Getting a late start on this week’s blog, I was not very confident that I would be able to string 500 words together coherently by my deadline. So I picked up a book titled Confidence (I recently started researching this topic). I am a third of the way through the book and it gives some good insights.
The author, Tomas Chamorro Premuzic, rejects many popular ideas on confidence as offering little more than empty self-worth and narcissism. He sees society as breeding people too focused on confidence and neglecting the skills and abilities to support their claims.
He prefers focusing on competence and even encourages being less confident. Having less confidence, he suggests, spurs us on to do the work needed to gain competence and get what we want.
For example, my lack of confidence when starting this blog led me to read, compose and edit as well and as fast as I could so I would not appear incompetent. It is a refreshingly different way to look at confidence and what lies behind it.
There are four ways to look at the relationship between competence and confidence:
- When we do not have much of either. He suggests this is the best starting point since here we are aware of our weaknesses. Seeing our limitations is a motivating force since we are dissatisfied with this state of affairs and we will want to work to improve it.
- When we have much of both. A good place to be – where we have a healthy awareness of and enjoy our competence and confidence. Yet, he warns about becoming too pleased with ourselves and developing complacency once we get there.
- When we have much competence, but little confidence. This is being the perfectionist, where we are rarely happy, even with our best accomplishments. Many high-achievers are in this category since they are never satisfied and need to keep improving. Although we have many unwarranted insecurities and anxieties here, our writer suggests this is a small price to pay for being ever more competent.
- When we have much confidence and little competence. He believes most people are in this category. He gives many examples, from those in public life, as well as research studies showing people’s over-confidence. The author is quite annoying here, although he still makes some good points. Over-confidence blocks awareness of our limitations and leads us to fooling ourselves into thinking we are more competent than we are. This creates problems of varying degrees since there is little backing up this confidence.
His main thesis is clear – confidence is over-rated and often problematic. He presents the example that for the things we really want, we do not need to start with much confidence. If our desire is strong enough, our anxieties are not enough to keep us down. We take the actions needed, gain competence in doing so and get what we want.
He appears to miss the fact (unless I have not reached it yet) that our anxieties can keep us from even trying. Similarly, he has not yet discussed that there are various competence/confidence relationships in the various aspects of our lives. For instance, our competence/confidence is different at home from what it is at work and from how it is socially. It is not straight generalization from one area to another.
The author tends to overstate things, make assumptions and skip over counter-arguments to his ideas. Some of his thoughts are dangerous. His perspective is interesting and there is much of value. Yet, it is worth being wary of some of the conclusions he draws.
Reggie E., MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields, including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.