The next time someone calls you a one-way, egotistical son of a bitch, don’t forget to thank them. They have just provided a strong endorsement of your mental health. “Self-esteem” is a buzz word these days, and it’s about time. The higher it is, the better you get along with yourself, with others, and the more you’ll accomplish.

Humility is the most overrated of human emotions. The two worst human failings, many of us were taught when we were young, are lying and bragging. I’d rather stick with Will Rogers, who said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”

What’s the matter with being proud of what we have done or think we can do? In my opinion, humility is what our parents and teachers try to stuff us with when we’re six years old to make us easier to handle, but it’s unnatural. When we’re young, we’re full of the sense that we can and should be able to do almost anything.

Dr. Anthony Greenwald, a psychologist at the University of Washington, sees the “egocentricity bias”—the reinterpretation of events to put ourselves in a favorable light and the belief we have more control over events than we actually do—as a sign of mental well-being.

That makes perfect sense to me. Dr. Greenwald can call it the “egocentricity bias,” but I call it optimism. And I call optimism a quality that consistently delivers results. Did you ever get a good performance out of a pessimist? (By the way, no one ever called himself a pessimist. Pessimists always call themselves realists.)

Optimism involves self-delusion, a belief that our own abilities are superior to the obstacles that logically should overcome us. But that’s exactly what’s needed to perform any heavy-duty assignment.

How can you be any good unless you think you can accomplish what you’re not supposed to be able to accomplish? Top performers in athletics or business are always convinced they can be heroes, even if they don’t shout it from the rooftops. And it shows. In fact, baseball scouts call that look “the good face,” the sense of self-confidence that radiates from winners.

Don’t let the “egocentricity bias”/optimism be snuffed out in you. It’s a hell of a lot more productive than humility.


Excerpted from Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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