Why We Hate Smug People.

Smug: having or showing an excessive pride in oneself or one’s achievements.

Ever felt like wiping a superior look off someone’s face before?

I recently became very interested in reasons why people are smug. It beat me, to be honest and it was a tad alien to me. If I do say so myself. This may or may not be because of the looming presence of Impostor Syndrome which shadows my every move. Dare I say that I was interested in this because I am a teeny weeny bit envious of the ability to reach a heightened sense of accomplishment-something quite elusive to me? Dare I?

I realized soon that there was no mystery or secret formula for being or acting smug. It simply existed in some and was absent in others.

I’m more interested in something else however.

It’s this: Why do people find smugness distasteful?

You might have heard it being said of someone or something: He/She is too proud.

You might not be unaware of the fact that boasting is generally regarded as unpleasant.

You will be aware of the fact that humility is often more attractive to the general populace than the I-am-obviously-better-than-the-rest-of-you-and-I-think-you-all-should worship-at-my-feet. It is so much so that to get away with many things, all you have to do is fake humility.

I am aware of this and many others so I did a study of some notably smug personalities in the hopes that I’d discover what really was the big deal about being overly proud of oneself or achievements.

I discovered two things.

  • Those who are truly smug, believe inherently in their superiority.
  • Even though they were smug, they also had a lot of insecurity issues.

One could postulate that the complacency is a twisted way of balancing hidden deep seated feelings of worthlessness or of not being good enough in some way, within such people; that it was a way for them to reaffirm their self-worth to themselves and whoever cared to listen.

What matters however is that they are individuals and what they do, others should not unduly worry about. Unless of course, it actually does hurt others.

Which brings me to the main question. Does it hurt when people boast?

Does it make you feel small when someone else has on an air of superiority?

Why do we feel the need to rein in smug heads or force modesty albeit false?

I figured people probably begin to believe the perceived superiority a smug person puts on and it makes them feel uncomfortable because, well, they would like to be the superior one.

I also discovered that this was a wrong approach to things. People’s beliefs or lack thereof should be no source of worry to anyone else but them.

We don’t like smug people because they exude a superiority complex, indirectly implying our inferiority. And hey, no one likes to feel inferior.

The deal is, it’s okay to dislike smugness.

But come to terms with this:

  • Being smug is just like being effusive. It changes nothing about the reality of things. And that, is infinitely more important.
  • Telling or forcing someone to be modest when they are naturally excessively proud is like telling a talkative person to restrain themselves from speaking always. It is not going to work for better. It is also a selfish endeavor. You are basically asking someone to change so that you can feel better. No, please don’t. The most effective way to tackle a problem you don’t own is from your own end.
  • You can learn to live with smugness without even caring. How? I have a manual which you can get if you contact me. Okay, I’m kidding.

PS: In case you need to know what exactly I mean by being smug, read this:

“Smugness makes me take an instant dislike to someone.  Smug people exude an air of superiority that makes you want to slap them with a kipper.

I suppose we would define ‘smug’ in different ways, but I view smugness as a kind of aura, coupled with a propensity to say annoying things.

Here are some examples of smug conversation imo:

Non smug person:  ‘Oh, I’m so tired.  My baby was up all night last night, and I got zero sleep’.

Smug person:  ‘You lo is now 10 months right?  My three slept through from the first week onwards.  I’ve always had lots of sleep.  I must be an excellent mother, as I can only put this down to my outstanding parenting skills’. ” – Culled from a forum

Image Credit