Embrace Your Inner Jerk — It Might Be Good for Your Health
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it’s always nice to find a silver lining.
His protests notwithstanding, Donald J. Trump was definitely braggadocious when he spoke the other night of his “tremendous income.”
What’s more, recent research suggests that everyone from the meek to the mighty could take a life lesson from the arrogant, boastful, blustery political neophyte who just might find himself in the Oval Office in January: We should embrace our inner braggarts. Forget humility, false or otherwise. We should all seek to cultivate our arrogance, for our own health and, probably, for that of the body politic.
One term for overconfidence is “self-enhancement bias,” and scientists Mark D. Alicke and Constantine Sedikides have linked it to a vast array of benefits. Blusterers are happier and more purposeful, better at solving problems and more connected socially. “Fake it till you make it,” it turns out, affects our very physiologies. The overconfident have lower baseline cortisol levels and more robust immune systems. They also tend to have reduced mortality rates.
Now, before you start embracing narcissism under the guise of protecting your health, be warned: Tons of research points to the adverse effects of psychological overconfidence — besides, of course, people thinking you’re a jerk. Consider the investigations of social psychologist Daniel Gilbert. Among his findings? We have a devilishly hard time predicting what we will like, and yet we hate admitting that. In a 2009 study, Gilbert found that the best predictor of our responses to stimuli — potential partners, items on a restaurant menu, apartments — is how other people responded to it. Problem is, we tend not to ask others for advice. Essentially, we’re screwed by our own egos. (One might wish the fate on Trump.)
But let’s not disgregard the perks of psychological overconfidence just yet. In conversation, Alicke acknowledged its risks, but says we’d be remiss to discredit it altogether. When it comes down to it, we still need to preserve our psychological interests. I felt that keenly at a recent life-planning powwow with some of my college friends. I charted out my future as best I could, my speech pocked with I don’t know’s and maybe’s. The spiel brought me nothing except a headache. But when it was my friend Gabe’s turn, he rolled up his sleeves and calmly explained, in detail, each subsequent step of his life. And we laughed. Because, clearly, Gabe was full of it.
But here’s the thing: Gabe probably should have been laughing at us. While he was definitely being an arrogant SOB, turns out he might be better off for it.