If you peruse the self-help aisle of a bookstore, you’ll probably come across a few titles dedicated to confidence. It seems we all want to be a little bit more assertive, motivated and self-assured as, just maybe, this will lead to a better life.
In our careers, we believe confidence will instill trust in ourselves and serve us as a means of attaining greater levels of authority. In relationships, we think confidence will help us find people who see an assertive and take control attitude as something irresistible. I can say, as a man, that I’ve been advised on more than one occasion that what “women really want” is a guy who is “assertive, self possessed, knows what he wants and goes after it.” I put that in quotes because that’s what I’ve been told, regardless of whether it’s the case or not.
For the record, I believe confidence is a good thing. I think it’s noble to become a more assertive and determined person, as long as it’s natural and unforced. I don’t think everyone can or should be this way, but self-development is admirable.
The problems is that we often conflate confidence with arrogance. Arrogance is confidence run amok. Arrogance is exceptionalism. It’s the idea that you are so incredibly gifted and unique that you are essentially better than other people and, therefore, have every right to treat others as being without inherent value and beneath your social level.
We see arrogance everyday. The six-figure imported sports car that tears down the highway and runs through red lights. The CEO who denies important benefits and concessions to their employees because they can’t see past their own ego. The politician who blatantly flouts the law because they believe they’re above it.
In some way, there’s a confidence here. But the confidence has been allowed to grow unchecked until it has become a monstrous manifestation of a monstrous ego.
Confidence builds others us.
Arrogance tears others down.
We’ve all been drawn to someone who carries themselves with confidence. I certainly have. They inspire faith and courage. They set examples and lead. They are reliable and dependable. They mean what they say. Arrogant people cannot claim any of these attributes. Arrogance blindly convinces us that it’s absolutely fine to use and abuse others since, in the arrogant mindset, no one really matters besides “ME.”
So, if you aspire to confidence, do so knowing that you will be held accountable for the trust and confidence you inspire in others. You will be a model; an exemplar of self-cultivation. Ideally, when we are confident, we do not force others to observe or believe in our own sense of importance, but inspire them to realize the importance and worth that lies within them.