Confidence vs. Arrogance: Perspective to change reception

Knocking on the door toward a future carerr

As a student and young professional, the conversation surrounding “soft skills” and how to be successful in life outside of college is one I find at every workshop or Career Day on campus. Strangely enough, the very concept I have found invaluable in my business relationships and personal life on and off  campus is never discussed: the concept of confidence vs. arrogance.

As a young woman, I was quite familiar with the pushback from older individuals or persons in charge when I showed up with passion to help on a project. This pushback became discouraging until I sat down with a very wise friend to talk about confidence. “Carmel,” he said, “the difference between confidence and arrogance is this: arrogance is fueled by what it can gain, but confidence is driven by what it can give.” This clarification changed my life and transformed the type of reception I receive in both my private and professional life. How exactly? It’s a perspective shift.

We have all been around arrogant individuals, whether they are THAT person in the classroom who always interjects something during lecture, or that person on your team who seems to think they know best and can do it better than everyone else, or that guy/girl who comes on too strong. You can probably think of one right now, but STOP! It is not my intent to take you on a ghastly recall of personal encounters with arrogance; it is to help you avoid becoming THAT person.

You see, arrogance is really a sense of drive coming from the desire to gain something: approval from the professor, praise and recognition from the team, or the fulfilling of personal needs through a one-way relationship. It is a turn-off in the professional field because it demonstrates that while this person is capable of great things, they are most willing to assert themselves in order to get what they want. Employers may end up wondering if the “what” THAT person wants is his/her job, and this makes them a potentially dangerous force to bring onto a team.

But a confident person tells a different story through their actions. THEY are the individual breaking the silence to bring a new perspective, taking initiative on a team and completing assignments with great efficiency, and, you know, the guy/girl who isn’t afraid to talk to you. So what is it about a confident individual that  makes them come across in an entirely different way, even if their actions are similar to someone who is arrogant? The answer is simply this: THEY are focused on what they can give.

Confidence is a contagious force which propels individuals to bring everything they have and all they are to the table. Why? Because they have too much to give to remain silent or apathetic. A confident person knows they have skill, but THEY aren’t focussing on the professor’s approval, getting “leadership” material for their next resume/application, or using you to feel less insecure about themselves. They live to give, and this giving makes them highly attractive to organizations and employers.

So then, how do you know which person you are? For me it begins every morning with a recognition of what I have been blessed with (thankfulness) and the acknowledgment that I am alive to give, not to get. If I go into situations with a mindset of, “I have so much to give… How can I contribute?” My actions are then rooted in this intent to bless others, and I will exude confidence. And true confidence is indispensable.

Truthfully, I have watched the reception I receive in both my professional life and personal relationships change for the better by living out this concept. Yes, there are still insecure people, and insecurity is threatened by confidence and arrogance alike, but for the most part I am invited to be on many incredible teams and to work for influential individuals who are happy to trust me with leadership opportunities. I don’t always get it right, but at the end of the day I ask myself, “Was (fill in the blank) motivated by my desire to get something, or was I looking to give to that individual or bring something valuable to that situation?”

In the end, you will not benefit from arrogant actions nor from judging the arrogance in others, but your life can be transformed by a daily evaluation of your own motives. If your perspective is to give, than this confidence will change the reception you receive. In short, if opportunity was a door, trying to open it to get everything inside is not going to work as well as knocking on it with a bundle of gifts to bring in.

Optimistic, determined, and driven to transform society, Carmel exudes a passion for excellence which encompasses her academic and extracurricular activities. Facing and overcoming hardships as a child instilled in Carmel thankfulness and determination, and now she approaches life with both.

Her drive to become a stateswoman who reforms the education system is the product of working with children for many years, and this passion grew as Carmel spent two years researching and living in Sacramento’s most under-serviced neighborhood while attaining her associate degrees at Sacramento City College. Carmel currently studies Political Science and Education Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles where she was selected as a Regents Scholar.  She also serves on the Pearson Student Advisory Board and was awarded as a Pearson Scholar for Higher Education.

Confidence is living aware of what you can contribute, and Carmel embraces this wholeheartedly. She approaches life with a tenacious hope, and it inspires her to innovate and recreate while purposefully defying obstacles.