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Confidence vs arrogance: How to tell which is which

Confidence vs arrogance: How to tell which is which

It's important to understand the difference between arrogance and confidence.


It is so easy to recognize a confident person out there in the world, and to know when you have met one. It’s also so simple to recognize an arrogant person when you come across them. But something that’s easily visible and is agreed upon out there in the world is very different from something you can recognize in yourself.

So today, we are going to focus on the difference between confidence and arrogance. What does self-confidence feel like? How do you know when you have it? What is arrogance, and how do you know when you’ve crossed the line into it? We’re going to produce a frame of reference in your head so that you have high self awareness when you think it over, and you have an awareness of your own abilities and can see which you are at any given time, even tough the line between the two is narrow! Let’s get started.

What is confidence?

You know it when you see it, right? Confident leaders are obvious on Youtube, in social circles, and at work. They know what they are talking about, and they can back it up. Confident individuals are conscious of their own skills, and know how to talk about them from a position of power, without overwhelming you or overcompensating with braggadocio. When you’re in the presence of someone with a strong sense of self, you know it, and you feel it. But what about arrogance?

What is arrogance?

Arrogance is the sense of superiority that someone feels they must display on a regular, consistent basis in order to prove it to themselves. Arrogant people are constantly putting stuff out there into the universe so that they, themselves, are able to believe in themselves. Note that when you speak to someone that’s cocky, it often comes off aggressive, not self-assured. And so, arrogance is a manifestation of someone trying to be confident, but failing.

Arrogance and confidence: Key differences and examples

  • Does the person you’re perceiving have a strong sense of self-importance? They are probably trying to prove to themselves that they matter, because they don’t internally believe it. Arrogant individuals often need to prove to themselves that they matter, and need to show evidence to themselves out there in the world, reinforcing their sense of self-worth.
  • Do you feel a calm about your status in the world, with your co-workers or in your personal life? What you may be feeling, and putting out into the world, is a sense of confidence, rather than arrogance, since it comes from a place of high self-esteem.

  • Do you take constructive feedback well, or with difficulty? If you receive feedback well and have the ability to respond calmly rather than project over-confidence, you are likely showing confidence, rather than arrogance.

  • Do your team members and friends come to you for advice and guidance on how to make decisions? This likely comes as a result of a confidence you have about how to go about the world. If you uplift them, you probably are doing so from a place of confidence.

  • Do you feel a strong need for validation from people around you? It is possible this is resulting in a certain amount of meekness, as perceived by others, or arrogance. If your life feels as if it is uncertain, resulting in anxiety or fear, you might be trying to overcompensate.

  • Finally, what is the consensus of your entire team or circle of friends? Are they willing to give you feedback candidly? Can you even receive that feedback without producing a strong reaction, or feeling one in your body and brain? As you gather more and more people to talk about this with, you’re going to get a more full view than if you only asked one dimension of your social circle, such as if you only asked your work environment or the people in your personal life.

How taking feedback can help

In many of the examples above, it is so clear that what we really need to do to stay in the realm of confidence is to learn from the outside world, either by observation or direct requests for feedback. In doing this, you can develop a constant, effective course correction that will bring you to the place which is most effective - neither meek, nor arrogant, but instead, with a strong, relaxed sense of confidence.


The internal compass of respecting others

Your internal compass is a difficult mechanism to trust. Are you respecting others, or are you being too gentle? Are you being confident, or coming off cocky?

When in doubt, take a moment to do some introspection and see whether you are treating others with respect when engaging with them. Respect, of course, is both an internal feeling you feel you have, but it is also a perception of you, so be sure to consider the other’s position in your consideration.

If you feel you are speaking, and acting, from a place of mutual respect, then you’re likely in a place of confidence. Keep it up!

Why confidence matters so much

The difference in results someone gets from projecting high confidence in the world is so astounding that if it were a pill, you wouldn’t even believe its effects. People that project the inner calm they feel into the world produce more business results. Those that hold a positive self image are more compelling friends, and better partners in times of trouble. They are more effective team players than those without it. They even get more results when speaking to customer service people! They get all of this without even breaking a sweat.

The opposite is also true. When someone gives off an aura of narcissism, they make others doubt them without even knowing they’re doing so. They get less dates, and get invited to less parties. They produce a vibe that is more difficult to get along with. They refuse to let minor issues go. No matter which way you slice it, arrogance comes off as the less effective cousin of confidence, and since human nature isn’t changing anytime soon, it’s likely to be the same throughout your whole life.

The arrogant leader stereotype

On social media it is so easy to look and see stereotypes of all of these business leaders, regarding them as too self-serious and having an exaggerated sense of who they really are. In reality these people are just like you and I, and in a world where everything is transparent, it’s simple to see beyond their facade of perfection.

If you search what you, yourself, believe, you’ll discover that the type of leader you and your team want to follow is someone who is self-effacing, works hard and is able to drive performance without having to resort to scare tactics or intimidation.

Having been a CEO now for many years and been around leaders of all types, I believe I can say with confidence that the calm, peaceful leader is a much more effective one than the bull-headed hard charging alpha male of days past. Leadership and effectiveness come in all shapes and sizes, and recognizing this is the first step in ensuring that you are able to both feel, and project confidence without crossing the line.

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