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Self-confidence and arrogance are two completely different things

Updated on August 14, 2015

They’re being mistaken for each other far too often: self-confidence and arrogance. That’s a shame, since it causes people who radiate even a little bit more self-confidence than others deem to be necessary to have their wings slashed off by them while they need them so bad to fly. Why self-confidence and arrogance are two completely different things.

Let’s get the good old dictionary out to determine what self-confidence and arrogance actually mean. That way, we create a solid and objective base on which we can build. The term self-confidence is defined as ‘a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgment’. If we look ‘arrogance’ up, we learn that a rather lame description of the word has been used to explain its meaning: ‘the quality of being arrogant’. Alright. We will have to look up ‘arrogant’ as well, which turn out to be described as ‘having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities’. Aha. So far, there are a lot of differences between the two terms.

Why is there a link between self-confidence and arrogance?
It’s not exactly a huge challenge to find an answer to the question how it’s possible that the two terms are linked to each other despite the differences between them. In all actuality, the answer is quite simple: the moment that self-confidence is being accompanied by a condescending attitude towards others, is the moment that self-confidence makes its transition into arrogance. To give you a practical example: at work, you and a colleague have both applied for a higher position. If during your interview you get asked why you feel you’re the right candidate for said position, you would make a self-confident impression if you would point out that the things you have achieved so far have made you feel you can do this. However, should your answer consist of downplaying other candidates’ efforts and making statements that you feel you’re better than them, you can most likely forget about your promotion because of your arrogance.

From my perspective, the example I just gave was a matter of arrogance rather than self-confidence. I deliberately used the words ‘from my perspective’, since others may not share my opinion. They will ask questions like ‘but what if the person who feels that he or she is entitled to the position is truly better than all the others?’, which, in turn, I would parry by stating that even so, it doesn’t take away the condescending attitude towards others and as long as that remains the case I speak of arrogance instead of self-confidence.

Social problem
It seems evident that people have caused the definitions of self-confidence and arrogance to be left open for debate, thus enhancing the link between the two. This has created a major problem in social interaction: arrogance is being abhorred to such a degree that people have become afraid to be self-confident, fearing that they may leave an arrogant impression. We see the negative oppressing the positive in a way similar to the one the media use to systematically bring more negative than positive news. The irony of it all is that meanwhile, research has shown that 8 out of 10 people wishes to have more self-confidence.


This indicates that a lot of people considering other people’s self-confidence to be arrogance are in truth lacking confidence in their own abilities.

In order to hide this lack of self-confidence, they have, either consciously or unconsciously, decided that people who do have sufficient self-confidence are – in many cases – arrogant. Since this happens on a large scale, the self-confidence of many people is unnecessarily being lowered severely, causing many sad consequences. As such, a lot of individuals who have shown a lot of potential are being prevented from blooming and many people whose self-confidence wasn’t much to write home about to begin with get to deal with severe depressions because they have been convinced that they ‘are good for nothing’ or ‘can’t do anything’. At the same time, all of these people grow ever more susceptible to the incorrect belief that self-confidence and arrogance are one and the same, since something like self-confidence has ceased to exist in their minds. This results into a downward spiral with horrible effects on the mental well-being of our society.

Peroration: suggestions to fight this problem
I’m a big advocate of a society-wide mentality change. That being said, not only do we need to change the minds of those who consider self-confidence to be arrogance, but also the attitude of those who have lost all or the majority of their self-confidence because of other people’s criticism and condemnations. So should your own self-confidence not be at the level where you wish it was and/or should you have known yourself to quickly consider other people’s self-confidence to be arrogance, try to bring some change to your attitudes. Don’t drag another down the pit of your own negativity and try to build some belief in your own abilities instead. And to those who do (still) believe in themselves: never let this belief be taken away from you and ignore those who perceive you to be arrogant while you know you’re not (be sure to remain honest to yourself about that!).

“You make it all sound so easy, Victor, but then how on Earth can I build self-confidence?” I can hear many of you ask. Well, the answer to that question may not be as complicated as you think it would be. First of all, ask yourself who you are and what you stand for. Then, finish the sentence ‘if I would not be here anymore, then…’ and make sure you only complete it in such a way that you point out the good things to yourself which without you wouldn’t be there anymore. To give you an example: many people are noble enough to do charity work for which they don’t get paid, so if you’re among them, your efforts would have been missed. “No they wouldn’t, someone else would have done it” may be your response to that. Perhaps. Fact is and remains however that it was you who took initiative, who did not remain apathetic, who wanted to do good for our society. Regardless of what others may tell you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of that and allowing it to help you to build self-confidence!

Besides, you often don’t even have to put forth tremendous amounts of effort in order to be of significance to others. Just think of the people – regardless of how many of them there are – who would be left in deep sorrow if you wouldn’t exist anymore. All that matters, is that in the end, you realize that you do count and that your own, unique person will always leave an emptiness once the time has come that you won’t be there anymore. Even for that one, single reason there is no excuse for not having self-confidence.

“A lack of self-confidence is a lack of self-knowledge.”

- Victor Brenntice -


© 2015 Victor Brenntice


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    • Gordon Wright profile image

      Gordon Wright 2 years ago

      I'm more worried about arrogant people being perceived as self confident. They do a lot more damage to society. They rise to positions of power by their charisma and then abuse that power.

      (They're also the ones who tell self confident people that they're arrogant. They invalidate the competition.)

      I'm working on a Hub that deals with this.