The Dark Side of Confidence

Confidence is the proverbial double-edged sword of the human condition. Too little of it and we’re handicapped in almost anything we attempt to accomplish. Too much of it and we’re likely to ignore shortcomings that trip us up on our way to the goal.

“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” –Mark Twain

It is generally accepted that confidence is a good characteristic to have. No doubt, being self confident has many benefits and plays a large role in the formula of success. But, can confidence be damaging to our growth?

First, overconfidence is persuasive—so much so that it can overpower the perceived need to verify whether the bearer of confidence is right or wrong. Overconfidence can quite easily lead us astray. Second, its selling power is potent enough to make us think we’re in good hands, and that we’re more likely to succeed than perhaps we really are. And third, if it’s difficult to verify information delivered with uber-confidence, we’re more likely to allow confidence to carry the day. Confidence greases the path of least resistance.

We tend to chase and promote high levels of self-belief, as opposed to high levels of self-awareness. The only advantage of not being aware of one’s limitation is that it can help us hide our limitations from others, but this is only true when others are unable to judge our expertise. A world full of people who successfully pretend to be better than they really are is a world of charlatans and con-artists.

Summing-up: Confidence is overrated. When in the presence of so much confidence, always remember that you’re in the persuasion cue, and unless you take steps (possibly difficult or costly steps) to verify what you’re hearing, you may find yourself gliding along on overconfidence to a less-than-optimal end.


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