Confidence vs Cockiness (8 Experts Explain The Difference)

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta
Updated on 3 November 2020
Expert Content

What’s the difference between being confident and being cocky?

Confidence is generally seen as a positive trait, while cockiness usually isn’t.

However, there’s something of a fine line between these behaviours, and sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between them.

So, we asked a group of selected experts to provide their insights on confidence versus cockiness.

Here’s what they said.

There’s A Fine Line Between Being Confident And Being Cocky

Dr. A.J. Marsden, Assistant Professor of Human Services and Psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla

There is a fine line between being confident and being cocky. Although we know our intentions, it is not always so obvious to others.

The main difference between the two is that confident individuals have a good understanding of their own strengths and weakness.

They learn from their failures and take responsibility for their mistakes. A cocky individual seems confident, but that confidence usually doesn’t come from within. It comes from external sources, such as privilege or praise.

If these sources were to fade away, so would their apparent confidence.

Cocky individuals have a need to constantly validate themselves to others and look good. They have a strong need to always be seen as being on top – even if they aren’t.

They may manipulate or bully others to maintain this illusion. Because of this desire to be seen as all-knowing and perfect, they deflect blame onto others and often refuse to learn from their mistakes.

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True Confidence Is Seen Through Behaviors

Sabrina Romanoff, Clinical Psychologist

The difference between confidence and overconfidence is analogous to ensuring an individual can walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.

Confidence relates to believing in yourself, your ability, and having the skills evidenced through behavior.

Confidence is when self-appraisal is realistic, strengths are accurately recognized, and you are able to bring those resources into your interactions with others.

Overconfidence relates to speaking of your virtues, instead of demonstrating them through action.

The act of overconfidence in this sense also relates to an inaccurate sense of reality and sense of self.

Life is unexpected, and those who overestimate their abilities do not consider the circumstances outside of their control, which can impact performance.

Arrogance tends to cause individuals to bet on themselves when they really shouldn’t, due to difficulty recognizing both internal and external limitations.

The key is in how realistic you are about your abilities, and how you present them. Words often fall short to action. True confidence is seen through behaviors.

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True Confidence Is About Being Authentic

Jordan A. Rubin, Certified Life Coach

While working with people who want to build their confidence levels, I’ve noticed two main types of people who reach out and enroll for my services:

1) Those who are noticeably shy and have a difficult time expressing themselves.

2) Those who are visibly “confident” but deep down have a lot of insecurities about being true to themselves.

I want to focus on the second type for this article, because many people in this category would publicly be referred to as “cocky” or “arrogant”.

The reality is that cockiness is a facade for those who are still very insecure, and have just as difficult a time, or perhaps even more difficult than the person who’s visibly shy.

Both of the aforementioned types of people struggle with true confidence, which in my experience is the freedom to be 100 per cent authentic no matter who is around.

True confidence is calm, controlled, and low-stress. Cockiness is uncontrolled, insecure, and worrying way too much about other peoples opinions.

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Confidence Is Rooted In Self-Belief

Lisa Concepcion, Life Coach and Founder of LoveQuest Coaching

I help Type-A professionals who often struggle with their love lives because they come across as cocky or lack confidence. This is a hot topic that permeates people’s lives.

Confidence is the sweet spot! At times, people come across cocky when they know they can achieve something easily. It turns people off. Confidence, on the other hand, is inspiring.

What’s the difference? The energy! The energy behind confidence is one of joy and enthusiasm. Anyone who acknowledges the very high energy frequency of enthusiasm and shares the accomplishment with others, such as a movement or a group effort is a confident leader.

Cockiness is more self-focused. It’s knowing that you’re stronger, more talented, smarter, but being arrogant about it.

The energy of arrogance is often off-putting to those who are in opposition. However, for those who support the cocky person, they find the arrogance appealing and are actually emboldened by it.

Confidence says, I’m really great at this and I know it.

Cockiness says, I’m really great at this and I want everyone to know it.

Cockiness is rooted in validation outside the self. Confidence is rooted in belief in self, the validation from others may or may not come. There’s no attachment to it.

Cockiness may also be rooted in a deeper need to prove something. Confidence isn’t about having to prove anything because it’s a quiet certainty that things are going to work out favorably.

Stop Thinking About Something

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Cockiness Is An Exaggerated State Of Self

Danny Greeves, Confidence and Mindset Coach

Confidence is a natural state. It’s based on the acknowledgement and appreciation of one’s skills and capabilities, without the self-praise. This is such an important distinction.

When someone is confident, it means they have a clearly defined boundary of their areas of competence and expertise, as well as an awareness and appreciation of their weaknesses.

Confidence is therefore the result of having an objective and fully rounded perspective. This breeds certainty.

Cockiness is an exaggerated state of self. It can involve self-righteousness and an over-inflated sense of skill and capability based on past experiences or beliefs.

We are not being authentic when we are cocky, we are being self-serving.

We become cocky when we perceive the benefits of what we are participating in are greater than any drawbacks, which results in us puffing ourselves up and celebrating.

Cockiness is characterised by a refusal to consider alternative, more effective ways, and is based on the faulty assumption the result or outcome is a given.

When we are cocky we believe we are right at the expense of all others. When we are confident, we believe with the help of others we will be right in the end.

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Confidence Requires No External Validation

Christian de la Huerta, Spiritual Teacher and Personal Transformation Coach

Confidence, to me, has a foundation in humility. It comes from self-knowledge and experience. It requires no external validation and has nothing to prove to anyone.

While cockiness can be sexy in some expressions, it can also cross the line into overconfidence.

In these cases, it has an element of overcompensating for subconscious feelings of not being good enough.

Confidence Is Believing That You’re Enough As You Are

Karen Donaldson, Communication and Body Language Expert and Certified Confidence Coach

The truth about confidence is that it’s often misconstrued with cockiness. Below are a few profound differences between the two.

Cockiness is fuelled by someone feeling insecure about themselves. The way in which they attempt to nurture their insecurity is to overly pout their wins, always “one up” other people during conversations and are often highly judgemental etc.

Confidence is believing that you’re enough as is, without the need to allow others opinions to dictate your actions.

Cockiness is focusing on what others think of you and aiming to pre-empt their thoughts by overly showcasing your assets, your wins and at times belittling others in the process.

Confidence is walking into situations knowing that you will be judged by others and knowing how to shake it off because you also know and realize that the most important judgement of all is how we judge ourselves.

Cockiness is the need to degrade someone else in order to make yourself feel good. Confidence is the knowing that someone else does not have lose for you to win.

Confidence is owning things that make “you” happy and bring you joy. Cockiness is owning things that portray a certain image and ensuring that people see it, and hear about it.

Confident people genuinely compliment others and allow others to share their wins. They do so without the need to over shadow others with a statement about a similar win that they’ve also had.

Cocky people are judgmental and make a concerted effort to pin point other people’s faults so they can appear to always be on top.

How To Be Humble And Confident

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Confidence Is About Feeling At Home In Your Own Skin

Stephanie Thoma, Author of Confident Introvert

Confidence is a sense of inner knowing and security, when someone feels at home in their own skin and seeks validation within based on living their values, taking into account how their actions or words impact those around them.

Alternatively, cockiness is the outward appearance of hyper-confidence or more plainly narcassism and a disregard for the other, inflating the importance of one’s sense of self seeking external validation that is meant to compensate for the lack of confidence.

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