So you’re pretty good, right? Maybe a bit better than pretty good; you’re excellent. You know it. Don’t deny it. You think you’re pretty shit hot. But wait – other people think that they’re about as cool as you too! And it turns out that this is not only a common view that people have about themselves (save a few), but that it is actually advantageous to have this view about yourself.
That doesn’t sound like particularly new information, but in reality there has been some new information gleaned out of the result of overconfidence and cockiness in people. Recent research has shown that people who take risks and display confident behaviour in situations that are unfamiliar have a greater chance of overcoming adversity, or fulfilling a challenge. I guess it’s kind of like what can happen when a little kid stands up to his older brother in a fight. Sure, the kid is out-muscled from the beginning, but a good, confident kick in the balls is more than enough for him to win the fight.
Researchers emphasise that you can’t bluff your way into being confident; you’re only likely to be successful if you truly believe that you’re bigger, faster, stronger, or smarter than what you need to be to survive an encounter. As James Fowler from the University of California says: “Our model shows that all you really need is false beliefs about yourself (to succeed)”.
And it’s not just about fighting, either. While in most situations being a cocky driver will get you a damaged fender and more than a few raised eyebrows from passersby, in other situations it might help you get out of a prang. And while I know that I am a fantastic singer, feedback that I have been getting from other people would say otherwise…
Of course, overconfidence in your abilities also has its downsides. For example, some little men have the unfortunate reality of suffering from small man syndrome, and have the tendency to ‘take on’ other men that are much larger than they are. Most of the time it ends badly. But sometimes, it produces spectacular results – just look at the conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte! (Note: this syndrome doesn’t actually officially exist).
In my opinion, who’s to say that being confident in oneself is a bad thing at all? If we weren’t confident in our abilities, would we enter into anything at all without fear of failing or losing? Perhaps someone should get onto that.