We all have moments where we lack confidence—but that’s no free pass to be a creep

I recently found myself in a cringeworthy virtual conversation with Jacob, a film producer who gives off some powerful #MeToo vibes. I don’t speak with this guy often, but when I do, it’s always alarming. He’s usually tipsy or full-blown drunk. With each sip, he loses more of his composure and is less able to hide his true intentions.

“You’re so smart,” he slurred.

“You’re dynamic. Do you know that?” he continued. “And you’re gorgeous. A powerhouse. None of the men you’ve ever been with know how to handle you. I mean, do you know how beautiful you are?”

His compliments flowed unedited, one after another, in a conversationally unnatural manner. On the surface, they may seem flattering, but each show of praise was a thinly veiled attempt to disarm me.

“You’re absolutely right,” I responded to his rant. “I’m all of those things and more. Thank you for seeing me exactly as I am.”

“Whoa!” he said. “Be humble!”

“Be humble? So, you can compliment me, but I can’t compliment myself. I can’t see myself as I am, but I can see myself through your eyes?”

“Exactly — I don’t want to hear your shit,” Jacob replied with a chuckle, trying to pass his insecure misogyny as a joke.

I don’t play that way.

My conversation with Jacob lasted for an hour, most of which I considered a study in human behavior. Or more specifically, a survey of the unconfident male. Sure, we all have our insecurities, but they’re no excuse for predatory behavior. Women can see right through these toxic tendencies.

Below is a breakdown of the ways men who lack confidence can sometimes inflict their own internal struggles on those who they date. If you recognize yourself below, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and work on yourself.

1. He requires alcohol to drum up the gumption to interact with women

Either he knows he’s not on her level or his intentions aren’t pure. Either way, liquid courage is almost always a factor. There’s nothing more unattractive than a chemically compromised man mumble rapping his most played-out pick-up lines, thinking he’s about to fool someone into buying what he couldn’t give away for free.

2. He uses compliments as a means of disarmament

This insecure man hopes she is, too. So he’ll attempt to validate her with a barrage of compliments. If he thinks she’s beautiful, but she doesn’t, she’ll begin to rely on him to define and validate her, both physically and otherwise. Or at least that’s his intention. Outside validation can be problematic because anyone with the power to flatter also has the power to shatter. Insecure men want this sort of influence over women because they rarely feel powerful in other aspects of their lives.

This’s not to say men shouldn’t compliment women. As with anything in life, it’s not only about what you do, but how (and why) you’re doing it. Some insecure men may deploy compliments in a cycle similar to that of narcissists: love-bombing, devaluing, and then discarding. If you want to genuinely compliment a woman, follow a simple rule: Show, don’t tell. Instead of only telling her how smart, funny, and beautiful you think she is, show her with your actions.

There’s nothing more unattractive than a chemically compromised man mumble rapping his most played-out pick-up lines.

3. He tries to silence a woman by discouraging her from singing her own praises

A man who is uncomfortable with a confident woman patting herself on the back with no help from him is likely dripping in insecurity, self-loathing, and/or misogyny. Emotionally virile men are not intimidated or threatened by a woman’s pride. Instead, it’s a turn-on. Humbling her does him no good. A confident man wants a partner — not a project.

4. He compares himself to a woman’s past partners

If you’re going to shoot your shot, fellas, all you need to do is make sure your toes aren’t on the line, your form is correct, and your hands release the ball before the shot clock expires. Don’t worry about who was on the court before you, how many points they scored, or the number of fouls they racked up. Mind your fucking business, and worry about your damn self lest you get ejected.

5. He disguises his putdowns as jokes

This kind of emotional warfare is the insecure man’s sly attempt to damage a woman’s self-esteem because he knows the only way she’d ever consider hooking up with him is if she feels bad about herself. In pick-up artist circles, this technique is often referred to as “negging.” To which I say: Negger, please.

No matter how much levity a man tries to inject into a back-handed compliment about her age or a dismissive and devaluing comment about her appearance, it will never be funny. In actuality, it’s likely a reflection of how he thinks of himself. He may feel that any woman he approaches will sense he’s beneath her, so he figures before she rejects him, he’d better bring her down to his level.

Toward the end of my conversation with Jacob, he asked if I wanted to fly out to see him in Chicago. There it was: the mark of the beast. First, he love-bombed me with compliments, making assumptions about my self-esteem based on the fuckboys I’ve dated in the past. Then, when I showed him I’m fully aware of my intelligence, beauty, and worthiness, he “joked” that I needed to be humble and that he didn’t want to hear me big-up myself.

The convo was a minefield of microaggressions in which he bashed my exes and asked why I “keep dating these types of men.” Never mind the fact that he’s a married dad, drunk, and damn-near begging me to get on a plane to see him in person. No thanks.

Jacob is gross. Don’t be like Jacob.

If you’re feeling insecure, consider working on and improving yourself before crashing your way into a woman’s peace and stability like the Kool-Aid man. Get yourself a therapist. You’ll be better off for it because, as every woman knows, there’s nothing more attractive than a confident and secure man.

Joseph A. Cornacchia