Friday, February 19, 2010

The fine line

When does confidence become arrogance? Is a certain level of arrogance needed to do some things in life, like become an Olympic champion?

These are the questions that floated through my head as I watched Yevgeny Plushenko this week. I bow down to the guy's skating prowess; nothing can take away from the fact that he's one of the best figure skaters, as is evident by his numerous medals and titles. But with quotes like "If the Olympic champion doesn't know how to jump a quad, I don't know. Now it's not men's figure skating, now it's dancing," and "I was positive that I won. But I suppose Evan needs a medal more than I do," it's difficult not to think of the skater as arrogant. Now I'm not saying that being arrogant makes you less deserving of a medal (though we do tend to root for the nice guys, no?), but I genuinely wonder if/how that arrogance serves his performance.


image source

As if those random thoughts weren't enough to make my head ache at the midnight hour, I started thinking about the "defense" of Plushenko's quad comment and, oddly enough, how the athlete compares to Shaun White (bear with me here). At the root of the Plushenko-Lysacek drama is Plushenko's view that the quad means progress in the sport of men's figure skating (and that a gold performance sans quad means a regression in the sport). I admittedly don't know enough about the sport to have an opinion on that, but I was reminded of an interview with Shaun White, in which he discussed how he has furthered the sport of snowboarding. He said [approx. 4:15 of video] that in inventing new tricks, he basically takes ones that are already out there and just does them bigger and better. Perhaps some might see this as a statement of arrogance; I'm not one of those people. But that got me thinking about something else (aren't you glad you're on this ride of my stream of consciousness?). Does personality overshadow arrogance? If Shaun White did say something arrogant, would we forgive it - or even overlook it - because he's so playful?

And here I'll end my rambling to ask what you think. Is confidence sometimes misconstrued as arrogance? Does arrogance have its place? When is arrogance acceptable (if it is)?

PS. Way to go Team McCormick!

8 comments:

Lorri Jeanne said...

I think sometimes confidence is misconstrued as arrogance, but then sometimes it's not. Some people think arrogance is a good thing but I think it is just irritating.

Visiting from SITS--have a nice weekend!

Mame Afia said...

Stopping from SITs. Nice blog.

Cheri said...

I haven't had time to watch the Olympics, so I can't comment with regard to this specific instance, but in general I feel that confidence and assertiveness in a sport player is a good thing. Arrogance is not - thinking you are above everyone else just makes you a poor sport. And even if you ARE at the top of the food chain, you'll be toppled soon enough. Can you imagine the greats like Mark Spitz or Peggy Fleming trying to compete in the sport the way it is today? In the same way, today's top athletes need to realize that the next generation will take it farther than they have. And so it goes. Arrogance is just ugly.

dramaformama said...

Great post! I think that confidence is more a personal, internal attribute where arrogance is more vengeful and hurtful to others. I also believe that people who are at the very top of their game (whether it's a sport or in business/career) must have a certain level of confidence to get there. And because others can only WISH to be so successful, they see it as arrogance. I also think arrogance actually shows a bit of insecurity. Why be so showy about your confidence if you really ARE as good as you think you are? People will see your success without your being so outwardly showy about it.

Does that make sense? I hope so... I did have a point!

Amanda said...

I think they are different things, mostly. Confidence without being humble, too, is arrogance. So arrogance can't exist without confidence, but confidence can. Does that make sense? Maybe this, too: arrogance isn't gracious, confidence is. If Shaun ate snow, I'm sure that he would be gracious to the winner and humble in his loss (PS silver medal isn't a failure, as Plushenko seems to think).

Great blog and really gave me something to think about tonight!

Kristen @ Motherese said...

Such an interesting question. I'm with you: I found Plushenko's comments arrogant and find Shaun White charming. Both are confident, but I think attitude conveys so much.

Your piece also got me thinking about the way we feel about confidence projected by men vs. confidence projected by women. Is confidence, even arrogance, seen as more acceptable in men?

sarah @ i run with scissors said...

You know it's a fine line between confidence and arrogance. I think confidence is knowing you are good at something and arrogance is having to have the world know your good at something (or just being an ass as so many dudes in bars have proven to me), and I have often witnessed confidence being mistaken or arrogance by insecure people who think that everyone who is extremely gifted should deny their gift with humility and humbleness (I don't agree with this). I think when you flaunt your talent and demand the world bow down then you have definitely hit arrogance (like Plushenko). Wow... that sure came out of my head as rather opinionated ... or was it arrogant?;)
Visiting from Lady Bloggers Tea Party

MeadowC said...

Hmm... Well, we both know how I feel about confident men. I think arrogance/confidence is necessary in SOME situations. Would you want a surgeon who was unsure of his skills? After a while, certain people/personalities take confidence to the level of arrogance. And I'm okay with that. I may not want to be best friends with an asshole, but if he's the best at what he does, then I want him (or her) to be the one I deal with.