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The distinction between confident and conceited is sometimes difficult to articulate. We seem to know on a gut level when someone is arrogant, often leading to an unpleasant taste in our mouth. On the other hand, when someone is confident, we are naturally more drawn to them. This also happens on a gut level.
I would describe confident people as those individuals who feel capable of achieving a certain task. They believe in themselves and they believe they have the necessary competencies and capabilities within themselves to perform. However, when someone is conceited, their self-pride becomes grandiose and self-righteous. The focus is no longer just about the capabilities they possess, but instead the capabilities that they possess that someone else does not. The line is crossed when they compare themselves to others and state, either overtly or covertly, that they are superior. What makes this offensive, and rightly so, is that the conceited and arrogant person is demeaning those around him or her. Ironically, this is caused by insecurity!
Take a look at these photos from People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive 2013. Even though we seem to register someone as conceited or confident without truly knowing why, these photos provide some clues on body language and what we perceive. You will notice that in one picture the thumbs are pointed up. In another, the thumbs are tucked into the jeans, but the fingers are splayed. And in the third, the elbows are out. All of these are indicative of confident poses and the hands demonstrate this in a powerful way.
Whenever you can see ‘thumbs up’ – whether the hands are clasped or the arms are folded – it indicates confidence. The splayed fingers highlight the genitalia, a strong gesture that indicates confidence and interest. Lastly, arms or hips taking up more space are indicators of confidence. People who are more confident generally take up more room. It’s a sign of stature; hence the reason the boss has the largest office, biggest chair, etc. Next time you want to be seen as confident, be conscious of the position of your hands and, in particular, your thumbs.
When is the last time you felt proud of yourself? This is a slippery slope! When I was in my early twenties, I remember telling a friend that I was
proud of myself. I don’t recall the exact details of the event that led to that feeling, I just know it was a pivotal time in my life and I had recently made some major life changes. In roughly the same week, I heard a priest give a sermon on “pride before a fall.” The commentary discussed the ego and illusion of this state, which he explained was typically followed by a hard fall – the feeling that all was well in the world, and then the rug was ripped out from under you.
So is it bad to feel pride? Pride is considered by many to be the first and worst of the seven deadly sins (pride, lust, envy, gluttony, greed, sloth, and anger). It is defined as a form of arrogance, vanity, and a sense of over-importance. This narcissistic view of oneself often excludes other important people and figures, including God, which can lead to destruction and ultimately one’s own demise.
So every time I hear someone say they are proud of themselves, or I catch myself saying I am proud of something I’ve done, I initially think “pride before a fall.”
I am cautious not to cross the line into narcissism, although I’m not exactly sure where it is. I am by no means suggesting that you shouldn’t be proud of yourself for certain accomplishments. You may have run a marathon, completed a project, lost a significant amount of weight, or hit some other milestone. I say revel in the glory of the moment and give yourself credit for your work and dedication to what you’ve achieved. This is a positive aspect of authentic pride. But temper this feeling with a sense of gratefulness and give credit to those who also supported you. The minute you think you did it all alone and you’ve got it all figured out, the next minute you may fall.