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…
Personally, I view confidence as “the courage to act”- less a belief and more a challenge to the risk in a situation. Of course, we can divide confidence into many sub categories (such as “self confidence”) until we are all blue in the face. We all have our definitions. But I like to think of confidence as an action- a spark that ignites a beginning.
I’m a writer and, way back in the temporal distance, I was an actor of sorts. A theatre studies degree student to be precise. I needed confidence to be able to stand in front of an audience and act. In the second year, we had to do an outside theatre project. We had to perform what many would call “the maddest script ever” at Bangor train station. Basically, we were all playing “odd” characters and we had to interact with the audience as if we weren’t performing and as if they weren’t watching a play. I vividly remember the moment that I had to interact with the audience in character. The only people on the station platform were two gorgeous women. And what did I have to say to them to make sure I didn’t fail this exam performance? “I remember you from Vietnam. You were fatter and had ginger hair!”
Things went from “interesting” to “dodgy” during that performance, especially when the local police turned up to investigate. Soon, many of us were facing a choice between passing our degrees but getting arrested in the process or failing and running for the hills. I’ve done a lot of acting over the years and had a solo in an amateur production of a musical (I can sing but I’m not going anywhere near The X Factor) but my proudest moment was performing on the professional stage in Wales. I had forty-five minutes worth of a play to learn and a two-page monologue to memorise and perform. The performances went down a storm and I was even approached on the street to be told how good I’d been in the play.
All of this success could easily have gone to my head and I’d be lying if I didn’t feel good about myself because of what was happening. But I kept asking myself the question: who really made that play great? I was part of a living, breathing machine. Without my fellow actors, behind the scenes people and the directors, I would have been nothing. The team made it a success and I was proud to stand with them in that moment. If I was excellent in my performance, they were all equally so.
I’m one of the founders of Bangor English Dramatics Society and the society is still going strong today. I was co-founding President for a year but I didn’t make it a success on my own. The people who stayed late at night to design and photocopy the posters and programs made it a success. The people who added their ideas to the mix made it work. The people who spent their weekends building the set made it all gel together. One man can have his moment in the sun but a team can build something so much more.
In a way, that is the most powerful form of confidence: the confidence to join in with others. Sometimes, we can be afraid that we will lose our individuality or be overshadowed if we surrender the moment and ourselves to co-operation. But that is the best way to get the best from a challenge or a situation. What’s the point of succeeding but celebrating on your own?
The concept of self-esteem seems to get people arguing usually so I’m surprised not to see lots of comments! Albert Ellis (of REBT fame) didn’t like the term because he thought it tended to be conditional-he encouraged unconditional self-acceptance instead which is a concept I quite like. He had a bit of a tendency to go overboard in his statements though…like coming up with this:
“Is self-esteem a sickness? That’s according to the way you define it. In the usual way it is defined by people and by psychologists, I’d say that it is probably the greatest emotional disturbance known to man and woman.”–Albert Ellis, The Myth of Self-Esteem: How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Can Change Your Life Forever, page 13.
He was referring to the concept of self–esteem as a form of self-rating though which is different to your definition because if the value we place on ourselves is unconditional, then self-esteem is absolutely a good thing!
Regarding the confidence, thought this was interesting:
It would be lovely to strike a happy medium between being overly careful with how children are approached (my sister is a speech and language therapist and isn’t allowed say “good boy” or “good girl” when a child does a task well in case they believe that being good is dependent on speaking well. She has to say “good talking!!!!” which it’s impossible to say without a twang.) and potentially instilling feelings of worthlessness by pushing too hard for performance (I still remember getting 9/10 once in a spelling test when I was 7.) I’d have to do a lot more reading and thinking before trying to add a properly useful comment here.
I think most people must love the auditions the most for those shows. It’s the complete lack of insight. I love it! The incredulity on their faces is priceless! But it’s also quite sad in a way…these people have been told they’re fabulous all the time and it takes looking idiotic in front of millions of people for them to realise the truth…if they ever do. If somebody could just have told them that singing wasn’t one of their talents, they could be saved the humiliation. But we’d have nothing to watch 🙂
Lots of people on facebook and in my members area have been discussing this and commemnting healthily upon the subject, let me get something straight…
I am not attempting to thwart people making valiant attempts to do well for themselves and I would never deny anyone wanting to express themselves in any way they wish… Heck, I am a therapist essentially.
I do reckon though, that there is a level of self-deception that seems unhelpful… I watched and listened to a young lady catterwalling in one show, creating a sound that is never going to be vogue, in my opinion… Yet when she was given a unanymous set of ‘no’ responses from the judges, she argued in disbelief and suggested that they would be sorry for passing her up…
The show is essentially a competition. They are there to compete… Not just participate to share some joyous experience… They can do that at their own amateur dramatics societies or local choirs et al.
Perhaps though, that energy could have been spent more wisely developing a realism and depth of self-awareness that could have led her (my previously mentioned catterwaller) into a more fruitful direction…
I am not making a universal claim that it is undeniably a case of unnecessary over-confidence with 100% of these individuals, by the way.
Marty, Gráinne… Love the contributions, thank you 🙂
Hmmm .. I tend to think that having confidence in yourself, even if it goes against other people’s opinions, is what makes successful people successful.
Everyone is, of course, entitled to their own opinion but that doesn’t necessarily make it right and if we all took notice of external influences then we may all give up at the first hurdle.
I think that people who are strongly internally referenced tend to be the successful ones whereas those who believe other people’s opinions tend to be the ones who crawl away under their stone and under-achieve. Maybe realism is, in some instances, over-rated!!
“Perhaps though, that energy could have been spent more wisely developing a realism and depth of self-awareness that could have led her (my previously mentioned caterwauler) into a more fruitful direction…”
Precisely! It would not have done their self-esteem/self-worth/self-acceptance/self-confidence any harm to be let know that they were not talented singers. Not everybody can be. There is probably something that they are good at…but no amount of blind belief or lack of insight is going to make them successful recording artists. And they could be missing out on success in some other field by pursuing a completely dead end. As Angela said, opinions do differ on what constitutes a good idea or talent and some people have become successful only after ignoring early criticisms…however the relentless praise that a lot of the auditionees seem to have experienced really doesn’t seem to have helped them and instead gives us the great hysterical sobbing scenes when their whole world appears to fall apart.
I would love to be an international pop star. I really would. I have come to accept that it is not realistic though and that my talents lie elsewhere. And I accept myself and value myself as a person despite my lack of singing talent. Except when I’m drunkenly singing karaoke. Then I’m BRILLIANT. 😉
Grá, you took the words out of my mouth, brilliantly said – thank you.
I think that superstar doctor and radiologist that you are is far better than a popstar anyway.