Am I Arrogant Or Am I Humble?

Ben nailed when he said “Alastair’s not exactly rude, he just doesn’t waste the time to pretend he’s interested in what you’re saying.”

I think of life as extremely short and goal-oriented so those normal conversations when people are talking about problems they never try to solve I won’t hide my disdain, especially if there’s someone around I do want to talk to. And that is horribly rude. So Ben’s not 100% right.But this isn’t about whether or not I’m polite.

I feel like I’m right about everything and you’re boring. That sounds like arrogance to me.

And yet I don’t push my opinions on people. I do everything in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion, I tell you what I think and then I change the subject. If I’m right about something I don’t have to convince anyone. One-upping people is something I’ll do in a string of jokes but never seriously. In fact if someone is talking about an accomplishment I’m excellent at listening and not injecting or making the conversation about me.

I like it when someone else is the center of attention, I like being in support roles. I like being a cheerleader.

When I want to be the center of attention I earn it. I wanted to be thought of as great songwriter, so I wrote great songs. I wasn’t demanding or attention-whoring, I don’t self-glorify, I wrote songs I thought were great and played them for people. And people tell me they’re great. I had to practice taking compliments in a way that didn’t feel shitty for the giver or receiver and that means accepting them without milking them or being self-deprecating.

I have a friend who humble-brags everything. He takes a grinning awe shucks attitude to any compliment that comes his way and runs around telling everyone who might listen about the ‘surprise’ compliment he just got.

I get compliments when I play but I’d never quote the conversation to someone else the next day to give myself a self-esteem boost. It’s one thing to be proud, or even to want others to be proud of you, but it’s an arrogance I’m not guilty of to try steering conversations toward self-congratulation.

In music ambition gets called arrogance a lot. I hold myself and everyone who makes music to very high standards because this is the most important thing in the world to me. But in the indie local music scene, in most aspects of life really, it’s such a faux-pas to have ambition, to want anything, that’s it’s easy to call it arrogant.

The fact that I know my songs are good, as opposed to hoping they’re good, allows me to let the conversation go quickly away from praise. I’m proud of my quiet confidence in regards to things I’m good at. And actually writing, primarily songwriting, is the only thing I think I’m good at.

I don’t think I’m a good or great person. That’s not humility that’s low self-esteem. Which is fine, people who think they’re “basically a good person” are the same lazy cowards as anyone and they’re deluded too.

At least in music people I see as arrogant have accomplishments to base it on. I have a friend who glorifies everything he does to the point of acting like he invented water. He spins everything – good, bad, and mundane, as if it magical came from his own exceptionalism. He runs over people in conversation to broadcast how smart is. And not because he wants you to think he’s smart, he’s just reaffirming his intelligence to himself and you’re the sounding board.

I often hold back opinions I’m not sure of, or assume someone else will express them so I don’t have to. If a good idea goes unexpressed because of it I hate speaking up so I’ll let the idea go. I don’t know if that’s humility either.

I guess it’s a matter of me not talking about things I don’t feel confident in. Which is at once humble and arrogant, someone who only wants to talk about things he likes is clearly arrogant to a degree but not as arrogant as someone who goes on talking when he has no idea what he’s talking about.

I accept that everyone in life will have varying degrees of respect for me. I’d love it if everyone loved and respected me but that’s impossible. If someone is giving me the chance to make the conversation all about me an alarm goes off and I make sure to listen to them, whereas if someone’s being self-centered I’ll end up cutting them down. If someone holds me in high regard I do what I can to respect that, I hate the feeling of basking in praise. I hate the feeling of acting entitled, I almost never ask people to hand me things when they’re closer because that feels too spoiled and douchey.

And yet I act like a charity case all the time.

It bothers me when I do something for someone and their first reaction is to tell me when they’ll pay me back, so I don’t do that when someone does something nice for me. And I believe in Barma, all the drinks you buy for others someday get bought for you and you’ll someday buy all the drinks that were bought for you. Lately though I’ve been acting like an entitled mooch to the point where even I feel bad. I’ve been thinking lately about what makes a good friend, the kind of friend I want to have and the kind of friend that I am. The kind of good friends I have are casual. Guys who’ll buy drinks, tell jokes, and cheer me up. People who think being supportive means, in the words of a shitty pop rock song “Always sticking up for you even when I know you’re wrong.”

Whereas the kind of good friend I aim to be is the kind I wish I had, the kind who makes you a better person, doesn’t agree with you when you’re lying to yourself. But is that arrogant of me? To call myself a good friend when I think I know you better than you do, to think my opinions matter more than your feelings and you’ll thank me later? Sounds pretty shitty. I hate when people say intentions are everything, that if you intend to do good then you are good. That’s not good, that’s choosing not to think about all the consequences.

But even then am I putting all the consequences of everything on my own shoulders? It’s arrogance to think I could handle that.

In the end I can’t say I’m one or the other. I’m certainly self-centered, maybe more than others, maybe just more open about it, but for sure more than I’d like to be. I think if someone’s worried they’re arrogant they can’t be too arrogant. Like being sane enough to think you might be crazy, it’s the people pointing out constantly how not-crazy they are that seem the craziest.

And I won’t disagree with those who’d call me arrogant. I’m not going to say that people who’ve only seen one side of me don’t know me. The fact is they know me as well as anyone and aren’t clouded by any extraneous information.

Even if we voted and all agreed I’m Captain Super Arrogance it wouldn’t really matter. I’ve doubled down on being my authentic self and not pretending anything anymore, not trying to influence people’s opinions of me toward positive attributes I’m not sure I have. Because I just won’t waste the time. I can’t find the truth about myself while trying to convince other people of lies.

Is that humble? Not trying to convince people you’re a good person when you don’t think you are?


Singer/songwriter, jerk.

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