Most people think they're smarter, more attractive, and more virtuous than everyone else - here's what our brains do when someone suggests we aren't
In fact, according to social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, unless you suffer from depression, it's highly likely that you have relatively high self-esteem.
In her book, "No One Understands You And What To Do About It," Halvorson defines self-esteem as the sum of all your positive and negative evaluations of yourself, where some evaluations are weighted heavier than others. (If you don't really care about being a tennis pro, you're not likely to place much emphasis on your evaluation of your tennis skills.)
Generally, Halvorson writes, your self-esteem "comes from a nearly continuous stream of conscious and unconscious comparisons - 'How am I doing compared with other people?'" And thanks to your brains' desire to protect and enhance your self-esteem, the answer almost always winds up being, "Better than average."
But sometimes real threats to your ego present themselves, perhaps in the form of a new colleague who's really good at their job or a friend in a similar line of work that just got a promotion.
High threats to your ego are the result of two factors: high relevance (Does the domain of the person's success matter to you? For example, are they doing similar work as you?) and high closeness (Is this person a major part of your life? Do you see them regularly?).
When you encounter a high ego threat - someone close and relevant to you who you can't deny is pretty great - your ego will work extra hard, often under the radar, to maintain the status quo and remove the threat. Here are four ways that could go:
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