Self-confidence versus Arrogance


  • Self-confidence is believing that you can do it and arrogance is believing that you can do it better. Arrogance is about comparison with others.
  • We categorise someone’s positive statements about themselves as arrogant depending on our unconscious beliefs about how people should or shouldn’t express themselves. Being uncomfortable with someone’s self-confidence has more to do with our own comparison we make in our mind.
  • The emotion of self-confidence is an internal experience that won’t lead to actions like comparison, justification or convincing others. Instead self-confidence propels behaviour like trying, not giving up and learning from failures.

The difference between self-confidence and arrogance

Short answer. Self-confidence is not the same as being arrogant. And you’ll be able to tell in yourself and in others. Read on.

Self-confidence is believing: I can do it.

Arrogance is believing: I can do it better than you.

The biggest sign someone is coming from a place of arrogance is that there is an element of comparison. Arrogance, according to the dictionary, is having an exaggerated sense of importance. Important in and of itself is a comparative term.

What happens more often than not is we confuse self-confidence with arrogance because of our own beliefs. Beliefs that have been influenced by our parents, culture and friends.

I’m amazing.

How do you interpret that?

Here’s where our beliefs get in the way:

I’m amazing is NOT the same as I’m amazing therefore you’re not amazing.

Most people don’t go around saying “I’m amazing” but it comes across a little trickier. When someone else talks about themselves in a positive way or talks about their goals as if there’s no doubt they’re going to achieve it, when is it self-confident or arrogant?

I’m comfortable with writing. I’m good at my job. It’s going to work.

We often mistake statements like these as arrogant even though it’s coming from self-confidence. Often due to our unconscious beliefs about how people should or shouldn’t talk about themselves.

When we hear positive statements about someone and it isn’t something we’re comfortable with, we’ll immediately categorise it as arrogance. Even when there is no comparison, we’ll create the comparison in our minds and interpret a message like:

I’m capable of this” as I’m more capable than you.

We’ll add in a comparison in our heads even when the other person hasn’t actually said those words.

It often comes from a deeply embedded belief that people shouldn’t talk about themselves this way or they’re not being modest and they should be.

If we’re not conscious of our own uncomfortability with self-confidence we can mistake someone’s self-confidence as arrogant.

Self-confidence without arrogance

It’s quite common to berate ourselves. We do this for humour and sometimes to show our humbleness. It’s less common to speak of our strengths and positive views of ourselves.

Mostly because we don’t want to be seen as arrogant.

Since self-confidence is an emotion, it’s like other emotions – we take action from it. Comparison is one of those actions that doesn’t come from feeling self-confident, instead it comes from a feeling of superiority or inferiority.

Another action that self-confidence doesn’t produce is justification.

Self-confidence is internal.

Meaning, those who feel self-confident and practice it won’t be spending time justifying their capabilities to the rest of us. Why?

Because they already believe it. When you truly 100% believe something you don’t need to talk about it, you just know it be true. I believe the earth is round but I don’t go around talking about it. I believe that I’m a good listener but I don’t talk about that with others (ironically).

Notice that when you believe something to be true, how much time do you spend telling others about it?

If we find ourselves having to convince others of our belief that we can do it and get through it no matter what, we aren’t believing nor experiencing self-confidence. We’re more likely feeling doubtful or insecure.

When we feel self-confident, our actions will look like trying, not quitting, learning from failures and less checking in with others.

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