Do you ever have moments in life where you feel smarter than everyone in the room? That your opinion is unequivocally correct? That no matter what someone might say to the contrary, you have the knowledge and evidence and life experience to support your opinion?
It’s certainly possible that your feelings of superiority are founded in truth, but not likely. You’re probably suffering from something most people suffer through in some capacity: confirmation bias.
Essentially, confirmation bias allows us to present a body of evidence that supports our opinion fully, but leaves out important details that would tell the entire story. We create blind spots that prevent us from acknowledging our faults, effectively removing any doubt that someone else might be right.
Politicians are notorious for painting a picture that only reveals a portion of the truth; the portion that best aligns with their views and agendas. You might also know this as spin.
At face value it may not seem like such a bad thing, right? It’s certainly good, if not essential for us to have a positive image of ourselves, but not if it’s a result of ignoring our deficiencies. A deeper look shows us that we might extend this confirmation bias into all aspects of our self-image. We spin personal perception and make it difficult to identify our weaknesses, blinding us to things about ourselves that are only recognized by others and talked about behind our backs. This creates a disconnect between first and third person perspective. You think you’re acting one way, everyone else sees something different.
So how do we identify these blind spots? How do we step outside of ourselves and make an unbiased evaluation of what we’re good at, what we suck at, and how we can be better?
It starts with humility, and a willingness to deflate the ego long enough to inhibit change.
It requires input from people who know us best and aren’t afraid to be honest about what they see. Third party perspective is one of the best ways to identify your weaknesses, although it can be tough to get if you’ve made a habit of being defensive in the past. Soften up your exterior and invite criticism.
Keeping a daily journal is a useful tool. You can find out a lot about yourself by simply writing down a few thoughts at the end (or start) of each day. If we can’t be honest with ourselves, don’t expect others to be either.
Discovering our deficiencies can be tough. It’s important to approach this type of thing with grace and a certain amount of emotional levity. Be open minded. We don’t have to agree with everything we see or hear, but you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t think critically about any criticism you might receive, whether it be from yourself or your best friend.
Laugh at yourself. It goes a long way towards accepting and moving past things.
I preach a lot about self-awareness (obviously), and discovering our blind spots is a huge component of that ethos. Being aware of your weaknesses doesn’t always mean reversing them. It’s up to you to decide if changing is worth the struggle. However it turns out, the fact that you know a bit more about yourself will undoubtedly move you in the right direction.
Just remember: before you change lanes, you’ve got to check your blind spots.
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If you want to know more about confirmation bias and other mental traps, check out this BBC article titled How Not To Be Stupid.