I was on the phone the other day with a guy I actually look up to. He’s a good two decades older than I am, and he’s built a great business, he’s raised a wonderful family, and he has a great outlook on life.
We were talking about manhood and things along those lines, then confidence.
It’s not from building some great-looking body – on some level that’s a tad feminine. The male body is something use to do something, it’s utility, not something to show off like a lady on a runway.
It’s not even necessarily from earning a lot of money, though that plays a bigger role than the physique, not necessarily because of the money itself, however, but because of the path to get it.
The path, the obstacles overcome, the battles won, the difficulties we conquer, that’s how we both found true, deep confidence.
The Greater the Difficulty, the Greater the Confidence Won
Climbing a mountain gives you confidence. Lifting a big, heavy weight gives you confidence. Beating up an opponent in the ring, and especially an opponent you thought was better than you, gives you real confidence.
It’s the dark moments in life, where our backs are against the wall, where we’re that close to giving up, that are the greatest opportunities to acquire confidence.
When we defeat our demons, slay our dragons, do what we really didn’t think we could do, we become something different, better than we were.
We were the guy with self-doubt. We were the guy who slouched a bit when he walked. We were the guy who compared himself to others, who wished he was someone else or something else.
After that very difficult victory, however, no obstacle seems too big, no pit too deep, no event too drastic.
We become invincible, but humble at the same time.
Our Greatest Trials Produce Our Greatest Self
‘Our greatest self’ sounds cheesy.
Google ‘self help’ and you’ll find a lot of nonsense about ‘creating your greatest self’ through positive thinking and humming and hawing and yada yada yada.
We know it’s a lie.
You don’t magically become your greatest self, you have to earn it.
It’s earned by struggling well. It’s earned by conquering an obstacle, defeating a foe.
It’s the man who’s been through the most, faced the greatest obstacles and both survived and won, that will have the most confidence.
I’m new to hunting but I’ve been out enough to feel peace in nature, even where wolf tracks are crossed and grizzly tracks are spotted.
I bring out a buddy who’s never been out there and there’s an uneasiness, especially when we see fresh wolf piss and I want to follow the tracks just to finally see a wolf in the wild.
It’s the same when I go with a buddy who’s been hunting his entire life. He’s been through it. He knows he can both handle it and – maybe more importantly – he’s keenly aware of the incredible amount of work that hunting in the mountains involves.
There’s confidence and humility.
Confidence Without Humility Isn’t Truly Confidence
That’s why confidence is won through struggle and trial. You know you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to, that you can endure whatever’s being placed on your shoulders, but you also know that it’s going to take a ton of work and likely more and more failure to finally be where you want to be, with the head of the enemy in your hand.
Arrogance is confidence without the knowledge of the difficulties that lie ahead.
Arrogance will lead to failure, to you quitting if you don’t change.
Seek Struggle, Don’t Avoid It
You want real confidence?
You want to feel like a king, a conqueror, a warrior?
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Confidence is often mistaken for arrogance. Can someone who doesn’t want to bow down to socially imposed norms of behavior be considered arrogant? Or do they simply know what they want, who they are, and refuse to adopt norms preached by the majority?
The line that separates arrogance and confidence is a fine one, even though they are in reality polar opposites. They can be viewed as the positive and negative poles of a magnet. Crossing that fine line (or even appearing to cross it) can have different consequences in a variety of personal and professional situations.
Arrogance vs. Confidence
One of the universal truths in life is that everything is in the eye of the beholder. Whether someone is arrogant or confident depends on our subjective experience and judgment. It is also a culturally sensitive matter, but in the end – the foundations you build your attitude on are the key differentiators between arrogance and confidence.
Arrogance is baseless, unwarranted confidence which lacks humility and respect, while confidence has its basis in expertise and experience, with a sense of humility and respect. The fact that the difference is not black and white makes it prone to different interpretations. It is a wide spectrum with dominating shades of grey.
However, you can always tell when someone has trespassed across the line. Take the example of someone who is really good at what they do. Insanely good. And they can either choose to be arrogant or confident about it. If they choose to accept compliments with grace and freely acknowledge that they have a masterful grasp of a certain skill, they can be considered confident. If they choose to brag about their achievements and belittle others, only to raise themselves even higher, they have clearly strayed into the fields of arrogance.
Another aspect which can often be interrelated with arrogance is ignorance. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, information, education or understanding. We can define arrogance as a sense of one’s abilities or importance that is exaggerated, making one believe to be better than others.
Who Are the Confident Ones?
Confident people are aware of their value and worth, but are also humble and realistic enough to know and accept their weaknesses. Confidence is something internal, but it has a way of rearing its head and is visible to the external surroundings. Knowing where you can crack doesn’t make you less of anything, but rather puts you in a position of knowing what you should pay attention to the most, as well as which aspect of your existence require lifestyle changes and improvement.
To relate to Emerson’s quote from the beginning, confident people know what they want and where they are going, but more importantly – they don’t need the approval of others to live their life in accordance with their own beliefs, not needing to justify their actions and deeds to society at large, but that doesn’t make them rogues or villains in any way. They have determined their own goals and strive to reach them.
Confident people don’t hesitate to share their knowledge. They know that sharing it won’t make them any poorer for it, but will only enrich their interlocutors. Criticism is welcomed with efforts to analyze it from various aspects and implement smart pieces of advice and wisdom into their own mode of living.
Positive people are repelled by the arrogance of others. It hinders progress and is detested in a conversation as it is disrupting of any type of collaborative environment and breaks down trust.
On the other hand, confidence is a magnet because it attracts positive people and promotes progress. In case you have troubles in recognizing whether you are perceived as confident or arrogant by others, ask a family member or a close friend to speak honestly on the subject. It is sometimes hard to gauge how other people see us, because our self-perceptions get implanted in us before we have a say on the subject. We can improve our weaknesses or find our hidden strengths by learning to change how we see ourselves.
Arrogant people have a constant need to brag about themselves and point out how they are the most handsome and agile, the smartest and best individuals that have ever laid foot on this planet. Thus, it is pretty easy to spot them, because they will always perceive themselves as “their own majesty”, no matter if they come in last. Arrogance is not a flaw inherent to only those who have the goods to back up their arrogant ways. In fact, it is often true that those who are indeed an arms length away from the rest of the pack, are those who are most humble and most insecure.
Even if you are in fact the best at what you do, if you have the need to constantly blow your own horn and fashion your own laurels – you will only be taking yourself a peg down. No one likes a showoff.
Criticism is to arrogant people what garlic is to vampires. If they don’t detest it, they find it hard to swallow in the best of cases. It makes them erupt at it and will never admit their wrongs, but engage in counter-attack aimed at those who try to teach them. Criticism reveals their insecurities. However, instead of accepting criticism and trying to use it as a leverage for personal improvement, arrogant people actually never think of bettering themselves but to stand tall on other people’s backs.
This is a construction process that requires time and patience. As well as a lot of different bricks and a fair amount of mortar. Here’s how you can set yourself off on the road to becoming more confident in yourself, yet not assuming the learning mask of arrogance.
– Mind your manners. Pleasure lies in selflessness. Be a gentleman, say “please” and “thank you”, and never jump into the middle of people’s sentences. Open doors, hold up coats and pour drinks. Turn this into a state of mind and let it be a reflection of your own personal philosophy.
– Read. There are no rules about what you should read whatsoever. Read anything you like, whether it’s classic literature, modern bestsellers, or Hegelian philosophy. Reading is beneficial in many ways, and will help you expand your vocabulary, improve your memory, strengthen your analytical skills. Improve your cognitive performance by regularly solving a crossword puzzle in the papers. Don’t be afraid to tackle the New York Times on a Sunday.
– Physical fitness. Work on improving your appearance, because it will also contribute to sharpening your mind. You don’t have to work out to become Mike Tyson, but to feel better in your own skin. Once those endorphins get released into your bloodstream and your posture gets improved, your confidence will slowly start to show.
– Smart use of technology. You want to learn a foreign language? Install Duolingo. Don’t know how to adjust your fitness routine and nutrition? Use Daily Yoga, Fooducate, or Sworkit. Human inventiveness goes far beyond Netflix and Pokemon Go.
– Dress well. Knowing that we look our best can boost our confidence in an instant, and affect people’s perception of us as well. This doesn’t mean you should wear a suit, but find your own style that fits your personality, career, personality, and of course, your pocket.
The Opposing Powers of Magnetism
Fire can provide heat during the cold days, but it can also burn down your house. Magnetism can generate electricity, but also destroy your computer’s hard drive. In a similar way, confidence creates while arrogance destroys, but the downside is that destructive forces can destroy anything in just the blink of an eye, while it takes time to build something of value. It is beautiful to see people are able to carry their confidence with respect and humility. It shows their passion, purpose, strength of character, and determination. When someone is able to walk that fine line between arrogance and confidence, it is precious and rare, because it is very challenging. I know that chivalry may be dead to all the world, and it may not even be considered a quality worth having – but you don’t need to be falling in with the crowd.
Finding that kind of balance requires digging deep within yourself in order to get to know your true self, and it is one of the most difficult challenges that we, as human beings, face in our lifetime. Finding that person, accepting it for who it truly is with all the irritations and limitations that come with it is something that no one manages to do completely, but that’s exactly what stands behind the “we live what we learn, then learn what we live” saying.
Maybe you think you’re great, but do you have anything to show for it? Confidence is achieved through hard work and dedication, so if you’re finding you have to defend yourself against criticism and protect the beautiful picture of yourself that you’ve constructed, but don’t have anything to back it up with, ask yourself: could it be that I have lost my map and am now trudging deep in the valley of arrogance?
About The Author
Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and has spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for a better life.