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Are you overconfident? 
ByDr. Thilagavathi G. Joseph   posted on01 Aug, 12 1345 Views 0 Comments Personality Development Add to favorite

Lack of confidence is often identified as a malaise, blocking one’s way to success. The life skills courses offered in schools and colleges are sure to have a session devoted to confidence-building exercises. “If you think you can, you can,” is the mantra recited over and over again into the ears of youngsters.

I would like to draw your attention to the other side of the coin – overconfidence. Overconfidence is as bad a culprit as lack of confidence, in its contribution to failure. If you are overconfident you tend to be too casual in your attempts. Some students boast that they never prepare for the exams or prepare only at the last moment and yet come out with a first class. They might have been lucky just once but not always. This kind of confidence and boastfulness may not go a long way. There is a tendency among students to mock at the consistently hard working students. Intelligence should definitely go hand in hand with hard work. Otherwise, you can’t show results.

Quite often, we come across students who do not know how much they know. They are not able to assess the level of knowledge that they possess. This is again the result of being too cool and confident. Thomas Jefferson says, “The wise know too well their weakness to assume infallibility; and he who knows most, knows best how little he knows.” One should learn to sees one’s own ability and knowledge, at least in the field of study.

Before sitting for an exam, it is better to assess oneself. The purpose of model exams and continuous assessment tests is to do this. However, there are students who don’t consider these tests as important and remain undaunted by the poor marks they score in these exams. They still feel confident that they can somehow manage in the final exams. A study conducted reveals that people’s confidence runs highest, when removed in time from the moment of truth. By exam day, the possibility of failure looms larger and confidence typically drops. At this moment, ‘If you think you can, you can’ maxim doesn’t help at all.

What produces overconfidence?

Why does experience not lead us to a more realistic self-appraisal? For one thing, people tend not to seek information that might disprove what they believe, says P.C. Wason. In experiments at the University of Texas at Austin, William Swann and Stephen Read discovered that students seek, elicit and recall feedback that confirms their beliefs about themselves. People seek as friends those who bolster their own self views. This is known as self-verification attitude. This induces them as far as possible, to avoid being with people who view them with a critical eye.

We learn two lessons from this human behaviour pattern. One lesson is to approach a confident person with caution. Even when people seem sure that they are right, they may be wrong. Confidence and competence need not coincide.

Another lesson that we learn is to be careful when we estimate ourselves. When we feel confident about a venture, let us stop and think of one good reason why our judgement might be wrong. This will move one from the seat of overconfidence to realistic self-confidence.

-Dr Thilagavathy

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