When a bit of knowledge can be dangerous.

Confidence is key.

Fake it till you make it.

We’ve all heard the positive affirmations that are designed to propel us headlong into success and glory. And yes, a positive attitude and a bit of resilience combined with allowing our brain to rehearse a way of thinking can set us off on a positive route.

For example, if you know that you are not especially assertive then by behaving as if you are, the action may actually lead to the attitude.

And of course, nobody wants to be paralysed by lack of confidence or constantly haunted by imposter syndrome. It makes it difficult to do our job and is not conducive to peace of mind.

The trick though, is knowing yourself, being honest with yourself, and accepting that you are always work in progress. This enables you to be secure and assured about what you do know and not look like an idiot when you try to pretend otherwise. The difficulty comes when you don’t know you’re pretending.

And yet… we all know someone who appears to think they know everything, and they just don’t. And to be fair, we probably all find ourselves behaving like this now and then for various justifiable reasons. After all, not many of us would want to be operated on by a surgeon who tells us that they’re nervous about carrying out an operation – even if they are.

When there is a difference between our capabilities or knowledge, and what we judge to be our capabilities or knowledge, people often overestimate in their own favour.

The way we overestimate ourselves on what we see to be desirable, are overconfident when we confuse experience with expertise, and underestimate ourselves when we should be able to recognise that we lack experience is called the Dunning Kruger trap.

Interestingly, if we’re a novice at something, we tend not to fall into the trap. If we can’t drive, we’re not likely to think we can win a Grand Prix.

It’s when we have a bit of knowledge that things change. Suddenly, we feel empowered to pronounce, judge and pontificate without realising that we still actually know very little. In fact, when our knowledge and expertise increase, so does our ability to realise what we don’t know, question ourselves, and then continue learning what is required to become a genuine expert.

Posturing and faking can only give short term, limited value. People see through it and judge us accordingly – which generally means not sympathetically.

By being authentic and honestly employing self-reflection, a bit of humility, and a willingness to develop and learn, we might just avoid the trap – most of the time.

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