Conceit is a sign of weakness; confidence is a sign of strength. However, it can be very difficult to exhibit your strengths without someone getting the wrong idea, and then there are always those willing to drag you down.
Before we can determine how to show confidence without offending others, it is important to identify what the difference is between confidence and conceit.
Confidence is being okay with who you are; conceit is believing that everyone should like you. Confidence is accepting yourself, faults and all; conceit is refusing to believe you have faults. Confidence is knowing that everyone has the right and ability to shine; conceit is the act of tearing others down. Confidence pits you against yourself; conceit pits you against everyone else. Confidence is win/win; conceit only has one winner. Confidence puts you on the same field as everyone else; conceit puts everyone else down. Confidence compliments; conceit insults. Confidence sees value in others; conceit sees nothing but faults in others. Confidence takes responsibility; conceit blames others. Confidence encourages others to rise higher; conceit holds others back. Confidence allows room for failure; conceit wins at all costs. Confidence is humility; conceit is proud.
In the pageant world, confidence is the good done with the crown; conceit is the ownership of the crown.
To be confident, it is important that we are honest with ourselves. None of us are perfect, so acknowledging our mistakes and shortcomings is a big part of being honest. Although this does not mean we have to air our dirty laundry, it does mean that we need to take an inventory about what we have done and how it makes us feel. When our actions have hurt another person, it is appropriate to do what we can to heal the wounds-- no matter how big or small they are. Simple apologies without excuses can do wonders for healing pain, as can acknowledging to others that we have done wrong. In addition to validating the feelings of the other party, we also have the opportunity to forgive ourselves, and to let go of any blame, shame, or regret we have. Then, the beauty of it is that we can move on! In many ways this is similar to the process of repentance that is often taught in spiritual and religious teachings. When we correct a wrong, we set the scales into balance, once again-- or at least make a valiant attempt to do so. Our hearts become lighter, more free, and open to the good we can receive. We add to our confidence when we are willing to admit our mistakes and make attempts to correct them. Occasionally, we will run into those who want to hang on to anger or upset. We have all met someone like this.
For some people, there is no room for everyone to be at peace. Some people find meaning in their life (fleeting and illusionary as it is) by making others feel bad. Some people hold on to grudges because they do not realize the peace that comes from letting them go. Some people just bond with others over criticizing other people. Some people cleave to a mob mentality and feel that they have more strength and value when they are targeting another person. For these people, their actions are conceit personified. People who hold grudges, spread rumors, pick on others, gossip, lie, and stab others in the back are operating from a place of belittling, comparison, and superiority. For one reason or another, these people are missing fundamental aspects of character that are present in those who are confident. Often envy, wrath, or grief can be the catalyst for this behavior, but determining exactly what happened to invoke these negative feelings can be difficult-- if not life-shattering.
It is important to remember that being targeted by someone who is like this reveals much more about their character than yours. If you choose not to engage in this behavior, you are free from the underlying guilt that festers in the hearts of those who do. Furthermore, when you are targeted by someone like this, you may be tempted to stand up for yourself. Here is a secret: bullies don't care and they are not listening anyway. Scream until you are blue in the face and they only get gratification. The best thing to do is walk away. Your calm, collected silence, carrying on with your head high is the biggest win you could possibly claim.
(Crabs are notorious for holding one another down, and pulling each other back into the bucket.)
The good news is that conceited people often gravitate to one another. The bad news is that if you lie down with dogs, you make wake up with fleas. So, while you may be a confident, self-loving, genuine person, if you have friends and associates that act in this conceited way, you may be lumped together with them. Perhaps that does not bother you, yet; however, in time, as your star rises and your confidence excels, you may find yourself being a target of those you once considered friends. If they are willing to say it to you about another person, they will say the same thing about you to others.
Rather than surrounding yourself by those who are waiting for you to fail (or are happy to keep you down with them), choose to surround yourself by those who are confident: people who are growing, inspiring, moving forward, serving, and lifting others. These are the tribe who will encourage you to be more, to reach higher, to congratulate your success, and comfort you when you need it (and you will, at some point). Operating in a positive space with others who are positive leads to an emotional and psychological upward mobility that will prove beneficial to (almost) everyone around you.
Along the same lines of being honest with yourself is accepting your past-- good and bad-- and valuing the lessons you have learned and the person you have become because of the experiences you have had. We can often learn our best lessons from our greatest losses. It seems that when we are broken down to our lowest point, our perspective can change. In our heartache, we develop empathy and consideration for others. Both of these qualities are vital to the development of confidence because they allow us to see that, as humans, we all share certain emotions and feelings. Tapping into these feelings is truly the equalizer of all people, though some choose to avoid exploring and experiencing their feelings.
Another source of confidence is continual growth. When we learn new things, when we gain new experience, we are able to improve our self-esteem and raise our capabilities. We can share our knowledge with others, and inspire them to expand their own horizons. When we step outside of our comfort zones, we foster our own growth, which leads to increased confidence. Nothing zaps confidence faster than stagnation, so find a new challenge and doggedly pursue it until you master it!
Remember that hard days will come. We will all face days that can really make us throw in the towel. It is difficult-- if not impossible-- to stay positive and peppy all of the time. And that is okay! This is when you reach out to those you can trust and let them know that you need a boost. That's what friends are for, and that is what confident people do.