The Baggage Breakdown (Part 4): Arrogance
This one hardly needs explaining, but for fun let's look at the stereotype. You know the type, the one who speaks with so much bluster about their talents and achievements, you have no idea how they haven't won an Grammy, Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Noble Peace Prize every year since their inception. The one whose "counter-punch" is exacted against anyone who dares to question their perfection. The one who has all the answers to all of life's mysteries and problems and the experience of a 500 year-old, all at the age of 25. That person who manages to get people to follow them because they are so sure about themselves, they couldn't possibly be wrong. You know the type! The type that ends up in the White House by sheer self assuredness alone, with no substance or experience to be heard of.
Of course this is a much exaggerated version of regular everyday people; we have all met them or might even be "them" and not realize it. When we stumble upon such a person, the reaction from those of us not afflicted with this particular type of baggage, is either frustration or self-doubt. Such a person projects messages to those around them of being "better than," or they implicitly assert that everyone but them are at best ignorant and at worst incompetent.
Why arrogant people get under our skin
These types have a special way of highlighting the areas of baggage some of us struggle with. Because of this, a person struggling with the baggage of arrogance might cause us to pull out our own habits of baggage, because it was likely such a person who caused us to develop our own brand of baggage in the first place. Ironically, it is a result of the arrogant person's own feelings of incompetence that they project their baggage in such a way. It is like positive affirmation gone terribly wrong; they try to speak into reality what they want to be, or at least how they want to be perceived.
Arrogance usually stems from a deep seated desire to overcompensate for some kind of negative self-images or messages that may have been internalized over time. Arrogance can take hold in the forms of being a "know-it-all" and not only valuing your opinions over those of others, which most of us naturally do, but also seeking to influence others to adopt our opinions or function based off of them.
The baggage of arrogance is well-regarded to be a large but fragile ego. As a child, I once asked an organ donor specialist at my school what the issue with having an enlarged organ is, such as a spleen. She explained to me that the larger an organ becomes, the thinner its skin is, much like a balloon. In the same way, many of us walk around with balloon egos, vulnerable to a loud pop at even the slightest poke or jab at it.
What are you (or they) trying to prove?
The question for you, or them, is somewhat simple: "What am I trying to prove?" Was it the bus driver during your young school years who constantly called you lazy? Is it the absent or abusive father who drives us to make something of ourselves so that we can rub it in his face? Is it the judgmental group of people who looked down on you and said you would be nothing? It's difficult, because our society glamorizes these motivations. For example, Gatorade commercials constantly romanticize brutal competition, seeking to prove yourself to others, and to yourself. Motivational speakers conjure up these images, and even often preachers seek to hype up groups of people by placing them opposite a shared enemy, whether one from without or within.
There can be some usefulness to this thought, and we will often find that any habits we have persist because they are successful at a particular function. The question is however, how are you lugging around the baggage, or is it hindering you or others? Think back to how many people you may have led astray with your "alternative facts", or how many people you have alienated or bullied because of their unwillingness to go with the whims of your ego. Even if it doesn't move you much to think about how it affects others, what facades in life are you putting endless energy into keeping alive? If someone knew that you are drowning in debt to keep up the appearance of the opulent life you lead, or the loveless marriage or relationship you endure to be seen in the"right circle". Is it worth it, or is it draining you emotionally, mentally, and maybe even financially?.
How do you feel when you go home at night, and feel the sinking gulp in your throat that reminds you that you are not who you portray yourself to be? It's persistent, isn't it? You develop anxieties over the pressure to accomplish all that you said you would, so that you will be able justify your behaviors. You live in fear or failure, because you set the bar so high for yourself that the fall would kill you. You become so occupied with success that you behave in ways that betray even your own conscience. You then believe that if you accomplish your goals, the sinking feeling will go away. The gag is, you will never lose that feeling because to act in duplicity for anything in life will produce guilt and shame. You may try to placate it by trying to prove yourself. However, the facts remain as well as the lies you told. Its an endless cycle.
What are you (or they) running from?
These feelings of worthlessness and shame will never go away until you confront what it is that you are running away from. What was the traumatic incident that bruised you so deeply, you believed the myth that said you were worthless? Was it a father's dismissal of your talents or intelligence? Was it your teacher's comparison of you to someone else that made you the loser? Or was it your mother's favoritism that caused you to feel pressure to be perfect, only to find out you weren't? The shame and isolation you feel as a result of these experiences all perpetuate the lie that your value and worth as a person is based on your performance. Your measure is identified as being better or worse than someone else. This is a false and fragile foundation by which to build your identity.
The arrogant go through life hoping to gain affirmation and love because of their achievements or perceived value. They have so strongly embraced their baggage and scars, so much so, that they don't realize that even if they get someone to desire them because of their achievements, they still would not gain real love. If you ask anyone in a loving relationship what makes them feel loved and secure in their relationship, it would undoubtably be a variation of "they love me even when I have morning breath," "They've seen me at my worst", or "They know my worst secrets and still chose to be with me." The core message is that people feel most loved when they are accepted at their core or base level. Love based on perfection is not love at all. It might be infatuation, it might be fascination, but it is not love.
Because we all deeply need to be loved, when we are given anything but that, we become annoyed or dissatisfied with those around us. If the arrogant fail to realize this, they will continue to reopen their own wounds. Asking people to put you on a pedestal means at the first sign of tarnishing you will be removed, which will reignite those deeply held beliefs of shame and worthlessness.
Is it helping or hurting?
In diagnosing a client with a particular mental illness, the decision is usually based on the question, "Are these symptoms causing a disruption in the person's life?" If being arrogant is working for this person, or for you, why would you possibly want to change? Evaluate this for yourself, or help the person to evaluate this. Do you find that your relationships with people lack intimacy? Why might this be? How might your beliefs about your past hurt be influencing your behaviors? Are you on the giving end of a toxic relationship? (Check out our Relationship Toxicity Meter and put yours to the test) For those of us who experience these people, do we enable these behaviors by letting them go unchecked because we are afraid of the reaction of this person, the blowout or the pop of the balloon ego? Being fearful of someone who has a loud bark helps no one, it perpetuates their own false belief in their worthlessness even if they don't admit it. If you remember that we all carry our own version of trauma around and are trying to deal with them in ways that might not be helpful, it might make it easier to call the bluff of a person exhibiting these behaviors. Not to lord it over them, but to empower them to seek out ways of gaining real value through vulnerability. A good start can be this TED Talk below.
How to move forward
We've created resources designed to help you assess and begin to deal with this specific issue. We have a free community area that gives you access to guide sheets relating to the topics discussed in this blog. Check out our free community resource area to access downloadable PDF guide sheets for this blog and much more: