Over-estimating yourself at work: a blessing or a curse?

Postdate: 17 October 2018

Research by Intermediair, a Dutch magazine for professionals with higher education, shows that many employees rate themselves more highly than their closest colleagues or managers, giving themselves an average rating of 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10. They are also very satisfied with how they perform at work. What is the point of over-estimating yourself?

Always be the best

The days of working timidly in the background, as quiet as a mouse, are over. Today, it is important to present a good image of yourself and to stand out head and shoulders above the rest. Only then can you really be someone.

But there is also a downside to this. According to cultural philosopher Maarten Coolen, the chance of experiencing burn-out increases if you can no longer keep up the story about your own identity. Another way of putting it is that you drown yourself out. “Look what I can do!’’

This is nothing new. To a certain extent, it’s just the nature of the beast to want to be the best. In our society, talent is more important than bite-sized degrees. Knowing exactly who you are and what you have to offer is the new ideal. In addition, your own way of doing things, consciously or unconsciously, is often the best way. At least, it is in your eyes... Your colleagues may see it quite differently.

The influence of personality and experiences

This all has to do with over-estimating yourself, and according to Dr. Paul van Lange, a Professor of Psychology, there is an evolutionary reason for this. Even if it sounds negative at first, being positive about yourself is a way to deal with setbacks. It gives you energy. If you’re having one of those days where things just don’t seem to be going right, don’t despair, simply pick yourself up and start again.

The way in which you judge your own abilities depends, among other things, on your personality. And your personality largely determines how you feel and function at work. To what extent are you conscientious or extroverted? Can you reflect on and deal with feedback? Do you prefer to work alone or with others?

In addition, your life experience and upbringing will determine whether you value yourself highly or not. How far up the career ladder you are will also play its part. If you have been told that you always do well and you have experienced (or tolerated) very little opposition, this can lead to a greater degree of self-estimation.

When over-estimating yourself becomes too much

Over-estimating yourself seems to be a positive approach, but it can be all too easy to find yourself painting an unrealistic picture too. People who think they're always in control are more inclined to see themselves as better than others. But some things simply can’t be controlled and things don't always go the way you want them to. It is an illusion to think that bad luck won’t ever befall you.

Making overly high demands of others, of yourself and/or in relation to your goals is often the result of a very unrealistic picture. Moreover, you run the risk that others will avoid you or no longer believe in you, which can result in loneliness, a feeling of rejection and experiencing burn-out.

In conclusion: painting a rosy picture of yourself is not a problem. It is better than thinking things won’t work out, which does nothing to help your energy levels or motivation. In this sense, over-estimating yourself can therefore be very useful. You do need to be careful, however, that it doesn't turn into unrealistic optimism, arrogance and narcissism, which will make other people avoid you and will create an impossible situation for you.


burnout     employees     energy     over-estimating     personality traits     positive     workplace    


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