Posted by: eseeders | January 11, 2011

A Crisis of Overconfidence

To me the notion that it takes a strong individual to know when they are out of their depth and an even stronger one to admit it and ask for help has almost always applied. Yet despite our parents having told us during our formative years that there was nothing wrong with asking for help it seems that, in the United States at least, this still does not apply. It seems as though no matter how hard an individual might try there remains a pervasive idea in our culture dictating that one must always present a facade of confidence lest you be ostracized and rejected by your peers in all sorts of circumstances whether public or private. We as a people must get past this idea that it shows weakness to ask for help or to admit your lack of knowledge, saying “I don’t know” should not be a negative mark against any person.

Why is it that people inhabiting our culture have such difficulty with this? Can you not see that it is this facade, this brash unwarranted confidence that gets so many of us into trouble in the first place? Such overconfidence was perhaps the critical linchpin in the economic collapse/recession of 2008. A similar sort of confidant facade has cost untold millions of lives in wars across the centuries all around the world as generals led men into combat without proper forethought because it was and still is a weakness to admit that you simply do not know or aren’t 100% sure and its not getting any better.

Recent studies have shown that while the United States is falling behind in virtually every educational category the world over, there remains one area where we dominate. Yep, students in the United States are number 1 when it comes to confidence, we’re 29th and 35th when it comes to science and math by the way. This problem is systemic in our culture, don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a confidence about yourself but its even better to have a self awareness and knowledge of your weaknesses and limitations in ability. If you don’t have that kind of awareness, how can you ever expect to improve and grow as an individual and how can we as a nation expect to survive? If we don’t change things and teach ourselves to truly appreciate genuine doubt and the ability to ask for help we’ll just continue to create the same kind of people that were responsible for the economic collapse of 2008, you know, the one we’re still recovering from.


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