Self-Assessment And Self-Esteem

One of the basic assumptions in any self help process has to be that you can assess yourself.

However when a survey shows that 60% of drivers on the road think they have above average driving skills, this is not an assumption that can be taken for granted.

How well do you assess your own performance, in driving, and in the rest of your life?

How well do you assess your ability to assess your own performance?

In medical school I got to meet a lot of perfectionists. It was all part of being in a system that at that time only allowed entry on the basis of high academic results.

I remember chatting to a very dejected fellow student.

He had just completed his viva assessment, where instead of writing answers down on an examination sheet, you actually have to give them live to a panel of assessors.

This is along the lines of the standard cure in medicine for social phobia – which is just to throw them in the deep end. Think about this if a doctor is recommending such a treatment for you.

Anyway he was wailing and trembling about his poor performance, and how he thought he had studied so well, and yet found himself unable to answer almost all their questions.

I later found out he came second to top.

So I fronted him.

What was all this about his ‘poor performance’?

Well, he too had wondered this and had gone back to the examiners and asked them.

Their response was that he had passed the exam after only the first 2 questions. But he had answered so well that they had decided to find out what the limits of his knowledge were and grilled him on the most advanced and detailed stuff they could.

How was he to know this?

What self-assessment could he have done to keep his ‘self-esteem’ intact?

Another example.

In a research study, people were given a written test, and then asked to guess their score before they were told the results.

The researchers were wanting to know how accurate people’s guesses were.

Here is what they found.

Everyone tended to think they were about average!

Overall, those who had better than average scores guessed they didn’t do as well as they actually did, while those who did worse than average thought they got a higher mark.

The researchers’ theory was when people with higher marks thought they did worse, that kept them striving to do better next time, and made them learn more so they got better than average marks.

Those who got poor marks and were over-rating their own performance, never gave themselves the same incentive to improve so they continued to get worse marks and not notice it.

So what might you take away from this yourself?

Here’s a couple of my suggestions for people reading this who are more likely to be on the more self-motivated end of the human spectrum.

First, if you think you are doing well, just check how you know this.

Second, if you think you are doing poorly at something, then you may well be wrong. At least when compared with other people’s performance.

One give-away for this is when people are telling you that you have low self-esteem, or poor self-image. They are saying you are rating yourself lower than others do.

Unfortunately what others call ‘low self-esteem’ may actually be part of what keeps you excelling.

I suggest you be wary of accepting such comments from even the most well-meaning of friends and counsellors.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

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