masks internal chaos

And a need to have supreme control often indicates feelings of helplessness. 

I’m sure you know someone who always has to dictate where your group goes and what you do? 

Someone who inserts themselves in conversations that have nothing to do with them and takes over…

When people are uncertain, control brings them a sense of security. And this will lead them to try to control situations, people, and outcomes.  

An inability to just ‘go with the flow’ or let someone else take a lead occasionally often points to deep-seated insecurity.  

8) They are overtly sexual 

Think of a man or woman you know that leads with their sexuality.  

It may appear to be a consequence of their boundless confidence, appetite for living, and healthy libido, however, often it points to deep insecurity.  

Because by trading on their sexuality, they avoid real intimacy; letting someone see them in their entirety.  

And the fear of becoming so vulnerable and then possibly being rejected is too much for them. 

They may think that their physical attractiveness is the only thing of value they have to offer.  

And being desired (even if only temporarily) makes them feel accepted and offsets their deep-seated feeling of insecurity.  

9) They’re impulsively defensive

Insecure people are afraid of their real vulnerability being exposed more than anything else… and they certainly can’t handle criticism.  

And these, in combination, lead them to become impulsively defensive.   

So, when in stressful situations or arguments when they feel like their carefully crafted self-image is being threatened, they can often become overly and unnecessarily defensive. 

10) They’ve leaky body language

Body language never lies.  

So, if a person’s swagger is coming from a place of deception, their true feelings will leak out in their movements. 

This may involve self-soothing movements to reassure themselves when they’re feeling anxious, guarding their mouths when they aren’t being truthful, or fidgeting in high pressure situations. 

Random little tells and micro expressions will give the game away.  

No matter how good a performer they are, their body won’t be able to conceal their true feelings.  

It all comes down to having compassion

Oscar Wilde once said, “A mask tells us more than a face.”  

Because the type of mask a person chooses says a lot about the real self they are trying to conceal. 

Someone who wishes to hide a lack of self-belief and contentment will want to be perceived as the opposite.

And often, they will create a persona that exudes vanity, confidence, and competence to accomplish this.   

But remember, “the emptiest vessels make the most noise.”  

What these people really need is compassion, from themselves and from others.  

And although dealing with them (and listening to them) may be incredibly annoying, understand that they are struggling with their own demons and try to be patient.  

Niamh McNamara

A freelance writer fascinated with human nature and social dynamics, Niamh read literature, history, and philosophy at university before spending time in journalism and PR. Armed with a passion for words and ideas, and a healthy appreciation of the ridiculous, she tries to make sense of it all. Connect with Niamh on X @NBMcnamara123

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