Your doubts are only a sign of your BRILLIANCE!

doubtsbrillianceOne thing that holds me back is self confidence. If I aim too high, or have too ambitious a thought, a voice inside me often scoffs: “Ha! Who the hell are you?”

There’s lots I’ve done in life. Some of it is so extraordinary that it doesn’t even feel like my life. Did I really do that? And that? And THAT?!! Yes I did. Yet I’m nagged by the sense that I could be doing so much more, that I’m not fulfilling my potential.

The nag is because I know that I am not aiming high enough. I rule myself out of things even though the facts will tell me I’m more than able.

But there is doubt.

I speak to others, including real high achievers, and they tell me the same. They carry self doubt everywhere. The more successful they are, the more exposed they feel. Their supposed fraud has now become bigger and surely soon they’ll be found out.

I spoke to a successful businesswoman very recently. She mentioned being at a conference, selling what she does to others in the business world, and an astonished voice in her head said: “Oooh look, they think I’m proper!!”

Even John Lennon said that at times he felt like a complete fraud. Yes, John Lennon. The Beatle! Even HE felt it.

So I’d taken it for granted that this was pretty normal. It was part of the human condition. It got in the way sometimes, but it gets in everybody’s way.

Except, now I know that it’s not normal. And it’s all thanks to an event I spoke at last Thursday.

I was giving a talk on a psychotherapy concept called the drama triangle, and how it affects human relationships.

Yet it was another talk on the same evening that made me realise that doubt is not commonplace at all.

Let me tell you more by sharing what I learned about something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

It’s named after the academics David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University.

They discovered two things from their research.

The first is that incompetent people over estimate how good they are. They think they’re fabulous, but in fact they’re nowhere near as skilled as they think. In fact, they will overlook just how extreme their incompetence is.

Think of that guy on X Factor every year. He tells the cameras he’s the next big thing. He’s cocky, self assured, utterly confident in how awesome he is. And then he sings. Aaaaghhh!

Their second finding is that competent people under estimate how good they are. Even though they’re extremely skilled, they think they’re average.

How about that?

Dunning and Kruger won the Nobel Prize for Psychology. Their tests showed that those who did poorly thought they’d done well, and those who’d done well thought they’d done average.

So why is this? It’s because those who found the tests easy assumed that everyone else did too.

People think that just because it’s easy for them, it’s easy for everyone else.

This shouldn’t come as a big shock to me as I see it lots when I coach people. People have skills and they don’t even know it. They think everyone has those skills, but of course they don’t.

So high achievers fail to recognise their talents as they think that others must be equally good.

This brought me to an amazing conclusion. Your doubts are only a sign of your brilliance.

So every time you deny yourself because you have doubts, remember the Dunning Kruger effect. Remember that if you were incompetent, you wouldn’t be having these doubts at all.

The fact that you have doubt is a psychologically proven indicator that you are highly skilled. And it’s the very height of your powers that is causing you to doubt yourself in the first place.

Next time the doubt bug bites, see it for what it is. A sign that you are BRILLIANT!

#alun parry#brilliance#dunning kruger#psychology#self doubt


  1. Malika - February 20, 2014 @ 4:41 pm

    Your blog posts are always so reasurring to me, Al XD

  2. Kay - February 20, 2014 @ 5:33 pm

    I agree with Malika. And I’m sending this on to a very special person who doubts himself…and who is undeniably brilliant. Thankyou Alun xx

  3. David M - February 20, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

    I wonder if Dunning and Kruger were surprised when, what they thought was fairly average research, won the Nobel Prize.

    Seriously though, using doubts, as reasonably reliable indicators of brilliance, is an encouraging idea. I suspect that D&K’s findings resonate with most of us. I have met many people who have an over-inflated opinion of their abilities. To me, it seems that many such people have what I suspect is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (but I doubt that I will win the Nobel Prize for that idea …. or will I?). Conversely, I have churned out fairly routine items of work in the office, only to be taken aback by the praise lavished on me, by my boss, for the quality of my output.

    I think that the lesson, for us all to draw, is to just be brave, and to try out our original ideas on others (preferably not family or friends). What’s the worst that can happen? We might crash in flames (metaphorically speaking, of course, unless we are experimenting with a new form of aviation fuel), but then it’s not headline news forever. Surely others will value our efforts, and admire our courage for giving it a go, even though they might never tell us so. And how will we feel if we have a great idea, which we never try out?

  4. Toni - February 20, 2014 @ 6:22 pm

    like you Alun I must be Brilliant then ;-) Great post

  5. Thomas Doutie - February 21, 2014 @ 10:13 am

    Yes , highly interesting but i very nuch doubt it!

  6. alunparry - February 21, 2014 @ 11:10 am

    Hi Malika

    I’m glad you enjoy the posts. This idea really had an impact on me. I’m already finding that my doubts are giving me confidence rather than draining it away.

    Al 8-)

  7. alunparry - February 21, 2014 @ 11:11 am

    Hi Kay

    I love that you’re sharing this on. I really value it when people share my posts on. Let me know if it has the same effect on him as it has had on me.

    Al 8-)

  8. alunparry - February 21, 2014 @ 11:15 am

    Hi David

    Haha. Yes I suppose their research suggests that they were surprised! :-)

    Your experience of churning out “average” stuff in the office and getting praise that takes you aback – that really resonates with me.

    I often say about my skills “yeah but anyone could do that.”

    But of course, I’m just proving the DK effect every time I say it, because not everyone can. I am very guilty of underplaying my strengths because, if it’s easy for me then I assume it’s easy for most people. The result is that I overlook it as a skill.

    As a coach I see this a lot in others. But it’s easier to see something in others than in myself!

    Al 8-)

  9. alunparry - February 21, 2014 @ 11:15 am

    Hi Toni

    Yeah! You are!!

    Al 8-)

  10. alunparry - February 21, 2014 @ 11:16 am

    Hey Thomas!

    Haha that gave me a good chuckle :-)

    Al 8-)

  11. Tilly - February 21, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

    Thanks for this, a really positive mind set to adopt. I will pass it onto to a self doubting genius I know :)

  12. alunparry - February 23, 2014 @ 11:03 pm

    Hi Tilly

    I hope it helps your genius friend. It goes without saying that he or she is self doubting. The Dunning Kruger Effect says that a genius would be riddled with self doubt. That’s why my self doubt now boosts me as strongly as it used to dampen me down.

    I hope it does the same for your genius!


  13. John - May 18, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

    A really encouraging blog Alun. Thank you. I do enjoy your writing’s and thoughts.
    Ps Mum loves the CD she’s coming next time your in town.


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