Do you ever feel the urge to talk about all of your achievements with a friend or acquaintance? Has a loved one called you out for bragging endlessly? Do you often find yourself aching for others to feel proud of you and express their approval?
If that sounds familiar, you might be engaging in what TikTok creator Connor DeWolfe refers to as “confidence dumping.” He describes it as periods when he “brags” or needs external validation for his accomplishments due to his ADHD.
If you relate, there’s no shame here: According to experts’ explanations, opting to “confidence dump” makes sense — and you can get your needs met in more helpful ways, too.
What does “confidence dumping” look like?
Confidence dumping happens when a person appears to “overshare or hyperfixate on their own personal achievements or beneficial/positive contributions to society,” according to Alexandra Cromer, a licensed professional counsellor with Thriveworks in Richmond, Virginia, who specialises in ADHD, self-esteem and coping skills.
This may involve talking at length about an accomplishment, like getting a good golf score, and not leaving room for other conversations. Or perhaps someone won’t stop discussing all the to-do list tasks they completed because they signed on to work early.
While it may come across as self-centred or prideful at first, it’s not. This is especially true for people with ADHD, as DeWolfe’s video mentions.
“It might seem counterintuitive, but people with ADHD engage in this behaviour when they are in a supportive environment with others where they feel they can be vulnerable and will not be judged,” Cromer said.
And while confidence dumping may be discussed more in ADHD circles, someone can do it and not have ADHD.
“The term ‘confidence dumping,’ as used on social media, tends to describe a specific lived experience of those with ADHD,” said Stephanie Carnes, a clinician with New York Psychotherapists. “However, it can be a strategy used by anyone who is seeking validation or recognition of their strengths and achievements.”
“I think whenever a person is insecure, impulsive and anxious, they are more likely to engage in confidence dumping.”
For example, Carnes said confidence dumping may be particularly common for people who have experienced some form of stigma or rejection. Those with anxiety or other mental health conditions may also engage in it if they perceive that their successes are overlooked and undervalued. They want to be seen “as a whole collective person” and want others to “readily recognise the tenacity it takes to accomplish a task with a particular condition,” she added.
“I think whenever a person is insecure, impulsive and anxious, they are more likely to engage in confidence dumping,” said Nicholette Leanza, a therapist with Lifestance Health. “The reasons people may do this is to help them feel good about themselves, or they may be trying hard to be liked.”
It’s important to cut folks some slack and assume the best intentions. Confidence dumping is not necessarily something people do on purpose. Many people do it simply to fit in or as a way to relate to their peers. Others do it because they’re genuinely underpraised.
“People with ADHD are not often given proper praise for accomplishments that neurotypical people are given praise for,” Cromer said. “Rather, when people with ADHD accomplish a task, they are often underpraised or their achievement is viewed as ‘just doing what other normal people do.’”
Also, note this: While it’s not an official psychological term, descriptions like “confidence dumping” (and “info dumping” and “trauma dumping”) do have value.
“These terms are widely used on social media since it can feel validating and empowering to create and use new phrases that embody shared lived experiences,” Carnes said. “Additionally, describing manifestations of neurodiversity based on lived experiences also allows a new narrative to be created around previously stigmatised features or behaviours.”
Here are some more effective ways to feel validated or affirmed
While confidence dumping is understandable (and, at times, effective), it may not be the most helpful way to gain affirmation, especially in the long term. Cromer warned about some of the risks, including possible distance in your relationships. You and/or your loved ones may also feel emotional strife as a result of the behaviour.
“The person who is confidence dumping gets into a routine of seeing this trusted person as a part of their coping and emotional regulation system and how they get their needs met,” Cromer explained.
Having a multitude of ways to cope and not depending on one person is more sustainable.
So, what are other ways you can feel great about yourself?
This tip can help both you and your loved ones. Cromer said journaling is a way to self-congratulate and take some strain off of your relationships at the same time. You can also write out a list, she added, to refer to when people want to hear about your recent accomplishments.
With every achievement, put an item in a jar.
Along the lines of the latter, put a rock, penny or something else you want to collect in a jar. Cromer suggested referring to this when you recount your monthly successes and victories at an agreed-upon time with someone.
Whether you’re cleaning up a park, donating food or providing free coaching to a youth sports league, Cromer said volunteering is a great way to get immediate and clear validation and feedback.
Challenge negative thoughts.
Regardless of where they come from, negative thoughts can easily feed your lack of confidence and insecurities, according to Leanza. So, try to challenge them. When those thoughts pop up, brainstorm how you’ve proven them wrong or how they don’t define you.
Have a wide range of social support.
Consider all the people you can share your joys with to “spread the wealth,” so to speak. This is another way to not lean solely on one or two people. Carnes mentioned friends, family members, spiritual communities and a therapist as good go-tos. She believes in the power of relationships and sharing.
“These relationships can serve as powerful buffers against experiences of stigma and criticism, and can provide ongoing opportunities for validation, ultimately reducing the need for ‘confidence dumping,’” she said.
In short, it’s about remembering the dialectic: Sharing your exciting news with loved ones is a great way to feel affirmed, and you probably want to avoid it being the only way you feel validated or celebrated.