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.

What Are You Entitled To?

I’ve been pondering the duality of entitlement. On one hand, entitlement is easy to see in others as an undesirable quality that is related to narcissism. While it can be entertaining to observe others’ narcissism, such as the celebrity temper tantrum.

Seeing such entitlement in others is easy and often amusing, but less fun and more difficult when it occurs in our homes and workplaces or when i’s our own.

Probably like most people, I’m not so tuned into my own sense of entitlement. I don’t feel I’m particularly attracted to luxury items, so in that respect I think I do OK. But I have to admit that I feel that we all are entitled to clean air and water, good education, safe neighborhoods and basic health care.

I also believe that we’re entitled to fairness in our schools, workplaces, and judicial system. People of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, religions, genders, sexual identities, and economic backgrounds should have the same opportunity for success (or failure) as everyone else. But those determinations of fairness and equity are usually subjective and based on standards that are not always race/gender/sex/economic background-neutral.

Despite the difficulty of subjective standards, a large part of me feels we are all entitled to such things, even though those things we largely take for granted are mere fantasies for much of the world. Is it a form of narcissism that I/we believe that we are entitled to these luxuries, like some collective delusion?

On the other hand, if we don’t feel entitled to justice or opportunity, we’re not likely to fight for it. We may not fight for improvement in our governments, organizations and communities without that sense of deserving.

Some healthy balance is in order.

When do we identify and fight for the justice that we deserve compared to when we just feel entitled to something that may not be ours? When do we decide to just work harder and practice humility and patience compared to when we raise our voices to finally get what we’ve earned? How do we best walk that line between justice and entitlement?

The answer will be something that I have to work for.