A rather fine line exists between arrogance and self-confidence, separated only by empathy. An arrogant person feels they must assert their ego always to feel superior, while a self-confident person knows their worth without having to prove it. Arrogance points to low self-esteem because you feel threatened by other people and believe you must defend yourself. Confident people don’t have anything to show because they know their value.
“Confidence is when you believe in yourself and your abilities, arrogance is when you think you are better than others and act accordingly. You could say that arrogance is false confidence and that the person displaying it is overcompensating for their inner inadequacies.” ― Stewart Stafford
As the quote above says, a person who displays arrogance often overestimates their abilities or personality. A person with self-confidence presents a neutral approach, having neither a superiority nor inferiority complex. Below, we’ll go over a few more differences in the two, so you can better recognize the characteristics in yourself and others.
Here are the significant differences between self-confidence and arrogance:
Arrogant people have hidden insecurities while confident people feel self-assured.
Prideful people have to overcompensate for their lack of inner peace and confidence. Self-assured people, however, feel capable of doing anything that comes their way. Confident people don’t view others as a threat, instead choosing to use their power to benefit others. Arrogant people feel they have to dominate others because they have doubts about their abilities.
Science proves that arrogant people tend to feel shame more often than self-confident people, so perhaps they have to cover up their feelings by dominating others.
Self-confident people have more agreeable personality traits.
Psychologists Jessica Tracy and Richard Robins performed research into the origins and purpose of pride. For their study, they asked people to come up with words that they associated with pride and found two distinct clusters of words. People linked positive characteristics of pride with labels such as accomplishment and confidence. However, they associated negative traits of pride with words like self-aggrandizement, arrogance, and conceit.
Take a look at their research.
From their research, the psychologists believe that pride can fall into two different categories. They call them “authentic” pride and “hubristic” pride. When they studied people who displayed either of the two forms of vanity, they found distinct personality traits associated with each type. For example, those with authentic pride tended to score high on appealing, positive qualities such as extroversion, agreeableness, genuine self-esteem, and conscientiousness. In other words, they showed empathy for others and a more exceptional ability to adapt to a group.
However, those with hubristic pride showed higher tendencies toward narcissism and shame. These traits may mean that the person doesn’t feel confident with themselves, so they must overcompensate for their insecurities somehow. Usually, this involves dismissing others’ feelings or showing off to receive praise.
Researchers believe people initially displayed pride or confidence to achieve social status and acceptance in a tribe. In some ways, this guaranteed their survival as the group depended on them for specific skills. Pride motivated early humans to act in the best interest of their group to increase the likelihood of survival. Plus, it showed the group that the person deserved respect and reinforced good behavior.
However, they believe negative pride came from those in a group who couldn’t earn respect in an old-fashioned way. Because they lacked certain traits that gained the attention of the group, they had to figure out other ways to assert dominance.
Self-confident people believe in treating everyone equally, while arrogant people only think about themselves.
A psychological study done on 565 Dutch children between ages 7 and 11 by the University of Amsterdam and Ohio State University demonstrated that kids showed more narcissism when their parents repeatedly told them they’re “special.” Parents who overvalue their children risk creating arrogant, entitled adults, according to the researchers. In turn, this creates children who think less of others and more about themselves, which reinforces arrogance.
The study found that children with more agreeable traits had parents who told them they were just as good as others, but not better. The parents tended to focus more on love and acceptance instead of continually giving their children praise and special treatment.
Self-confidence shows inner peace, while arrogance means living in fear.
People who show arrogance live in fear because they feel they need to protect their fragile egos. Those with self-confidence don’t have to defend themselves because they feel secure and see others as extensions of themselves. Self-confident people show better self-control, and therefore, don’t need to control others. Arrogant people have to dominate others because they lack internal control and wisdom.
Self-confident people believe in working hard, while arrogant people want easy opportunities.
The two psychologists discussed above found that the people who felt positive, achievement-oriented feelings of pride showed more engagement in life. They also viewed hard work as a critical factor in their success, while people with hubristic pride believed success came from sheer luck. Therefore, they tend to look for easy ways to come out on top rather than working hard for success.
Self-assured people believe in teamwork, while arrogant people want to do everything themselves.
Self-confident people tend to have more agreeable traits, which means they do better working with a team. Arrogant people believe they can do everything better than others and don’t want anyone’s help. Those who display pride take all the credit for the work, even if others put in most of the effort. Confident people, however, recognize the efforts of their team and praise them accordingly.
Confident people know their strengths and weaknesses, while arrogant people have little self-knowledge.
People who show confidence have genuine self-esteem, which comes from spending many hours in introspection and self-analyzation. Arrogant people believe they know everything already and have a closed mindset toward new knowledge. However, they don’t know as much as they let on, so they have to defend themselves continually. They don’t seem especially interested in getting to know their weaknesses because they don’t believe they have any.
Self-confident people handle constructive criticism well while arrogant people brush it off.
One of the key factors differentiating self-confidence and arrogance lies in one’s ability to handle criticism. If you notice that someone gets defensive or angry at suggestions from others, they likely have low self-esteem. Therefore, they have to act tough to compensate. Those who have high self-esteem and great confidence have an open mindset and want to know how they can improve themselves.
Confident people invite others to criticize them so they know their faults and can adjust their behavior accordingly.
Self-confident people don’t feel they need to impress others while arrogant people always do.
Notice how people behave in a group: do they act loud and boisterous or quiet and engaging? Those who speak the loudest and never stop talking usually have the lowest confidence. To stand out and assert dominance, they have to talk over others and show off consistently. However, those with genuine confidence don’t feel the need to gain the attention of others because they feel comfortable with themselves. They enjoy relaxed conversation and usually listen more than they talk.
Confident people have a quiet assuredness about them that attracts other people effortlessly. Prideful people must dominate a group to get attention.
How to become more confident
If you don’t naturally feel confident, you can learn how to cultivate it with some simple habits such as the ones below from Joan Rosenberg, Ph.D.:
- Acknowledge your feelings and believe in your emotional strength. Even if you don’t feel confident now, you can work on your self-image and build yourself up. Don’t give in to the unpleasant feelings, however. Instead, simply feel them and allow them to move through you without getting attached to them.
- Speak your truth, even if it’s unpopular. Another way to build confidence is to say what you feel in a polite, respectful way. Don’t let yourself become a doormat.
- Take action. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in self-pity. Work toward your goals and believe you have what it takes to achieve them.
- Speak positively about yourself. End negative self-talk, because your thoughts form your reality every second of every day. Choose loving thoughts toward yourself, and accept compliments graciously from others.
As you can see, arrogance and confidence don’t have much in common. While they may appear very similar, they have substantial underlying differences because they stem from opposite emotions. Confidence comes from love, while arrogance results from fear. Self-confidence creates bridges, while arrogance lives on an island all alone, refusing to see the interdependence of humans.