Confidence Man

This article was published more than 1 year ago. Some information may no longer be current.

I’ll bet you know someone who’s always so sure of themselves  – whether it’s in business, social settings or romance.  They seem to float through life without a worry.  Don’t you wish you could be like that too – never suffering from angst or self-doubt?

Well, wish again.  Our worship of self-confidence may be misguided.  According to Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, it makes us less likeable, less employable, and less successful in the long run.  In his book Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic explains the relationship between confidence (thinking we’re capable) and competence (actually being capable) in our lives and interactions with others.

The research shows that the main difference between people who lack confidence and those who don’t is simply that they are unable (or unwilling) to distort reality in their favour (i.e. fool themselves).  In fact, there are actually strong benefits to lower confidence including being more motivated (hence putting greater effort into preparation and self-improvement) and being more self-aware (therefore more successful in social interactions).

Not convinced?  You can be confident that Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic knows what he’s talking about.  He is an international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing, a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, VP of Research and Innovation at Hogan Assessment Systems, and has taught at the London School of Economics and New York University.

The essence of the book is captured in the following “Confidence-Competence Grid” which illustrates how your confidence and competence influence your self-perception, and the actions you should take to improve your business, social and romantic success.

Confidence Competence Grid with four quadrants from left to right: perfectionist self-criticism, realistic confidence, realistic self-doubt and incompetent confidence

Think again about that super-confident person you know.  They’re actually kind of annoying, aren’t they?  That’s because they probably aren’t nearly as good as they think they are (that’s incompetent confidence).  You probably wouldn’t go out of your way to help them either.  In fact you (and others) might be pleased if they fell flat on their face once in awhile.  Not that they’d admit failure – remember, they’re delusional – which is why they rarely listen to feedback or learn from their mistakes.

Contrary to popular self-help wisdom, developing self-confidence isn’t the panacea to all our problems.  Our effort is better spent improving our abilities (our competence) than convincing ourselves we’re better than we actually are.  In the end, we won’t be fooling anybody but ourselves.

It’s a lesson that most successful people learn the hard way through years of discomfort and self-doubt. Realizing that self-doubt can be harnessed for self-improvement is a revelation. The mental shift from “wishing for confidence” to “striving for competence” turns a lack of confidence from a perceived liability to a powerful asset to achieve your goals.

Why don’t they teach this in schools?  Why isn’t it part of corporate management training?

Buy and read this book.  Give it to a young person.  For less than $20, I dare say I’m confident it could turn a life of miserable self-doubt into a life of empowerment.

  • Categories