Can You Be Too Confident?

Confidence is a key ingredient in most recipes for success. Who is going to take you seriously if all you do is waffle around, not presenting yourself as someone people can trust?  I’ve always admired confident people and have done my best to appear that way when necessary - I have certainly not always felt that way. But I wonder if confidence is overrated?

Research professor Brene Brown did a really insightful chat on TED about the power of vulnerability - recognizing that most wholehearted people take their courage not from boldness but the willingness to be vulnerable. I was transformed by her talk. I know this, instinctively, but it’s not always easy to access that inner ‘humility.’ We in the over-resourced west are most often encouraged to live above the line.

In my own experience I recognize that I’ve gained confidence as I’ve aged. The more I’ve learned, most often the hard way, the more confident I’ve become. Experience goes a long way for making a person confident, my millennial friends.

Living between the US and the UK has really highlighted how we handle the concept of confidence differently. Brits (I love them) can be quite deferential, even when they're not – if you know what I mean. Americans have been born to think they are the best, even when we’re not. My Australian husband who loves America but prefers the UK, and Europe for that matter - a much more subtle culture, admires our confidence while holding it suspect. I’ve learned a lot from him.

Here’s the thing: in business most people don’t want to hire someone they can’t depend on. Confidence matters. But the most valuable kind is a confidence that says ‘I may not know everything, but what I don’t know I can learn - and I am willing.’

Confidence should not be mistaken for entitlement. And that’s where people can fall down. Being ‘vulnerable’ to your own lack of knowledge can make you stronger, and ultimately, more confident.