The basic human predisposition is to choose the virtuous humility over the much-despised arrogance. Given a choice, would you cook a dish out of the spicy arrogance or the sweet humility? However, it is not as absolute as we perceive it to be. Perhaps, we could make a scrumptious dish with a spoonful of arrogance coupled with a generous sprinkling of humility.
Color Palette from Humility to Arrogance
At the extreme left of the palette, we have a blob of the “humble” green, and on the opposite end, we have a dab of the “arrogant” red. As you move from left to right of the spectrum, the saturation of the delicate “green” of humility gets diluted and swatches of the bold “red” arrogance starts adding up to produce a yellow tint of “arrogant humble.” As we move to a shade darker along the gradient, an orange “humble arrogant” emerges.
Each shade communicates its inherent characteristics. We are familiar with the two opposite ends of the spectrum. Much about humility and arrogance has already been discussed a lot of times in great detail. A truly humble person is empowered with self-awareness, confidence, and contentment so much so that there is no urge to prove or broadcast. Humility makes you reverential, lets you help and appreciate others, and allows you to accept your shortcomings. However, we, in our limited capacity of understanding, often misconstrue humility as an antidote to pride. We misinterpret politeness as weakness or submissiveness. Therefore, a humble person is often taken for granted or even exploited.
More often than not, arrogance is perceived as an unappealing trait. Arrogance is primarily about self- importance, self-enhancement, and exaggerated pride. Having said that, arrogance might not be out-and-out contempt for others; the focus on self-improvement is so overpowering that the need to seek validation from others does not arise. Even though we blatantly assume, arrogance, in reality, might not consist in presumptuous inflated pride. As what might be misjudged as making extravagant undue claims about one’s worth, might actually be an exuberant confidence resulting in making the right claims about one’s abilities or achievements. We will discuss later in this article how the use of the compass of arrogance can help us navigate through the right direction toward our endpoint by using arrogance productively and balancing it appropriately, without being overly blunt or rude to others.
So, let us explore the transitional shades on the line between the two diametrically opposite hues—arrogant humility (AH) and humble arrogance (HA). What exactly are these two? Simply oxymorons? How do you differentiate one from the other?
The AH Factor
Arrogant humility is characterized by smears of inflated pride or arrogance on one’s humility. A paradox embedded in an oxymoron. We defy the virtue of humility once we become aware and proud of it. Arrogant humility isn’t humility at all. Let us break down few of the salient characteristics that distinguishes the yellow from the green.
The HA Factor
You have arrived at the magical shade by blending just the right dose of humility and arrogance. The right tint of arrogance adds the correct depth of confidence, self-assurance, and guts, while the right wash of humility, sweeping over with gratitude, openness and accountability, wears off the wrecks of arrogance.
HA features an eclectic mix that comes from the palette. This shade will make you move with ease and make you shine through all the facets of life. Humble Arrogants embody self-reliance and self-confidence but leave no stone unturned to showcase themselves if need be. The elevated self-esteem generates a continued desire to excel and an impetus to take risks and travel the extra mile. HA characterizes veneration for others as well as for oneself. A Humble Arrogant knows how to draw the line between taking onus of their mistakes and not taking the fall when blameless. The HA factor invites inspiration and sets the tone for able leadership.
Sourav Ganguly is the perfect example. The “god of off-side” brought in various shades of arrogance and humility to Indian cricket. The “Maharaja,” not so impulsively, took his shirt off and bared his chest at the “Mecca of cricket.” His charisma was such that no bookie dared to approach him at a time when the match fixers took up the reins of many Indian cricketers. Nevertheless, “The prince of Calcutta” is the man who came down the batting order and gave the opening position to Sehwag, paving way for one of the best openers Indian cricket has witnessed. He burned the bridges with selectors to ensure that Anil Kumble was part of the national squad for the 2003–2004 Australia series. He took the “risk” of exiting from the team if Kumble and the team did not “play well.” Anil Kumble was outstanding in that series. Sourav Ganguly backed Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, and M.S. Dhoni even if that entailed disappointing the board and selectors. He was uncompromising but impartial. This arrogance-packed-humility crafted him into one of the greatest captains of all time.
Let us have a look at the idiosyncrasies that fine-tune and set apart the orange from the red.
Now let us choose between the rock and the hard place.
Arrogant Humility versus Honest Arrogance
Arrogant humility is nothing but fake humility. It is pride veiled in humility. Often, we come across many celebrities, such as politicians and actors, humblebragging on social media. Fake humility stems from the urge to enact humility in order to glamorize ourselves or to grab attention and admiration. Humility is espoused. Arrogance is vilified. So often people act humble if not be one.
We often receive commendation for the #nofilter #nomakeupflawlessmorning selfies on Instagram captioned “Can’t believe woke up to this.” We buy the humility of going make-up free. We overlook the pride behind it—the pride of looking flawless even without make-up. We pardon the implicit attempt made to elicit admiration toward a blemish-free, picture-perfect skin. This act of appearing humble in order to fish for compliments is problematic not only because it is deceptive but also because of the fact that it sets the wrong example as to what a bare face should look like.
Parenting and humility can be used interchangeably. Unarguably, parents place their child’s needs above their own and extend the best possible support to build the child’s future. It is understandable that parents have certain basic expectations from their child. However, in today’s fiercely competitive world it has become a usual phenomenon that millennial parents burden their child with incredibly unrealistic demands and expectations. While the intentions are in accordance with the best interest of the child, the end results may be counter-productive. The “Trophy child,” in pursuit of meeting those unreasonable expectations, may lose their own voice and control over life. The parents emphasize on their hard-work and sacrifice for their child as a weapon to print their dreams through the child. In doing so, inadvertently, the nuanced genuineness in humility is compromised and the morality of humility is decried.
Authenticity is important but difficult to spot. So, the fake humbles are likeable and affable. However, they have early expiry dates. We cannot wear the make-up of pretention for long. It is sure to shed off some day. Needless to say, when exposed, they lose their approachability and, more importantly, their credibility. They are avoided. They lose friends and followers to fall back on.
Sometimes people use arrogant humility as an umbrella to shield themselves from their low confidence or low self-esteem. For instance, at our workplaces we come across many employees who do not want to lead a team project even when offered to do so. Then, there are some who simply reject compliments or pass on the credit to others. They perceive such manifestations as acts squared with humility, acts portraying I-don’t-want-the-spotlight attitude. The reality might be far from humility. These acts could be an outcome of the lack of confidence in one’s abilities to take up a challenging position. Such acts could also be contingent on the fear of getting exposed as incompetent. Similarly, by not accepting or bypassing compliments, one may be avoiding the risk of handling more expectations and more pressure in the future.
Roaming around loaded with honest arrogance is better than wearing a mask of false humility. An honest arrogant may be unapologetic and, unlike a fake humble, is not manipulative or vulnerable. It is better to be honestly arrogant about one’s inflated confidence in one’s competencies or about one’s faith in one’s dream to achieve bigger things than to fake one’s way through humility to draw attention or to blanket one’s incompetence. Fake humility doesn’t guarantee long-term success in any professional or personal goal. On the contrary, honest arrogance of one’s superiority (if not presumptuous) can be used constructively to fuel self-development and to ascend goals in life in the following ways:
Irrepressible confidence boosts the grit to pursue one’s targets and dreams.
The absence of urge to scout around for approval and validation from others easily downplays negativity bias and wards off distractions generated by toxic people.
The larger-than-usual focus on one’s strengths provides safeguards against the weaknesses that confines one’s abilities.
Majority of the top CEOs we idolize, such as Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, etc., are marked by arrogance and it is this arrogance that has worked as an advantage for them. Steve Jobs was infamous for his little to zero tolerance toward mistakes, inflexible demand, and control-freak nature. He ruthlessly extracted the best out of his employees when their performance was not requisite. He micro-managed intricate details: from design of products to their slogan and logo. It is his arrogance to cling on to his decisions, push for more, and look beyond that made Apple Inc. a juggernaut.
Christiano Ronaldo’s free kick at arrogance is nothing new. Perhaps, it his supreme self-confidence that makes him “arrogant, vain and whatever” and that is “all part of his ‘success.’” His inflated self-esteem hasn’t fouled over the decades; rather the exaggerated confidence in him is the internal motivator behind making the five-time Ballon d’Or winner one of the “best.”
The benefits of honest arrogance, though, can be better embraced while freed from the clutches of its ruinous effects. Moderation is the key.
If you were to choose a color to infuse into your personality on a blank canvas, which one would it be? If you go green, do not trade the smudge-free green for a smudged alternative. Be humbly humble. Do not scar it with fakeness.
If you want to take your creative flair to the next level and build a painter’s dream, orange is your go-to color—the color to success. Humble Arrogance is the arrogance that makes you stand apart from the ordinary and helps you reach the top rung on the success ladder, palliating arrogance with humility to prevent the former from becoming self-delusional.
If you choose red, unleash through your brushwork the burst of the best version of red. Use your arrogance productively to be on edge, to remain aligned to your goals, to distance yourself from toxic people, and to capitalize solely on your strengths.
Last but definitely not the least, choose anything but yellow. No matter how aesthetically appealing it is, you might wake up someday to find the magic effaced, rendering the same blank canvas you started with. Arrogant Humility will never fetch the rewards of true humility. Fake humility will make you chase the mirage of admiration, commendation, and attention but in the long run, it will leave you stagnant and grounded, blocking your access to avenues of opportunities and upper echelons of the success league.
We must also remember that humility and arrogance are judgments we make based on limited information and understanding we have of a person. Often, the message gets lost in translation, leading to misinterpretations.
Srija Chakraborty gave words to the H-AH-HA-A concept developed by Partha PD. Srija is an Assistant Manager at Tata Consulting Engineers Limited. Other than the challenges in Mechanical Design Engineering, she is also keen on designing her life. She is a food nerd. Cooking is her stress-buster and she loves backpacking, too. She is a trained Kathak dancer. She adorned her feet with the ghungroo at the age of six and practices the patience and perseverance that Kathak has taught her.