The Two Types of Confidence

BY Tim Londergan
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Our communal world is bifurcated in many ways. By that, I mean our society is split among people who have the same traits but tend to approach life differently. For instance, consider morning people versus night people. Some folks wake up refreshed and ready to take on what life doles out, but as the day wears on, they willingly surrender to it. Night people, on the other hand, don’t get up to speed until the sun is high, but then they thrive in the exhilaration of nocturnal productivity.

Likewise, there are two types of confidence. On one hand, socially confident people are comfortable among strangers; they proactively connect and universally handle themselves with great poise. Conversely, others considered confident are boastful, steadfast in their opinions and often seen as arrogant. Psychologists call this second type "epistemic confidence" or certainty.

Two types of confidence: Only one works in your favor

According to Psychology Today, “Confidence is a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life's challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly.” Clearly, projecting confidence helps you build credibility and puts people at ease. Further, confidence helps you handle the challenges of professional and personal life on a day-​to-​day basis.

Social confidence is the ability to enter a room and start a conversation with the first person you see. On the other hand, epistemic confidence would have you engage that person and be absolutely sure that your company’s product will serve that customer better than any other product on the market.

Consequently, two types of confidence result in two opposing reactions from the audience. Therefore, epistemic confidence can be a liability. As Psychology Today states, “Too much confidence is often perceived as cockiness, arrogance or narcissism.” In addition, overestimating your abilities might also lead to denying responsibility or blaming others for failed projects.

Being stuck in your beliefs is dangerous

Those with epistemic confidence operate with a closed mind. They are more inclined to press their own agenda and speak more than they listen. Furthermore, they are less likely to ask others’ opinions and are quick to receive praise but rarely accept blame. Erin Leonard, Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today, states that these characteristics may point to “profound insecurities” and an “unconscious defense system.” Remarkably, the author contends that these insecurities are often perceived as confidence.

Confidence versus narcissism

By definition, narcissism is an exaggerated sense of self-​importance. Perceptively, narcissists are highly confident people. However, their aura of superiority is misconstrued as being in control and self-​aware. Consequently, the masking of their insecurities and their highly developed defense mechanisms eventually betray their lack of true social confidence.

Social confidence is a professional superpower

Of the two types of confidence, you need to put your money on social confidence. Minda Zetlin, writing for inc​.com and author of "Career Self-​Care," compares epistemic confidence with social confidence. Justifiably, Zetlin contrasts the two in their own experience and urges readers to practice just how effective the “right kind” of confidence can be. To practice, the author challenges readers to step out of their comfort zone. For instance, Zetlin suggests volunteering to give presentations to rack up experience in a public setting. Another option would be to engage in meaningful conversation with someone they’ve just met.

Also, Zetlin challenges us to pause once we hear ourselves declaring something to be absolutely true. For example, stop and ask how we know that it is true and consider if circumstances may have changed that might make it less so. Likewise, Zetlin suggests we surround ourselves with people who have different backgrounds or viewpoints that are unfamiliar. Essentially, this crowd should be willing to disagree and to debate their position so we can broaden our knowledge base and expand our worldview.

Photo by Alex Padurariu on Unsplash