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The Insane Side of Self-Belief

Self-belief is dangerous. G.K. Chesterton said, “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves…The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

Believing in yourself is dangerous when it promotes individualism and minimizes community.

People who believe in themselves don’t have to do anything to maintain self-belief. Lousy managers believe in themselves. Inexperienced knuckleheads believe in themselves.

You should feel self-doubt when you’re called to lead a team and you’ve never led a team.

Self-doubt is better than self-belief when it motivates preparation.

Self-belief is dangerous when it enables a do-it-my-way approach in novices.

7 dangers of self-belief:

  1. Thinking you know when you’re ignorant. Novices overestimate their knowledge and abilities. (Dunning-Kruger Effect)
  2. Practicing a ‘go it alone’ approach to new challenges. You insult potential when success is reached without help.
  3. Rejecting counsel from experienced people because it doesn’t feel right. Wisdom feels wrong to fools.
  4. Blaming failure on circumstances or others. Self-belief rejects responsibility.
  5. Not seeking feedback after success.
  6. Ignoring discomforting feedback because it causes self-doubt.
  7. Criticizing leaders from the sidelines when you haven’t led yourself.

Confident self-doubt takes you further than mythical self-belief.

Choose self-confidence:

The difference between confidence and believing in yourself is practice, repetition, failure and achievement. Have you learned new skills in the past? Have confidence you can learn new skills today. Have you overcome obstacles in the past? Have confidence you can overcome obstacles today.

Confidence with self-doubt is better than believing in yourself for no reason.

Self-confidence based on commitment to work takes you further than self-deception.


Make yourself uncomfortable. When good feelings are reasons to aim low and snuggle with a warm blanket, you defeat yourself.

Just because you’re great at playing basketball doesn’t mean you’re great at playing baseball.

When does self-belief lead people astray?

How might leaders use self-doubt?

Still curious:

The 6 Powers of Healthy Self-Doubt

10 Stupid Things Smart Leaders Do

Self-doubt can actually help you bloom

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