People who seem confident but deep down lack self-esteem often display these subtle behaviors

Confidence can be a tricky thing to pin down. Some folks strut around, full of bluster and bravado, but deep down, they’re battling a gnawing lack of self-esteem.

In fact, there are often subtle behaviors that these outwardly confident people exhibit that hint at their inner insecurities.

And those of us who have been there know it’s not always easy to spot. But with a little bit of insight, you can begin to recognize these signs in others – and maybe even in yourself.

So let’s dive into these 8 subtle behaviors displayed by individuals who may seem confident but are actually wrestling with low self-esteem.

Trust me; the signs are more common than you might think.

1) Overcompensation

If you’ve ever come across someone who seems to have all the confidence in the world, you might have noticed a tendency to overcompensate.

Overcompensation is a term psychologists use to describe a behavior where an individual goes above and beyond in certain areas to hide their perceived weaknesses. It’s like trying to cover up internal insecurities with external achievements.

Take for instance, someone who brags excessively about their accomplishments or always feels the need to be the smartest person in the room. They might seem confident, but this could be a sign that they’re trying to mask some deep-seated self-esteem issues.

In other words, confidence is not about proving yourself to others, it’s about being comfortable with who you are – warts and all. 

2) Apologizing unnecessarily

I’ve always been someone who apologizes…a lot. For years, I was convinced it was just good manners. But with time, I realized this wasn’t a mere politeness factor. It was a subtle sign of my low self-esteem.

People who frequently say sorry for things that aren’t their fault or don’t require an apology often do so because they’re unsure of themselves. They may feel like they’re constantly on the verge of making a mistake, stepping on toes, or upsetting someone.

I used to apologize for everything, from mundane things like the weather not being perfect when I’d planned an outdoor event to bigger issues, like someone else’s mistake at work. It took a lot of introspection and conscious effort to stop this habit.

So, if like me, you find yourself constantly apologizing, it might be a sign that beneath that veil of politeness and apparent confidence, you’re grappling with low self-esteem

3) Perfectionism

Perfectionism might seem like a positive trait at first glance. After all, striving for the best is admirable, right?

But there’s a dark side to it.

When someone always aims for perfection and is never satisfied with ‘good enough’, it can indicate a lack of self-esteem. This relentless pursuit of perfection often stems from a fear of failure or criticism.

According to a study, individuals with low self-esteem are more likely to suffer from perfectionism. They constantly feel the need to meet high standards to gain approval from others, reinforcing their sense of self-worth.

4) Difficulty accepting compliments

Accepting compliments with grace is a skill that not everyone possesses. For some, it’s due to modesty, but for others, it’s a sign of low self-esteem.

People who struggle with self-esteem often find it hard to believe they’re worthy of praise. They might brush off compliments, downplay their achievements, or divert attention away from themselves.

Instead of responding with a simple ‘thank you’, they might argue against the compliment or attribute their success to luck or others’ help. This inability to accept praise often signals an underlying lack of confidence and self-worth.

So next time someone struggles to accept a compliment, consider that they may be dealing with deeper self-esteem issues. It’s not about arrogance, but a reflection of how they see themselves.

5) Constant comparison with others

We all compare ourselves to others from time to time, but for some, it’s more than a fleeting thought. It’s a way of life.

People who constantly compare themselves to others often do so because they lack self-esteem. They measure their worth based on how they stack up against others, rather than their own inherent value.

This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, or dissatisfaction with their own lives. They may seem confident on the outside, but inside they’re constantly wondering if they’re good enough, smart enough, successful enough.

Remember, true confidence comes from within and isn’t reliant on external validation. 

6) Fear of saying ‘no’

Saying ‘no’ is not always easy. It can be particularly hard for those who lack self-esteem.

Individuals with low self-esteem often fear letting others down or coming across as unkind. They worry that saying ‘no’ might lead to rejection or conflict. As a result, they end up agreeing to things they’d rather not do or taking on more than they can handle.

Watching someone constantly overextend themselves in an attempt to please others can be heart-wrenching. It’s like watching a ship slowly sink, knowing they’re doing it to themselves but feeling powerless to help.

So, if you know someone who seems unable to say ‘no,’ remember that it may not be because they’re too kind or generous, but because they’re battling inner demons of low self-esteem.

And sometimes, the best way to help is to let them know it’s okay to prioritize their needs and say ‘no.’

7) Seeking validation

During my college years, I found myself constantly seeking approval from my peers. I’d feel anxious about making decisions without getting a nod of approval from someone else first.

This constant need for validation stems from a lack of self-esteem.

People who are unsure of their worth often rely on others to affirm their value. They might frequently ask for others’ opinions before making decisions or constantly seek reassurance that they’re doing the right thing.

While it’s normal to seek advice or validation occasionally, relying on it to a point where it dictates your choices and actions can be a sign of low self-esteem.

8) Avoidance of confrontation

Confrontation isn’t pleasant for anyone, but for those with low self-esteem, it can be particularly terrifying.

People who lack self-confidence often go to great lengths to avoid disagreements or conflicts, even when it’s necessary. They may give in to others’ demands or refrain from expressing their own opinions just to keep the peace.

This avoidance often stems from a fear of rejection or disapproval. They worry that standing up for themselves might lead to negative consequences or damage their relationships.

Final Reflection: It’s a Journey

Understanding human behavior and emotions is a complex pursuit, often revealing more layers the deeper we delve.

One such intriguing layer is the dichotomy between external confidence and internal self-esteem. As we’ve discovered, the two don’t always go hand in hand.

According to renowned psychologist Carl Rogers, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

This underlines the importance of self-acceptance in building genuine self-esteem.


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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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