Nov 24, 2014

Applied Arrogance - A Lesson in Self Love

I feel like I've written about this before, but I couldn't find a post about it, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself.

Arrogance is bad, right?  We all despise the arrogant jerks who parade their accomplishments and/or good luck in front of us.  But what if they didn't parade it?

How would you define arrogance?  I'd probably say something like, "to think highly of oneself."  But, wait.  That's pretty much the same as the definition of confidence.

I know there's a difference, but it can be a fine line.  Confidence - to be appreciate your own good qualities and be comfortable with your own capabilities.  Arrogance - to cross over some imaginary line where you enjoy those same things more than other people want you to.

What if arrogance could be a good thing?  My primary complaints with arrogant people is the way they let me know they're better than me.  But what if they didn't?  What if I thought I was the most amazing product of humanity ever and I just didn't tell anyone about it?

Here's where the word "applied" becomes important.  I think it's ok to be arrogant in some situations.  I think confidence is limiting because you have to worry about being over-confident, or crossing the line into arrogance.

What if you just stopped worrying about what level to which you enjoyed your own attributes?  What if you never asked yourself, "Am I really as good as I think I am?"  What if you checked yourself out in the mirror every day, gave yourself a wink and said to yourself, "Hey, good-looking."  And most importantly, what if you never shared it with anyone else?  Wouldn't it be kind of awesome?  And how could anyone accuse you of arrogance when it's only going inside your own mind?

Now, the danger here is losing sight of what you're actually capable of.  You don't want to promise to complete a project you have no idea how to do.  But I think most of us are far more likely to turn down a project because we don't know how to do it when we are perfectly capable of learning how and figuring it out, than overestimating our potential.

I've read stories about successful people who said yes instead of no, relying on their own capabilities to pick up the skills they needed and were not already in possession of.  So are they confident or arrogant?

So I guess when I say "applied arrogance" it could also be termed "unfettered confidence."  Certain things - like how attractive you find yourself - are never going to be a detriment, no matter how highly you rate yourself.  Other things are more important to maintain some balance - you can't start saying you possess a technical skill that you don't, but I'll bet that even in the arena of work tasks, if you were to start estimating your abilities higher, you'd find a way to meet that expectation.  You might even surprise yourself.

I'd like to take a moment to address women, specifically.  In Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk, she mentions studying with her (female) roommate and brother for a test.  She and her roommate studied hard, and they guessed that they would get B's or lower.  Her brother hardly touched his textbooks but when asked what grade he thought he'd score, he said "A."

Obviously that's an extreme case, and one where the overconfidence was probably unmerited, but Sandberg goes on to explain that women typically underestimate what they're capable of, while men typically overestimate.  This also means men are more likely to reach for opportunities than women, because they feel more confident and, in some cases, overconfident or arrogant in their abilities to achieve it.

I don't want to turn this into a gender discussion (although it is interesting and I've talked about it before), but I guess the point I'm making is there is a good chance (especially for my primarily female readership) that you're underestimating your abilities and even with some applied arrogance aren't likely to exceed them to the point of incompetence.  And in your other aspects of life: self image, social situations, taking pride in your accomplishments, it would be very difficult to take that arrogance to a level that would actually be damaging to you in any way.

As long as you don't tell everyone how awesome you are, they'll just perceive you as "confident" and you can think whatever you like inside your own mind.  It'll be our little secret.

Do you enjoy your own awesomeness?  What's your definition of arrogance?

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