Unpacking Arrogance vs Confidence

Published by mpume on

With Khethiwe Phakathi

In our Change Conversation today, we look at defining confidence and arrogance. To better understand these words, I enlisted the help of Khethiwe Phakathi, a Confidence Coach. We sat down to analyse these two terms that most of us may have no full knowledge of what they really mean.  Most people generally may think of confidence and arrogance as two terms for the same thing, or that there is a very fine line between the two, and probably rarely think they actually hold very different meanings. According to Khethiwe, the definitions of arrogance and confidence actually rest on two very different ideas.

Khethiwe defined confidence as the freedom to be comfortable enough to be yourself anywhere anytime.” In other words, we can define confidence as being sure of your abilities in a realistic way, without feeling that you are superior to others. It’s an inner knowledge that you are capable, it’s a feeling of self-assurance that comes from an appreciation of your own abilities or qualities. Some may say, confident people are comfortable in their own skin, they allow others to see them for who they really are — mistakes, insecurities, and all. They embrace their flaws instead of trying to be like someone else or acting in a way that’s not true to them.

Arrogance on the other hand is absolute absence of confidence, meaning that one is constantly working hard to be what they are not, making the rest of society believe that what is the lie is true. There is no ease in arrogance, it is like self-imprisonment. When you are arrogant, you have no considerations for others, you decide what your audience wants without you making the effort to understand what they actually want. Arrogant individuals often believe that they have nothing to learn from others, so they act like they have it all figured out. Arrogant people constantly want to be given an opportunity to prove themselves, backing out of something feels like a flaw to them.

Is one aware if they are arrogant?

They don’t realise they are arrogant. Often, they have a hard time to do some self-reflecting. They find it difficult to see themselves for what they really are, they can’t look back at their failures and shortcomings. They shield their inferiority with a superiority complex and they really go out of their way to protect their vulnerabilities.

So then do people go out of their way to be arrogant?

When I asked Khethiwe if people go out of their way to be arrogant, she vehemently responded “no”. Apparently, us as society we make people arrogant. Society categorises people and expects them to behave according to the different roles that we want them to fit in. For example, one person can be a mom, a CEO, church elder and we expect this person to fit in all these situations and carry themselves as such.

Confidence and Success. Can the two be linked?

Confidence in the context of success is freedom about who you are where you find yourself at any given moment. It is you being truly you within what you define as success, whether you are a C Suite executive, a manager, etc. Confidence is not there to make you successful, it is there to guide you to be ok where you are.

If I have low confidence, how do I work on that?

Always work to identify where your confidence is low. You cannot have low confidence in every aspect of your life. There’s always a part or two of your life where you are confident of your capabilities. First step when you have low confidence, sit down and thoroughly examine your life to identify areas that you think you are lacking confidence. Once you have identified your area of weakness, seek help. After going through the process, the result is reaching a level that makes you aware of what your confidence feels like to you. Always remember, confidence is an inner job, it’s about you and not about other people. When you get to a point where you understand your confidence, it then brings light and makes you aware of what it is you are really after in life, and you pursue that.

Building up confidence for an interview.

What you know is directly proportionate to the area of your competence, thus make the most of what you know instead of focusing on the little that you don’t know. Know why you are going to the interview. You are going there to “prove” so to speak, to these people that you are able to do the job you are being interviewed for. Your perspective on the interview should be that you are the best candidate that’s why you were able to be called to the interview.

Traits of confident people.

  • Confident people often influence others more readily.
  • Instead of comparing themselves to others, they draw inspiration from people to go and explore their goals their own way.
  • They derive their sense of pleasure and accomplishment from within because they are happy with who they are.
  • Confident people know what they are capable of and don’t treat being wrong as a personal attack.
  • Allow themselves to make mistakes and learn from others.
  • They ask questions, listen, and respond in an objective way.
  • Confident people are less defensive and more open to receiving constructive feedback.


It is key to understand that there is no fine line between confidence and arrogance. They are two worlds apart. Always take time to sit down with yourself and conduct a personal SWOT analysis. Identify areas of improvement and work on them. Like the old age adage goes, we are all work in progress, what is crucial is identifying and acknowledging where we may be falling short and seeking help to better ourselves.  I hope we have all learnt something that we can apply to our lives going forward.

Check out the conversation on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZzfLksEkSI&t=6s


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