Fake, False and Bogus Confidence
And other elements that affect Confidence!
Perception or Deception?
To this point we have discussed the components of confidence and identified the enemies of confidence. But there is another aspect of confidence that we need to examine and that is false or bogus confidence. That is, false confidence is a spurious and fake confidence because it isn’t enduring, committed or resolute as is true confidence. False confidence is temporary, short lived and comes and goes like the wind. You hear performers, athletes and professional business people always talking about when they have “it” but only to despair that within moments that they thought they had “it”, they lost it just as easily. That is not true and enduring confidence. That is a bogus confidence that pretends to be a belief system that falls apart when things become difficult and frustrating.
During my early career as a performance consultant and later earning my Doctorate degree in sport psychology, I had always heard the phrase: “fake it until you make it”. I knew what it meant but I wasn’t totally satisfied with the semantics or the wording. Intuitively, I knew that it could help, but to what degree I wasn’t sure. The premise is based on the notion that if you act “as if” then somehow that transfers into your creative subconscious and eventually you accept it as a truism that helps you to achieve your goal. For example, if someone asked you to act “as if” you were confident and self-assured, then, you would be exhibiting the outward behavior of someone who is composed and appears self-assured. Perhaps it is the word “act” that I question. Being a speech and theater minor in my undergraduate degree, I took a large number of acting courses and always knew that when you were acting, you were playing a part and that it wasn’t reality. It was merely playing a part and being imaginative enough to create a very real role and character that is perceived by the audience as real.
That is the job of an actor, to portray a character as if you are witnessing something that is truly happening and a very real character. This meant that the better the acting, the more real the performance. But, in the final analysis, you knew you were “acting” rather than “being”. This is where some Hollywood actors have gotten into trouble over the years because they have portrayed a character role for so long, that they actually believed they were that character, but in reality they were simply playing a role. Did their deception become their perception?
Having been involved in psychology and knowing that role modeling is a vital and important component in many different therapies, I can also understand why people use that phrase. But even now, I still do not particularly like the phrase “act as if” because it seems to be a bit more deceptive than it is helpful. What I use instead of “act as if” is “do it…… until you become it”! The “do” part is the action part that keeps you moving in a very real and positive direction in your personal achievement. For me, I substitute “do” for act “as if” because I think that in the final analysis, we should all understand that we are real people trying to develop confidence in a manner where we knowing perceive that we are making true progress and that we can develop our belief system on that rather than playing a role. But I digress from where I want you to go in this section.
Obviously, there are many forms of fake confidence that deceive people into thinking that if they act in this way, it will bring them true confidence. What I will do is present a number of different thoughts and ideas that illustrate what many people do to boast their levels of self-assurance and presumed confidence. Some are even a bit helpful. I think you will recognize a few of these along the way. But all of them are a bit skewed from what we call true and enduring confidence. Let’s examine a few of these.
Conditional confidence is a false confidence because it is based on specific conditions that have to be met in order for you as the individual to feel good about yourself and your performance. For instance, if you are a newer salesperson and you go out and have to make several “cold calls” on new clients, your feeling of success is predicated on whether you are able to close the deals and have successful transactions. If you are successful after a couple of initial meetings, your self-awareness and thoughts tell you that things are going great and your confidence soars!
Based on your initial success, you feel good about yourself and things move smoothly throughout the day. Therefore, on the condition that you made positive sales, you grow in conditional confidence. Your thought is that I have good vibes going with me today and let’s ride this good wave of golden opportunity and good fortune! When this happens to you, all is well and good and you should enjoy your success.
But can you consistently deliver with that same positive feeling throughout the day? What happens if the shoe was on the other foot? What if your first series of calls were failures and you became frustrated and filled with doubt? How confident would you be then? There wouldn’t be conditional confidence at all in this circumstance. The negative experiences that you just encountered would probably cause you to lose a bit of your pep and vigor and your salesmanship would be compromised.
In fact, that is the problem with conditional confidence because it is based on the outcome of a certain situation and meeting that specific outcome. It is a condition that suggests that if my result doesn’t equal or match my expectation of what should happen I will feel frustrated, angry and disappointed as well as discouraged and depressed.
Another example of conditional confidence can be found in various sporting arenas. Specifically, golfers who are anticipating a great day on the links place so much value on whether they get off of the first tee with confidence, that they allow the results of that first tee shot to determine if they will play the rest of the day with freedom and confidence or with doubt and disappointment. We call these types of golfers “One shot destructive” because they allow one bad swing or result to infiltrate their mind and cause them to self-destruct and play with fear the rest of the round.
But if a golfer gets off of the first tee well and successfully makes their first short putt for birdie or par, they feel relaxed, composed and ready to have a great day going forward. But their success is based on the initial conditions of whether they were successful or not in determining their state level of confidence for the entire day! If that same golfer misses that first short putt for par on the first hole or snaps his driver out of bounds, then negative thoughts run rampant from that point on.
The issue becomes that when you have conditions to meet in order to totally believe in your talent, you limit your potential to perform freely. Conditional confidence is a temporary confidence that doesn’t have the durability to handle the ups and downs of human mistakes and failings. Conditional confidence is a temporary confidence based totally on outcome and not the process invested in the completion of a task. That is why it is listed here as a false confidence because it is merely a temporary feeling based on what you are feeling at that particular moment based on a result.
Shallow or Initial Confidence
Shallow or initial confidence is a condition that suggests that you think you can do something without the required competence to complete a task, but in the early stages you really think that you can do it. I like the wonderful saying that Mark Twain stated many years ago: “Success comes about from two things………….confidence and ignorance”. I agree with Mr. Twain on both counts. First of all, to be successful, you have to have the initial strength or curiosity of will to go after the things you want to attain. That initial curiosity comes from lack of enlightenment or ignorance. Secondly, with success, you need to have the confidence to endure the ups and downs that real life throws at you. Thus, developing confidence is a combination of many components and I would be remiss in my discussion if I didn’t mention the power of ignorance in getting yourself started down the road of competence and confidence. Let me share a story on this.
Years ago in my undergraduate college days, a number of my friends suggested that we go skiing. I had never skied in my life but I was excited to give it a try. After all, I was a good athlete and had in my estimation, very good eye-hand-body coordination and I was able to do most athletic skills with relative ease. So I thought…Why not? So we took for the slopes and where everyone else was competent in their abilities, here I was a total beginner. But I didn’t have a beginner’s mindset. I thought or believed I was good and that I could do this!
Armed with a rental package of skis, I made my way to the slope and skirted (actually snow-plowed) my way onto the chairlift and made it to the top of the mountain along with my friends who were excited that I made it this far.
To say that I loved the view when I was on top of the mountain was an understatement. I took it all in and with a little bit of persuasion from my buddies, I shoved off. I learned very quickly that I had overestimated my abilities.
This beautiful white mountain of puffy snow was really a groomed trail that was extremely hard and firm when I slammed my face and body into it several times. After I had gotten up from falling several times, I realized that skiing was much more complicated than I had initially thought. I wondered (as I was placing my boot back into my ski on the side of the mountain) whether I would attain that fluid motion that I saw everyone whizzing by me had. Could it be that I was unable to do this? Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Thoughts like these were rambling through my mind and as I had finally gotten myself together to make another valiant attempt down the slope, my best friend, Terry Lingner) came by and persuaded me to join him and follow him down the slope. (Just for the record, Terry was a phenomenal skier and athlete and was always quick to give me a friendly jab as to who he thought was the better athlete between us).
So Terry came by and said: “let’s go!” I also think he saw a couple of tears in my eyes due to the utter frustration and disappointment that I was having with my inability to do this thing….that I thought I could do! With his invitation and admonishment to me to suggest that there is no crying in downhill skiing, I turned my skis downward and followed him for about one hundred yards and failed to see a prominent mogul that was shadowed by the tree line. As you can imagine, the mountain won. The final tally was in: Mogul 1 Bob Winters 0.
Upon getting myself up and realizing that my boots had broken away from the skis and that I was physically mobile, legs and ankles intact, I got up. I then realized that during my fall, one of the skis had popped off from my boot bindings and flipped up and cut the back of my head. After I touched the back of my head and saw that there was blood on my glove hand, I put my sock cap back on and proceeded to put my skis back on and from that point on, I so very slowly and gently snow-plowed my way down the mountain. As I was going down the mountain, I realized a very important lesson: sometimes, you need to develop competence in the skill before you attempt to take on a mountain!
The lesson point here is that I initially had the thought and belief that I could ski. Whether we call this innocence or shallow confidence or even call it ignorance, it needs to be stated that in order to be truly confident in something, you need to have a developed talent or competence in that activity or skill. I realized this at a very early point in my skiing career as I was sitting in the ski lodge with a big white bandage on my head waiting for my buddies to finish their day. It wasn’t all bad; many wonderful and attractive people came up and asked me if I was okay and what had happened. I told them that I was really aggressive on that day and no mountain slope was going to hold me back! Well, if I couldn’t ski very well, I certainly rationalized it enough to save face.
But this day on the slopes taught me a valuable lesson. Just thinking that you can do something isn’t enough to insure that you can be successful. You must train and develop yourself to be competent enough in your capabilities to endure the learning curve to mastery. But I thank Terry and my friends who stuck with me in the following weeks to help me become pretty good on the slopes and guide me through my doubt and horrible first day. I am also grateful that I had the ignorance or lack of enlightenment to put myself out there on the slope in the first place. So, in a way, shallow confidence isn’t such a bad thing if you understand that it isn’t real confidence. Just don’t test your pluckiness on the ski slope. True and durable confidence comes about via experience and competence.
Another element that may not be false confidence but it is falls into this section of the book is trash-talk confidence. In today’s sporting world and across a variety of sports, elite and sometimes not so elite athletes, use their mouth to get inside of their opponent’s heads. What they are attempting to do is rattle, intimidate or psyche another player so much that it takes the opposing player out of their focus and their performance suffers because they paid too much attention to what was said to them instead of focusing on their play at that moment. It may also be another way to self-persuade one’s own bravado.
Trash-talk may have originated in the schoolyards and backlots of basketball or football fields, but it has made its way into almost every professional sport. NFL football and Major League Baseball players as well as NBA basketball stars are perpetrators and victims of this type of offensive verbal bashing. But it begs the question. Why do players stoop to this type of badgering and does it really provide the person who is doing it with an advantage? Does it really help to create confidence and if so, how? Here are a few of my perspectives on this subject.
Some of the greatest athletes used trash-talking or “smack talk” to not only elevate their personal feelings of self-confidence, but to bring a sense of drama to the sporting arena. In boxing, The “Greatest” Muhammad Ali, used to create phrases to intimidate his opponent and at the same time create an air of superiority to separate himself from others. One of his most famous phrases was: “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, my hands are so fast, he won’t even see me!” Ali went on to win multiple heavyweight bouts and the only thing faster than his footwork and his hands was his mouth slinging sing-song phrases of smack to his next opponent.
In football, the legendary New York Jet quarterback, Joe Namath, used his bravado to proclaim that the Jets would win Super Bowl III in 1969 against the Don Shula coached Baltimore Colts. Namath felt so sure with his confidence, that he even guaranteed a win against the Colts a week before the Super Bowl was played. The Jets won the game over the favored Colts 16-7. When asked whether the guarantee was simply bragging or an advertising boast, Joe Willie Namath responded with: “it ain’t bragging if you can back it up”.
Another athlete who was known to be savage with his trash talk was none other than the great Michael Jordan who played for the Chicago Bulls. Even though he is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game, Michael revolutionized the way that he used his mind and his mouth to intimidate his opponents, his teammates and even himself to reach superstar status. But to give him credit for not only his superior talent, Michael was sneaky in that he used his smack talk to keep his opponents at bay and also to elevate his presence when he was on the floor.
A great example of this is when the newspapers would be discussing who would be guarding Michael in an upcoming game, Michael would hear about this and when he was on the floor, he would tell the person guarding him what he was going to do with the ball and that there was no way that person was going to stop him! To his credit, even when Michael told this person what he was going to do, even in their best attempts to thwart his moves, he would deliver on that promise! Michael Jordan used his mouth to back up his claims that he was going to deliver the goods. The rest is Michael Jordan history.
While I have mentioned three superstar athletes who have used their verbal skills to supplement their developed physical skills, what must be considered is that each one of these examples used their trash-talk to persuade themselves to believe that not only were they the best, but that they could deliver on what they were saying. But it is a thin curtain between using your mouth to build up your confidence or using it as a place to stick your foot!
It would have been disastrous for each of these great athletes to use trash talk and then to end up with a garbage performance. If the Jets hadn’t won, if Muhammad Ali had been knocked out repeatedly, and Michael Jordan had been shut down or kept to mediocre performances, they wouldn’t have become the superstars they are. However, as Joe Namath said: “it ain’t bragging if you can back it up!” But the key factor here is that you must back it upwith a superior performance. If any one of these players, much like the multitude of sport starts that engage in this behavior, failed to execute in a winning manner, the use of trash talk is pointless and makes the athlete appear like a chump who uses his mouth to compensate for less developed and inferior sporting skill.
Over the past three decades in the world of sport we have seen trash talking reach new highs and lows. But the key thing to consider is that when you engage in this type of behavior, you are setting yourself up for consequences that are more far reaching than merely creating a showdown with another opponent.
Many times, these verbal arrows come back to haunt you and make you look foolish. When an athlete or any person makes a verbal encounter with another and they are trying to create an “edge of intimidation or superiority of their talent” they are also showing that they are either scared of their adversary or that they may be displaying disrespect. In either sense, if an opponent can shake off and not become entrapped in this trash-talk behavior and focus on their execution and perform well, then the efforts of the other player who is smack talking is squashed and their edge is gone and also their sense of false bravado.
Personally, I believe that in a majority of cases, smack talk or trash-talking is a sign of anxiety and insecurity. Whenever I have counseled players to deal with trash talking, I have advised them to not engage but to focus and center on what they are doing and dismiss the insults. Although it is extremely hard to do, when the other player sees that their opponent is unfazed, they lose a bit of their verbal momentum and it turns on them and diminishes their effectiveness in the long run.
Trash-talking and smack talking may have started out as a backlot way to poke a bit of fun at another player just to get a rise out of him, but it can also go too far. The best bet is not to engage and let your talent do the talking for you. Even though a few great stars have used their mouths to create their place in history and as a promotion for self-confidence, I love what former President Teddy Roosevelt once said: “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. That’s what real confidence is all about.
Pseudo confidence is a false confidence that is displayed by people who are merely going through the motions and actually know internally that they are “fakers”. It is wearing a mask of bravado and pompous talk in making others think that “they are all that” but in reality, they are a fake. Many times when a person is suffering from pseudo confidence, they talk of all of the material things they have and people that they know. They represent themselves as people of influence and power and that they are part of the “in crowd”.
Pseudo confidence is a false confidence because it is superficial and shallow. They lack substance and true human character. There really is no accomplishment, achievement or even mastery experiences other than they tend to find a feeling of superiority from who they know and what they are doing. It is a braggadocio form of boasting about what parties they may be going to and what type of cars that they possess or any number of superficial or shallow material objects that they may own. In short, they are: “posers”.
Pseudo confidence is also a false confidence displayed by people who make themselves feel better about themselves by belittling other people and putting them down. It is a way of knocking them down and making yourself look good, but in the end, it makes the person who is slamming others look like a jerk and others can see through them even before they see it in themselves! In reality, person who are pseudo-confident are actually suffering from feelings of insecurity and inferiority. They compensate for their lack of true inner strength by diminishing the value of others around them. They suffer from malignant envy.
In contrast, confident people are secure enough in their own skin to recognize that you do not have to boast, belittle or brag. Confident people also realize that they don’t have to know everything and welcome new information and ideas. In truth, confident people are always open to learn and grow.
Pseudo confident people are just the opposite of this. They speak loudly and often about what they know and how things should be according to their perspective and why it works only their way. They resent debate or critical ideas that are in opposition to their own. Their dogma represents to them a feeling of superiority over others and brings attention to them.
To a person who is filled with pseudo-confidence, they just never get the memo that they are out of touch with reality and the people around them. To them, they are in a world that is “I I I I I….me me me me…..The I’s have it and they are ME deep in themselves! In time, folks who suffer from pseudo confidence often find out that theirs is a very lonely existence, despite supposedly having everything that anyone could want….except inner peace, harmony and friends.
Social Media Confidence
In this day and age of iPhones and social media, it is remarkable to think about the amount of coverage and publicity that one can obtain by posting, tweeting and just putting your name and picture on the information highway for the world to see. There is even a word for it: Instafamous! Based on the amount of coverage and hits that one could receive on their accounts via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, or LinkedIn or any number of social media outlets, what people may consider base their confidence upon is nothing more than mere exposure. But for a good many people who indulge in this activity, the more hits to their site, the better they feel about themselves and their message plus it can create a feeling of self-belief and personal power.
What this alludes to is nothing more than a popularity contest of who can attain the largest number of hits and followers to establish a brand name or recognition among the millions of iPhone users! The problem with this is that recent studies indicate that social media affects self-confidence of its users more negatively than positively. What this means is that individuals are creating a false impression of themselves and their activities. In essence, we are creating a “cut and paste” mentality that is judged on personal and other comparisons! With this in mind, whenever anyone looks at another person’s site or tweets, they forget that the pictures are sometimes doctored and they are putting their best face and foot forward! This is an altered take on what is really happening in our society.
For example, when a person wants to post some personal news, they can alter the photos and make it appear that the situation and activity they are doing is the absolute bomb! They can also use photo filters to enhance the way that they look and Photoshop any imperfections that they have creating an altered reality. In truth and a bit in jest, millions of people are putting up posts of themselves doing everyday things but altering it in a way that it almost makes you feel bad because you feel left out or unworthy because you aren’t doing what they are doing! The unfortunate result is that we are comparing ourselves to an unreal standard. We judge ourselves to falsified standards of living, appearances and representations!
Although we have not discussed self-esteem in this book, it is a separate item from self-confidence that often becomes muddled together in the self-help literature. Simply, self-esteem means that you value yourself as a person, and unlike self-confidence suggesting that you have the capacity and skills to do or achieve something, when you hold yourself in good esteem; it doesn’t matter if you can do something or not. You still value yourself as a worthy human being.
For example, if you cannot dance very well, it doesn’t mean that you dislike yourself as a person or that you hold your head in shame because you cannot move across the dance floor with grace and synchrony! It simply means that you don’t move that well when the groove music is on! But, you still enjoy the music and like yourself even if you don’t move that gracefully! When people hold their self-confidence and self-esteem to an unrealistic standard, it creates personal perception issues that spill over into other areas of their lives and makes them less productive and unhappy with themselves because they feel they are falling short of the mark.
To say that the iPhone and other gadgets have made the world a smaller and more connected place is a gross understatement. There is a lot of good in the new technology. For instance, anywhere and at any time, you can make visual and verbal contact with someone across the oceans in another time zone as if you were seated next to each other. But, for all of the advantages that this new media age has given us, the problems that are associated with social media confidence are very real because they create an image and a personal persona that is not entirely based on fact or reality. The sooner you can realize that what you see is not entirely accurate based on face value, the sooner you can let go of the hype and comparisons and be happier with your true self. After all, the world got along just fine without social media confidence for many years and you can as well!
Conceit, Cockiness and Arrogance
In speaking about confidence, three words always show up in a conversation when you cross the line into selfish and egotistical behavior. These three words are conceit, cockiness and arrogance. This combination is similar to the grouping of the neutral colors of black, white and gray. However, this grouping is based on more gray area than definitive black or white. This is the trifecta of striving to be as good as one can be and although they sound bad and a bit self-centered, there is some good in each of these words. But just as the popular movie suggests, there are many shades of gray. And the curtain that separates you from being confident and being something else is quite thin. Let me explain a bit about each one.
First of all, growing up years ago as a young boy in the Midwest and being able to participate in a number of activities such as sports, school plays and as a drummer in a rock and roll band, there were two specific things that you didn’t want to hear about yourself. These things were that you come across as cocky and conceited. The reason that you didn’t want to hear about these things is that if you were raised in a strict and high moral household, (like I was) to be told that you were cocky and conceited brought a form of shame onto your upbringing and your family. It was as if your parents had done a poor job of parenting and where did you learn such boorish behavior? No one wants the label of being conceited.
To be honest, to be told that you were cocky meant that you were a bit of a “show-off” and that you gravitated to be in the limelight. That’s what confident people do. They illuminate and give off great energy and flourish when it is time to perform, whether on the athletic floor or in the boardroom. But to be cocky is to exhibit more of a pompous flair and bring attention to yourself more than what a confident person may do. As I will explain, the thin line between believing in your abilities and bringing attention to yourself is what separates the confident person from someone who is perceived as being cocky, conceited and arrogant.
Even as a youngster and growing up, cockiness was almost considered a good thing because it meant that you had a bit of “swagger” and that you weren’t afraid of getting up and doing your thing, whatever that was. For me, I loved getting up in front of people and telling stories or just being the center of attention. That just seemed normal behavior to me. So, to be told that you were a bit “cocky” wasn’t the worst thing unless it transferred into being conceited. Now here is where it gets to be a bit sticky.
The difference between a cocky and a conceited person is not always that subtle. A cocky person has a certain strut but unlike conceit and arrogance, a cocky person is mostly interested in what he or she is doing and is fairly self-absorbed into doing their thing to the exclusion of others. That is, there really isn’t any direct malice or “in your face “confrontation with others. A cocky person just has a highly charged belief that whatever they can do….they can!
In contrast, a person who is conceited appears haughty and stuck up and believes that they are the best at whatever they are talking about. They are endlessly talking about themselves and why they are so much better at things than others. They tend to have a superior tone when they are discussing issues with other people and many times put other people down or make them try and feel inferior. The conceited mind is one where it is all me, me, and me. I love the story that my wife told me when a group of business women were around one of the “leading business ladies” in the community. As this woman was talking and talking and talking about herself and her many accomplishments, she stopped for a moment and said: “Ladies, now that’s enough about me talking about me…..how about some of you talk about me and how I have motivated you?” Now, that’s funny and also conceited! Whenever the focus becomes dominantly dogmatic, egotistical and self-absorbed, that’s a person who is guilty of the title of being conceited. Not a good look!
Arrogance is another thin curtain. In the world of sport and performance psychology, we often talk about how an athlete possesses a good amount of “healthy arrogance.” What this means is that this athlete truly believes in their talent and really doesn’t care what others may think or say about his or her demeanor. When an athlete has an air of “healthy arrogance” it means that they are giving themselves the personal affirmations to believe that they are the best at their endeavor or sport to the exception of any others. Many people define an arrogant person as a selfish and self-centered individual who cares about nothing than him or herself. But instead of using the term selfish, I like the words “being self-full” which means that you are giving yourself whatever positive or motivating feelings and thoughts to carry you on to superior performance.
A specific example in the sports world that we can use is Deion Sanders. Deion Sanders has often been described as someone who possessed a healthy dose of arrogance, swag and a flair for the dramatic. Even his stage name: “Neon Deion” speaks volumes about his ability to shine in the spotlight. But those same attributes are also the marks of a clutch performer. So, if one was to describe Deion Sanders about his talent, you would say that he has amazing eye, hand and body coordination, tremendous foot speed and decision making skills second to none. Also, he wasn’t afraid to take on new challenges and situations!
But you would also add that he was highly confident of his abilities to the point that he had swagger, cockiness and a large dose of healthy arrogance. After all, when you are one of the best athletes ever to play in the NFL, you need to possess all of the positive attributes that a human being can muster. To be honest, I don’t think any superstar athlete ever feels so modest in their talent that they don’t have a bit of cockiness in their walk, talk or attitude. Without a bit of the swag, there is perhaps mediocrity. But the thin line between healthy and haughty arrogance is noticeable and whether you are a business person, performer, parent or just a friend, no one likes to be around someone who is defiantly arrogant. Perhaps the thin line is how people frame their self-belief. A confident person says: “I can do this!” An arrogant person says: “Only I can do this!” Perhaps the fine line in the way we present ourselves is a question of semantics, but a confident person doesn’t have to brag or tell others how great they are….their accomplishments and actions speak for themselves.
Confidence and arrogance both suggest that if an individual possesses either trait, they are filled with a strong belief in their abilities and special talents. But that is where the similarity begins and ends. Confident people are always trying to learn and grow while an arrogant person is a “know it all” and doesn’t appreciate new ideas or the people who are presenting them to him or her. As if that is not enough, we all know of people who we refer to as being “full of themselves and a bit stuck up.” You see and hear of this behavior when people are in a group setting and the arrogance rears its ugly head in name-dropping, belittling other co-workers or competitors, or even how their spouse is lucky to be with them!
Their ego is over-inflated with self-importance and self-righteousness that they never even recognize the ego defensive behavior and jealousy that they are masking in their attacks and behavior. Only when the arrogant person is totally alone and in wonderment of why no one thinks he is as great as he thinks he is, does he ever stop and reflect to look in the mirror and ask what is wrong with me? And even if this might happen, he would rationalize that everyone is jealous of him and his success and continue on being the same, annoying person that he has always been.
Cockiness, conceit and arrogance are three terms that are often associated with people who have high self-confidence, but the one factor that separates them all is that a confident person doesn’t have to flaunt or boast about his or her talent. The quality of their abilities is a quiet storm that is thunderous to see, hear and watch! A great example of this is from the King of Rock and Roll himself, Elvis Presley, when he said: “Just because I managed to do a little something, I don’t want anyone back home to think I got the big head”. This is from the all-time superstar of rock and roll who created dozens of gold records, performed before hundreds of huge crowds and to this day has fans that love his music long after he has passed from this earth. And what did Elvis think about all of this? He didn’t want anyone back home where he grew up to think that he got the big head! Truly, this is what self-confidence is all about in its most humble and modest form.
Overconfidence and Underconfidence
One of the questions that I am often asked is: “Is it possible to be too confident in your abilities?” I often wonder to myself about which might be the better or worse condition (or affliction) to have: One…..To be under confident…… where you are always feeling that others are better than you and that you aren’t as good as everyone else. Or, two, where you feel overconfident in your abilities and feel that you don’t have to prepare yourself because you have so much talent and latent abilities that you become sloppy and overlook your competition when it is time to perform? Each of these issues needs to be explored because they permeate every one of lives each and every day around the world. Let’s explore each of these dimensions.
To be under confident means just that….you are not at a level of feeling confident in your abilities. Even when a person does achieve some measure of success, the under confident person will often attribute that success to luck, that others were responsible and it was just a fluke accident that good things happened to them. The under confident person never accepts the accolades or soaks up the good mojo that is coming to them. Or it could be that they never believe in their talent enough to make a tipping point and get over the hurdle of doubt that always knocks them down and holds them back from ever achieving their goals.
Another aspect of being an under confident person is perhaps you are still developing your talent and you are not sure whether you will ever get to the point where you want to go. As in the enemy of confidence, the doubt that overwhelms you holds you back and you then want to procrastinate and give up. But the one factor that holds all under confident and underachievers from success is the feeling that they are not good enough or they simply do not have the talent. I label this as the fear of inaccessibility. Many under confident folks fear that they will not be able to access their talent even when everyone around them is telling them that they can do this, but they seem to resist their good intentions. Many under confident people are simply fighting for their fear because they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. This leads them to create a visual-perceptual disorder that often leads to can’tism and personal frustration.
Specifically, a person who is lacking faith in their talent often looks around and has distorted goggles on. All that they see is everyone is living a fuller and better life than they are! They are suffering from a visual disorder that I call “hyperwantopia.” This is the visual and mental condition that everyone around you has more, does more and is capable of doing so much more than you! With this condition you are always comparing yourself and wanting what they have, but in truth, everyone is fighting the battle of self-doubt and personal and professional failings.
This is the reason that persistence, tenacity and grit are all components of confident people. They have the passion and the persistence to continue on even when the chips may be down. If an under confident person could learn one thing from a person who is enjoying their faith in themselves, it is that it is not about the destination, but the journey to get to the land of self-belief that is important. I have always liked the phrase: “Not at the top….but climbing.” This means that when things are looking rainy and gloomy, there is always a rainbow that will eventually appear. You just have to continue on and do what you can do….even when it doesn’t show up. That is where the persistence and patience come in!
As for whether there is such a thing as overconfidence, I would say yes and no. Yes, in the fact that overconfident people are so over the top in their own estimation that they have almost deceived themselves into thinking that they are bulletproof. Their own self-deception has helped them to market themselves to the world as self-assured, well-spoken and with an internal spark that immediately suggests they are filled with confidence! But, as in other false confidences, it is merely a mask of deception and personal deceit. To be overconfident in ones abilities means that you have a high subjective bias of your own estimated self-worth and intellect. Overconfidence can often lead to judgment errors in your decision making about professional and personal matters. Who hasn’t felt like they had everything in the bag and it was a “done deal” only to have victory snatched away from you and you ended up feeling like the biggest loser? That is what being overconfident can do to you. It seduces you into believing the foregone conclusion that “you have this in the bag” and you take less talented players, teams and corporations for granted which then turn the table on you and defeat you in large projects, games and personal debates.
But I also do not think that you can ever have too much confidence if you learn to regulate what it is that you are placing your personal value upon. That is, in sport, I do not think that a player can ever play higher than his or her own potential or talent base! It is with this high estimation of one’s self-worth that they give themselves permission to be clutch and go after peak performances.
But in sport, there is also a phenomenon known as the leveling effect. That is, when one team is highly superior to another and they are facing off in head to head competition, the overconfident and more talented team may not put in a great effort. Sometimes they end up loafing or put in an uninspired effort. Because of their overconfidence, they look past the team they are about to play and are looking too far ahead at a more highly ranked and worthy opponent.
The other more inexperienced and outmatched talented team simply plays with no expectation of winning because they have already told themselves that they have nothing to lose because they are expected to lose anyway! This playing with “no expectation mindset” allows the inferior team to play “up” beyond their normal expected level of play and when they are competing, they go at each other with more equality than what had been predicted.
This is the concept of “leveling.” Leveling is what the sporting world defines as the causative factor in upsets! As they are playing, the less talented team gathers momentum and ends up defeating the higher ranked team. Therefore, the higher ranked and overconfident team was upset by a team that simply performed better in competition. This is where overconfidence can be detrimental because it makes you sloppy and you do not take care of business in the manner and style of which the task deserves.
Both overconfidence and Underconfidence are issues that are prevalent in all aspects of our everyday lives, but knowing the spectrum that you may occupy is a good place to start to move in the proper direction to creating true and enduring confidence.