As human beings, we’re experts at deceiving ourselves, all because it’s so easy for us to think we know more than we do. As a result, we do less than our best work, miss out on opportunities, and mess up our decisions.
To be sure, self-deception is one way we keep ourselves safe. We use it to fend off enemies that would expose us to troublesome situations. No one escapes; we all do it. With self-deception it’s easy to believe the little voice inside us is right.
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Although we may picture ourselves as rational human beings who process information objectively, psychologists Karen Reivich and Andrew Shattè tell us, “We are downright shoddy scientists. We collect incomplete data, we use shortcuts to process it that lead to biased appraisals, and we make errors in interpretation that often support our favored hypothesis.” In other words, we construe facts until we feel good. In short, we screw up!
Here are five self-deceptions that hold us back:
Self-Deception #1. “Others are better equipped to handle challenges than I am.”
It doesn’t take much thought for most of us to conclude that others are better prepared to face personal or work life issues. Yet, the chances are they see us the same way we view them!
As it turns out, what we’re doing is measuring ourselves against the wrong standard. It’s not us versus them (except in our mind) since the actual competition is with ourselves. We spend time building “this is why I can’t” cases against ourselves, rather than realistically assessing our capabilities against our past performance. Simply put, we don’t give ourselves enough credit.
Self-Deception #2. “I need a little space to get everything all set.”
There are those who view themselves as perfectionists. But wait a minute, it could be something else. “I don’t want to pull the trigger too soon. I would rather wait a little longer.” Some of the seemingly most competent people suffer from this self-deception.
It’s easy to set the bar so high we never get ready. If we get close, we keep raising it higher. It’s easy to convince ourselves that anything less than flawless is failure. “I need to go over the proposal one more time to be sure it’s right. I’ll have it to you by tomorrow.” As we all know, tomorrow never comes.