Confidence is a good thing, right? Everyone wants confidence.  It makes you more attractive to others. It helps your performance. It makes you feel good about yourself. It allows you to set high goals. It's good stuff.

It's also an illusion.

The reality is that there are only two conditions you can be in. You can either have an accurate view of your own abilities or an inaccurate view. Confidence is similar to will power in the sense that neither of them exists and yet society is quite certain they do.

Will power isn't a real thing because humans simply act based on the greatest impulse in their brains at the moment. The guy who can best resists eating cupcakes is the one who enjoys them the least, or is the least hungry. Will power never enters into the equation. It is a rationalization after the fact.

Confidence and will power feel as if they are real things because we have words to describe them, and we usually agree when the words apply. That's why the illusion is so persistent. If the words didn't exist, I don't think the illusions would be so troublesome.

I came to this view of because people insist on viewing my various behaviors through the framework of confidence. When I have a realistic view of my ability to do some particular task well, I am labeled confident, as opposed to simply accurate. When I predict that I would be below average at some particular task, based on years of knowing myself, I am labeled unconfident when in fact I am simply right or wrong. Where does confidence come in?

Suppose a drug existed that could give you the sensation of confidence independent of your actual ability to perform tasks. Would that be a good thing? Actually, we know the answer to that question because the drug is alcohol and it kills 37,000 people per year in automobiles alone, just in the United States.

But what about the self-fulfilling nature of confidence, you ask? Doesn't the feeling of confidence sometimes make you perform better? A confident public speaker, for example, is a better speaker. A confident quarterback will make better decisions, and so on.

I would argue that in some cases your performance can be enhanced by generating in yourself just the right amount of illusion about your own performance. A quarterback might imagine himself able to throw the perfect pass 100% of the time in order to succeed half of the time. He would be using confidence as a useful illusion because it keeps his energy in balance after some bad misses.

Generating a temporary illusion of confidence in yourself can be a good thing so long as you are aware of what you're doing.  The quarterback needs to understand that he's just using a trick to pump up his performance. Otherwise he'd feel like a failure for completing only half of his passes.

Confidence is an illusion, but a useful one.
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+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2011
Dude, don't be so hard on alcohol. You should see me dance after a few beers. I'm like a John Travolta ninja.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2011

I believe you are describing fear, specifically fear of the unknown. It lessens over time as the unknown decreases.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2011
Modesty and Confidence have value in that these perceptions affect the ones around us.
Jan 4, 2011
"Everyone wants confidence..."

A successful person didn't get there because he 'wanted confidence', he most likely got there by striving to continually improve his/her own abilities at a given task so as to stand apart from others by consistently exceeding the average performance. As ability improves, so does a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment that comes with achievement. Call it confidence if you will.
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2011
I'd argue that confidence is an ability in and of itself.

I coach my 7 year old son's hockey team. They play games both within our organization, against kids they know, and against other organizations (and kids they don't know). For games against other organizations, they are more hesitant, less aggressive, and as a result appear less skilled than when playiing within our organization. But over time, this discrepancy lessens and eventually disappears.

Their physical abilities are obviously the same whether playing teams within our own, or from another, organization. Therefore, the difference in performances must be due to some abstract, or mental, attribute. And further, that attribute can be, and is, developed over time. We coaches call it confidence. What would you call it?
Jan 4, 2011
I always thought that baseball players have a lot of confidence. The best hitters fail to get a hit 2/3 of the time. The best pitchers may not give up many hits, but one hit could determine the whole game (or season).
Jan 4, 2011
I agree in the fact that confidence is not a material thing or an action in itself, however I would rather tell confidence is like faith, believe beyond reality and I truly think faith has made some remarkable people go beyond they could without that faith. Let's remember that quantum mechanics make reality happen according to the observer, so what if the observer has more faith than other on some particular thing to happen, could not quantum mechanics make its "magic" in such case? :-)
Jan 4, 2011
I'd say will power is the ability to enjoy denying yourself something more than you would enjoy the something. I may enjoy cupcakes more than someone eating them, but enjoy denying myself the cupcake even more that that.
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2011
Sherlock Holmes put the illusion of confidence or modesty quite well:

"My dear Watson, I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate ones self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers. When I say, therefore, that [my brother] Mycroft has better powers of observation than I, you may take it that I am speaking the exact and literal truth."
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