The Peril Of Being Too Self-Confident

May 10, 2016

by Dan Solin

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Many of the advisors I meet exude self-confidence. They pride themselves on their expertise and project an image that says “ask me anything.”

The same trait is evident in public speakers and self-help gurus. They strut their stuff. They are never in doubt. They know the way and are eager to share their knowledge with the rest of us.

But the scientific evidence proves that self-confidence is not the skill advisors should develop to be more effective; self-compassion is.

A flawed premise

Self-help gurus believe boosting self-esteem and self-confidence is a critical goal. They often encourage doing so through “positive thinking.”

One respected author notes that “developing and maintaining high levels of self-esteem is the most important thing you can do, every day, in building yourself to the point where you are capable of achieving all your goals.”

How do you accomplish this level of confidence? The same guru suggests repeating the mantra “I like myself! I like myself!” again and again throughout the day. He believes these “powerful words” make you “feel happier and perform better.”

The surprising evidence

Self-help books (and many books on sales) rarely cite research supporting their authors’ recommendations.

Perhaps that is because the scientific evidence runs contrary to their teachings.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic holds a Ph.D. and is a leading authority on personality profiling and psychometric testing. He is the prolific author of six books and more than a hundred scientific papers. In a blog post published on the website of the Harvard Business Review, Chamorro-Premuzic asserts that people with low self-confidence (but not extremely low) are likely to be more successful than people with high self-confidence.

How can this be? Chamorro-Premuzic believes that low self-confidence makes you more aware of your shortcomings and causes you to focus on improving your weaknesses.

He notes that people brimming with self-confidence can come across as arrogant and off-putting. His conclusions would turn the self-help industry on its head: “High self-confidence isn’t a blessing, and low self-confidence is not a curse – in fact, it is the other way around.”

Another study found no evidence that boosting self-esteem resulted in better job performance. High self-esteem didn’t correlate with having better relationships or making better impressions than low self-esteem.

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The Peril Of Being Too Self-Confident

The Peril Of Being Too Self-Confident