I’ve never thought of myself as arrogant.
I’ve thought that, like far too many men, I have the distasteful habit of speaking authoritatively, of ending sentences with downward intonation, of implying certainty, knowledge, when curiosity and openness might be more… appropriate.
I’ve always understood this as almost vestigial, a sort of leftover bit of detritus from my father’s particular form of grandiose narcissism. I think it disconnected from my essence, which IS open and curious.
For years – at least ten, maybe twenty – I existed primarily in spheres in which some hybrid of confidence and arrogance wasn’t just tolerated, it was expected, demanded. And rewarded. And in those spheres, no one, ever, thought me arrogant.
Suddenly, I find myself confronting an awkward, painful even, reality: a number of people I need to see me as otherwise see me as arrogant. Cocky.
This affects me on multiple levels.
First, practically: I’ve missed out on opportunities I hoped to have as a result.
Second, cognitively: it’s genuinely confusing, disequilibrating, for me to be seen as other than I see myself. I pride myself on my ability to empathize, to see the world – and myself – through others’ eyes. When I learn that what I imagine people see when they look at me is different from what they actually see, it leaves me adrift, unmoored. And worse, I find myself questioning myself: are they right? Could it be that this image of myself I’ve so carefully tended – introspective, thoughtful, open, curious, receptive – is, simply, wrong?
And third, emotionally: in the wake of this realization – that I’m seen by some (many?) by whom I might wish to be seen otherwise in this way – I feel empty, alone, worthless.
On some level, I know I always feel those particular things. All I do here, and elsewhere, can be understood, through one lens, as an elaborate attempt to defend myself against that loneliness, that worthlessness. Both to refute it and to defeat it.
But it sure stings to be reminded of that lens, and to see that, at least when it comes to a current audience, I’m nowhere near as successful as I imagined myself to be.