I had a conversation today with a good friend of mine (won't mention whom) about what, exactly, arrogance is. You see, this particular friend of mine has gotten to be accomplished and recognized in his field, which also happens to be a field I am pursuing. Now, he and I have remained in very close contact and I consider him one of my best friends, so needless to say, I am honored to be among the "inner circle" (and, of course, I am not terribly far behind, myself.)
In our conversation today, however, the topic arose about whether his mentioning his achievements is actually arrogant. Surely we can all think of examples of what is definitely arrogance and what is definitely not, but there is a lot of grey area in between to be discussed (incidentally, the computer from which I am typing prefers "gray" to "grey," but I refuse to change!) If someone asks, for example, whether I am a very good musician, I am not sure of the most appropriate way to respond; I go to a highly renowned school, I place among the top 50% in auditions there, and earn myself top grades in most classes I take, but is it okay for me to call myself "very good?" I feel like there's something to be said for the bible verse which reads "He who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
However, there is also a false humility, which can be almost as dangerous as arrogance. Not recognizing one's accomplishments, in a sense, is not accepting oneself for what one is; whatever makes one unusual should generally be celebrated and be incorporated into one's life in a healthy manner. It is self-deprecating to intentionally deny oneself of the recognition and/or praise one deserves, almost as if believing one does not actually deserve it at all.
Still, there is a lot to be accounted for in "the eye of the beholder." People make various assumptions about others, whether founded or not. I can think of an example from my senior year of high school, in which my band played Blue Shades by Frank Ticheli, which features a clarinet solo in the style of Benny Goodman toward the end. My band director held auditions for the solo, and I won the spot. In performance, he also followed a common tradition for the piece, in which the clarinet soloist stands up and plays in front of the band. Rumors spread like wildfire that I was arrogant for having taken the spot and that I thought I was better than the rest of the band, when, in fact, I had only been asked to do so by the band director (though, of course, I was not going to refuse the opportunity!) Do these assumptions, therefore, mean that I am arrogant? Certainly not, or at least I would not say so. However, they do make me arrogant in the eyes of those people, which is just as bad to them, whether I really am or not.
So just what is arrogance? I suppose the best answer is that one can only know what is on one's conscience, and at the end of the day, that is what matters. I suppose the best way to summarize it is to borrow from many a celebrity and say "keep it real."