Friday, November 18, 2011

Do You Underestimate or Overestimate Yourself?

Having had my share of "self-esteem" issues over the years, I can distinctly recall periods of my life when I simply didn't believe I had much to offer someone. Or that whatever I did have to offer wasn't "good enough." Dating dry spells have tended to bring this kind of thing enforce, a few times to the point where I found myself choosing to date someone who was a poor match, simply because she showed some interest. While I can honestly say that I don't sink into long periods of being controlled by these kind of thoughts today, they still do occur from time to time. However, I have learned to cut them off much quicker by simply not believing the "I'm not good enough or worthy" storyline.

On the other hand, I can recall at least as few times while in a relationship where I over-estimated my effort, and/or my contribution to the relationship upkeep. Where I thought, for example, that I truly was doing my best to listen, take care, be honest, etc, and yet after some reflection, recognized how much I was avoiding or withholding. Furthermore, in a few cases, I can recall times when I thought I was able to handle the challenges we faced as a couple, when the reality was that I didn't have the energy and/or insight to do so at that particular time.

I bring these examples from my own life up because I believe that each of us has elements of both underestimating and overestimating within us. One pattern might be dominant, but the other is often somewhere in there, lurking in the shadows. Over-confident player types sometimes underestimate their natural attractiveness, while people with a serious lack of self-esteem sometimes overestimate things like their intelligence, thinking they're smarter than most everyone else.

It's important to consider how these two poles might be playing out in your life, whether you are currently single or in a relationship. The first step being figuring out what pattern is dominant, and/or whether or not it's controlling how you relate to others.

So, what about you? Which side do you tend to fall on? Can you see the opposite extreme influencing you as well in any form?


  1. According to my IQ score, I am smarter than roughly 97% of folks; according to my ability to cope with life, probably not quite so much!

    I think my history has definitely had a preponderance of underestimating myself, because of various things (like, poor self-image, being tubby etc) but I hope I've overcome most of that. I think I still underestimate my capacity for "getting" people and connecting on that level.

    Overestimating - I think I sometimes overestimate my ability to support someone else emotionally. There are times when I have to watch that I don't overcommit in those terms. It's a thing I have learned to watch and make sure I don't get unhealthily involved.

  2. "I think I sometimes overestimate my ability to support someone else emotionally."

    This is something I have had to watch as well. It's a tricky line between supporting others, and maintaining some kind of balance within yourself.

  3. Offtopic: @ Snowdrop, why don't you come to a Mensa annual gathering then? Next one is in Reno. You've got to find the GenX SIG as soon as you get there and you won't have any problems dating anymore. Will make a TON of new friends too. I've been to two so far, 2009 and 2011. It's an awesome experience.

    On the subject, I think I am more or less realistic, but everyone has their own preferred types, etc and as amazing as I am (LOL) I may not be everybody's ideal match. Nothing wrong with me or the guy, we just don't work well together. I guess I may be overestimating my ability to connect with people and establish a friendly rapport. I get it that I may not be the guy's ideal of a girlfriend, but some of them just flat out don't want to have anything to do with me and that's always shocking, as I think I'm pretty cool to have as a friend. I guess, not always.

  4. @ Goldie:

    Not a member of Mensa (though I did take the entry test and passed it), and don't particularly want to be. Also, I NEVER make a TON of new friends anywhere, because I am extremely introverted which means a) I dislike places with large numbers of people and b) I am very selective about who gets to be a friend as opposed to an acquaintance I like.

  5. @ Snowdrop: OK OK I take it you're not interested in new acquaintances, either :) But seriously, I'm really enjoying this group of people (which is very small and like-minded as opposed to the rest of the organization) I really only go to AGs and only hang out with this group, and stay well away from other events/people... safer that way. That said, if you don't like large group outings and late-night parties, then yeah you're right, you probably won't feel good there. IMO it's a pretty cool group, and I know a number of couples that met through it.

  6. PS. FTR I joined 8-9 years ago, when my kids were in grade school. I joined so I could take my kids to activities. They were bored at school and at our district's after school programs. I took them to a few game nights, to a local NASA center on a guided tour etc. What I'm saying is, I joined for a very practical purpose - not to show off or anything like that. Then I stayed on after the kids lost interest in programs, because it's only 60 bucks a year. Then I went to the 2009 AG with my kids, because I'd lost a lot of savings in the market crash of 08, and the AG seemed like a cheap way for the whole family to stay in a nice hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, due to special rates. Meeting new people and becoming close friends with some of them was a pleasant surprise that I hadn't counted on.

    Sorry Nathan, I'm done hijacking your topic, my apologies.

  7. If you don't have a very good sense of self, you will get eaten alive out there! Most of the time, when things don't work out, it's for some innocuous reason. Not everyone is going to like you and if you approach each encounter thinking that you can ultimately influence the outcome you are bound to be disappointed over and over again. 9 out of 10 people are just not going to be a good fit for you. It's always great to work on yourself, to seek out objective opinions from those that are willing to be honest (and not blow smoke) but the fact is you will never be able to control what someone else is bringing to the table.

  8. "Most of the time, when things don't work out, it's for some innocuous reason."

    I think this is fairly true. A lot of it is out of our hands, and it's important that people remember that. I can't tell you the number of dates I have been on where we had plenty in common, and even had a nice conversation, but there wasn't any deeper connection.

    I try to write about the pieces we might have some control over.

  9. "Most of the time, when things don't work out, it's for some innocuous reason."

    I agree with this too, and want to add - sometimes, the match is good, but the timing is bad. You have a perfect date, each of you goes home, and then one of you suddenly gets hit by family issues that take up all their time and energy. This is all it takes for second date to never happen.

    I used to ponder on what I'd done wrong after each "failed" date. Then I reconnected with most people and, after talking to them, realized that none of us had done anything wrong... we'd just met each other at a bad time.

    Either that, or it's a bad match, and again, nothing wrong with that. There are 3.5 billion men in the world, no way can I be THE ONE for each of them. Not a judgement on me if, for most of them, I'm not.

    Then again, one time, I met a predator. These things happen. From my standpoint, everything was great, things were moving at a very fast pace, then all of a sudden he stopped calling. I spent a month thinking about what I could've done differently, but during the same month, I was able to gather more information about the person (mostly during the brief period of time we were FB friends, but we ended up having mutual acquaintances as well)... I found out that he was just plain wrong. Everything about this guy was a mess. Nothing I'd done wrong. Only thing I could've done differently was to never go out to meet him. These things happen. You'd wish these men would give you a sign to tell them apart from the rest -- a secret handshake, a rubber raincoat -- but there is no sign. They look like the rest of us, do the same thing for a living, listen to the same music. You cannot tell in advance that you're going to get played. When it happens, you pick up the pieces and move on. Most importantly, you don't blame yourself for what happened -- try to do it and it would destroy you. So, yeah, agree with "If you don't have a very good sense of self, you will get eaten alive out there"!

  10. Underestimate.

    I guess I'm making a global statement about myself here, but I was just recently laid off from a brand-new job and the layoff is creating a spiral of shame and self-doubt that I really thought I'd moved past.

    In a nutshell, I was hired for a certain kind of role at this software company by one of the two executives at the company, and he apparently didn't run my qualifications or background by the other executive. A month into the job, I met the executive who'd been kept "in the dark," and it was clear almost immediately that what I'd been hired for and the work I was doing didn't click with his vision for the company.

    Now, the company had a bunch of other problems I couldn't have known about. First, none of the employees communicated face-to-face. They preferred to provide terse replies to important questions over chat. I had come from a larger software company where I was used to having 30 minutes of facetime with each member of my team, each day. These people didn't care for that.

    Secondly, training was non-existent. When I was headhunted for this position, the executive who interviewed me said he wanted a go-getter who could work independently. While this does describe me, I've never been able to do a job without at least minimal training. No two software companies are alike – each has different procedures, rules, products, philosophies, etc. While 90% of my skills are seamlessly transferable, there's that 10% that are proprietary to each company. No matter how senior you are in your career, you need some training in your first few weeks. This company's attitude toward new hires was basically, "Trial by fire." And as I inevitably screwed up, people were quite vocal about where I'd failed, but always forgot to mention the correct procedures.

    This company also had an insane amount of turnover. One project management position was a revolving door, and my position, too, did not have a great track record. Unfortunately, I didn't learn most of this until my first happy hour with my team, when they drunkenly confessed to the revolving-door nature of the company.

    That all said, it's hard not to underestimate yourself when you get fired, even if it's through no fault of your own. The media is all too eager to send us messages that the unemployed are the lowest of the low. And getting laid off right before the holiday season is a total kick in the teeth – no one is hiring right now. I coded a new professional Web site for myself totally by hand and using the modern standards, and you'd think right now, I'd feel really proud that I am in a good position to go out there and kick butt. But no, I just feel really defeated. Visions of homelessness and poverty swirl around in my mind.

    There's a lesson in there for people seeking relationships, by the way. When we encounter stumbling blocks, whether they're in our dating lives or our professional lives, it's way too easy to sink into the shame spiral. Literally the only thing we can do sometimes is tell ourselves, "It will get better." Even if part of us believes it's not true, it's the only way to get through the day sometimes.

    Oh, and about those people who overestimate themselves...I guess I am affected by them only to the degree than I am envious. And they tend to make me feel less secure in myself. I am trying to learn a thing or two from them, like talking myself up a bit more, and saying "I can do this" when faced with a challenge. I think those of us who are on the "underestimate" end of the spectrum can learn from the too-cocky. And since we naturally don't have an uber-high opinion of ourselves, we can catch ourselves before we start to swagger and brag. = D

    Happy holidays,

    Ms. Bee

  11. "There's a lesson in there for people seeking relationships, by the way. When we encounter stumbling blocks, whether they're in our dating lives or our professional lives, it's way too easy to sink into the shame spiral. Literally the only thing we can do sometimes is tell ourselves, "It will get better.""

    Yes, that shame spiral is something most of us need to watch out for because it's easy to fall into, and not as easy to climb out of if you let it go on too long.

    One thing that always helps me in terms of facing current difficult circumstances is remembering that it will change. Because change always comes. Sometimes, it's not for the better, but sometimes it definitely is. Letting go of potential outcomes is not easy, but really helpful in my view.

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