How Overconfidence Can Save You

I used to think that constantly preaching and reminding myself of humility (which is a great virtue, of course),

is the best way to go about life, all the time.

(We can define humility briefly as: remembering your limitations).

But I also realised that,

sometimes its adversary, overconfidence,

can actually be, as paradoxical as this sounds,

the hammer that strikes the nail of everlasting productive trial & error.

How Overconfidence Can Outperform Humility:

You can start out a new venture by being “overconfident” about yourself,

but even with that over-confidence in place,

you’ll quickly realise your limitations,

either by self-realization when you put your feet in the water,

or by other people’s feedback.

But at least that “overconfidence” actually made you give it a whole-hearted try,

and now you can calibrate, and approach the scene more accurately.

However, if you’re overly “humble” about any endevour you’re embarking on,

then you might never try certain things out of that “humility”,

which will keep you in a suboptimal state & limit your optionality forever,

without ever finding out what the real world, has to say about that,

or even what you could be capable of had you actually tried that specific thing.

The psychology behind this is because humility is actually a great disguise for fear.

You can easily fool yourself that you’re abstaining from something out of limitation or humility,

but on deep introspection, those might as well, be your fears in disguise.

So, “overconfidence”, as villainized as it is, especially when starting out new things,

is actually more benign & productive to have than humility,

and can give you more chances to try things you’d otherwise fear, in the name of “humility”.

The Time & Place for humility:

Obviously, humility is a good thing to have as a trait, but it has its contexts.

The balance between humility & overconfidence seems to me to lie in the variable of time.

In order to strike the right balance in this equation,

You need to first acknowledge that you’re deficient in the present, because we all are,

so that’s where “humility” should essentially lie.

However, the “overconfidence” should lie in the future.

Meaning, even if I’m deficient in the present and I acknowledge it all the time, which will give me all the humility I need in the world,

“I can always get better, and even become the best, in the future.”

And that will give you the right balance of actually knowing & being brave to always test your abilities in the real world,

even if your present limitations are striking to you,

without being overly-modest, which can be a great implicit way to sneak in fears & let them limit your optionality,

which, in turn, has all sorts of limiting cascade events.

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