Why being too confident is a bad thing—and how you can fix it

Recently, my son Aaron finally learned how to ride a bike on his own. He was so proud! Every time he made it down the street and back he became more confident—but unfortunately, that confidence quickly morphed into cockiness.

Not even an hour after he learned to ride a bike, he attempted to ride it one-handed all in an effort to show off in front of our neighbors. Needless to say, that didn’t work out, and within seconds of raising his hand he (and his bike) fell to the ground.

That day, my son not only learned how to ride his bike, but he also learned a valuable lesson—don’t be overconfident.

I wish I learned this lesson at his age, but instead, I learned it in my early 20s while working at my first office job. Just like Aaron, I was guilty of exuding too much self-confidence, and because of this, I found myself on the ground many times (only it wasn’t my neighbors watching—it was my co-workers).

You might be thinking, what’s so bad about being confident? Well, “overconfidence can be particularly damaging in organizations when individuals have such strong beliefs in their own ability that they take risks that aren’t supported by the evidence,” Dr Rob Yeung, Chartered Psychologist and a director at leadership consulting firm Talentspace, told The British Psychology Society.

“Overconfident people often also tend not to listen terribly well to constructive feedback about their failings or mistakes, with the result that they may not learn about their errors,” he said.

Overconfidence can also lead to illusory superiority, a cognitive bias that occurs when someone overestimates their qualities and abilities relative to others, misjudgment and errors in your work, and tension with co-workers.

Sound familiar? Don’t worry, it’s not too late. There are ways we can avoid the pitfalls of being overconfident—and keep our egos in check.

Be self-aware

Try and look at yourself objectively. Frequently reflecting on past experiences, journaling, and taking self-assessments can help you know yourself better.

Interview yourself

When you are feeling extremely confident about something, ask yourself:

  • Why am I confident?
  • What experience do I have?
  • Have I ever proven this skill or ability before?
  • Have I ever done or seen this before?

Don’t make fast decisions

Research has shown that fast decisions are generally more biased decisions. When you need to make a decision, give yourself extra time to explore the facts, really think about the situation and explore the alternatives.

Get others’ feedback

Seek out constructive criticism whenever possible. A fresh perspective from someone you trust can help you understand if you are really prepared for something or if you are being overconfident.

Danielle Clark is a human resources manager with more than 10 years of HR and customer service experience in healthcare and retail organizations. Her work with Fortune 500 companies, in addition to a diverse professional and academic background, has trained Clark to be results-driven, people-focused and a thought-provoking leader. Her goal is to educate and inspire professionals to change their way of thinking. She is also an adjunct professor, active community volunteer, wife, mother and passionate lifelong learner.

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