Confidence ≠ Arrogance

Recently I wrote a guest blog post, Thriving Requires Letting Go of the Lies, for Sue’s Over Fifty and Thriving series. The idea for that post was inspired by the book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis (my review here). I have since decided to turn the subject into a new blog series: The Lies I’ve Believed. 

In the original guest post, I introduced Delilah, my harsh inner critic who constantly reminds me I am not good enough, brave enough or smart enough. Her loud, commanding voice tells me I am better off alone than out in the world pursuing my dreams. She is quite convincing.

But I’m tired of living this way. I’m merely existing rather than embracing an abundant life. It is time to replace Delilah’s lies with the truth.

This week’s lie: Confidence is arrogance and conceit.

Sometimes it is the seemingly insignificant events of life that have the greatest impact. Case in point…

I enjoyed instrumental music throughout my school years. I started piano lessons in second grade and then transitioned to flute in sixth grade. I can’t say I enjoyed practicing, but I did like progressing in my studies. I did the work because I wanted the results.

When I entered high school in ninth grade, we had to audition for our place in concert band. Because of my previous years studying piano, as well as my routine of daily practice, I placed first chair. I didn’t think much of it, and if truth be told, I was petrified of the possibility of a flute solo.

About a month later one of the percussionists in the band – the one whom I secretly had a secret crush for months – starting chatting with me. In the midst of the innocent conversation he asked, “Are you the best flute player?”

I froze.

I didn’t want to appear conceited and immediately respond, “Yes.” But I also wanted to uphold the truth. I auditioned for the spot and earned first chair. How was I supposed to answer this question?

In my shy, socially awkward way, I think I said something like, “Well, I’m first chair so I guess so.”

I don’t remember much after that … except for the laughing, finger-pointing, and mocking response at my perceived arrogance.

I learned that day that I should never take credit for any talent I may possess. I should always downplay any achievement. After all, who do I think I am?!

Thirty years later I discovered this is not an acceptable response either. Self-deprecation is as offensive as arrogance. And perhaps just as prideful.

I downplayed any compliment, reasoning anyone can do what I do. I shunned recognition for personal success, immediately identifying all imperfections and false starts.  Delilah fed me the lines and I reiterated them.

Recently, I’ve come to realize… I admire confident women. They recognize their strengths without over-inflating their worth. They walk with their heads high and shoulders squared. They look others in the eye and speak with authority. The command respect. They are quick to offer their gifts and talents for the good of the community.

Confident women also recognize their weaknesses without dwelling on them. They network with others who can help shore up these insufficiencies. They don’t feel stupid, unworthy, or foolish. They accept themselves without harsh criticism and with a healthy dose of self-love.

Confidence may just be my one-little-word for 2019.

The truth: Confidence is accepting who you were meant to be.


  • Pat

    Molly, OMG, yes. I’ve written about the Imposter Complex… the fact that I believe that someday it will be discovered that I’m a fake, completely incompetent, and not worthy of anything I think I might have earned. Touting your own horn at work? Never. Even now I struggle with accepting praise and saying I’m really good at this (whatever this might be). I can’t recall which blogger encouraged us to list 10 things you like about yourself …10 traits you’re proud of. First attempt, I had 2 things on the list. But I’m working on self-love. Self -acceptance as well. I’m starting to think about word of the year for next year as well. It will be in this arena for sure.

    • Molly Totoro

      We are SO much alike, Pat! Last year I participated in the 31 Day Blog Challenge where I wrote a series of Positive Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome. I need to spend more time reading through those affirmations until they finally take hold and I live out their truth. I’m looking forward to positive change in 2019 🙂

  • Debbie

    I can so understand this Molly, I’m sure we’ve all been that person at some stage! I was shocked years ago at a work course when we were asked to write a word that described everybody using just one word. Mine were mostly the word confident! I didn’t feel particularly confident but I must have exuded it and my act was convincing enough obviously! Considering I worked in a male oriented workplace I had to try hard appear so. I don’t see myself as confident but like you, I admire women who are. Now that I’m finished with working I’m trying to be more positive and I do seem to be growing in confidence – but not too arrogant! Good luck to you for your word for 2019 #mlstl

    • Molly Totoro

      What a fabulous testimony to your ability to achieve the balance that defines true humility, Debbie! The fact that your co-workers saw you as confident (and not arrogant) is quite revealing. I remember my first year teaching the principal did a similar exercise, where she shared her word for each of us. My word was “professional” I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I follow all the rules 🙂

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au

    Molly this hits me in the heart because I can SO relate to it. Not being able to acknowledge success, not wanting to big note, not being able to celebrate the victories, always playing things down. Even now I have trouble stating facts about what I’m good at – I’m always waiting to be shot down in flames. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to truly speak aloud and claim my successes, but I’m getting better at not feeling the need to pick fault with myself. I don’t criticize myself (out loud) and I know underneath that I’m doing well – I just wish I was better at saying it up front (but that would be vain wouldn’t it?)
    MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    • Molly Totoro

      I love the fact that you no longer feel the need to pick fault with yourself, Leanne. Perhaps this would be a good next step for me. Recognizing Delilah’s voice was the first step; learning to ignore her voice will be the second.

  • Suzanne

    Molly, you are hitting at the center of the struggle for those of us who were taught to downplay our strengths, especially those of us who were raised in religious households. We received confusing messages about ‘letting our light shine’ and remaining ‘humble.’ I know the two can, and should fit into the same context, but as a child, what you hear is ‘don’t stand out’ and if you do, you certainly don’t talk about it because it looks like bragging.

    “Recognizing their strengths, without inflating their worth” is part of the makeup of a confident woman, but also understanding and accepting that you will not always receive encouragement or recognition from others (for various reasons) is a big part as well. At some point, to be fully resolved and happy within, we need to get passed ‘needing’ validation. I am not there yet, and sometimes feel resentful when I put my best forward and it isn’t acknowledged. Working on that…

    This post looks like the beginning of a great chapter in your Delilah book.

    • Molly Totoro

      You’ve given me lots to think about, Suzanne.
      At first I thought I wasn’t looking for outside validation. After all, I find it difficult to accept those verbal compliments. But perhaps Delilah’s voice increases in volume when I don’t hear praise or encouragement. The silence feeds her need to tear me down. And that, I suppose, reveals a need for external validation.
      You are SO right. Our joy comes from accepting who we are … regardless of what others say.

  • Kay

    Molly, yes, yes, yes! I totally get it. We are so blessed that you are sharing your journey with us. Truly. I can tell that it is affecting so many people – you’ll never know how many. Anyway, this reminds me of some of the words that are shared at my weekly Weight Watchers meeting. Those of us who have lost quite a lot of weight don’t want to appear ‘prideful’, but I’ve come to realize that it is something to be proud of. When people ask or are complimentary about the 90 pounds I’ve lost (see, I’m putting it right out there), I’ve changed my response from one of downplaying it to ‘Thank you! I’ve worked very hard.’ This is a true statement. Sometimes I even add a little – I’m proud of me. And I’m working on ‘owning’ my gifts. I love your statement above about confident women being ‘quick to offer their gifts for the community’. That’s the heart of it. God gives us gifts and we are able to share them with others. He’s proud of us too.

    • Molly Totoro

      You never cease to encourage me, Kay. I write because I hope my words touch someone and give them hope. Thank you for your kind words.

      And your own story is AMAZING! I’m so glad you shared your weight loss success! I truly want to celebrate with you – not condemn you for being prideful. (but I have to wonder… why don’t I apply this same logic with myself?) And I love your truthful response: I’ve worked hard to get here. It IS a true statement with no tinge of conceit or arrogance.
      Yes… you are an encouragement to me in so many ways 🙂

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly, thank you for your honesty and sharing with us at #MLSTL. Life can be so complicated can’t it? Growing up we were taught that we should ‘blow our own trumpet’ lest we be seen as arrogant or conceited. These days we teach our children and grandchildren the opposite and fill them with self-confidence at every opportunity. I have learned late in life that we should be proud of our achievements and likewise encourage others to live their best life as well and to be proud of themselves.

    • Molly Totoro

      To live our best life… that sums up my goal in a nutshell, Sue. And to live my best life, I must learn to recognize my strengths and find ways to use them every day. I’m also learning that to live my best life, I must set goals – achievable goals without the nagging voice of self-doubt. I am my own worst enemy, but I’m working on it.

  • B Pradeep Nair

    The thin line of difference is how to acknowledge our own merits and achievements. If it is going to sound like there is no one else in the world better me, that can have arguably a ring of arrogance. On the contrary, if one were to say something on the lines of “Well, I guess so, but probably you a better judge!” could be a tactful combination of confidence and humility.
    Thank you for bringing up a very good topic that is so relevant in today.
    Read your post on MLSTL. I have shared your post.
    – Pradeep | bpradeepnair.blogspot.com

    • Molly Totoro

      Yes, Pradeep. I think developing confidence begins within (learning to accept our strengths and talents). But then we must work on sharing our confidence with others in an appropriate way. At the age of fifteen, I was not equipped to reply appropriately. It is a skill I continue to work on 🙂

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

  • Molly Stevens

    This is a dilemma, Molly – claiming one’s talents without crossing into conceit or arrogance. I think a lot of us react as you did – hesitant to admit our strengths because we are taught to be ‘humble.’ True humility is so hard to achieve! I’ve been working with a writing coach and it has helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. I’m addressing my weaknesses head on, and arrogance wants to hold me back. But I’m pushing through kicking my ego to the curb, looking for my authentic self. I’m positive confidence will be the end result! #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Kicking our ego to the curb… I love that visual image, Molly (I’m thinking that must be one of your writing strengths)!

      My writing coach is trying to encourage me to do the same. I have so many ideas for various book projects, and yet self-doubt continues to hold me back. She tells me to write anyway. Perhaps if I employ your tactic of kicking Delilah to the curb, I will set myself up for success.

      I once heard a goal-oriented maxim: Conceive it – Believe it – Achieve it. I’m still working on believing, but it’s worth the persistent effort.

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    Molly – I am so sorry that you lack confidence – particularly around your writing. As is so evident from your blog, you have talent. I hope you will continue to politely ask Delilah to sit down and shut up. Keep on writing!

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you, Janet. I appreciate your support and encouragement. I think I’m ready to treat Delilah to a two-week all-expenses-paid vacation to somewhere far, far away 🙂

  • Leslie Clingan

    This post, like so many of yours posts, spoke to me. I remember reading my name on the list of girls who made cheerleader and for a fleeting moment feeling so proud and happy, until I turned around to see some of the girls laughing and making fun that I had been chosen. My first day and the rest of the year as a cheerleader were miserable. Years later, I am finally more confident at 61 than I have ever been but there’s room still for improvement. Enjoyed the photos from your younger years. The piano lesson/practice photo reminded me of the paneled room where I took my piano lessons. Haven’t thought of that in a long time!

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