Is It Better to Overestimate or Underestimate Yourself?

By | Ego, Life, Yin Yang

(Excerpt from Motherfucking Monday on 20 Jan 20 by Mark Manson)

We all have a tendency to overestimate ourselves and our abilities and this often causes a lot of unnecessary pain. A huge part of self-awareness is the ability to understand that you’re probably not as good as you think you are. This ability to underestimate yourself leads to great things like humility, curiosity, charity, and so on.

But, there is also robust scientific literature that repeatedly shows people who believe that they will become successful at something are more likely to become successful. People who believe they are fast runners tend to run faster. People who believe they’re going to ace a test are more likely to ace the test. People who believe they’re going to survive a terrible illness like cancer regularly out-survive their pessimistic counterparts.

So, what’s the deal? Should we overestimate ourselves or underestimate ourselves?

Here’s my conclusion: overestimate your future, underestimate your past. Acknowledging you know nothing and that you’ve accomplished nothing will give you the benefits of humility. But the positive expectation will give the benefits of higher performance.

Another version: “I still understand little, but I’m capable of accomplishing a lot.”

For me, Michael Jordan embodied this paradoxical self-estimation perfectly. He was mercilessly critical of himself. Nothing was ever good enough for him. But on the court, in those final minutes, he always believed he was going to hit the shot when he took it.

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