Turning Arrogance into Humble Confidence

For me, it is easy to be humble when things are going well, but

  • Who do I become when I am frustrated?
  • Who do I become when I am angry?
  • Where is my humility under these circumstances?
  • How am I treating other people?

What is it that I tell myself when I become frustrated or angry? First there is the thought which causes the emotional reaction. It could be something like,”I’ve had enough.” If I were to take this thought at face value, I would stop whatever I am doing and take a break.

Unfortunately, I seem to value persistence and achieving results over relaxation and taking care of myself, so I persist. I persist in spite of the best advice of my thinking mind.

If you want to apply these ideas to your own life, you need to be aware of your thoughts. If you find that you aren’t aware of the thoughts that lead you to frustration and possibly arrogance, you may want to start a mindfulness practice. It will open you to an entire world of thoughts you didn’t know you had. For more about mindfulness, see: Getting Started with Mindfulness Meditation

The cognitive dissonance of knowing I should take a break and telling myself to persist creates frustration. I am usually too swept away by my feelings to be conscious of these thoughts. I blame the activity at hand…or the other people involved. This blame is another preconscious thought. At this point, I am arrogant. As soon as I start thinking other people are idiots, I am arrogant.

It is hard to hide my true feelings. They leak out in my word choices, tone of voice and body language. Others pick up on this, are insulted and become less cooperative.

If pointed out to me, I may not see it especially if I am frustrated at the time. I may feel justified in my frustration. I may be dealing with something difficult. The frustration is not the problem. The problem is when I assigned blame.

The best solution is to stop when I have a thought like, “This is too much.” Next best, which is easier said than done, is to notice the thought about, “Those bastards that are making my life difficult.” and reframe it.

Some possible reframes are,

  • “these people are my allies helping me to solve these problems.”;
  • “I better be nice to these people. They can solve this problem.”
  • and the old chestnut, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

If you want to apply these techniques, it is best if you come up with your own reframe. It will be more consistent with your way of thinking.

It is difficult to pull this off when I am in the middle of it, so it is best to practice it when I am relaxed.

  • I recall a time when I was arrogant.
  • I then notice how I feel.
  • Now I imagine the same scene using the reframe of my choice.
  • Then notice how that makes me feel. Do I feel softer? Gentler? More open? More cooperative?
  • If my answer to any of these is yes, then I have a good reframe. If not, I try it again with another reframe.

I practice my reframe in my mind until it becomes second nature. I will know I’ve made significant progress if I actually look forward to another frustrating event, so I can test it out. Life will give me plenty of opportunities to test it out.

I mentioned before that there is the thought that I’ve had enough. The strategy here is to take time out and relax. Again I practice this strategy when I am not in the middle of the situation.

  • Then I imagine a previous situation.
  • I then notice at what point I start to get frustrated.
  • Now I imagine making the choice to stop
  • I imaging doing something to get my mind off of things.

Overall, my goal is humble confidence. Many people find this quality attractive and they will want to help me. I will feel more in control. Arrogance is a pretense that we hide behind when we feel powerless. It may seem paradoxical, but truly humble people are more in control of themselves and in control of the situation than arrogant people.

Do not confuse humility with low self-esteem. True humility is not self-involved. See: Arrogance, Low Self-esteem and Thoughts of Self Always try humble confidence first. You can always yell later if the humble approach isn’t working.


Arrogance: an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.

Humble: not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive


1. full of conviction : certain

2. having or showing assurance and self-reliance [1]

Reframe: to look at, present, or think of (beliefs, ideas, relationships, etc) in a new or different way [2]

[1] Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

[2] Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014

Painting: Frida Kahlo Sol y Vida

2 thoughts on “Turning Arrogance into Humble Confidence

  1. I tried your method recently at work. A colleague had completed a project without consulting me first. In my imagination, I prepared to tell her off. At the last minute, I thanked her and apologised for not starting early enough. I also asked her if I could contribute something at this late stage. This was not the reaction she was expecting. Our interactions were very positive after that.

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