You may have heard of a psychology theory which says it’s the insecure individuals who pretend to be confident, and more withdrawn and modest individuals are the ones who are truly confident. Basically, it’s totally contradictory. When I heard that, I got a huge case of I-have-no-idea-what-I-am. Call it a psychological identity crisis. Am I confident or insecure? Honestly, I don’t know. And who cares? You just gotta go with what you’ve got. But then there are fictional characters. More often than not, they’re easier to figure out than ourselves.
I watched Bright Star the other day (or part of it, since I don’t like depressing endings) and the lead female displayed constant overconfidence in her clothing designs. See, I can’t do that. I can’t boast about my work or talents to other people shamelessly. Does that make me secretly confident? No idea. I just don’t like doing it. It feels wrong. So when I see an overconfident character, they slightly rub me the wrong way.
But considering the psychology theory, the great thing about overconfidence is that beneath it lies a deep pool of insecurity. And prodding at that may just be the most amazing thing you can do as a writer. If you can uncover the insecurity of an outwardly confident character, you’ve already got a story made.
Peter Pan’s one great example. He’s pretty much the essence of cockiness. Yet, deep down, we still love him because we learn about his insecurity about his mother not wanting him anymore and fearing that he wouldn’t like what he would become if he grew up.
The idea is the more they strut their stuff, the less stuff they probably have (on the inside). The less they strut their stuff, likely the more potential and talents they have. I love exploring both types of characters. Still, the secretly insecure ones always strike me as a bit more interesting.
Do overconfident characters bother you?
-The Story Addict