Confidence is a quality that—if we are to believe the magazine moguls and doting mothers of the world—is attractive in a person. Even if you aren’t the most handsome, the most charming, the most qualified, if you are confident and people see that in you, success will surely follow. But there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and I find myself struggling between these two attributes as I wade through the pool of professional life, especially with my writing.
Before college, I hardly ever showed my writing to anyone. After dark I would type away on my outdated computer in my bedroom (these were my insomniac years) and produce all of these incredibly adolescent, incredibly contrived and cheesy narratives, and I would hoard them, printing them out, making neat editorial marks in the columns, and carefully tucking them away in a desk drawer, sure they would be published someday. And then I got to college and I had to workshop these things that I had written, I had to send my little darlings out into the world (or at least the small world of my fiction workshop). It was a pretty terrifying experience. And my peers argued over my work, suggested changes, liked things, didn’t like things; sometimes there was consensus, sometimes there wasn’t. Sometimes they would suggest such radical changes that I felt I would no longer be able to identify with the piece if made. Of course, I didn’t have to make all of those changes. They were, in fact, only recommendations. And if I didn’t choose to follow a peer’s remarks, surely he wouldn’t have hurt feelings. It was my creative work after all. But then I found myself considering, how do I stand up for my work, my creative vision, without seeming “too good” or, indeed, arrogant? When is it confidence saying disregard this, re-consider that, and when is it arrogance?
I once read a quote in Cosmopolitan or some other equally trashy magazine that a male contributor had made saying something like “If you’re not into your body, how can you expect me to be?” And I read this and thought, well sure, I can see how someone hating/being endlessly self-conscious of their body is kind of a turn off. Right? Sure. But at the same time, you don’t want to be like, oh, look at my body, I’m so good looking. And obviously there’s a place in the middle, but maybe that place is so discreet that you don’t even know when you’ve reached it.
Which causes me to wonder, if confidence is something to be striven for, a purposeful pose if you will, isn’t that almost anti-confidence? If you finally attain it, are you so proud of your acquisition that you have to point it out, which then bleeds to arrogance? Is this what causes one to cross the line?
Jennifer Schrauth is earning her MFA at Virginia Tech.