I am looking for a word, phrase, or idiom to express when a person has a lack of confidence in others based on their own personal self-confidence issues. The situation often arises where a decision is made by Manager because he doesn't feel his team can deliver the more appropirate alternative. Not because of a demonstrated inability on their [the team] behalf, but by projecting his own inabilities on others. Does such a word or snappy(ier) phrase exist?

Similar to the beautiful Schopenhauer phrase "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world."

  • 1
    Do you mean insecure ?
    – user403195
    Nov 5, 2020 at 14:20
  • Sort of. I appreciate that's not a helpful comment. But it's slightly different, nuanced perhaps. Along the lines of "Well, if I can't do it, you certainly can't"
    – Alex
    Nov 5, 2020 at 15:54
  • 1
    @pkjmm He lacks confidence in others. He technically doesn't do their job but is sure they aren't capable of doing it. To expand on my sentence above, it would be "If I can't wrap my head around it, then you can't do it"
    – Alex
    Nov 5, 2020 at 17:07
  • How about smarty-pants?
    – user403195
    Nov 5, 2020 at 17:36
  • Inability to delegate is a common phrase in business where someone can't trust their subordinates and does everything themselves. It doesn't have the psychological implications you suggest.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 1, 2021 at 8:06

3 Answers 3


Apologies beforehand for citing Urban Dictionary as I'm sure it will raise many an eyebrow hereabouts.

frog in a well

Used to describe a situation or individual who cannot or refuses to see the big picture because of being sheltered and/or closed minded. This is the opposite of a frog in a field.

You have no idea what skills are required, as you have been a frog in a well for the last 30 years, stuck in the same old job with the same old skills. I have been a frog in a field jumping from job to job learning a vast amount of skills you have no idea about.

  • 1
    Well, hell, sounds like frogs know where it's at. [In fact, they are the key to a healthy environment.] Got frogs? :)
    – Lambie
    Nov 30, 2021 at 21:18

I am offering another candidate.



The attribution of one's own attitudes, feelings, or suppositions to others, thought in psychoanalytic theory to be an unconscious defense against anxiety or guilt.

American Heritage Dictionary

Alternate answer

Dunning-Kruger Effect

"In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence.

As described by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the bias results from an internal illusion in people of low ability and from an external misperception in people of high ability; that is, "the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."

  • I did use that in the original question. It's definitely a contender but I was trying to avoid using it because it's already cropping up too often.
    – Alex
    Nov 5, 2020 at 15:58
  • Projection is a hypernym and would, if accepted, make the question a duplicate of what term means to imagine one is someone else?. And projection is not implicit in the D-K effect ('It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority').. Nov 5, 2020 at 16:31
  • Interestingly, it was the D-K effect that got me down this rabbit hole in the first place.
    – Alex
    Nov 5, 2020 at 17:01

"Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world."

= "Every man sees the world subjectively."

Your hypothetical manager is viewing his team's ability subjectively.

The manager has a subjective lack of confidence in his team.



Essential Meaning of subjective

1 philosophy: relating to the way a person experiences things in his or her own mind

subjective reality

Dreaming is a subjective experience.

a person's subjective perception of the world.

  • I disagree with this. There is no such thing as objectivity. Even if guided by an object, it is still your subjectivity looking at it. Subjectivity properly used might save us; objectivity never will.
    – Lambie
    Dec 1, 2021 at 20:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.