Confidence all or nothing

Photo by: Alex Wong -

Photo by: Alex Wong -

Are you always confident? If you are always confident, how are you growing as a professional or even as an individual?

Do you ever question your ability? Which is it? One, you are stretching yourself and learning.  Two, you perceive this as a reflection that you are not confident on the whole?


What is in between? I wrote a blog Waves of Confidence, which spoke to the issues of the ebbs and flows in your confidence being natural. I wish to step back to the basic perception of confidence now.

Does social norms require us to present confidence in all things at all times? Anything less means you are weak because you lack confidence. Wow, that is judgmental. In addition, it is very black and white. Where is the growth in our careers, if we did not push ourselves out of our confidence zone?

If the norm suggest we are to be always confident, than what is overconfidence? Here is an interesting definition to contemplate for a moment:

Overconfidence Effect

The overconfidence effect is a cognitive bias in which someone believes subjectively that his or her judgment is better or more reliable than it objectively is. A common way this bias is studied is by asking people how confident they are in their specific beliefs or in the answers they give to specific questions. After answering questions, the person’s confidence in being correct is compared with whether or not the person actually answered the question correctly. Data collected show that a person’s confidence usually exceeds their objective accuracy, which implies that people can be surer of their answers and abilities than they should be. -

I speak to clients who often say “I should be more confident”. When asked what does this mean, they often answer with some version of the definition above; overconfidence. We push for perfection as a culture, therefore it is natural for us to see ourselves as either not being confident or being (over)confident.

I suggest we re-evaluate confidence. Consider professional athletes. They are confident, right? Almost everyone who reaches this level started at a young age. They may remember when they were learning. Do they remember not feeling confident?

As an athlete practices, they build confidence. A professional hockey player can skate better than I can walk. It is amazing for me to watch how effortless their abilities is to skate in any direction. If I approached a hockey player and asked them to prioritize a software development backlog (I am a former product manager), how confident do you think they would be about their abilities to complete the task? Perhaps an overconfident hockey player would tell me no problem and walk away before they had to complete the actual task. This would be a display of arrogance, we recognize this easily.

Interesting, that arrogance is a synonym for overconfidence. A truly confident hockey player, would say I don’t know how, however if you work with me I am sure I can get it done. This is confidence in themselves. They have achieved amazing skills, they have the confidence they can learn. They also are likely to recognize they need help and practice to build up their skill in a new task. Yes, this scenario is highly unlikely. Hopefully, it makes my point.

Confidence is more about our belief in ourselves:

  • to learn
  • to use our practiced skill(s)

When you re-frame the belief around our ability to recognize what we truly know or what we know we are capable of learning, everyone can be confident.

If you need support, I am here. I would be honored to support you on your journey to gain evidence of your confidence. I will be your trusted champion to give you a new perspective. I will hold you accountable to staying the course you have chosen. Please contact me via my contact page or by email.

Remember when you rise, you raise those around you to be a better version of themselves. Your actions are contagious. Give the gift of your true self to the world.