How to be confident without coming off as arrogant

Have you ever been in awe of someone who oozed confidence without a trace of arrogance? Did you find yourself wanting to spend more and more time with them? Did you wonder how you too could be so humbly confident instead of swinging wildly between unbearable arrogance and gut-wrenchingly low self-esteem?

Confidence is the meat on the bones of a healthy, balanced life. Without it, everything, from work through friendships to relationships, becomes infinitely more difficult to manage and handle appropriately.

Likewise, the appearance of arrogance can inadvertently close doors in both a work and social context, so striking that balance is vital for optimal relationships, regardless of the context.

It’s vital, therefore, to explore strategies that can help you project confidence without coming off as confident.

Understanding confidence and arrogance

The clearest way to define confidence is as having trust in oneself, believing that you are capable of what you are currently trying to do. Confident people set realistic goals instead of hoping for the unattainable, think of themselves positively, and take criticism on the chin.

Negative feedback is never the end of the world because it’s not a slight on them as a person but rather a critique of their work. They trust and back themselves, having set themselves realistic objectives that they feel they can attain.

Arrogance, on the other hand, is an attitude of superiority: you believe you are better than others and you do little to disguise that feeling. While pride isn’t a bad thing, being arrogant is unpleasant pride. You think you are more important than everyone else and you let them know it.

People treat those they perceive as arrogant with wariness and caution. Conversely, those who are confident in what they can do are given more and more responsibility as they earn the trust of their friends, loved ones, and colleagues.

Two keys to confidence: self-awareness and authenticity

Self-awareness is a vital key to being authentically confident. If you are self-aware, you can embrace who you truly are, which leads to a more authentic you.

For those with low self-esteem, it can be extremely hard to accept and embrace ourselves, but it is worth putting the time and effort into knowing and accepting yourself on your road to confidence.

If you truly understand your strengths and weaknesses and can be honest about them, people will be more willing to put their faith in you as they will find you more credible.

Likewise, self-awareness enables you to:

  • communicate honestly as you’re able to identify your own feelings and thoughts more easily. 
  • be more assertive as you recognize your needs, boundaries, and limits more easily.
  • regulate your emotions and reactions so that you can minimize outbursts when you’re feeling overwhelmed or hurt.
  • develop yourself and mature into the person you want to be as you continually learn from your numerous life experiences on a daily basis.

All of these lead to a more confident, healthier you, and as you grow and practice these habits more regularly, you’ll eventually understand yourself much better, which in turn will enhance your confidence naturally and without ego.

Signs of confidence: listening and empathy

Confident people don’t need to be the center of attention; they are happy to share the limelight with others. They don’t put themselves there; people just happen to be drawn to them.

As a result, showing you care for people and can actively listen to them – with ‘actively’ being the keyword – makes them feel valued and appreciated, which in turn leads to them trusting and valuing your input. If you feel valued and trusted, your confidence is sure to increase. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more your show you care for others, the more they will care for you.

Confident people don’t diminish others for their own glory; they push and encourage others to be better themselves. Being confident in yourself means you’re happy to put others in the limelight before yourself. Allow others to flourish and you’ll find yourself flourishing too.

Confidence in your body language

Research has shown that confidence in body language can actually help stimulate confidence. “Fake it til you make it”, as it were, is exactly the way to go.

If you use confident body language, you will find your confidence is more authentic than if you succumb to your usual posture because you will feel more confident naturally. Likewise, if you avoid eye contact and look away, you will feel how your behavior suggests you’re feeling.

So here are several ways you can improve your body language:

  • Make and maintain eye contact: not easy for everyone, but it shows that you are interested in the person you’re talking to, and it suggests you’re relaxed, even if you’re not. If eye contact is too uncomfortable, choose a point that’s close to the eyes and focus on that, as long as it’s not right in the middle of the forehead.
  • Mirror body language: keep yourself attuned to the vibe of the area you’re in. If your friends are using a lot of hand gestures, do the same; if they are relaxed on a sofa, follow their lead. This helps suggest you are paying attention to them.
  • Body posture: stand up straight and keep your chin from dropping. Many of us are self-conscious about our bodies, but there is a good chance that the curvature of the spine will become our defining feature in old age. It comes across as confident when our shoulders are back and our head is raised enough to give eye contact, and so much of what we fear is in our own heads anyway, so get your chin out of your navel and stand tall and proud! 
  • Smile!: people feel relaxed around someone who smiles authentically, and the act of smiling helps to improve your mood as well by convincing your brain that you’re happy. 

How to be humble when you’re confident

Okay, so you’ve garnered some new-found confidence, you’re thriving at work and in your social life, and you feel on top of the world. How do you keep your inflated ego in check?

Humility is a vital component of confidence. Neither self-flagellation nor denying yourself your achievements, it is the simple recognition that you are not perfect, that you are no better than anyone else, and that you, though unique, are equal with your fellow human.

It is the gratitude with which you can be thankful for your successes and achievements while praising and recognizing others for theirs. It is the joy of celebrating others as much as yourself, of being part of a team where you respect and value your team members. 

Humility is not the denial of confidence; it is the acceptance of it, that you are who you truly are, warts and all, and that you’re happy to live in your own skin. Without humility, your confidence will be a skin you will eventually shed or it becomes the balloon that inflates your ego into arrogance.

Dealing with criticism and rejection

We have all experienced criticism and rejection, but some of us handle it better than others, seeing it as a learning experience or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For those with low self-esteem, however, it can be crushing, threatening our very understanding and acceptance of who we are. 

In order to manage criticism, we have to follow several steps:

  • Is the criticism helpful or is it intended to diminish you? If it’s the latter, this is destructive criticism, and it should be ignored.
  • When the criticism is constructive, you should thank the person who gave it to you and try to control feelings of hurt or anger. Ask for clarification if need be, and don’t be a doormat, but if the aim is to help you become a better person, listen and learn.
  • Reduce contact with people who set out to harm you. If you’re constantly getting an earful from someone for little to no reason, cut that toxic branch off. It won’t help boost your confidence or self-esteem in the long run.
  • If the feedback is positive and constructive, take steps to learn from it. If you’re constantly learning and evolving, you’ll feel more confident in general, like a force for good.

Trust yourself

A lot of these tips are small steps on a long road to getting your confidence back or gaining it for the very first time. It’s not an easy road to walk, to be sure, but in a year’s time, you could be looking back on these first hesitant steps as the start of something truly life-changing.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

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