Over the past few months, I’ve been on a healing and personal journey that taught me a lot about myself and human nature in general. And it has indeed been eye-opening.
This past Wednesday evening, I started a class at the Human Potential Center on Building Healthy Self-Esteem, and I’m everso excited. As someone who started looking deeply inward when I was about 25, seventeen years ago, it is no news to me that the foundation of many of my issues and shortcomings and fears (especially fears) are based in my lack of healthy self-esteem.
Ridiculous, really. I’ve written and published seven books, several of which have won awards and were Amazon bestsellers; produced and directed two documentaries, one of which premiered theatrically in Paris; and have two degrees in English Literature. Some would say I was well accomplished, but my self-esteem is lower than nearly anyone I know. In fact, it’s at a really crippling low level…
What’s up with that?
Self-esteem is something that is gifted to a person in childhood. Or, in far too many cases, isn’t. After one hits puberty without it, they’re pretty much on their own.
Healthy self-esteem can be the difference between success and failure. Seriously. Especially in one’s own mind, which is really where it counts. Even if the world sees you as a success, one word from a critic can cause you to crumble. That’s low self-esteem.
But what many people don’t understand (it wasn’t clear to me until very recently), people who are arrogant also have low self-esteem. Arrogance does not equal confidence. Quite the opposite.
Think of a gorilla throwing dust and beating his chest. These are exaggerated shows of aggression to make the potential threat back down.
Arrogant behavior acts much in the same way.
When someone is cruel or condescending or a bully, this does not come from a place of confidence, but rather cowardice. It’s a grand show that’s supposed to fool others into believing the person has high self-esteem, but it’s truly hiding very low self-esteem, if not outright self-loathing.
Same goes with aggressive behavior. As I learned in the recent “How to Be Assertive and Loving, Too” class at the HPC (awesome, btw), there is a very big difference between aggression and assertiveness. And it usually rests in the *intent* behind the action.
Aggression comes from a place of deep selfishness, arrogance, and thereby fear. Aggressive actions can sound loving or nurturing or even spiritual, but if the intention behind it screams “I don’t care about you, your wants, or your needs. This is about what I want and only what I want, and if it hurts you, then that’s your problem,” then it’s aggression.
Two people who have recently been in my life excelled at disguising aggression as confidence. And, for a short time, I really looked up to them. They seemed to have a solid foundation of self-esteem and confidence, something I knew I was lacking. They also had very clear boundaries and had no trouble stating their needs and wants. I also envied this, because I know I have trouble making and keeping boundaries. Back to the self-esteem issues.
So I really looked up to them…until I realized that it was not self-esteem nor were they stating their needs in a way that was beneficial to cultivating and maintaining a relationship, friendship or romantic or even business relationship.
They were aggressively taking care of themselves and not taking the other person into consideration. Ever. It was as if their entire lives came from a place of “it’s about me and only me, and if you don’t like it, tough.”
And that place is a place of fear. A place of pain. A place of loneliness and emptiness.
That is a place of low self-esteem.
They’re not confident; they’re arrogant. It’s just a different side to low-self esteem, one that is perhaps better disguised than the more-often seen modest or passive behavior, but it is nonetheless coming from the same place. The difference: arrogance hurts others, too.
So the next time you meet someone who is overtly arrogant or self-righteous, remember that it’s coming from a place of fear and darkness, and often a very lonely, empty place.
Discover what healthy self-esteem looks like by reading, doing research, or joining the class at the Human Potential Center. Even though it started last week, it’s not too late to join. Come an hour early for a quick summary of what we covered last week, and take it from there. We will all come out healthier on the other side, better able to manage ourselves and our relationships.