A large portion of my life is spent either on a stage, prepping for a stage, or working with those who make their living on a stage. Whether the medium is speaking or writing, my world is a public one.

After spending years in this arena, however, I’ve discovered the spotlight grows arrogance like the sun grows grass. Hardly a week passes when I don’t encounter someone (online or in person) who reeks of self-importance. I’ve always had a sensitive sniffer, and the stench of arrogance can turn my nose up in a split second.

About as quickly as I mutter my displeasure, I’m struck with a horrible thought: What if I stink just as bad? What if my attitude and responses are polluted by a rotten root of arrogance within? Quite often Arrogance is the last person to see herself clearly.

More often than not, I struggle with a thread of insecurity. And so I attempt to reassure myself: Arrogance and insecurity can’t coexist, can they? Yes, they can. In fact, arrogance is often an attempt to mask an acute awareness of weakness. Self-deprecation is its own form of self-consumption. Whether I’m glossing myself or mourning my failures, I’m still making it all about me.

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, leads. One definition describes confidence this way:

The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust. The state of feeling certain about the truth of something.

A person of confidence knows where she stands. She isn’t compelled to carry “look at me!’ signs and brag about her position or strengths. She is simply aware of both, grateful for her gifts, and determined to use them to the best of her ability.

The line between confidence and arrogance often appears thin, but the canyon between the two is significant. How can you recognize the difference?

  • Posture. Arrogance carries himself with a telltale swagger. He carries his own spotlight and shows off as often as possible. He’s aggressive and difficult to approach, even as he’s vying for attention. Confidence walks tall, assured, but far less domineering. He is approachable, adopting an open and easy posture. No flashy signs or side-show are needed. Being himself is enough.
  • Conversation. Arrogance spends more time bragging and less time inquiring, more time talking and less time listening. He doesn’t ask many questions, because he can’t afford to lose any ground. Confidence inquires and then listens. He doesn’t get defensive at differing responses or feel compelled to disagree or respond. He’s certain of what he believes, but is open enough to allow for the opinions and exploration of others.
  • Relationships. The difference between confidence and arrogance might be most noticeable in relationships. Arrogance brags and then belittles, puffs up self while deflating others. Arrogance feels threatened by others’ success, and often turns it into a competition. Confidence is aware of both his strengths and weaknesses. He also allows for the strengths and weaknesses of others. He is unafraid to celebrate the success of others, as well as his own. This makes him easy to be around.
  • History. Arrogance promises the moon, but typically delivers nothing but air. He boasts about his strengths, but when the time comes and his strengths are needed, he rarely shows up. If life were a poker game, Arrogance would be great at bluffing. He’s more concerned about image than true success. Confidence knows how to work hard. He lets his efforts and achievements speak for themselves. If you look at his track record, you’ll see consistency and follow through.

Confidence is a work of the heart. Like the frame of a house, it’s the solid internal support without which a person will eventually fall. Arrogance, on the other hand, is a frantic attempt to hang curtains on a frameless home. It adds color and draws attention, but it’s a poor coverup for what’s missing at heart.

What differences do you see between confidence and arrogance?

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