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January 9, 2012

Arrogance, Humbleness, And Healthy Self Confidence

I have a very high self-esteem bordering on arrogance. Sometimes I *am* arrogant – either on purpose; as a joke or because at that point it feels more empowering than trying to be humble – or, less and less often nowadays, when it’s not appropriate for me.

During what I fondly remember as the worst year of my entire life, I had a particularly horrible school trip in which I ended up feeling like crap. In a bout of self-destructiveness, I drank almost an entire bottle of rum by myself and ended up screaming at the other people about how much smarter, wiser, and generally better I was than them. (To be fair, a lot of them rather were assholes).

I didn’t do that because I was drunk: it came out because I was drunk. Some part of me, smaller nowadays, much smaller, but not entirely eliminated, likes me to put myself above others.

Looking closer at this emotion, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a sense of arrogance at some times because I’m scared of fully embracing my full power and splendour. Probably, what I’m scared about is outshining other people and upsetting them. Or, I’m scared of talking about my splendour or admitting its existence even to myself because that just wouldn’t be modest.

But why the hell is being modest supposed to be so great? Are we supposed to all be weak and average so as not to outshine each other? I tell you, if that’s the only way we can do things on Earth the human race doesn’t have much to hope for.

I’ve had this point clear for a while so I do aim to be arrogant on purpose if I find there seems to be a choice between arrogance on the one hand or disempowering modesty on the other. I think there is a third option, though, one which I’ve been steadily pushing myself towards: being just comfortable in my own brilliance.

I’ve also noticed that tied into the whole arrogance/modesty complex is a desire not to be outshone by others. I suppose this makes for a vicious cycle because you then become the policer of modesty in others and try to get them to feel uncomfortable in their brilliance. I’ve noticed that some part of me doesn’t want to see or accept the brilliance in others. So that’s another part of what I’ve been working on.

I think the mechanism works in this way:

We try not to see something about ourselves that is brilliant because we’re scared of being (being labelled?) arrogant. We avoid seeing it, and often even change our actions so we don’t have to see it.

Or, perhaps we decide we’re okay with being arrogant or we want to be better than others. So we grasp onto our brilliant qualities, and don’t want to see anything else. We don’t want to see other people being brilliant so we might try and bring them down to protect our feeling.

Being comfortable in our brilliance is simply seeing it, recognising it, and acknowledging it. You should be able to talk about it in conversation, perhaps making a disclaimer when necessary such as “sorry if this sounds arrogant”…………. but not actually feeling sorry. You should be able to think about your brilliant quality and keep it in mind. Hell, you should be able to feel really, really good about it. I think it’s natural to be *enthusiastic* about yourself. “My God, I love myself because X. I love how good I am at this! I love this wonderful quality about myself!”

Being comfortable in your brilliance means you can feel these great feelings, but not cling to them. It also means you should be happy to help cultivate these great feelings in others. Compliment them and be enthusiastic about them.

Additionally, I think the ability to accept compliments is tied into all this. People who can’t accept compliments resist feeling this enthusiasm about their own wonderful traits. I think being able to give and receive a compliment without reservation (no downplaying it, no dodging it, no backhands, no “yeah, but”) is a very important skill to learn.

I’m glad to say I’m really good at receiving compliments now (I think I’ve always been good at giving them, I just tell people what I think, which is generally quite positive cause I’m an enthusiastic person). At first I had to force myself to say “thanks” to a compliment, even though I didn’t feel it. I slowly began to work out how to really feel thankful about it, enjoy the compliment, bask in it even. And return it 🙂


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  1. Isla Kay says:

    “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” Marianne Williamson

    I think where arrogance meets confidence is when we take too much responsibility for our brilliance. All that we have has been given to us, we’re just outlets.

  2. ryoko says:

    Arrogance also really blend well with making fun of your self , partly to down play but assertiveness of your true self too. Try it, people will just adore you who you are 🙂

  3. Andrew says:

    Well timed comment, I’m just started to learn the value of making fun of myself now. It really is good and helps compliment an “arrogant” type personality. Thanks Ryoko 🙂

  4. friedrich says:

    great article. We should be healing our arrogance into positive thing without killing it.

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