I recently came across the question: What is the difference between confidence and arrogance? Without giving much thought to the exact definition of each word, I think most of us have noticed that confidence is seen as a positive trait that people admire, while arrogance is seen as a negative trait that turns many people off.
According to Dictionary.com, confidence is defined as:
- belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance
According to the same source, arrogance is defined as:
- offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride
If you look closely at the definition of confidence, it appears to be something that is felt within the individual to whom the term is applied. It is their personal belief in their ability.
If you look closely at the definition of arrogance, you can see something else happening. It includes the opinion of an observer. For it to be an “offensive display”, it must be offensive to someone else. It would not make sense for it to be offensive to the person making the display. For the individual’s level of pride to be “overbearing”, it must be experienced that way by someone else.
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
This question immediately brought to mind world-famous soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo as the perfect example for working through this distinction. As a three time winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or, he has been able to refer to himself as the best player in the world with complete confidence. However, he is one of those professional athletes that people either love or hate, or love to hate, and he is often referred to as arrogant.
I think many people who reach the pinnacle of their profession do so because they are very passionate people, and they bring that passion to their performance. It will naturally follow then that during certain moments, for our present example, when Cristiano Ronaldo scores, we will see an explosive display of this passion. And we often do. It is during these moments that he is thought to appear the most arrogant, and has subsequently been deemed an arrogant person.
I think what people forget though, is that when Cristiano Ronaldo is on the field, he is at work. He is working. He is focused, he is determined, and he is not overly concerned about how he might appear to others. I think that is as it should be. That is a big part of what makes him successful. He works hard, he believes in his ability with absolute confidence, and he’s excited and proud when he achieves the positive outcomes of his drive, dedication and persistence.
Does anyone every consider if he continues to behave like this when he is not in the role of “soccer player”, and instead is in the role of “friend”, “father”, “son”, “brother”, “diner”, “patron”, “customer”, etcetera. It would be quite absurd if he did. I find it highly unlikely.
Does anyone ever consider how often he cries when his vast ambition is thwarted or even awarded? We see the same level of emotion as when he scores, but the tears suggest emotions that are completely inconsistent with arrogance. We do not expect to see arrogant people crying in public. I would assume that a person with an unassailable “offensive sense of superiority” and “overbearing pride” would be unperturbed by defeat or high honors.
We all behave differently when we’re in our different roles. We behave differently at work than we do with our children, and different still with our spouse, and different yet again with our friends.
I note in general, there is a tendency among the masses to want to find flaws in celebrities. Stories and pictures of celebrities looking bad or messing up in some way are regularly brought to our immediate attention. And they are regularly read, talked about, and often worst of all for the celebrity, never forgotten. We do this with certain coworkers, friends, and family members as well. What does it say about us that we get a secret, or sometimes not so secret satisfaction when others fail in some way? What does it say about us that we so frequently choose to ignore a person’s redeeming qualities?
What others say about you is their reality, not yours.
If only someone took the time to really think about their assumptions before committing to them, they would find an entirely different story.
Again, using our present example, Cristiano Ronaldo is known to be fun-loving and kind. He appears to be a true team-player, and his dedication to practice is admired by his coaches. He is a devoted father to his son and is very family oriented in general. He is known to write encouraging letters to children, to fight the crowd to ensure that a child rather than an adult will receive his jersey after the game. One has to merely look to find endless examples of a softer side to this player.
And I believe that this is true for anyone. As humans, we all possess the potential to be temperamental at times, to be self-absorbed, to be insensitive to others, and to be arrogant. We also all possess the potential to be patient, selfless, and compassionate. No one is completely arrogant just as no one is completely perfect. Forgetting this, and assigning permanent labels to people limits the extent to which you can see humanity in this world. And that is a shame because humanity is one of the world’s most beautiful aspects. We are all more alike than we are different, and we’re all on the same team. Fundamentally, we all just want and deserve to be happy. When we remember these facts everyone becomes a lot more likable.