I’d like to think I work hard for everything I get — but I’m not sure if that’s entirely true. I study for tests, I go to swim practice, I do my chores but I also skip out on homework for TV and am a gold-medalist in procrastination. Where does the ability to do that come from? Some would say arrogance; but I say confidence. The question is: are they opposites or interchangeable?
Drawing a line between the two is a long and complicated process. I have always felt they were simply manifestations of each other but as I began to think more about it I wondered if that could be true. Why was confidence so valued and arrogance consider so worthless?
To begin, I conducted an admittedly unscientific Facebook survey asking two questions: “Do you consider yourself arrogant?” and “Do you know someone who you would consider arrogant?”
I found that less that 30 percent of the Palo Alto High School students believes they are arrogant while 99 percent believes they know someone who is. To be honest, this is not what I was expecting. Thirty percent more people believe they are arrogant than I anticipated.
I turned to the Internet to answer my question and found an abundance of blog post and articles from psychology magazines and stay-at-home-moms alike.
Leisa A. Bailey posted a article in 2012 entitled “The Difference Between Confidence and Arrogance.” After explaining the importance of self confidence and the separation of confident people and arrogant people, Bailey writes:
“Confidence and arrogance come from different sources. Arrogance is rooted in insecurity — a defense from feelings of weakness that are unacceptable and unclaimed.”
Bailey goes on to explain her view that an arrogant person generally has a skewed view of the world and a warped understanding of themselves. A confident person can accept their weaknesses or faults with grace, even though they may not like them.
The idea that arrogance and confidence come from different sources had occurred to me, but it never made much of an impression. How could two things so similar stem from different foundations?
I kept looking and found the blog of professional keynote speaker and emcee, Michele Cushatt, who uses her blog to reflect on her life and her family. Cushatt concludes:
“Arrogance repels. Confidence, on the other hand, attracts. Like a fulcrum centered between two distasteful extremes, confidence keeps a person grounded and draws other people in. It provides a sense of safety, for self and others. It inspires, encourages, challenges, and leads.”
While this post speaks to the philosophical grandmother in me – what’s a leader without arrogance? How can a person truly see themselves a capable of leading and accomplishing without a bit of arrogance, or at least the idea that they belong in a rank above others? By the definition of arrogance that I had been operating under — snarky, cocky, overly confident — I didn’t understand. It occurred to be that didn’t really know what other people thought arrogance was.
In the midst of research citations and words longer than I had ever seen, one sentence stuck out at me:
“Recent studies have found that trait authentic pride is uniquely associated with the attainment of skill-based status, prestige, whereas trait hubristic pride is uniquely associated with the attainment of the farce-based status, dominance.” said Jessica L. Tracy a & Christine Prehn in their 2012 paper “Arrogant or self-confident? The use of contextual knowledge to differentiate hubristic and authentic pride from a single nonverbal expression”
That was the definition I was looking for. Precise and scientific version of what numerous psychologists and stay-at-home moms had been trying to tell me from the start.
I found the answer. Now all I had to do was figure out what it meant. I kept reading and started thinking about why we need confidence.
“Self-confidence is a wonderful asset. It allows us to get past fears and doubts and take control of life and decisions,” self-confidence life coach Suzanne Fetting said. “Confidence is the foundation for everything in life and it is our confidence, or lack of, that directly affects how we do everything in life. When we know and appreciate who we are, we feel great about ourselves and we make better choices and better decisions.”
This explains why everyone is arrogant in the eyes of everyone else as indicated by my survey.
I’ve come to the conclusion: We all need confidence and we don’t need arrogance. It’s hard to tell them apart, and in all honesty, that’s okay. We need confidence every day, and sometimes that’s arrogance but usually it’s confidence. We need confidence to give a presentation or take a test, we need it to perform in a recital or play in a game.
If you take anything from this article, take what Experience project (a free social networking website of online communities premised on connecting people through shared life experiences) member under the screen name “Sergs” posted on Feb. 19:
“With self confidence you just do. With arrogance you do and then you talk about it talk about it talk about it talk about it talk about it.”