7 signs a man is masking his insecurity with arrogant behavior

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An arrogant man can be incredibly off-putting.

It’s challenging to connect with someone who acts superior and entitled whenever others are around.  

Sometimes, however, this hubris can be just pretend, and it may hint that there’s something deeper going on.

In fact, some people use arrogance as a defense mechanism to prevent others from noticing their low self-esteem.

But how can you if that’s the case?

Here are 7 signs a man is masking his insecurity with arrogant behavior.

You never know what may be hiding beneath a smug exterior.

1) He boasts about his accomplishments/possessions

Arrogant men like to boast about their achievements or material possessions.

They brag about the promotion they got at work, their new car, the spacious apartment they’ve just moved into.

They’re in constant self-promotion mode and try to impress others or dominate conversations.

But often, by projecting an image of superiority, they’re covertly protecting a fragile self-esteem.

Pay attention to the language they use.

A downright arrogant man will have no quips about asserting his superiority.

He’ll say something like, “I’ve always had what it takes to succeed, so there’s no wonder things are going so well for me lately.”

Meanwhile, a secretly insecure man might let some self-deprecating language slip even as he attempts to convey confidence: “I can’t believe I actually pulled that off.”

The key difference is in tone and underlying message.

The arrogant man won’t make any excuses for his success, while the insecure one might attribute it to luck or outside help without realizing that he’s showing his true colors.

Trust your intuition.

2) He name-drops

I once worked with a guy who would frequently name-drop.

Regardless of what we were talking about, he found a way to mention a powerful relative, a locally famous ex-girlfriend, or that time he went backstage at a concert and hung out with his favorite band.  

It was irritating since I didn’t much care about his impressive connections.

Until one night when he had a few too many after-work drinks.

During an unexpected heart-to-heart, he admitted that his ex-girlfriend really hurt him, and he brought her up to prevent others from figuring out that he had a broken heart.

He didn’t want anyone to make fun of him for being weak, so he talked about her a lot to make people believe he was okay with how the relationship ended.

That’s when I understood that his name-dropping is performative. He was doing it to avoid vulnerability.

Who would have thought?

3) He gets defensive

Arrogant people struggle to accept criticism or feedback, viewing it as a threat to their self-image.

But while a man who actually thinks he’s superior might dismiss the criticism altogether, an insecure one usually gets defensive about it:

  • He shifts blame (e.g., “It’s not my fault, it’s because of that person/issue”)
  • He downplays the significance of the criticism (e.g., “Why are you making such a big deal about this?”)
  • He justifies his behavior (e.g., “I did it because I thought it was the best way to go”)
  • He makes excuses (e.g., “Why are you bringing this up now? I have too much going on”)

Or, he simply shuts down.

See, arrogant people don’t believe there’s much wrong with them. They can shrug off negative remarks.

When you criticize a man who is already insecure, you confirm the worst things he thinks about himself.

To protect himself from further harm, he stops engaging in conversation or walks away.

4) He needs validation

Everyone needs external validation to a certain degree, but insecure men depend on it.

While arrogant men enjoy the attention and don’t need anyone to agree with their choices, someone who masks his insecurity with arrogance will seek others’ approval.  

You notice him fishing for compliments, asking how he stacks up to someone else, or requiring constant praise to keep up his sunny attitude.

He might also post excessively on social media and closely monitor the number of likes, comments, and shares.

Or, he might ask what you think about his life choices, hoping you’ll express admiration and envy.

In short, an arrogant man takes others’ validation for granted.

An insecure one needs it to feed his self-esteem.

5) He can’t be happy for other people

Another sign that a man is masking his insecurity with arrogant behavior is that he reacts poorly when someone else experiences success.

Arrogant people are generally indifferent to others’ accomplishments.

They don’t care enough to celebrate or even acknowledge them, as they’re focused on their own self-interest.

In some cases, they might get competitive and try to outdo the other person’s achievements, but that doesn’t happen too frequently.

An insecure man, however, will experience self-doubt whenever an acquaintance succeeds.

He will inevitably compare himself to them and feel inferior, which may lead him to sulk and downplay the other person’s success.   

Suppose you notice that an arrogant man is in a bad mood during an event meant to celebrate a friend or colleague’s triumph. 

Spoiler alert: he has a terrible opinion about himself.  

6) He overcompensates

When dealing with an arrogant man, you’ll ask yourself a common question: how does he have the audacity?

He will apply for jobs he’s not qualified for. Hit on women who are obviously out of his league. Believe that he’s entitled to anything he wants.

An insecure man, on the other hand, will feel the need to work hard for everything. 

It’s because, deep down, he’s afraid he deserves nothing.

He overcompensates by overworking himself – taking on excessive responsibilities at his job to prove his worth through productivity and busyness.

Or, he spends hours at the gym to impress potential romantic interests with how in shape he is.

He may brag about everything he has. Secretly, though, he put a lot of effort into getting where he is.   

7) He uses unhealthy coping mechanisms

When arrogance goes hand-in-hand with unhealthy coping mechanisms, something is going on below the surface.

A man masking his insecurity with arrogant behavior might also rely on other habits to hide his perceived inadequacy.

He may have substance abuse issues, a gambling addiction, or an overeating problem.

Whichever it may be, these types of strategies are another way to manage emotional pain and a lack of confidence.  

If we’re talking substance abuse, he might use alcohol or drugs to keep up his arrogant façade.

Acting like you’re above everyone 24/7 is exhausting, especially when you don’t feel superior deep down.

Final thoughts

When you have to deal with an arrogant man on a regular basis, it helps to determine whether his smugness is genuine or just for show.

Knowing that he’s secretly insecure can make you more empathetic and increase your chances of connecting with him on a deeper level.

Sometimes, though, arrogance simply signals that the man is a jerk.

In this case, you’re better off keeping your distance.

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If you recognize these 13 signs, you’re in a happy and healthy relationship