Issue 27 / Can You Tell The Difference Between Arrogance And Confidence?

Can You Tell The Difference Between Arrogance And Confidence?

Dec 13, 2015

Understanding the difference between confidence and arrogance is imperative in order to successfully navigate yourself through your professional and personal environments while cultivating inner strength and self-worth.

Whether in the workplace or with family or social circles, we all know when we come across “nose up in the air” behaviour. It can be very off putting when we experience arrogance and there is a feeling of tip toeing around it that naturally happens in meeting rooms when a colleague exhibits this behaviour. As a relations advisor, I spend a lot of time mentoring individuals to dig a little deeper about having confidence in all facets of their lives and at some point we always discuss the difference between arrogance and confidence. The two are very different. One is the work of the ego while the other is based on an inner strength and knowing of one’s true self and self-worth.

Real confidence will never integrate arrogant behaviour. Successful individuals and leaders that lead meaningful work have always led from a source of inner strength and confidence as opposed to a stubborn and unapproachable place of arrogance. In the South Asian culture, I have seen confidence misrepresented through arrogance many times in the community. This can be seen in family and social settings when individuals try to prove to each other that their life is better than the life of the others in the room or it can be seen in the professional environment when one exhibits territorialism over certain areas of work. There is a gap in the community overall in knowing the difference between confidence and arrogance.

So how does one decipher between arrogance and confidence? How do we, as a culture and society, ensure we cultivate confidence as opposed to arrogance?

Confidence is very clearly exhibited by those that have the following traits:

1. Embody humility.

Humility is the lack of false pride. It is a quality that exhibits itself naturally when an individual knows that although his or her abilities are strong, there are others that also do better and that reality is accepted gracefully. To a truly confident person, the titles and accolades do not mark success but meaningful work and good outcomes determine true joy and peace for the confident person. An arrogant individual does not embody humility and thrives on putting others down. There is a perception of being better than others.

Ron Burgundy's unmistakable arrogance.
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2. Accept criticism without feeling defeated.

This is completely all about ego. A confident individual has a healthy ego and their ego is in check when experiencing criticism. As opposed to defensiveness, the confident person hears it out and processes it to improve work and the whole self. Criticism to the confident person is seen as data collection as opposed to a breakdown of self. The confident person can admit ignorance and does not doubt his intellect. An arrogant individual on the other hand, has an ego that is impermeable and is protected at all costs. When exposed to criticism, the arrogant person has to prove rightness because being wrong is seen as a downfall of credibility. This protection of the ego doesn’t allow for real growth personally and professionally and stifles the development of the soul and self.

Feeling strong.
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3. Not threatened by the success of others.

This is where jealousy comes into play. The confident person sees other successful people in a positive light and is happy for the individual and is not left feeling less of one’s self. On the other hand, an arrogant individual feels a diminishing of self when others succeed and thrives on finding weaknesses to dismiss the success of others. Ann Bernard, known as the Confidence Builder, has dedicated her life to build confidence in others and teach individuals to follow their true calling. She simply states that “Arrogant people generate self-worth by downing others whereas confident people gain self-worth from their own accomplishments, skills and abilities."

Neil Patrick Harris exuding his character Barney Stinton's arrogance from How I Met Your Mother.
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4. Act silly without worrying about other people’s opinions.

I love when I see confident people let loose and not care about what others think. Laughing at one’s self and acting like a fool in the name of fun is a wonderful quality to have when balancing all of life’s ups and downs. The confident individual can enjoy life and be silly without worrying about any surrounding judgment. An arrogant individual feels like he needs to be confident all the time believing that people will stop taking him seriously. Who needs to live life like that? Seriously, take a breather and enjoy. Have confidence in your own self-worth and enjoy your life moments at the work place and in your personal life.

Be serious, sure, but don't forget to let go sometimes. 
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5. Allow themselves to be vulnerable.

There are calculated risks when it comes to being vulnerable. Vulnerability is key to developing your own self-confidence and it is a challenge I pose to those who are looking to developing their inner self and make meaningful connections with others. Dr. Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly explains vulnerability in all its forms and how it can develop confidence in difficult circumstances. In the work place or in life in general, a truly confident person can be vulnerable in meetings and create safe spaces for others to share thoughts and ideas in productive ways. The arrogant leader makes others feel unsafe due to guarding his own ego making it hard for others to connect and share themselves in meaningful ways.

When exposed to arrogance, my advice is to conserve your energy and become an observer rather than a reactive participant because arrogance naturally brings out negative qualities and attitudes in others. Cultivate confidence in yourself and those around you because it is truly in this way that you will follow your life calling and help others find their truest paths.

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Yvonne Sinniah


Yvonne Sinniah (@YvonneSinniah) is a Relations Advisor and inspirational speaker focusing on helping individuals achieve success in personal and professional environments.  focusing on helping individuals achieve success in personal and professional environments.  She is on a mission to meet a nee...


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