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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

The Secret to Being Confident (Without Being Arrogant)

Arrogance. It’s the thing that separates the can-dos from the can-do-way-better-singlehandedly-with-my-eyes-closeds, and it’s the quality that rubs you up the wrong way faster than an amorous Edward Scissorhands.

Common perception is that there’s a fine line between being confident and being arrogant, but in fact the gap between them is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

I’m keen for you to walk on the right side of that gap, so here are some simple ideas to help that along.

You Don’t Need to Fake It

Fake it ’til you make it, they tell us, and I couldn’t disagree more.

People who are trying hard to come across as confident, for example, can mistakenly behave arrogantly simply because they haven’t figured out what real confidence is or what it means to them. They’ll talk over someone in a meeting, because that’s what they think confident people do. They’ll voice an opinion without thinking about its impact, because they think confident people make themselves heard. And they’ll steamroll their view forward, because confident people stick to their guns.

That’s BS, of course. Pretending to be confident sees you trying to live up to a heap of half-brained notions of what confidence might be, without ever asking yourself what real, natural confidence looks like for you.

You don’t need to fake confidence, you already have it. It’s there in the times when you’re at your best, the times when you’ve felt most like you, and the times when you felt like everything was flowing. Get to know what that feels like, and you’ll be good to go.

You Don’t Have to Be the Best

I have a confession to make. There have been times when someone’s screwed up or dropped the ball when I’ve been known to say, “Yet another reason why I should run everything.”

The thought that I could have done it better, faster, or with less of the smelly stuff hitting the fan led me to a place of hubris, where I elevated myself to a place of peerless effectiveness and achievement. Here’s the thing, though: I’m good, but I’m not that good, and the simple acknowledgment that other people are way better than me is a strikingly important one.

There will always be someone who’s more experienced than you or more naturally talented than you, but here’s the thing that the arrogant folk don’t get: In no way does that fact diminish your experience, your talents, and your value.

Confident people, on the other hand, are always be ready to see the best in others, and know that doing so isn’t a judgement about them.

You Don’t Need to Hide

Being really seen is a thought that strikes terror into many of us, and we build walls to avoid being vulnerable and to protect ourselves.

The arrogant decorate those walls and use bluff and bluster to try to persuade people that how those walls are painted are who they really are. They prefer to pull the wool over people’s eyes rather than own up to a mistake, they tell stories and point fingers to paper over their own cracks, and they are happy to dodge responsibility until it’s time to claim a victory.

This bluff and bluster is nothing more than hiding behind an edifice of effectiveness out of fear that they’ll be truly seen.

In this way, it’s sometimes the people with the highest opinion of themselves are often the ones with the lowest self-esteem.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that confidence is the foundation that makes it okay to be vulnerable. It’s the layer of self-trust that allows you to take a few bricks out of that wall and know you’ll be okay, to really show up and to show others who you are.

Real, natural confidence is trust rather than second-guessing. It’s congruity rather than compartmentalization. It’s ease rather than resistance.

Arrogance and confidence are worlds apart.

Make sure you know the difference.

Photo of confident man courtesy of Shutterstock.