There are two major mistakes you should stop making in life. As you ponder what they might be, try to see if any of these sound familiar:
“Why can’t I just figure stuff out like everyone else?”
“Am I the only one who doesn’t know how to take control of my life yet?”
“How did everyone else learn know how to handle all these challenges?”
“How come everyone else seem so freakin’ content all the time?”
Ring a bell?
Ever notice how we tend to think that we’re the only one who hasn’t got it all figured out yet?
Of course you do. We all think like this sometimes. After all, we’ve never been as old as we are at any given time. And since we haven’t, then how are we supposed to know what to do about everything?
It’s funny, then, how “everyone else” seem to be perfectly on top of things, even though the same condition applies to them too.
… Of course there’s always that one utterly clueless idiot, but generally, “everyone else” doesn’t seem like much of a stretch when it comes to these things.
What if I told you that most people think this way about others – including you?
Why is this?
Well, for one thing. Our minds still haven’t evolved much in the last 10.000 years or so. We’re still subconsciously on the lookout for potential threats anywhere, anytime. But today there’s no sabre-toothed tigers anywhere. Our subconscious mind, then, considers our main threat to be other people.
Therefore, we tend to not only overestimate others, but, accordingly, underestimate ourselves.
(And yes: These are the two major mistakes you should stop making right now.)
We want to keep up appearances because they serve us like a barrier towards… well, unpleasant stuff.
Look at the average Facebook pictures. You’ll see people’s vacations, their nights out, and other social gatherings. The status updates will be about pets, babies, and plain ol’ food. So… nice things, really.
What you probably won’t see are people’s marital arguments. Their sudden panic attacks while at the store. That one time they got too drunk and embarrassed themselves at a family reunion because deep down they were miserable.
Those things aren’t comfortable… So we put a lid on them.
Since we tend to be closed about these unpleasant sides of our lives, it’s easy to mistake other people’s apparent lack of problems for success. Which, of course, it’s not. It’s simply cultural taboo doing its thing.
Furthermore, it’s easy to get caught up in one’s own problems. After all, you’re the one having them, right? Nobody knows your problems better than you, and they’re no bigger to anybody else but you.
(And yes: I know this might also encompass being told about what mistakes you need to stop making in life. Read on still? Thanks.)
The combination of those two things — overestimating other people’s apparent success + underestimating one’s actual blessings, advantages and abilities = one debilitating combo.
The problem is, it’s easy to let it deceive you.
The good news is, it’s exactly that: Nothing more than effective deception.
Statistically, you’ll be off like the majority when it comes to having problems. And chances are that you’ll be blowing your own ones out of proportion.
If our primal minds are constantly on the look for trouble, they’re gonna find it whether it’s there or not. This is why people create drama when they’re bored: It’s what our brains are hardwired to do!
We actually NEED a certain amount of problems in our lives. Otherwise, we’d go insane! Because problems – and the overcoming thereof – feels like purpose, like meaning.
Ever been alone with nothing to do, read or watch for hours on end? We’d go crazy if we didn’t have any kind of task, leisure or distraction.
However, to function properly we need to distinguish and prioritize between realistic, relevant problems and perceived mountains where there’s only molehills.
When we’re aware of these things, we can overestimate others a little less, and underestimate ourselves a little less.
In time, we might even be capable of making realistic assessments of the world. How about that?!
In short, and in other words:
The two major mistakes you should stop making are: Never underestimate yourself, and never overestimate others.
(But of course, don’t do the opposite, either!)