What is the refresh rate for one’s self-view?
For example, having lost weight, and having felt good about himself as a result, how much may one regain before it is reflected accordingly in the downturn of his self-related emotions?
Indeed, having felt good that he has adopted a higher standard in any matter, how long until he begins to realize his shortcomings with regard to that standard?
After observing humankind for some time, one might opine that for a great many humans, our greater concern in such matters is not the improving of ourselves, after all, but the improving of how we feel about ourselves. That is, it’s not in improving the reality of how we are, but our emotional attitude about it.
It’s as if we were addicted to the feelings of well-being, and willing to ignore or cheat reality, if need be, to keep it going. But there’s something more in play, since the feelings spike early after some perceived success, and wear off from then forward. Still, though, some manner of perception of the success remains―like a high-water mark after a flood. And so many of us, it seems, have a hard time averting our eyes from that mark when the actual waters recede.
The actual water levels were so important when they were on the rise―when we felt we were getting somewhere. But once we’ve peaked, it’s as if we switch over to another method of self-assessment, and it can take a very long time before we come to grips, either with a disappointing plateau, or an outright regression to some lower point.
And how curious this is about us―this bent toward the overestimation of our achievements, status, knowledge, skills, abilities, and performance!
It reminds me of a joke my grandmother would tell the shoe salesman about her shoe size: “I wear a 7, but this 8 feels so good, I think I’ll take a 9.”
Surely, she had worn a 7 at some point in time. But how long had that been, and how long will one cling to how it used to be before admitting how it is now? She was kidding, I think, having realized the humor in this particular human behavior.
Of course, people don’t only cling to what was better before; some cling to what was worse. They tend to gravitate their self-estimation toward the low-water line, even if they are doing better now. And this is just as twisted when viewed from a reality-based view. And if this weren’t enough of a challenge for us, I do believe we can simultaneously hold to different attitudes about the various areas of our lives, overestimating our status in the one thing while underestimating it in the other.
We all would do well, then, it seems to me, to think how life would be different if the refresh rate on our self assessment were higher. How much more quickly might we make corrections to our course if we were checking in with the compass more often?