Confidence or Arrogance?

I love a good podcast and I recently stumbled across a brilliant one called “David Tennant Does a Podcast with…”  The last episode of Season 1 is with actor Michael Sheen. I’ll include links below, have a listen to this and all the other episodes.

About 10 minutes into the episode, Michael speaks about his early acting experiences and his confidence that he would be discovered as the greatest actor the world had ever known. He speaks openly and honestly about the experience of realising he wasn’t going to be “anointed” with that title and the impact that had on his mental health. He describes having a “sort of breakdown”, losing all confidence and leaving college.

Michael then goes on to talk about rebuilding this confidence in a grounded, constructive way by re-engaging with acting classes and getting back to the basics of what he was trying to achieve. Doing it with the purpose of being an actor instead of doing it for the purpose of being famous meant he was open to learning and refining a skillset which developed his abilities.

Is this one of the differences between confidence and arrogance? Was Michael “confident” when he was waiting to be anointed or was he “arrogant”? The work by Kleitman, Hui and Jiang (2019) suggests that arrogance is confidence without ability. Perhaps this is why Michael had the experience he did? His purpose of being famous was arrogant because he lacked the abilities to be famous, if for no other reason than how do you define the specific abilities required for fame? Yet when he refocused his purpose and developed his abilities in acting, a clearly defined skillset, he was able to find new confidence and went on to be a successful actor?

So, what does confidence mean to you? Do you feel confident at the moment or do you need to hone your abilities to support it? Perhaps you are confident at the moment but you want to move onto something else? Will you lead into your new opportunity with arrogance or take the time to ensure or develop your abilities in order to find your confidence?


Kleitman, S., Hui, J.S. & Jiang, Y. (2019). Confidence to spare: individual differences in cognitive and metacognitive arrogance and competence. Metacognition Learning 14, 479–508.

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