A concise counter-argument to the idea of confidence as a desirable personality trait

There’s a pop-psychotherapeutic idea floating around out there to the effect that confidence is a good thing. Confident people are to be emulated; less confident people are to be encouraged to be more confident.

I’ve felt for a while that this idea is wrong and dangerous – that confidence (in yourself) is like trust (in others), in that it’s a good thing when warranted and a terrible thing when unwarranted (kind of like its sister concept “self-esteem”).

So I set out to write a little essay about this. Now I am a wordy guy by nature (and prolix), and so my first draft was 75,000 words (including footnotes, end notes, and of course the occasional lengthy and tangential parenthetical comment). After a month or two of editing with Strunk&White by my side, though, I’ve managed to reduce the length by 74,998 needless words, and am now ready to present my revised essay to you in its entirety. Are you ready?

Donald Rumsfeld.

Thank you for your attention.

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