I often find myself thinking about the difference between confidence and arrogance. Where exactly does the line lie? On the surface, you may think that it’s a simple distinction, but that’s the trick of it- the closer you look, the more the two seem to blur into each other. We’ll start by trying to define the two:
“Confidence is not, ‘They will like me’. Confidence instead is, ‘I’ll be fine if they don’t’.”
This is the closest to what my personal definition of confidence has always been. So many times in life, we end up caring so greatly about the thoughts of others that we end up losing ourselves in the process. The only thing that can come from losing yourself is that you’ll end up resenting those who aren’t lost, and that’s a bad way to be.
“Conceit is bragging about yourself. Confidence means you believe you can get the job done.”
This quote illustrates the distinction between the two almost perfectly- arrogance is primarily a performance for others, while confidence comes from within one’s Self.
“Confidence in others’ honesty is no light testimony of one’s own integrity.”
-Michel de Montaigne
This quote is a bit of a tangent, but the sentiment is perfect- an honest man expects honesty from others, while a dishonest man expects the opposite.
“There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.”
-John C. Maxwell
Again, we see here that confidence is primarily something concerned with the self, while arrogance comes from the insecurity of someone comparing themselves to others.
“An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – becoming a better person.”
The irony of arrogance lies with the fact that it’s a facade to cover up a lack of confidence, while confidence is something that comes from an honest appreciation of one’s own shortcomings. The arrogant man pretends he has no flaws, but the confident man is so despite his flaws.
“Confidence is when you believe in yourself and your abilities, arrogance is when you think you are better than others and act accordingly. You could say that arrogance is false confidence and that the person displaying it is overcompensating for their inner inadequacies.”
This is an excellent reiteration of the same point, and arguably the best definitions that I found in my search for quotes.
“Success can breed all kinds of other behavior and cause companies to behave a certain way that isn’t necessarily the ingredients for achieving more success. For instance, with success comes arrogance, and that’s typically the death of success.”
One important thing to note here is that it’s much easier to move from confidence to arrogance than the other way around. It’s all too common that a few victories come with the fatal feeling of invincibility- pride comes before the fall.
Now that we’ve distinguished the two, let’s expand on the subject a bit. We understand that confidence is quiet because it has nothing to prove, and arrogance is loud, because it’s the demand for external validation. Arrogance, in that sense, is one of the greatest signs of narcissism- because the narcissist has a void within them where true dignity and self-respect should be. They cover this void with a porcelain mask. While the mask is very pretty to look at, it is cracked by every slight, perceived by others or imagined by the narcissist themself. The only way to repair the cracks is to tape over them with validation from others, and this is where the arrogance is born.
“Arrogance on the part of the meritorious is even more offensive to us than the arrogance of those without merit: for merit itself is offensive.”
Nietzsche illustrates this perfectly, although he seems to have been aiming to make a slightly different point. To the insecure, narcissistic, and arrogant, any victory for another is a threat to their own self-worth- “merit itself is offensive.” Weak men loathe the success of others, while the strong man basks in it- knowing that a rising tide lifts all ships.
“Surround yourself with people who support you. Find champions.”
Perhaps the most important thing that I have learned about confidence has come from not having it. In those times when I have failed or felt myself to be lacking, I realized that I could either delude myself by imagining that I was special and superior to everyone else, or I could accept that I have room to improve and pursue that improvement constantly. This is the secret to building confidence and destroying arrogance- honesty. By knowing yourself truthfully and choosing to confront your demons and your dark side, constantly, you will not be able to fall into the trap of arrogance.
The continuous process of self-reflection that honesty brings will, time and time again, present you with new opportunities to improve- and you will be too busy working to improve yourself to be concerned with appearing superior to others. This will make you competent, and, in the words of champion gymnast and author, Dan Millman,
“Competence breeds confidence.”
Now go breed some confidence.