The Dark Side of Confidence

In the personal development world 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. I  know personally, that without faith in myself and my ability to write I wouldn’t be where I am today. But lately, I’ve been thinking about the other side of the story, the dark side of confidence. Can confidence be damaging to our growth? Today I would like to share with you the side of the confidence we often ignore: The dark side of confidence.

A Personal Example

Basic psychology has proven that as a whole, we are generally overconfident in our abilities. Numerous studies have shown, that when asked to rate our ability to perform a specific task on a scale of 1-10, our ‘ego’ tends to exaggerate. Some argue that our overconfidence  is even responsible for our current financial crisis. This past week taught me first hand that I’m not immune to the phenomena of overconfidence. During my first few years of high school I ran nearly 50 miles a week (80km.) I was fortunate enough to be on in one of the best programs in the nation and consequently was an above average runner. It was safe to say that running cross country was 90 percent of my life back in those days. After moving to China however, I slowly lost motivation and drifted away from running and as a result gained a bit of weight. While I’m not heavy by any means, I’m definitely not the skinny kid I  used to be. This past week I  was feeling ‘confident’ in my fitness levels, I told my buddy that I would be able to run 2 miles in under 12 minutes, something I could easily do back in my prime. I was so certain I could perform the feat I even said the word “guarantee” a few times. It turns out, I was nowhere near as in shape as I thought I was, as I ended up running only 6:17 for one mile and then stopping. When I heard the time I was in disbelief. How was I so confident, yet able to fail so miserably?

The Dark Sides of Confidence

Delusional: Having too much confidence can actually make you delusional. Just as you can delude yourself into thinking you’re not good enough, you can just as easily reach the other side of the spectrum.  Personal development  isn’t about deluding yourself into someone you’re not, it is about accepting truth. I know plenty of people who are far too optimistic. While perhaps not as destructive as being pessimistic, deluding yourself with optimism  is just as silly. Cockiness: Cockiness and laziness often go hand in hand. You see it all the time in the world of professional sports, with athletes thinking that success is ‘owed’ to them. Often these athletes then become negligent in their training and fail to achieve what they could have according to their raw talent. How many times have you half-assed a project because you knew it was easy? How many times have you stopped trying because you knew your skills were better than someone else? Did that really help you in the long run? Arrogance: One of my favorite pastimes is having deep  conversations with my friends about anything related to life (yes I’m aware that’s a big topic ;). Yet there is always someone (I admit occasionally me) that fails to accept that they may not be right. I like a person who is confident in their beliefs, but not so confident to where they ‘know’ they are certain. I’ve run into this several times when discussing religion and it quickly disrupts the flow. Your beliefs are from your experience only. Simply put, arrogance makes you look like an ass. Unrealistic: While I think it can sometimes pay to be unrealistic, it’s important your life is sprinkled with truth. When I told my friend that I would be able to run 2 miles under 12 I wasn’t just being confident I was being unrealistic. Having not run for nearly two years and having gained nearly 30 pounds, it was naive to think that I would be able to do what I did when I was in the best shape of my life. So often we cling to the past to make up for what we are failing to do now.

Finding Real Confidence

So how do you find real confidence? Be Realistic: Again, being unrealistic has its place. I will be the first to admit I have spent much of my teenage years reaching for the stars and dreaming of what can be. Yet you must be honest with yourself and your current capabilities. You won’t be able to accomplish everything you set out to do right at this very moment. It takes time to develop the skills and connections to make your world like you want, but with action your goals aren’t too far away. Accept Your Imperfections: Don’t deny your imperfections, embrace them. You don’t have to justify any of your shortcomings and you don’t apologize for being who you are. Your imperfections are just as important as the exceptional qualities you posses. Be confident in knowing that no matter where you currently are in life,  you are enough. Try and Fail: How do you know if you’re being overconfident?  You don’t. The only way you can be certain is to test yourself often and get ready to fail. Failing is the greatest indicator of success. Those who don’t have time to fail don’t have time for success. As you continue to learn from your mistakes you will gain a better understanding of what your limits are. Confidence can be tricky. Sometimes it’s easy to have too much confidence and in other cases it’s easy to have too little. The goal? Aim for somewhere in between. Does confidence have a dark side? Did I get it wrong? Can being too confident hold you back from embracing your full potential? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, I would love to hear what you think.

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