#Confidence: Too Much, Too Little, Just Right


(The following excerpt from Confidence: Too Much, Too Little, Just Right by Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., originally appeared on psychology today.com on September 3, 2013. To view it in its entirety please click on the link below.)

Can you have too much confidence?

When someone says: “He thinks well of himself,” it’s not a compliment.

But try to avoid over-confidence and you could end up with too little confidence. Why is this so hard?

We have inherited the brain that helped earlier mammals survive. Animals need social acceptance to keep their genes alive. Your genes are not your focus, but your brain releases happy chemicals in response to things that would promote your genes in the state of nature. Confidence promotes genes because it gets a mammal more food, more mating opportunity, and more protection for its young.

Your confidence may annoy your fellow mammal because they are trying to promote their unique individual essence just as you are promoting yours. Your confidence may get in their way. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong.

When someone gets annoyed with you, your cortisol (the stress chemical) gets triggered. Cortisol evolved to warn an organism of an immediate emergency. Annoying your fellow mammal may be a real emergency in the state of nature. A chimpanzee can get a finger bitten off by its own troop-mate if it’s too assertive. Cortisol warns it to back off before it’s too late.

A “just right” level of pride is no easy target. You may work hard to build confidence, only to hear someone say “She thinks well of herself!” Your mammal brain may turn on the emergency broadcast system in response.  But it will stop if you stop judging other people’s confidence, and stop worrying about what they think of yours.You can give your inner mammal a well-deserved rest.

Your confidence level will never be “just right” from the perspective of everyone else in the world. If you expect to please everyone you will end up frustrated. Instead, you can focus on building your own confidence and let other people worry about theirs. When you accept other people’s mammalian quest for social rewards, you will accept your own, with all of its ups and downs.



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