Essay On Positive Illusions

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Positive illusions are a tricky topic. As Jonathon Haidt describes in The Happiness Hypothesis, people see themselves through a “rose-colored mirror,” consistently overestimating their own merits while judging others in a more realistic light. While an exaggerated view of one’s own abilities and skills can actually lead to higher levels of motivation, productivity, and success, it is also true that dramatically high self-perception has been linked to narcissism and mental illness. So, are positive illusions a good or bad thing overall? The answer is a simple one – both – but the benefits of positive illusions will only enhance the quality of a person’s life if they are not eventually overwhelmed by the consequences. Haidt discusses how a large majority of Americans and Europeans, when asked to rate themselves on desirable virtues like intelligence, driving ability, sexual skills, and ethics, say that they are above average. Of course, it is logically impossible for a majority of people to be above average, but this just demonstrates the concept of the rose-colored mirror. People will quickly accept that others may have been faulty in their judgments, but when told that many people have inflated views of themselves, they mutter, “Well, other people may be biased, but I really am above average.” However, Haidt goes on to say that people that hold pervasive positive illusions about themselves, their abilities, and their future prospects are mentally healthier, happier, and better liked than people who lack such illusions. Additionally, positive illusions can help stave off discomfort and maintain healthy levels of self-esteem, at least in the short term. Shelley Taylor and Jonathon Brown’s Social Psychological Model of mental heal... ... middle of paper ... ...sm – thinking you see the world directly, as it really is, no matter what. This form of positive illusion is so dangerous because it is so easily taken from the individual to the group level: My group is right because we see things the way they are, and every other group that disagrees with us is biased and blinded by their religion, ideology, or self-interest. Without naïve realism, Haidt argues, there would be no war, conflict, or violence. Overall, it is safe to say that there are both pros and cons to positive illusions. But can we conclude that positive illusions are much more beneficial than detrimental, and should be a centerpiece of any happy or successful life, or vice versa? Probably not – at present, what we can conclude is that self-enhancement is a double-edged sword, potentially yielding tangible benefits but capable of inflicting lasting damages.
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