How To Fortify Your Confidence By Letting Go Of Arrogance

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Every male clique features the arrogant guy. He’s the guy who spews advice on everything from snow removal to killer abs to sex. Yes, I know ladies can be arrogant too, but I’m using guys in this example.

We listen to him because he’s sure of himself and we crave certainty. We soon learn he gives terrible advice. We call him out on it, but in a jokingly manner. That doesn’t stop him from shoveling his nonsensical wisdom. A funny thing happens after the mystique shatters.

We ask for more of his advice. We do it for two reasons.

1. It’s information on what NOT to do.
2. It amuses us. It gives us stories to tell. “Did you hear what Tom said when I asked his advice on…

We often use the term arrogant to describe the outward attitude, but that’s limiting. Arrogance is a state of mind. People aren’t always loud and boastful.

We can feel a sense of unwarranted superiority while having the good sense to contain it to the confines of our consciousness.

We often confuse arrogance and confidence.

The arrogant one believes he’s the shit, even when he’s not. The self-confident one knows she’s got the goods, but she also recognizes her limits. She’s confident in her ability but understands she’s not perfect.

Ignorance leads to arrogance

I’ve been that person more times than I care to admit. It’s a natural phase of evolution in your pursuit of excellence. It comes from not knowing what we don’t know. We sometimes call these unknown unknowns.

When I first dove into the world of Copywriting several years ago, I thought I knew everything after six months. I considered myself an expert. Through experience, missteps and continued learning, I discovered my weaknesses.

The further I dug, the more my arrogance waned. I uncovered answers that only led to more questions. The gradual awareness of my shortcomings shattered my confidence. It took time to rebuild.

What do you do when you realize your not all you thought you were? You could ignore the facts in front of you and be the arrogant fool. Or you could progress through the five stages.

1. Blissful arrogance

It amazes me that I’m forty-seven years old and I still fall into this trap when I tackle a new skill.

It feels wonderful, like a drug-fueled high. You believe you know everything. You radiate certainty. Then you put your work or effort out into the world. The inevitable happens. You fall flat on your face. You poke around and discover there is a much bigger world out there than you thought. It brings you back down to earth.

Okay, maybe I’m not a master yet, but I’m still in the upper tier.

You decide you need to explore a bit further and shore up your expertise.

2. Uneasy confidence

You turn over a few rocks and discover that there’s more to learn before you crown yourself emperor of your domain. You’re no longer sure of your mastery. You’re confident that you know most of what there is to know, but it’s an uneasy feeling. A small piece of you wonders what else is yet to be discovered. Some folks quit, not wanting to discover the truth. They return to blissful arrogance. The rest of us move on.

3. Confidently ignorant

Every new piece of information results in more questions. Every attempt to reach the next level knocks you back two levels. In this stage, we realize what we don’t know. The unknown unknowns manifest themselves. We wonder how we were so blind to have not seen them before.

We thought we had achieved the pinnacle of excellence only to discover we possessed only a fraction of a fraction of the necessary knowledge and experience.

Many of the wannabes decide that the pursuit of excellence isn’t worth it. They give up and move on to something new. Or worse, they’ll end their quest for mastery and convince themselves they know enough. They return to blissful arrogance.

I’m not suggesting we all need to power through this stage all the time. You may decide you lack the passion or desire to continue.

But what if you do have the passion?

Congratulate yourself and celebrate. You’re on the cusp of a breakthrough.

A former mentor of mine used to tell stories about salespeople who quit right when they were about to turn a corner in their career. They’d endure the hell of building a customer base, going on countless sales calls that produced nothing but rejection. They all started as hotshots but reached the inevitable point of confident ignorance. Many of these former hotshots would quit and start another sales job.

This behavior infuriated my mentor, not because he felt betrayed or like they wasted his time. His displeasure stemmed from frustration. These salespeople had gone through the necessary stages of building their expertise and cultivating a customer base. At the moment all of the building blocks fell into place, they quit, too focused on the past and blind to the future.

Don’t be so focused on the struggles behind you that you fail to see the possibility in front of you.

The few who remained often saw their careers take off. Of course, it wasn’t as sudden as it appeared. It was merely the next stage of their evolution.

4. Reserved Confidence

If we persevere, we notch a few successes and find ourselves more knowledgeable than many of our peers. We’re aware of our shortcomings. We still discover an occasional unknown that surprises us. But now we feel we’re making up ground. There might not be a way to measure, but we sense we’re closing the gap.

We know there is still much to learn, but we understand what we need to do to achieve the next level. Time, desire and effort stand in our way, not ignorance.

This stage can persist. We might not ever emerge. It depends on how much effort you are willing to put in to reach the next level. For many of us toiling through day jobs, we might be comfortable enough to linger in reserved confidence.

What if we have a passion? What if we want to become the best we can be?

Most of my successful endeavors have ended here. Only once have I desired to go further. Some folks fixate on a goal and do what they need to achieve it. Not me. I need passion to take it to the next level. I cannot sustain intense effort without it.

5. Assured confidence

Chip away long enough and you cross the threshold into confident excellence. You reach a point where your actions and results position you as someone in the top tier.

This stage might sound like the pinnacle of success, but it has a drawback. That nasty plague of arrogance can re-emerge. We’ve all seen people like this in every walk of life. They were rising stars, achieved fabulous results and reached the top of their sphere. They developed an arrogance and stopped learning. They stopped looking under rocks and searching for the unknown unknowns. They either thought they were perfect or lost the will to improve.

Perfection is never possible but improvement is always imperative.

Experimenter in life, productivity, and creativity. Work in Forge | Elemental | Business Insider | GMP | Contact: barry@barry-davret dot com.

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