Confidence: A Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

Photo by Blake Weyland on Unsplash

By Roberta S. Clark

It depends, I guess, on whom you ask. So very often I hear professionals and volunteer leaders use the word in both positive and negative ways: “He/She’s confident it can get done and has my full support” or, the dreaded, “He/She’s over-confident and this is going to be a disaster (and let’s use it as an actionable example to get rid of him/her!).”

I believe, for the examples above and so many others, confidence can be either an annoying or awesome trait. I also believe that most of us probably manifest examples of both (but am so not confident I could prove that belief!).

When confidence is about our ego in overdrive – over confidence or self-righteous behavior – I think it is counter productive to good will and successful outcomes. This type of confidence will often include words or actions which are demeaning towards those who express different opinions or abilities, and is likely divisive for all involved. It can also include behavior which is, or at least feels like, bullying. When confidence is manifested as “I’m right and you’re wrong,” no one comes out ahead – particularly in regard to making the best decisions for an organization or business.

The good kind of confidence, in my opinion, includes being willing to listen to different views and then believing in yourself enough to take a stand on what you think is correct. It does not mean you think you are always right, it means you think you are making the right decision based on facts, input from others and current realities. It also means you are not afraid to be wrong – and that you are willing to be humble as those mistakes occur.

Many people don’t have the confidence to be wrong – they, sadly, don’t believe in themselves; they worry that they will lose a relationship or job; or they worry that being wrong in any way is not something they can “recover” from. Some people do not display confident behavior when they do not feel, or do not care to be, invested in the issue or outcome.

Personally and professionally, I would prefer a passionate, well-meaning mistake over apathy any day. We learn by our mistakes: they challenge our thinking; create the opportunity to deepen our relationships with colleagues and volunteer leaders through honest discussion; and maybe most importantly, encourage us to recognize and honestly display humility.

What does confidence look and feel like to you?

Roberta S. Clark is a Jewish communal professional who holds dual MA degrees in Jewish Education and Jewish Studies from Gratz College. She is the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City.