Tag Archives: arrogance

The Smug Spectrum

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Hello, lovely reader.  How did you sleep last night?  Me?  Oh, I had a very weird dream about trying to put on a play in the House of Lords.  David Blunkett wanted to play Oedipus.  Very odd.

Anyway, today I’d like to talk about the various degrees of smugness (smugness?  Smugosity? Smugism?  Who knows) that we come across in day to day life.  As far as I can see, there’s a sliding scale of complacency that we are willing to put up with.  It’s very telling about British society that we have so many synonyms for “smug”, which is a state that we inherently mistrust.  We need lots of words for it so that we can identify exactly what it is about someone else’s demeanour that we find offensive.

Confident: damning with faint praise, in this country.  We say it about ourselves in job applications and we try to demonstrate it in our social interactions, but deep down we don’t believe that anyone is capable of being confident every second of the livelong day.  It’s just not natural.

Cocky: a laddish, raffish, devil-may-care word for someone who is cheekily sure of themselves.  A bit annoying, but essentially harmless.

Self-assured: sounds like a good thing, and in general it is, but for most of us it also conjures up the urge to shout “WHAT?!  How can you be self-assured?  Why aren’t you riddled with self-doubt and paranoia like the rest of us?  Weirdo.”

Vain: get your face out of the mirror, dumbass.  This one is just about having a preoccupation with one’s appearance, which is foolish but not unforgivable.

Smug: a silly-sounding word for a fairly silly state of being.  The word ‘smug’ has connotations of self-satisfaction on a long term basis, which is just unacceptable.  It also makes us think of undeserved good fortune – it is used a lot in reference to celebrities and politicians, after all – rather than genuine achievement.

Arrogant: ah, this is a tricky one.  We say that arrogance is unattractive, and we may well mean it, but there is something weirdly appealing about someone whose self-assurance has been taken to this whole new level.  This one is a bit toxic for would-be friends and lovers, so it’s probably best to avoid these people unless you’ve got very thick skin.

Conceited: arrogance mixed with extreme vanity.  Stay the heck away.

Simon Cowell: almost certainly the devil in (not very convincing) disguise.  Avoid at all costs.  

Have a lovely, Simon Cowell-free day.

Getting Confidence Without Having to Teach Seven Kids

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Hello, dear reader!  How’s your Tuesday so far?  Surprisingly amusing, I hope.

Today I’d like to talk to you about confidence.  All sorts of things can knock our self-esteem sideways, and sometimes we might not realise how much of our oomph we’ve lost until it feels too late to do anything about it.  Whether it’s a soul-destroying job or a bad break up, we all go through things that can leave us feeling diminished.

In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews’ nun-turned-governess attempts to overcome her own confidence issues by literally singing herself into self-belief.  While I appreciate that marching through the streets of Salzburg with a guitar and an enormous hat might have its psychological benefits, I’m not sure how practical that course of action is for most of us.  Let’s find a slightly less extreme way of battling our blues.

First of all, confidence is – and forgive me for getting a bit theatre-ish out of context – a huge piece of performance.  Some people who seem confident aren’t actually feeling too great about themselves, which is why we tend to respond negatively to arrogance: we can vaguely detect a whiff of bullpoo beneath the boasting.  Having said that, putting on a show of confidence will inevitably lead to you feeling better about yourself.  After all, if you can convince people around you that you are something special (which you definitely and truly are), then you will eventually manage to convince yourself.  We should act confidently but not arrogantly, basically.  Confidence comes from reality and arrogance comes from misplaced wishful thinking.

Secondly, take the time to be proud of yourself for things that you’re good at.  Something as small as making the perfect cup of tea or being especially good at opening tricky jars is still a point in your favour.  It is silly at best and damaging at worst to dismiss your virtues as “only” this or “not as good as” whatever.  A talent is a talent, so don’t discredit yours.  I guarantee you that for every seemingly insignificant skill you have there will be a hundred people who are desperately envious of it.

Thirdly, listen to people who compliment you (unless you can sense that aforementioned scent of offensive falsehood, in which case put your hand over your nose and back away slowly).  People who know you and love you don’t say nice things about you for the hell of it: they want you to see yourself the way they see you.  I know for a fact that I have become more confident during the past few months, and that my friends have been pleasantly surprised by my reduced (only incrementally reduced, but still reduced) tendency to beat myself up over stuff that doesn’t matter.

Next, don’t let the little things get you down.  One bad date or one failed job application does not take anything away from who you are.  Hundreds of bad dates and thousands of failed job applications doesn’t make any difference, either.  Just because some people don’t recognise what you are capable of does not mean that you aren’t good enough.  After all, you know yourself a lot better than these people do, so who are they to make you doubt yourself?

Finally, understand that everyone is battling with the same self-doubt as you are.  The wise-cracker at a party who has everyone in stitches might be desperately unsure of ever finding love, or the perpetually popular party girl might be riddled with uncertainty about her personality being as attractive as her face.  You are not the only person whose confidence is fragile or a façade.  If you get the hang of being genuinely nice to yourself, you can spend more time telling the people you love all the nice things that you appreciate about them.

In fact, go and do that right now – tell a friend or loved one something that you like about them.  Hopefully it will kick-start a truly marvellous Tuesday.