Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Power of Humility: Why Confidence is Overrated

Any good self-help book will tell you to be confident. Stand up straight, see past your critics and believe in yourself. I’d like to break tradition and argue the opposite. That humility is a useful tool and confidence can be overrated.

Deluded by Your Own Hype

Whipping yourself into a motivational frenzy may temporarily make you feel better, but it has hidden side effects. The major disadvantages from false confidence are:

  1. Inability to Learn. Too much confidence and you can’t acknowledge faults, weaknesses or ignorance. Learning needs to start from a place of ignorance, and you can’t do that when you already know what is best.
  2. Avoid Humbling First Steps. In this article, I wrote about how “I Suck” moments can create positive changes. The reason is that to get better in a lot of areas, you have to take a step back. A pay cut to work a job you love. Dating failures to find the right relationship. Confidence can actually pull you away from these humbling first steps.
  3. Arrogance Swingback Effect. Faked confidence has an emotional backlash. A tendency of people with low self-esteem is to go from thinking they are fantastic to feeling miserable, all after a minor mistake. Building a house without a foundation won’t create a stable structure. Similarly, building up your ego without the foundation of competence and skills can lead to an emotional collapse.
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