HR & Personal Development

People with low self-confidence are more successful


We live in an age where narcissism and bloated confidence thrives, where reality TV-shows fill the TV broadcast. We even enjoy reality-TV about the downside of reality-TV. And if you google “confidence” there are currently more than 865.000 hits. But what is up with this search for confidence through outside confirmation? And does great confidence lead to success in life?

According to psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic the answer is "no".

In the book “Confidence” he claims that we are completely wrong when we think success is dependent on how much confidence one has. He even goes as far as claiming that it is the exact opposite is true; low self-confidence is the best driver for success.

For Chamorro-Premuzic, success is not about one's level of confidence but instead one's level of competence. And the reason we think that it's the other way around is that many successful people often have great confidence. But we forget to consider all of the hard work that lie behind the success. So success (and the following confidence) should come from your level of competence; because you are good at something.

According to Chamorro-Premuzic research shows that people with low self-confidence are more likely to seeks negative feedback than people with high confidence. This is important to understand because negative self-evaluation is more likely to promote the wish for, and the work on getting better.

One of the problems with high self-confidence is that often it doesn't really build on anything. To be known as a contender on a reality show, for instance, does not require that much ability. And it offers an exaggerated or hollow self-confidence that does not really contain anything. This is why we see programs about broken-down reality-stars whose only goal is to return to the world of television.

But it's not just reality-stars who suffer from bloated confidence. According to Chamorro-Premuzic it's quite common that there's a gap between our own perceptions of how competent we are and reality. For instance, it's reported that most executives believe that they are above average and that all of 90 % believe that they are better drivers than the average (which is of course not possible. How can 90 % be better than half?).

Advantages from low self-confidence:

  1. Makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical.
    However, you also have to be ambitious and driven toward a goal. Otherwise the pessimism that low self-esteem often carries, can hit you hard.

  2. Can motivate you to work harder and prepare yourself more.
    If you are serious about your goals, you'll have a greater incentive to work hard at achieving them, than if you doubt your ability to fulfill them.

  3. Reduces the risk of coming across as arrogant, or lying to yourself.
    People with low self-confidence are more likely to admit their mistakes and seldom blame others. They are also less likely to take credit for other peoples’ successes.