I’ve gotten a really good look at arrogance in my life, to the point where I can feel it almost immediately whenever I’m in it, and of course spot it in other people even more easily.
So what exactly is arrogance, and why would we entertain it in the first place? The main thing to know about arrogance, is that it’s the flip side of insecurity. And insecurity is just a subset of fear. Our ego is responsible for manufacturing arrogance, and it does this to help us feel safe, whenever insecurity threatens to make us feel weak.
The insecurity that causes arrogance comes from a fear that people will reject us. That fear can be very strong, because it ties into our hard wired survival instincts. We instinctually want to be favored by others, because way back in our history we lived in small groups and depended on that one group for survival. These days we have a lot of other choices, but those old survival instincts hang on tight. Arrogance is our way of disassociating from that deep seated fear, and it works by telling us a story that we’re so much better than everyone else that none of that matters anyway – we don’t need the others and can survive on our own.
So if we’re not living in primitive society today, how do we fall into the arrogance/insecurity trap? When we’re raised with the feeling that we can never quite please our parents, it creates a gap in our sense of security. On a deep level we feel constantly threatened, because the ones who provide for our basic needs, may decide not to take care of us. Life feels unsafe, and as we grow into adolescence and adulthood, arrogance becomes the ego’s way of trying to protect us from that potentially devastating feeling.
With arrogance, in order to avoid feeling rejection, we pretend not to care what others think. We pretend we’re better than everyone around us, so that any judgment they might have against us can’t be felt. We tell ourselves the others don’t matter, they don’t know what we know, they can’t possibly relate to our superior knowledge, position, beauty, experience, etc.
But what we actually feel deeper inside is insecurity, and a desperate need to be seen, loved, appreciated and acknowledged. If only we could receive the love and recognition we so missed growing up, we might feel safe and whole. But the cruel truth about arrogance is that by its very nature, it creates a separation that keeps us from receiving the love we seek.
With arrogance, the ego unconsciously evaluates everyone we meet and places them either above us, or below us. Each person is looked upon as either someone we need to impress, or someone who doesn’t matter. Very few if any people are seen as equals, so the opportunity for true friendship and heartfelt connection is rare. Until we can drop this pattern, it’s rare to connect with another person on a heart to heart basis.
Like most self destructive patterns, the way to heal arrogance is to begin to recognize it whenever it comes up, and let it go as quickly as possible. Although it operates mostly on an unconscious level, we can become more conscious of arrogance by looking for it. And it always helps to have a counselor who can point it out so we can recognize it, in a caring enough way that we can accept what they’re telling us.
A big part of letting go of arrogance is realizing that we’re all imperfect, all struggling to make sense of life, and overcome our many limitations. We don’t have to compete with each other to find out who’s the smartest, most beautiful, most perfect. That’s a loosing proposition. Ultimately, every human being just wants to be seen, heard, and loved. When we can offer that to another person, instead of trying to decide who’s on top, we can also receive the love we seek. At that point the insecurity falls away, and arrogance no longer serves a purpose.
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