We all know people who sing their own praises at every work or social opportunity. You may sometimes wonder if they know something about self-confidence that you don’t. Perhaps their annoying habit is a sign that they’ve discovered some secret to waking up every day feeling ready to conquer the world. Truly, the line between self-confidence and arrogance can seem finer than it really is.

Cocky or Confident?

Cocky people do have confidence, but it comes from a different place than true self-assurance. Arrogance is one result of building self-esteem from outward sources such as financial privilege or constant praise. However, yank the external support system away, and the person’s sense of self-worth goes with it.

You build true self-confidence from within and project it to the world. Confident people have a realistic picture of their own traits and abilities and trust themselves enough to respond to life authentically. They learn from failure rather than letting it define them, and they forge ahead a bit wiser.

A hallmark of the genuinely self-assured person is the ability to admit to a mistake without excessive apologizing or rationalization. A cocky colleague, on the other hand, is more likely to pass the buck.

Four Ways to Tell the Difference

1. Style vs. Bling Addiction.

True style is personal and has little to do with trends. Confident people enjoy what they have without defining themselves by their possessions. These are the folks who survive disasters with a strong and giving spirit. Their sense of self remains constant even if they must physically rebuild.

Arrogant people are more often emotionally devastated by material losses and may struggle harder to define their core values in the face of adversity. Not everyone who flaunts “stuff” is cocky, but ostentation suggests a distorted self-image.

2. Active Listening vs. the Monologue.

That person who insists on holding court in any gathering is probably a frightened jester rather than a monarch.

Arrogant people need to validate their belief of being better than others and are constantly looking for opportunities to sell themselves.

If you like yourself as you are, you free up energy to be genuinely interested in other people. You engage in active listening and ask sincere questions. In turn, people will respond positively to your attentiveness.

3. Ambition vs. Ruthlessness.

Ambition is not a crime. Confident people relish achievement and contributing their talents to the world. They don’t feel threatened by others’ successes and instead try to learn from them.

Cocky people need to believe that they are on top even if reality says otherwise. This can lead to unnecessarily manipulative or callous behavior as they focus on defending a power base at all costs.

4. The Human vs. the Greek God.

As a self-confident person, you accept that you are just a human being. You are intrinsically no better or worse than anyone else. In addition to your successes, you have flaws, failures and really bad hair days or even years. You treat yourself with compassion while taking responsibility for your choices, and you learn from misfortune and mistakes.

Arrogant people can’t risk the fragile persona crumbling in the face of defeat and run from criticism. They tend to go to extremes of either deflecting blame onto others or condemning themselves for being only human.If you wonder about your own cocky moments, you are probably in the ballpark of self-confidence.

Truly secure people evaluate their own behavior and face their doubts. By letting go of fear, you set yourself up for success.

Confident guy photo available from Shutterstock