Can Someone's Confidence Bring Out Your Insecurities?

Confident people can model positive behaviors for those with low self-esteem.
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The girl who sits with you in chemistry class exudes confidence -- a quality that most find appealing. As a less confident person, you wonder whether spending time with her is good or bad for your self-esteem. Sometimes you wonder what you could possibly offer her in terms of friendship, since she seems to have it all. At the same time, she is generous with her praise of you and often leaves you feeling motivated to be more confident. These mixed feelings are normal, and reflect the complex relationship that you can have with a confident friend.

1 Don't Measure Up

If you have low self-esteem, spending time with a confident person could leave you feeling worse about yourself, writes Mark White, professor of philosophy at the College of Staten Island, in the Psychology Today article, "Does Everyone Find Confidence Attractive?" It seems like that girl in your class has it all figured out -- she always says the right thing, makes friends easily and comes to school perfectly coiffed. Seeing how perfect her life is (or appears to be) triggers feelings of insecurity and shame. Those who are "self-loathing," notes White, are most at risk of feeling this way around confident people. If you were less hard on yourself, spending time with her would not be a problem.

2 Learn From Them

Sometimes you come away from time with her feeling motivated to be more confident yourself. A confident person can help us strive to become more confident, writes Irene S. Levine, psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine in the Psychology Today article, "5 Ways Friends Help Build Our Self-Confidence." For example, you might watch how the girl in your class talks easily to new people and learn how to make small talk yourself. Practice setting aside your insecurity and being open to what you might learn.

3 Praised By Them

If the girl in your class is genuinely comfortable with herself, she will not need to put others down to make herself feel good. Instead, she will be more likely to offer you praise and encouragement -- because her own self-esteem is not dependent on competing with you. When someone is genuinely confident, they are often good at making other people feel better about themselves. If you know someone who confidently radiates positive energy and is generous with praise, spending time with that person is likely to lift you up.

4 Gender Differences

Whether you are male or female may play a role in how you react to the confidence of someone else, according to the study "Gender Differences in Implicit Self-Esteem Following a Romantic Partner’s Success or Failure," published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study showed that men had lower ratings of self-esteem when their female partner did well on a social intelligence task. In contrast, women showed no difference in self-esteem regardless of how their male partner performed. This indicates that men may need to work harder at building solid self-esteem that is not dependent on how they compare to others.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.