What's the Difference Between Confidence and Cockiness?

Updated on May 17, 2020
Kyler J Falk profile image

Personal development is a never-ending activity in every aspect of my life. It's better that I change actively, than sit and wait for others

Are you cocky, or confident?
Are you cocky, or confident? | Source

Being a man, it has been used against me as a tool of cruelty time and time again. My confidence being perceived as cockiness, and my cockiness being incorrectly praised; it is as if you cannot do right no matter which direction you choose. However, nothing could be farther from the truth than saying the negative trait of cockiness is inescapable.

The key to confidence and overcoming cockiness is understanding the difference between the two. Luckily there's only two differences and they both revolve around perception!

You'll never be able to alter the inherent perceptions of others, but you can choose to live and feel to the contrary of their ignorance!

— Kyler J. Falk

How to Define Cockiness?

The literal definition of cockiness: "Arrogant; pertly self-assertive; conceited."

Now this is a really callous definition and could apply to just about anyone at specific points in self-exploration. However, I'd like you to draw your attention to the subjectivity of the words used to describe the state of being cocky. These descriptors require outside influence, essentially, you cannot be cocky if there is no one around to be cocky for.

I want you to take that deep into your heart, and understand that cockiness is an inherent trait in everyone and a trait that people will use against you. If it were not for the constant use of the term as a tool of cruelty and invalidation, you would probably never think of yourself as cocky. Alas, that is not to say cockiness is a trait you should strive to attain.

Should someone perceive you as cocky, make sure you take a fair and impartial look at the self. Ensure you aren't being overbearing, and you are presenting yourself in a fair and impartial manner. Those who are cocky often speak more about their actions than they actually act upon their abilities.

It is better to act, than it is to speak about your actions; prove you practice what you preach before you preach it!

How to Define Confidence?

The literal definition of confidence: "The state of feeling certain about the truth of something. A feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities."

The literal definition of this one isn't all too hard to understand, but what many miss out on in their own interpretations would be the all-important connotations of the word, "self."

Confidence cannot be handed over on someone else's perceptions and ingrain within you, though you can give off the airs of confidence and change perceptions just by accepting the self. Where cockiness is dependent upon the perceptions of others, confidence is the truth of the self; you are your confidence, not the opinion of others.

Only you can determine whether or not you are confident, no one except you can rightfully place labels upon the self with objective authority.

The Differences!

Cockiness is dependent upon the perception of others, while confidence is the positive perception of the self, by the self. Though the literal definitions can be interchangeable at times, you are in full control of the truth behind both.

The cocky are always comparing themselves to others, arguing their greatness over proving it!
The cocky are always comparing themselves to others, arguing their greatness over proving it! | Source

Cockiness: Weaponizing Perception to Hurt Others

All too often we see the cockiness of others, and even our own, driving us to try to put down other people. That is a key component to breeding perceptions of cockiness around an individual. Someone who consistently puts down others and conversely puts themselves on a gilded pedestal, they are doomed to be perceived negatively as cocky.

Take for example Donald J. Trump; a man who would be best described as presenting himself to be cocky. I cannot speak to what he believes of himself in his private moments in any factual manner, but I can say accurately that he wants everyone to know he is number one. This cockiness is regularly used as a way to get under his skin, and in turn he gets under the skin of others by fueling that cocky inferno.

Trump loves his, "I am the best..." statements, and he regularly uses them to great affect against his opponents who attempt to weaponize them. This is a vicious cycle that would eventually break down the self-affirmations of any sane person, yet even when he is simply being confident he will be called cocky. Confidence, I assume, is Trump's greatest ally in the defense against the onslaught of unfair and harsh criticism, regardless of how cocky he presents himself to be.

You can get away with being cocky if you take actions that prove your confidence in the self. Take heed, however, there are those who will try to bring you down no matter what!

— Kyler J. Falk

Confidence: Turning Perception Into Your Shield

Here is where things begin to get murky, and that is only because humans are not islands and we depend on others for, at least a portion of, how we define the self. Others will constantly try to bring us down, especially when we are confident; and more often than not, your confidence is going to get wrongfully labeled as cockiness. However, a truly confident individual will not worry about what others say in ignorance; a confident individual strives forward without worry of failure and self-loathing.

Throwing Trump a bone here, since I used him as an example of cockiness, he seems to exude an unfounded level of confidence. Despite everyone's attempts to tear him down, to mock him for every little thing he does, he barrels on through his competition without ever adjusting his attitude greatly. From this I can surmise that he has confidence in his behavior, and what the outcome of this behavior will be.

You see, a man who is confident can be beaten down any number of ways; he'll stand right back up and take another beating with a smile on his face. Assurance of the self, your goals, the outcome of your actions... these are what make confidence into a shield for you. No matter what sort of criticism you face, if you are happy and accomplishing your goals then you are a beacon for confidence!

Are you cocky, or are you confident?

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You can always stand out from the crowd you fit in with, and be accepted for it too!
You can always stand out from the crowd you fit in with, and be accepted for it too! | Source

Surround Yourself With Confident People!

I cannot express this enough, over and over again I shall express it, surround yourself with confident people! A cocky person will spread their insufferable ego and pretension to infallibility—while being one of the most fallible— to everyone around them, even to the point everyone is scared to question one another. The confident man will spread self-assurance, building himself and those around him from the ground up; and even more so, the confident man and his people shall weather any storm that comes their way.

Look at those you surround yourself with and ask yourself this question, "Do these people celebrate my victories, or do they criticize me for not having done it better?"

If your answer to that question is that they tend to criticize you after a victory, making you criticize yourself despite your victory, then your chosen group is not the way to a confident future. People who lack confidence always love to dwell on hindsight, even I dwell on hindsight in vulnerable moments so as to comfort myself, but those who cannot celebrate your victories purely are going to erode your confidence over time. Do not surround yourself with people who cannot celebrate your accomplishments without criticism!

When seeking out those who will be conducive to your confidence, ensure you look out for those who promote any good idea you have. Equally so, you need to cherish those who are not scared to tell you when you are acting like a fool. The balance must be there; finding it and maintaining it are the hard parts.

Often times I find my greatest allies in the people I disagree with fundamentally, rather than the people who would gladly act as my echo chamber. Being told I'm wrong is one of the greatest feelings ever, especially when it turns out that I was actually correct and my confidence was more than just cockiness. Surrounding myself with those who disagree grounds me in reality, and cutting out the ones who can never agree keeps me progressing forward.

Those you surround yourself with should put you on an upward projection in every facet of your life! Drop the dead weights, and be confident in your ability to push onward through the criticism!

Questions & Answers


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      • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

        Kyler J Falk 

        12 days ago from Corona, CA

        Thank you, Brenda, and it is all too often I find those who are more willing to offer criticism of my methods to obtain victory than praise for my success in grasping it tightly. My mother was the sort to criticize my every accomplishment, even give herself the credit for them, and I've had to work very hard throughout my life to remain confident.

        Very happy to hear you are confident, I can see it shine through in your writing! Thanks for reading!

      • Brenda Arledge profile image


        12 days ago from Washington Court House

        Nice article.

        I like to think I am confident for the most part, but you are right about the company you keep.

        If someone knocks all your ideas or accomplishments down you need to distance yourself.

      • Kyler J Falk profile imageAUTHOR

        Kyler J Falk 

        13 days ago from Corona, CA

        I tend to disagree, but almost in a way that wholly agrees. Cockiness is a trait that allows for people to learn, hopefully at a young age from a good role-model, what the difference is between confidence and cockiness. Not to mention when someone puts you in your place, that cockiness lays the foundation for forming true confidence. The two are nearly interchangeable, and both very important in developing the self.

        However, I wholly agree that adult cockiness, the type that infringes on everyone around the individual is never a good thing.

        Thanks for reading!

      • Isivwe Muobo profile image

        Farrah Young 

        13 days ago from Nigeria

        This article gives a clear distinction between both traits. It is never a good thing to be cocky, bug you are right in that we all have a bit of that cocky trait in us, no matter how we try to deny it.


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