Can Low Self Confidence be Instrumental to Career Success?

Can Low Self Confidence be Instrumental to Career Success?


In this months HBR, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (business psychologist at UCL) re-examines the cliché that high self-confidence is instrumental to career success.

He even argues that, low self-confidence can make you more successful. Chamorro-Premuzic spent years researching and consulting on talent, before concluding that self-confidence is only helpful when it’s low. Whilst extremely low confidence is not helpful (inhibits performance by inducing fear, worry, and stress) just-low-enough confidence can help people chase more attainable, and realistic goals. If you are serious about your goals, low self-confidence can be your biggest ally to accomplish them.


  • Lower self-confidence makes people pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical:Whilst low self-confidence may turn people into a pessimist, pessimism combined with ambition can produce outstanding performance. To be the very best at anything, people need to be their harshest critic (most individuals tend to ignore negative feedback). Exceptional achievers always experience low levels of confidence and self-confidence, but they train hard and practice continually until they reach an acceptable level of competence.
  • Lower self-confidence can motivate people to work harder and prepare more: When people are serious about their goals, they will have more incentive to work hard (low confidence is only demotivating when people are not serious about their goals). Most people like the idea of being exceptional, but not enough to do what it takes to achieve it.
  • Lower self-confidence reduces the chances of coming across as arrogant or being deluded: According to Gallup, over 60% of employees dislike or hate their jobs, as a result of having narcissistic bosses. Lower self-confidence reduces not the chances of coming across as arrogant, People with low self-confidence are more likely to admit their mistakes — instead of blaming others — and rarely take credit for others’ accomplishments. This is arguably the most important benefit of low self-confidence because it points to the fact that low self-confidence can bring success, not just to individuals but also to organizations and society.

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