Does Confidence Really Breed Success?

Academic Psychology research suggests that more and more American university students think they are something special. High self-esteem is generally regarded as a good thing for personal and professional success – but could too much of it actually make you less successful?

About nine million young people have filled out the American Freshman Survey, since it began in 1966. The survey asks students to rate how they measure up to their peers in a number of basic skills areas.

Below is the data from a new analysis of the survey data, by US psychologist Jean Twenge and colleagues, revealing that and over the past four decades, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being “above average” for academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability and self-confidence.

In The Narcissism Epidemic, co-written with Keith Campbell, Twenge blames the growth of narcissistic attitudes on a range of trends – including parenting styles, celebrity culture, social media and access to easy credit, which allows people to appear more successful than they are.

Over 15,000 journal articles have examined the links between high self-esteem and measurable outcomes in real life, such as educational achievement, job opportunities, popularity, health, happiness and adherence to laws and social codes. Unfortunately there is very little evidence that raising self-esteem leads to tangible, positive outcomes.

We’re paying close attention to the confidence trends, and aspire to provide an objective source of personal feedback that will allow for reflection and true self-confidence.