Arrogance, Confidence and Courage

The line between arrogance, confidence and courage is very tiny. It’s also a perception, like everything else.

I might appear very confident to someone who is self-assured, but arrogant to someone who is insecure. I might seem to be bold and courageous to someone who is shy, but just ordinary to another who is energized herself.

People who are “place keepers” (as Eckhart Tolle says) are important. We need them as audiences, as supporters and as grounding anchors. People who make waves, shake things up, and cause a fuss are necessary, too, because if a few people don’t push the envelope, then there is nothing new.

It is paradoxical to think that performers can be very shy. They might carry out or execute the play, the song or the dance, but prefer to do it in their own living room. Enjoying being in the limelight can be different from being in the artistic process, creating something, but sometimes they occur together. I actually love being on stage in front of an audience. What I don’t like is getting ready to go on. I still get nervous. When I was young waiting was terrifying but as soon as I got out there and started to sing, all the fear just flew away. I know people for whom the entire process has always been easy, and those who like the prep but not the actual show. I have met some who don’t like any of it except when they are creating in private, but go on stage anyway. It’s very personal.

Since I wrote here about courage recently, it seems that we should investigate the characteristics of arrogance and confidence as opposites and partners to courage. An arrogant person might think that only she is right, that her ideas could never be incorrect, and that she is better than others. An arrogant person might never think of the impact of her words on others or of what others think of her words and actions. A confident person might say exactly the same things in the same way but is interested in what another person might think. She would seriously consider another person’s different opinion and give it fair investigation as an alternative point of view. She would believe that she might not always be correct. Her confidence has room in it for human frailty.

The difference isn’t in what is being offered, it is in the person’s attitude about herself and her message. If you don’t care what others think or how they react, and if you think you can’t ever be wrong, you are not likely to have much fear or need much courage. What would you be afraid of in the first place? You have your arrogance to protect you. If, conversely, you have great confidence but you also have a mind that is open to the considerations of others, you might also be full of self-doubt. That would require you to gather up your courage before putting your message out, so no one else knows you are trembling in your boots the whole time.

Artists must be very self-confident if they are to share what they create with the world. That courage is personal, in that each person has unique challenges to overcome, and if you are to do that in public view, you can’t shrink from all that being brave entails. You have to deeply believe that you have a right to put your message out (and know that others can simply reject it and you ). You have to deeply desire to share whatever it is you are creating (even though it may not be as clear to others as it is to you), and you have to be willing to be both persistent and flexible if you are to keep going in spite of any and all obstacles.

If you become very successful you can also get arrogant, thinking you are special, above everyone else, and can’t fail. That is a sneaky danger. The only way around it is to be vigilant, and to have good friends around you who always tell you the truth, no matter what. An alternative might be to go volunteer for a few days in the local soup kitchen.

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