Circular Logic Blind Spots

I love self-assessments such as the VIA character strengths assessment.    Like all self-assessments, however, such tests have their shortcomings.

For example, how about a decidedly non-scientific survey:  How humble are you on a scale of 1 (not at all humble) to 10 (very humble)? How narcissistic are you on a scale of 1 (not at all narcissistic) to 10 (very narcissistic)?

Though not exact opposites, humility and narcissism are roughly on different ends of a spectrum. Both can be measured more accurately tests such as the VIA or Narcissistic Personality Disorder Test, though at an extreme, narcissism is also a clinical condition that is diagnosed by a clinician.

Even if you were to use the free tests, both personality types potentially suffer from circular logic that starts from a blind spot and then is re-circulated by our ego. For instance, if I believe that I’m humble, then I’m not being very humble. If I don’t think I’m humble, then that’s a humble self-reflection. This circular logic is influenced by our ego and biased self-perception, leaving us in this never-ending logic loop.

The same (but in an opposite way) is true for narcissism. If I suspect that I’m narcissistic, then it’s pretty hard to be really narcissistic if I think that I may be self-centered.   If I don’t think I’m narcissistic then I may actually be somewhat self-centered. (However, apparently clinical narcissism may also be diagnosed by asking one question: “Are you a narcissist?”.)

We all tend to believe the best (or for some of us, the worst) about ourselves.   The point is, we’re never truly objective about ourselves. Our self-conception has been biased by our personal scripts and by what we have been told or led to believe by others. That bias, whether positive or negative, means that we all have blind spots as we are unaware of the areas that we can’t or don’t want to see.

I don’t have a magic translator that interprets your scores into a true humility/narcissism levels. However, I do want to introduce some curiosity into your self-conception. Our self-ratings are a best guess average containing a level of error. Perhaps you’re not as high/low on those scales as you think. Consider viewing your score not as the single number but a range of numbers that hover to the right or left of your selection, where the magnitude of the span is proportional to the limits of our self-awareness.

Like with all other strengths/opportunities for growth, we are better able to find our wisdom or sweet spot for exercising our strength by increasing our awareness of when and where we tend to do well or poorly.  Simply acknowledging that our blind spots and bias exist and our uncertainty about how well/poorly we are doing is an excellent start.

At least in my humble opinion.

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