The Overconfidence Myth

Mike DitkaSelf-confidence means believing you have what it takes to achieve your goal and it’s a quality that is essential to success.

“I don’t think anything is unrealistic if you believe you can do it.” — Mike Ditka

“Self-confidence is the first step toward success. If you believe it, you can achieve it.” – Tommy Lasorda

“If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else believe in you?” – Derek Jeter

“I have always believed that what you expect is usually what you get, what you focus on is what you draw to yourself.” – Pete Carroll

“You have to believe in yourself when no one else does; that makes you a winner right there.” – Venus Williams

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“To be an overachiever you have to be an over-believer.” – Dabo Swinney

These types of famous quotes about the importance of self-confidence could go on and on. There’s no doubt that self-confidence is a quality required for success.

However, many people have a fear of being too confident. They worry about being overconfident and setting themselves up for failure and disappointment.

Is the fear of overconfidence warranted? Should you be careful to keep your confidence in check?

World-famous sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella offers a surprising answer to these questions…


Champions understand that they must be confident to a point that some people might find offensive.

Neither (John) Wooden, coaching the UCLA Bruins in basketball, nor (Vince) Lombardi, coaching the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League, ever worried too much about his opponents. Wooden never even scouted the opposition. Both men told their players that if they played their games, executed their plays, they would win. If they didn’t win, it didn’t mean they were inferior. It just meant that they ran out of time. That was confidence.

I can’t think of a golf tournament I’ve ever seen lost because a player was too confident.

 Sometimes, a player will ask me if he should worry about being overconfident. I’ll ask him to tell me the last time he missed a putt or hit a drive into the woods because he was overconfident. No one has ever given me an example. But when I ask if they’ve ever missed a putt or drive because they lacked confidence, the answer is always yes.

To be clear, when I speak of confidence, I exclude both arrogance and laziness. To me, confidence doesn’t mean that an individual or team fails to prepare. Though they were supremely confident, neither Wooden’s nor Lombardi’s teams ever stinted on preparation… All of that preparation and dedication is, to my mind, intertwined with confidence.

I can’t see how people could get lazy if they were confident. If you were confident and thought you could do anything you put your mind to, I would think you’d be highly dedicated and committed to whatever it was you wanted to do.

By the same token, I think it would be very unlikely for someone to be committed and dedicated if he wasn’t confident. Why would someone work hard if he didn’t think he could succeed?


— Bob Rotella, from his book How Champions Think

Notice that Dr. Rotella is careful to point out that confidence should not be confused with a false sense of entitlement, which leads to laziness. Champions will tell you that the best builder of self-confidence is hard work and preparation. Falsely assuming that results will come easy is not being confident; it’s being delusional.

And at the same time, genuinely confident people don’t think poorly of others. The arrogant person who constantly puts others down is not confident; he’s afraid and he’s trying to hide his fear behind a false sense of egotism. He’s petrified that another person’s success will rob him of the attention he so badly desires. A truly confident person, on the other hand, respects others and recognizes that there is potential greatness in everyone—especially his competition— and that drives him to never stop thriving and learning.

When you properly understand what self-confidence is and what actually builds your self-confidence (hard work, preparation, positive self-talk, etc.), you’ll recognize that you can never really have too much confidence.

Self-confidence is essential to success and you must make a firm commitment to building it up daily. If you don’t, there are plenty of naysayers out there who can’t wait to whittle away at it.