Overconfidence is a hell of a ting

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As I type this article, Kamla Persad-Bissessar is being sworn in as our first female Prime Minister, and former Prime Minister Patrick Manning is probably choking down the leftover crumbs from his humble pie. I hope he’s drinking liquids with that because I’ve had humble pie a few times, and it’s usually embarrassingly difficult to swallow.

¬†Apparently, despite the evidence that pointed otherwise, the PNM or at least Mr. Manning actually expected to win this year’s election. It makes one wonder if he believed that the PNM could coast through the General Elections and seize victory. And if he did believe this, one would perhaps raise an eyebrow and ask incredulously, “what was he thinking?” Most people would say his lack of regard for public opinion, a definite product of what seems to be a display of arrogance on his part, cost him the elections. What’s more, the arrogance led to what can be seen as overconfidence during an election campaign where no one could have afforded to be complacent. The overconfidence was most likely his downfall – overconfidence in his abilities, his methods and even his adoring fans voting based on the adage that ‘love is indeed blind’.

Confidence is an amazing thing; it’s fantastic, and there is nothing as attractive as a confident person. However, just as we’ve seen in political life, being cocky or too sure of yourself can negatively impact other areas of your life. Employers will take notice if you’re well equipped for a task, but they will take even more notice if you are sure and confident about your abilities. People find it easier to listen to and trust people who are confident. But, like nearly all things in life, there needs to be a balance, as overdoing usually leads to detriment. Overconfident individuals operate under the credence that the situation that they face can be easily overcome. The term overconfident means confident without adequate reason. A person can be said to be overconfident when all doubt is removed from their mind. Therein lays the dangers of an overconfident individual. If all doubt is removed, there is no reason to question your own stance or view because in your mind you are absolutely right. When people call you a ‘know-it-all’, you don’t even bother to fuss, because you do know it all.

The thing about being overconfident is that it’s an entirely relatable trait and I’m sure most of us can identify with situations where we may have been a little too cocksure. In relationships when friends give you advice about a situation that you are in, maybe a situation that they’ve experienced before, and you ignore them because you are convicted in your judgment, yet somehow in the end that same friend ends up being right on point, that’s a clear example of being too confident. If you’re in school and a test comes up for that class that you consider too easy, so you don’t study and end up barely scraping together a C, then you also have a case of overconfidence (or sheer foolery). Maybe for you, it’s taking a chance on the PBR because you know exactly where the police officers are placed, then end up with a ticket that cost more than your car installment.

Looking at these situations, a trend emerges and it’s evident to see certain pitfalls. The trend, of course, is where we see overconfidence leading to failure, and though each pitfall is different, the end result is the same.

People get overconfident after a large amount of positive feedback; they become overconfident after repeating certain actions and being successful at most, if not all, attempts. They become overconfident when something seems too easy for them. There are many reasons, but in all cases, their overconfidence causes them to remove doubt from the equation, and in life we can be certain about nothing. Having no doubt in ourselves results in smugness and so we fail to put forward 100% of the energy or work, as we would for a task that we consider challenging. An individual that is overconfident about a particular situation is prone to procrastinating, and being lazy when it comes to tasks that he/she considers to easy for him or her.

This brings me back to what I was saying about Mr. Manning and his case of unwarranted confidence. Clearly Manning was convicted of a sure and easy victory. His lackluster campaigning didn’t hold a candle to the other party’s and his ministers were so confident in his leadership style that they followed right along with his example. Watching Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar being sworn in last Wednesday, I looked at her, a smile of confidence gracing her features. I hope that as the time passes, that confident doesn’t morph into cockiness because as a certain former PM learned, nothing is written in stone, and you must be stay grounded to do what’s best for the people around you. Maybe he should have paid attention to a quote by Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago: “Let’s not be overconfident, we still have to count the votes”.


Kalifa Clyne is a writer who spends all of her time writing or thinking about writing.

1 Comment

  1. linda

    June 2, 2010 at 7:51 am

    This is sooooooooooo true. Overconfidence has caused many a great leaders downfall..

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