Confidence in my 20s


This is part 1 of a 3-part series on Confidence 

Over the years, confidence has been my number 1 strength and my number 1 weakness. It has allowed me to do and say things which most would shy away from doing, but has also sometimes given to others the impression that I am arrogant.

This was especially true in my early 20s when my empathy and emotional intelligence skills were perhaps not quite to the level that they needed to be. My awareness was just not there yet. Instead, my nature was like sunshine, shining even on the greyest of days. (I know now that, to those whom are grumpy and having a bad day, this never-ending ray of sunshine can be really annoying.)

I was not aware then that I could purposefully choose to listen to what others think or say, or purposefully change my happiness levels to help others. In my early 20’s there was no fear and there was no what if. There was sunshine every day, and there were no consequences. For that, I will be eternally grateful to my mentors, who were gracious enough to give my youthfulness the space needed to help me learn and grow. There was never too much rain.

As we grow and adapt as leaders, we become more aware of those around us and how they perceive who we are and what we do. We become better able to listen to others and more aware of the consequences of our actions. We become more patient with others and recognize when their confidence is low, enabling us to help them learn and to grow. Understanding the weather in our environment.

Confidence Blog 1

Confidence Defined

So, what is confidence and where does it come from? How can we develop it in others? How can we ensure that the confidence they already have doesn’t erode?

From the Cambridge English dictionary confidence is:

“The quality of being certain of your abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future.”

This is an interesting quote, as instinctively when we think about confidence we think of an individual. Yet, when we read the definition it is not about an individual but about the interaction within the environment and the situation.

When Does Confidence Become Arrogance?

Confidence can very quickly, without an individual realizing it, be perceived by others as arrogance. Below is a list of traits which can sometimes come across as arrogant. These traits also apply to both genders. There simple and small things which can erode trust and destroy a relationship including:

  • The big I am
  • Never using “we” — Always referencing stories with “I did this” and “I did that”
  • Challenging senior leaders and peers at the wrong time
  • Over-directing teammates and others
  • Not saying please and thank you
  • Being overly optimistic about getting work complete
  • Bragging about anything
  • Not valuing the team
  • Going after opportunities for yourself and not for a team or a company
  • Telling others “No” many times without explanation
  • Not asking others for help
  • Fearlessness
  • An over-inflated inner voice
  • Valuing money over people, relationships and feelings
  • Being materialistic
  • Withholding information from others
  • Not maintaining your relationships
  • Moving too fast for others to keep up and leaving people behind

All of us do these things now and again. Having a checklist for things to be mindful of when we are perhaps too cheery, can help us steer ourselves back on to track. Often, there are triggers that will set us down the path of borderline arrogance. Leaders need to be self-aware enough to understand when this is happening in ourselves and others. Having something that reminds you to take a reality check is a really good thing — for me this is writing or walking.

“When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitation. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” John F Kennedy

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of blog series, which highlights Confidence in your 30s and the benefits of great confidence.

Sarah James was ANZ lead for Authentic Leadership in DXC and an advocate for DXC’s Women in Leadership and STEM. Prior to leaving DXC in September 2017, Sarah founded the Empowering Future Leaders blog and was its primary author. With over 15 years of experience in the world of IT, Sarah’s specialty is spatial information and includes integration on projects as diverse as mapping volcanoes in Hawaii to delivering high-tech police vehicles.


Is there such a thing as too many questions?

How millennial work habits fuel enterprise success (really!)

Data gravity: The things you never knew you never knew


  1. Awesome article Sarah. The list that can erode trust and destroy a relationship seems to be a perfect match with many of us. Most of us forget these simple things in our daily lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great lunchtime reading

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s an awesome article Sarah.. and also an eye opener for people who should understand difference between arrogance and being empathetic to grow in their sphere… looking forward to part-2 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


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  2. […] In my post last month we talked about the importance of saying “no” to avoid workplace burnout. But saying “no,” especially to a superior, or even a colleague you like and get on with, takes a certain amount of confidence. […]


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