Dr Jozelle Miller
August 8, 2017
Is too much self-confidence a bad thing?

With great pride and anticipation, I looked at the final race of the legend Usain Bolt. With bated breath and as if time had stopped, many were paralyzed to see how this esteemed racing giant would close the curtains of his remarkable story as an athlete. But sadly, many were let down when he came in third and seemingly did run at his usual top form. But what could have accounted for this? Many speculated and put forward many suggestions, but the one that stuck out in my mind, having read a lot of the public commentary online, was whether or not he became overly confident and in turn took his opponents for granted? Perhaps only the Legend himself can and should answer that question. There were a few noteworthy lessons to take away, none the less.

According to Wikipedia, the concept self-confidence, as commonly used, is self-assurance in one’s personal judgment, ability, power, etc. One increases self-confidence from experiences of having mastered particular activities. It is a positive belief that in the future one can generally accomplish what one wishes to do. In the purest sense, confidence is knowing what you’re good at, the value you provide, and acting in a way that conveys that to others. We can contrast this with arrogance, which typically involves believing you are better in a particular area than you are, or low self-esteem, which involves believing you’re less valuable in the eyes of others and yourself. It is important therefore to strike a balance between arrogance and having low self-confidence as a good measure of healthy confidence.

There is a wealth of benefits that come from healthy self-confidence. Self-confidence is a tool that can help you manage your fears, tackle life’s challenges with more certainty and maintain a positive mental attitude. Self-confidence is typically based on past experience, and improves as you build up a repertoire of success on which to rely.

Athletes, entrepreneurs, public speakers and actors all realize the importance of self-confidence. Lack of confidence can impede you from achieving your peak performance, while self-confidence can help you overcome obstacles and pursue and use those skills you own to succeed.

The danger of overconfidence:

One of the worst effects of overconfidence is the development of a narcissistic personality, which results in extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type. Narcissism encourages envy and hostile rivalries, where self-esteem supports compassion and cooperation. Narcissism favours dominance, where self-esteem acknowledges equality. Narcissism involves arrogance, where self-esteem reflects humility. Narcissism is affronted by criticism, where self-esteem is enhanced by feedback. Narcissism makes it necessary to pull down others in order to stand above them. Self-esteem leads to perceiving every human being as a person of value in a world of meaning.

Society plays a role in fostering self-esteem or narcissism. Self-esteem is ultimately a cultural construction, because the standards of value by which people judge themselves are derived from adhering to social standards. These standards can either provide ways for people to feel good about themselves, or they can promote unrealistic expectations that can

only destroy self-esteem. It is good to acknowledge the gifts and talents of others, but we are to be cautious in not creating ‘monsters of superiority’, who deem themselves too highly and as such destroy the humility needed for further learning and future growth.

Now this article is not about the Legend Usain Bolt we have all grown to love, but it is rather, as a response to that profound question about the dangers of being overconfident. It is important that we remind ourselves

that even when we are at our very best, we ought to be mindful that the very worse is lurking around the corner and a dash of humility and grace goes a long way in deciding our overall progression in life.
Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the

Milton Cato Memorial Hospital