Don’t You Know Who I Am? Does Arrogance Serve Us Well In Business?

One of my favorites in the movie industry is Reese Witherspoon. I just love her. Until I saw the news clip where she got angry with a cop for trying to arrest them for drunk driving, and was quoted as saying, "Don't you know who I am? You wouldn't do this if you knew who I am."


Don't you know who I am? That's a sentence that gets under my skin every time.  And it's not the first time we've heard of celebrities using it. It's more than just rude – it indicates that the person thinks they should be given exceptional treatment because of who they are. Like the same rules should not apply to them. Like their gifts make them better than everyone else. Like they are above the law. Sadly, I have seen examples of this in the world of motivational speakers too – and by people who really aren't as much of a celebrity as they think they are.

I just recently heard an account of a "well known" (again, inside the industry, not outside it) speaker bragging about her possessions on stage, and using it to make the point that the audience should listen to her because her material possessions obviously indicate that she knows what she's talking about – that she has credibility over other speakers.


I do believe that some speakers have more credibility in their area of expertise than others. I'm pretty sure every speaker out there is more qualified than me to speak on the subject of motivation. I cringe when I speak on leadership, knowing that there are so many other women with a much higher profile. So, yes, I do believe that some people have earned more credibility. But I don't believe that it's always a factor of how much money they make, how much money they have, how much they charge, what they own, who they know, who they're sleeping with, or even how many people know who they are.  And I certainly don't believe that if you are more gifted, or more widely known, that it entitles you to special treatment. And I think it's sad to watch these people desperately try to hang on to their "status" by making sure we all know their status.

Someone on LinkedIn recently asked us to give our opinion on the difference between confidence and arrogance.  Here is mine:

Confidence is the ability to recognize your gifts and strengths. Arrogance is believing you are better because of it.


If you have to keep reminding us who you are – then maybe you aren't as important as you think. Most of us are suspicious of people who tell us how great they are.


I can't help but wonder if arrogance really serves us well in business? If people do business with people they like, wouldn't you think that arrogant people are less likeable and therefore less likely to connect with the buyer? Or has the world trained us to think that status gives people the right to act like jerks?


The world tries to tell us what success should look like – and the status symbols that we should possess in order to show the world that we matter. The world will try to tell you that if your name isn't in lights you aren't seen. And to that I simply say: The world is lying.


Despite the fact that I hope mean people don't win – it's obvious there are a lot of mean people out there winning. So I'm not going to focus on them in this post. They wouldn't listen anyway. I'm going to focus on the rest of us. The people who go through life with a servant's heart. The people who don't let status go to their head. The people who own their gifts, but don't consider themselves better because of it. The people who are accomplishing great things, but reminding themselves every step of the way that they are no better and no worse than anybody else. The people who don't find their worth in others knowing who they are.

To quote myself, from one of my favorite stories, "Daddy Played For Angels":

For every one the world holds up, are countless more that we don't see,
Who's music is just as beautiful – who's song is just as sweet.

I believe that one day, we will hit some distant shore,
And we will see this line of people that we've never seen before,

And these will be the ones of which we all will toast.
For I believe the ones the world knew least – just might have pleased those angels most.

So to all of those faceless nameless people out there – I salute you. The world is a better place because you're in it. Even if we don't have any idea who you are.



Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
To book motivational speaker Kelly Swanson:
Motivational speaker Kelly Swanson's website

Did you enjoy this post? Just jot down your email and we'll keep you up-to-date with all of our motivation and entertainment.

Delivered by FeedBurner


  1. Kelly, thank you so much for this. And yes, in our world of big name motivational speakers, I see absolutely brilliant ones who seem to focus MORE on how they can make the biggest most positive difference for their audience, rather than how amazing THEY are. I've seen them. I like them. I respect them and I believe the audiences do too. I strive to be like them. Like you. 

  2. You already are, Linda. You already are.

  3. Love this truth! To me confidence is owning who you are, and arrogance is thinking who you are and what you own makes you better than another. 


  4. Oh Kelly, this is beautiful.  You are such a powerful word painter!    And, YES, the greatest leaders I know are those who spend the majority of their time turning the spotlight to shine, not on themselves, but on those around them.  

  5. Did you just overhear a one-way conversation I was in today?  Someone I hadn't seen for 20 years came up to me and spent the next 10 minutes (seemed like 30) telling me "who she is" these days.  I came away from that meeting kind of sad for her. To work so hard at proving her importance to me, but really it was for herself.  I never got a chance to say that I was one of a fantastic group of motivational speakers who share their insights on this phenomenal blog site!

  6. "Confidence is the ability to recognize your gifts and strengths. Arrogance is believing you are better because of it." I love this! Thank you Kelly – it is hard for me sometimes to be an example without making things all about me. So your definition is especially impactful for me.  Thank you!


  1. […] just read a brilliant blog post by motivational speaker, Kelly Swanson asking Does Arrogance Serve Us In Business?  As far as I'm concerned, it's a must read for ANYONE who…well…who is […]

Speak Your Mind