In this article I am looking into confidence. Why do some people have high confidence, and why do some people have low confidence, and is it nature or nurture?
Confidence Definition & Behaviour
Confidence is about how much we believe in either ourselves or our abilities. A confident person has a high self-belief, and they tend to be assertive, have low self-consciousness, and they act quickly to take advantage of opportunities. We can also have confidence in others in terms of trust and reliability.
Why do Some People Have More Confidence?
Nature & Nurture
Under the category of nature, we have biology and genetics. Our personality traits largely fall into the realms of nature. On the big five personality traits, neuroticism is the trait that mostly connects with confidence.
Trait neuroticism is the negative emotion personality trait. Those high in this trait tend to see the negative first, including them as a person, how likable they are, and their abilities and overall image. Our interpretations are influenced by our levels of positive and negative emotions.
Those high in extroversion are also more likely to be more confident. Extroversion is the positive emotion trait. Assertiveness is connected to this trait. It takes confidence to be assertive, as opposed to being timid.
Being high in neuroticism will be perhaps the biggest cause of genetically having lower self-confidence. Neuroticism is the negative emotion trait, and its sub-traits include, self-consciousness, anxiety, vulnerability, depression, and generally most things negative.
High neuroticism is also linked to having issues with regulating or balancing emotions.
This will include cultural beliefs and learned behaviours, particularly from close family members, but also spreading out wider, to friends and society as a whole. In Western society, for example, being loud or extroverted, confident, and assertive are generally seen as positive traits.
This does vary across cultures. In Japan, for example, it’s the quieter and reserved personalities that are looked upon more favourably.
Simultaneous High & Low Confidence
It’s possible for someone to be both high and low in self-confidence. They could have high confidence in certain areas, and low in others.
Also, emotions can be erratic, especially for those that can have difficulty with regulating emotions. These people are more sensitive to certain events, or the words and actions of others. They could be on top of the world one minute, then, in a spiralling depression the next. This is likely connected to being high on trait neuroticism on the big five.
Serotonin & Status
Serotonin is a neurochemical which is believed to be connected to our social status level, and generally our level of success in life. Higher levels of serotonin is connected to higher levels of positive emotion and emotional stability. Life successes and failures can cause our serotonin levels to rise and fall. More positive emotions mean more self-confidence.
Signs of High Self-Confidence
Not easily offended: someone who is confident in who they are will not easily be offended by the words and actions of others. Self-confidence, in part, comes from having a strong identity, and that identity will remain stable and unfazed when attacked.
Holding eye contact
Strong hand shake
Assertive voice tone
Open body language and posture
They take the lead
The Dark Side of Confidence – Arrogance
Many people that are confident are only so, because they are living in a simplified and delusional world. Belief is different than actually being right. Arrogance is false confidence, it’s when belief and facts or ability don’t match up.
Here lies a big problem. Confident people are often leaders, politicians, managers, and often in positions of power and authority. Imagine someone being in a position of great power, like a world leader. Now imagine that their confidence is based on false beliefs, delusions, and incorrect knowledge. Now imagine the damage that could be done to a society or country when they implement change or policies that are based on knowledge or a belief that is either an over simplification, or at worst completely wrong.
What will happen is, they will make things worse. However, out of ego, they won’t admit fault, but rather look for something else, or someone else to blame. Perhaps they will look to scapegoat an entire group of people, like Hitler and Stalin did. Yes, these are extreme examples. Not all mistakes and misjudgements are equal in their seriousness.
There are many reasons why this type of dangerous arrogance happens. Such as ego, social proof, and social validation. Also, we have cognitive biases and distortions. Examples of these, black and white thinking and over-generalizing.
Confidence is a Powerful Manipulator
Talking with authority or confidence will often get others believing in your status or ability. Some people will intentionally talk and act with confidence to intimidate, influence, and gain power over others. In the book ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini, it’s listed as one of the major forms of influence.