Today, I am going to write about those seemingly crazy people who audition for “The X-Factor” and “Britain’s Got Talent” and a variety of other similar shows across the globe… Before I do that, I want to mark out a particular distinction…

Self-esteem is something I beleive we can all do with growing more and more and it is always useful… The very nature of the word aestemate derives from the latin word related to what we know as estimate — and so we see that self-esteem is really about the value we place on ourselves.

Confidence is something else… Confidence is about how we believe in our abilities to do things.. We tend to be confident (or not as the case may be) in our skills, abilities and actions etc.

I spend lots of my time in therapy, have written a book on the subject and run courses and seminars, speak at events — all aimed at anhancing and developing people’s self-esteem and often a by-product is that they become more appropriately confident about aspects of themselves.

Note the word ‘appropriate.’

Is there an inappropriate level of confidence?

I firmly believe there can sometimes be a case for too much confidence and I want to explain why…

It started as Pop Idol, then became the X-Factor and it is franchised all over the world including American Idol and so on… We have celebrity X-Factor too! The latest series of Britain’s Got Talent is being recorded right now and there is a public hunger for it on our screens…

I like to predict how the judges hypnotically influence the voters each week if I watch it… My wife is a fan! Poor excuse, eh?

The bits which I actually enjoy on the show and I get engaged for all the wrong reasons are the weeks of build up… The real auditions… Wherein there are these utterly terrible auditioners taking to the audition room to perform in front of SImon Cowell, Louis Walsh and the other judges.

Invariably, I watch mortified at how bad they are, what an awful sound they are making and then two common outcomes typically follow their ‘performance’:

1 — A humorous and at times cutting or rude comment from Simon Cowell,

2- The total shock, surprise and disbelief that the auditioners display once they receive the judges’ feedback regarding their dreadful song rendition.

How do they not know they sound so awful? What has caused them to believe they could perform for one of the most popular TV shows and become a rapidly propelled music phenomenon in league with Leona Lewis?

How have they not grasped the reality of who and how they are?

Did you ever watch the film Bugsy Malone… I love the film and love the songs and the young starlets (Jodie Foster as talula was fab!) and it even sends itself up a bit with a very young Bonny Langofrd playing the precocious performer who bursts on stage during Blousy Browns audition… That sort of overconfidence that seems to override everyone elses ability to think straight… I mean, these auditionees on modern TV do not even have that sense of self… They just have a flailing overconfidence. Why is that? 

Firstly, perhaps their families and friends never provide them with accurate feedback. Well, let’s be honest, the family and friends often seem as disbelieving as the performers!

Maybe they are constantly bombarded with “you can do it” and “you are incredibly talented” messages. Hence, they end up being exposed exclusively to positive feedback thus blinding them of the reality of things.

Secondly, overconfidence is an endemic self-perceptual bias that has been documented in countless settings and domains. What do I mean by that?

Ask 100 professors whether their scientific work is below average, average, or above average (as compared to relevant colleagues), and you’ll find that 90% will place their work in the above average category!

The ever-present nature of having overconfidence suggests that it might serve as a catalyst for undertaking challenging endeavours. We might never get out of bed were it not for the “overconfidence wind” that serves to push the sails of our life forward!

Thirdly, the evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers has argued that self-deception is rooted in an adaptive mechanism. Specifically, humans have always had to navigate through a maze of complex social interactions. Part of the driving force behind the evolution of the human brain is the need to be Machiavellian in how one handles others… To be able to display different emotions to help us work our way through life.

This creates the classic evolutionary arms race between the evolution of Machiavellian strategies when interacting with others, and the counter force of detecting such strategies in others when they are interacting with us. Trivers argued that self-deception is in part an adaptation to the latter counter force. In other words, self-deception minimizes the likelihood that others will be able to detect one’s duplicitous intent, as it removes any outwardly cues of inner conflict.

It’s a crazy world we live in 😉

George Costanza, the deceitful friend of Jerry Seinfeld explains the ways by which one can become a great liar: “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.” There you have it folks. Explained in a nutshell…

Even though Kelly Brook has now been told she will not be the 4th judge on the new series of Britain’s Got Talent (Aawww!) I’ll be tuning in to observe this stuff and still disbelieving the level of self-deception going on…