Habit 10: living with confident and realistic self knowledge
What is a trait that gives you optimism and helps you to set and achieve your goals with a calmness and hope?
Most of us like to be confident and it’s an admirable trait for goal achievement, self esteem, and better relationships.
But in our success driven world it’s easy to think we need to feel confident all the time. We then risk seeing our vulnerability and weaknesses as a sign of poor confidence.
We all have weaknesses, bad days, and things that trigger negative emotions from time to time. So we need a way to live with these facets of ourselves, and at the same time remain hopeful and confident that we can grow and succeed in our dreams and goals.
A hopeful and empowering definition of confidence
This week I want to encourage you. Weakness and vulnerability co-exist with confidence. This type of confidence comes alive when we are realistic about ourselves and what we are good at.
The less effective version of confidence
In a world emphasising self-focused happiness, we might think we should feel joy all the time to make great decisions. But research here shows the downside to a joyful mood in approaching a task. They found when people feel joy, this can lead to overconfidence and mistakes. On the other hand, when the participants of the study engaged in reflection of their mood, they exhibited a more balanced and realistic approach to a task because they were able to limit the impact of their mood on the job at hand.
There is a difference between realistic confidence and overconfidence.
Overconfidence is described as a self -enhancement process of seeing ourselves as better than reality might suggest. Whereas realistic confidence is awareness of our strengths and weaknesses and confidently expressing these in our words and actions 
How do we live with realistic confidence?
We need self- knowledge and awareness to behave confidently in a way that is congruent with our strengths, weaknesses and values.
Self knowledge is defined in the research as “accurate self beliefs” and the researchers here found this leads to better relationships and life .
How self knowledge leads to greater confidence and success
When we think about our success in goals, work, and home life, our goals often relate to career success, a happy family or personal life. Knowing ourselves helps us to choose goals linked to our capacities and values.
The benefits of self-knowledge and vulnerability so we can live with confidence and success
- We are better liked because we are humbly aware of our limitations and abilities and behave congruently with these (versus pretending we are great at everything and all powerful)
- Our reputation is higher because, when we make mistakes, we have already been honest about our humanity and vulnerability. The research I look at this week gives an example of this in work interviews. Overconfidence was detrimental because eventually the applicant’s weaknesses emerged and they were less accepted by others
- We live authentically with our values and hence respect ourselves more. For example, if you value kindness and choose to be patient in listening to people, this is an action congruent with the value you hold.
- We lead lives of integrity. For example, if you value honesty and you’re aware of this, you may decide to arrive at work on time every day. This is an external behavior that lines up with how you see yourself.
- Shifts can be made to our habits. For example, if you think of yourself as a healthy person but eat lots of junk, you are aware of this discrepancy and can change your habits.
These 5 things grow greater self knowledge so we live with congruence, confidence and joy
- Awareness of our strengths
- Awareness of our weaknesses or vulnerabilities
- Acceptance of ourselves as we are and as a person of value and worth. Then we face our strengths and weaknesses with curiosity rather than berating ourselves.
- A set of personal values we believe in and wish to live by
- Daily behaviors (what we are really like) that correspond with how we view ourselves (self beliefs)
4 ways to enhance self knowledge to build your strengths, accept your vulnerabilities, and grow your best life.
- Discover and define your values. Try writing down ten values and why they are important to you. For example; peace, kindness, self acceptance, love, etc.
- Describe yourself. Write down your strengths. Then think of things you feel vulnerable in or perhaps affect your resilience in some way. I like to think of weaknesses in this way because they’re not a fixed negative but are things you know can hold you back. For example, if I overwork and don’t sleep enough i’m prone to low mood and feeling irritable. This isn’t a fixed trait but something I can plan for in my habits and routine.
- Transfer the idea of a fixed trait to a state you can alter. For example, you might transform “I’m an angry person” to “I get angry when I have too much to do”. Note though, some things are more fixed like introversion and extraversion, but in these traits we can see the best in ourselves.
- Reflect on your day. Give yourself credit. For example, you see yourself as calm and you responded calmly to an angry colleague. Your awareness of how you see yourself and how you behaved have lined up.
- Give yourself unconditional positive acceptance. When you make a mistake or don’t behave congruently with how you see yourself, you can forgive yourself and move on. Just noticing this incongruence means you have self understanding. This is a strength and gives you information.
Confidence and vulnerability co-exist when we are are realistic about ourselves. Knowing our vulnerabilities is a sign of self knowledge, leading to better relationships and a richer life. We don’t have to be overconfident and indestructible women because when we know ourselves and accept ourselves as confident women with vulnerabilities, we live authentic and balanced lives. We can expect the ebbing tide of success and setbacks that are part of normal life.
 Koellinger P, Treffers T (2015) Joy Leads to Overconfidence, and a Simple Countermeasure. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0143263. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143263
 Tenney ER, Vazire S, Mehl MR (2013) This Examined Life: The Upside of Self-Knowledge for Interpersonal Relationships. PLOS ONE 8(7): e69605. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069605