1 Illusory Superiority or Why We're All Above Average | Traveling Light Blog by Travel Writer Colleen Friesen

Illusory Superiority or Why We’re All Above Average


Scandinave Spa Fire, Whistler, BC
“It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.”

-from the novel by Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

I finished The Sense of an Ending last night. I’m not sure if I can say I liked it yet, but it is certainly stirring up some new thoughts. I always take as a very good sign.

It concerns Tony. He is growing older and slowly becoming aware – at least partially – of how he has starred in his own story by assuming what other people’s motives were.  What Tony is also realizing, is that he has been a passive player in his life, allowing things to happen and striking out when he feels misunderstood.  It struck me that he missed one key piece:  We not only star in our stories.  We are allowed to be the director too. 

There’s more. Tony also refers to the ‘better than average’ effect. It would seem that most of us do this; whereby we believe ourselves to be superior to those around us, like this study where 93% of the drivers in the sample placed themselves in the top 50% for driving ability.

Funny. You’d think our highways would be free of accidents if we’re all so great.

Scientists aren’t sure why we do this. The good news is that if you do, it likely means you’re fairly “healthy”, at least in terms of these studies. Depressed people tend to see themselves as ‘less than’ which strikes me as an even worse delusion.

Next time I’m feeling smug and superior? I’ve decided it is a claxon call telling me that I’m more likely discovering that I’m spectacularly average.

In looking for more information on this topic, I found this audio clip where the author, Carol Dweck, PhD, is comparing a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. It seems to me that our pal Tony lived with a fixed mindset where he looked for blame and saw everything as a reflection about how he looked and was therefore threatened by anyone else’s behaviour.

With a growth mindset Tony might have left himself open for learning and more emotionally healthy connections.

Dweck uses the example of parents who see their children as only a reflection of their parenting. It’s all about them and how they look, instead of nurturing their child to discover their own abilities and happiness.

Fixed mindsets are all about measurements; numbers that find you either coming up short or miles above everyone else. Either place is rather lonely.

Growth mindsets are more about finding out about what you want to learn, discover and bring you joy, leaving you open to connections and better emotional health.

I’m thinking the growth plan is definitely superior!






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4 Responses
  1. Catherine Clarke says:

    Hi Colleen. I like this blog. The fixed mindset really fits my husband character. A lonely place indeed ! I am of the growth mindset – discovering new things all the time, admiring landscapes, sunsets, nature etc… and I have an healthier emotional state.

  2. Carol Perehudoff says:

    I’m not superior. I’m an idiot. And a bad driver, too! Mind you, I may think differently on a good day. Here’s to growth mindsets!

  3. Colleen Friesen says:

    Carol. You’re right. You’re a crappy driver. Wait a second, I’ve never been in a vehicle with you. Seems to me we’ve only been in a vehicle where someone is driving us somewhere…
    As for the idiot part, I’m going to have to disagree with you there missy :)
    Hope you’re having a good day and going for the growth mindset!

  4. Colleen Friesen says:

    Lifetime learning is w-a-a-a-y more fun than thinking we know all the answers. Keep at it, Catherine. There’s nothing better than actually ‘seeing’ rather than just ‘looking’. Happy Trails!

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