Do You Overestimate Yourself? Everyone Else Does…

woman on a couch looking at her laptop and smiling

The New York Times had a story yesterday on their Freakonomics blog, in which people rated themselves in both looks and intelligence. Not surprisingly, most seemed to slightly overrate themselves. I wish they took a few more average people to get a broader perspective.

This reminds me of an experiment in which I asked a handful of people to rate themselves in four categories: Looks, Intelligence, Personality, and Career. No one judged themselves as less than a 7 in any single category. Most were 8s and 9s across the board.

No one judged themselves as less than a 7 in any single category. Most were 8s and 9s across the board.

That might mean that these were extraordinary people. More likely it means that we all have a slight disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us. The good news is that having a combination of self-esteem and self-delusion seems to be exactly what allows us to function. How would we feel if we didn’t believe we’re above average in every single way? I’m not sure I’d want to know.

Anyway, since we’re all anonymous, what do you say we try the experiment here? Answer these 3 questions in the comments below:

Where do you rank yourself in Looks, Intelligence, Personality, Career?

How would you rank the “typical” person you date? Do you rank them higher or lower than you?

How do you think others would rank you behind your back?

If I have to participate (and I probably do), I’d give myself straight 7s. Maybe an 8.5 on intelligence, if I were to be embarrassingly honest. Maybe a 6.5 on career if I were to be more embarrassingly honest. But then, I do strive to achieve much more in life.

My typical girlfriends would be ranked a bit higher. Similar in looks, but generally impressive careers and great personalities.

And I don’t even want to know what others would say about me behind my back. I take back the question! But it is something to think about.

Anyway, I’d be curious to hear your answers below, as well as your thoughts on why it’s so hard for us to be objective about ourselves.


(BTW, if you’re really upset about the idea of “ranking”, or the fact that things like “kindness” aren’t on the list, your comments are duly noted. This is a very unscientific experiment.)

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  1. 101

    I think it depends on the circles you move in. In my social group(s), which are various combinations of middle-aged geeks, I’m probably easily a 9. But in Evan’s social circles, I’d be lucky to pull a 2. If I somehow got me an overall 10, I wouldn’t know what to do with him. He wouldn’t fit into my life, and I into his.
    “And I don’t know if I’ve ever entered a room and been objectively the best looking guy there.”
    Well, I did invite you to come speak at a Mensa AG and you said no! There was your chance 🙂
    @ 103-104, I get what Sparkling Emerald is saying and I actually agree with her that, when you’re in love with someone, they are in fact a ten in your eyes. But I would add that, for them to become a ten, you have to first meet them, give them a chance, and get to know them better while you’re still seeing them as a 4 or 5 that they objectively are. At least in my experience, I need a lot of one-on-one time for the man to grow on me and become a ten to me. So, if he’s far from being a 10 but I can see that he is a potential good match, I’ll give him a chance regardless of his looks.

  2. 102
    Sparkling Emerald

    Goldie @ 105 –
    I get what Sparkling Emerald is saying and I actually agree with her that, when you’re in love with someone, they are in fact a ten in your eyes . . .
         Yes, you get EXACTLY what I was saying, another common way it is put “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”   (Explains why many mothers thinks their baby is the most beautiful baby ever born 🙂 )
         Once I get involved with a guy he can BECOME a different “number” than my initial impression.   A guy who is a “10” on the looks scale. (OK, an 8, because I don’t run in Hollywood circles, so I don’t date 10’s) could easily drop to a zero if he mistreats me.   An average looking guy can soar to a 10 if he treats me with kindness & respect.   After awhile, I am not looking at the physical features of the person any more, when I look at   him, I am seeing the person behind the face, his character, his wit, his kindness, how I feel when I am with him.   I am seeing the inner man, not the outer.   I am seeing the relationship.   Also by zero or ten, it really comes down to “Relationship – YES ” or “Relationship NO”.   After an initial getting to know each other it has to be one or the other, I don’t like to do “non-relationships”.     So I don’t think this really means it   is an all or nothing proposition.     A guy who is really only a 6 objectively still has a chance with me, because I believe in the power of the inner self to illuminate what I will see.   And I try to hold back on flipping head over heels for an 8, until I get a chance to see if his inner self matches or exceeds what’s on the outside.  
    I am the same way will ALL my relationship BTW.   After a while, I stop noticing what my GF’s look like.   I once had a seriously overweight work friend.   I don’t mean “voluptous” or   “curvy” but seriously, morbidly obese.   Her kind light hearted nature won her many lunch time girlfriends. Eventually, I stopped thinking noticing her being   fat   and started thinking of her as a fun friend to hang out with at lunch and sometimes after work. When some snooty girl in my dept asked me “Who is the big fat girl who works upstairs” I had NO IDEA who she was talking about.   She then hammered with me “You know – –   the girl who is as big as 2 houses !”   I still honestly had no idea who she was talking about.   Then she shouted “You know who I mean, you eat lunch with her almost every day !”.   Then I just said something along the lines of “Oh yes, Terrie, one of my favorite people”.

  3. 103

    To be perfectly honest:

    Where do you rank yourself in Looks, Intelligence, Personality, Career?

    Looks: 2/10. I am not a good looking or even an average looking person. I am very aware of that fact and I have no regrets. I am also aware that looks will get people quite a distance in life and attractive people will have more advantages than I would in some circumstances. So what? I have advantages that propel me further than them in other areas. Thus, even as ugly as I am, I am not apologetic or irrational about it. It is a fact of life, let’s move on.

    I also do not believe in people severely enhancing themselves in an artificial manner. A little bit of makeup here and there, nice clothes, well groomed hair, sure. Anything else beyond that is just overkill, in my opinion.

    Intelligence: 5.5-6/10. Slightly above average intelligence, if I do say so myself!

    Personality: This is a difficult decision. It’s very hard for a person to gauge their own personality, isn’t it? It’s the least objective aspect of a person and is very much according to society/culture/other people’s cups of tea. Overall I don’t think I have a horrific personality: no sociopathic tendencies (as far as I know :P) or setting ants on fire with a microscope as a kid (Hollywood’s portrayal of serial killers as children!), so 5/10: smack dab in the middle of the spectrum. Again, in my opinion.

    Career: No sign of one yet. Still at university as a poor student with debts accumulating over my head. Will get back to you on this!

    How would you rank the “typical” person you date? Do you rank them higher or lower than you?

    Haven’t had a date in my life. Typical people I am ATTRACTED to though tend to be what I perceive as kind human beings with intelligent minds, a sense of humour and able to hold an interesting conversation. All those qualities need not be present, I’m not very fussy.

    As for looks, as long as they are not “extreme” looking according to society’s conventions, they are A-OK with me. I would be sorely lying if I said looks didn’t matter AT ALL when it comes to physical attraction to a person. As long as you do not look like a human Cthulhu, e.g., I am very, very all right with how you look.

    P.S. If you DO look like Cthulhu, you better have the best personality in the world! 😛

    Typical person I am attracted to is someone around my level, I think. Not much higher or lower. Maybe .5/10 differences in the qualities presented here.

    How do you think others would rank you behind your back?

    Looks: as subjective as this aspect might be, looks are objective up to a certain point across the board. I believe most people would rate me a 2 or 3/10. Around the same rating I gave myself.

    Intelligence: 4-7/10 depending on the person’s definition of ‘intelligent’.

    Personality: Anywhere from 2-10/10. I don’t think anyone would rate me lower than a 2 in this department! 😛

    Career: N/A

  4. 104

    looks :5
    intelligence: 6.5-7
    I rate them higher than me.

  5. 105

    Looks —  3 I look like I’m on drugs even though I have never consumed any drugs not even cigarettes. I didn’t practice 2 months at least, because I have some breathing  problems.Intelligence —  6 Nothing special, even though I was forced to improved it because studies required it.Personality-  2 I’m impulsive, somewhat depressed, I dodge meeting new people as much as I can (I already have 5+ friends, wtf do I need more?). I do whatever friendly people need from me. I never ask for help. I consider being vulnerable pathetic and dodging it as much as possible. I’m very vengeful. The only reason I talk to new people is to test my people skills.Career — 3   I’m student on boring faculty which I hate from the bottom of my soul even though it’s valued by society because it’s hard.

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