Inside us all, we have an underlying drive to have a favorable image of ourselves – above all, we want to like ourselves. Many people distort their experiences and actions to reflect this self-image, increasing self-esteem.
Instead of owning up to the project mistakes you, instead, blame an unexpected weather event that delayed the project. You also explain how contractors you hired were to slow or that the cost of materials was higher than the projected spend. You might even go on to say how the death of your pet goldfish required you to take a week of work.
What happens when we are in the wrong (a project manager is responsible for the project’s successes and failures no matter how they are caused) is that we don’t like to own up to our deficiencies. Instead, our perception of the world (in this case who was responsible for the project failures) is interpreted differently to the actual events. This new perception allows us to feel better about ourselves.
Because we don’t take full responsibility for our mistakes or errors we rarely learn from the experience and repeat the same mistakes again and again. This cycle happens in all areas of your life; the end of a marriage due to, as an example, you not paying attention to your partner. You ignore this obvious truth, unconsciously, and distort the truth “my partner was always jealous which is why the marriage ended”
You may think the distorting technique is something only some people do, but many people put a new spin on the truth all the time, to help keep their self-worth high. Two friends sprint across a track, the loser of the race, to keep his self-esteem high, will simply believe that if they had their ‘running’ trainers on they would have won the race. Another person may wear old stained clothes that have many holes and will have high self-esteem if they believe they are a ‘casual environmentally friendly’ individual, compared to someone who will see them, wearing these same clothes, as scruffy.
Distortion is a funny trick. With the marriage example, this distorted belief about the reason for the marriage breakup could end up with history repeating itself. But on the other hand the ‘running’ example might encourage the person, through the placebo effect, to run faster in the next race.
But what is clear is that how you view yourself affects your levels of self-worth. Having high levels of self-esteem is viewed as positive, but as we have shown, with the project manager and marriage example, this isn’t always the case.