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Positive Illusions: 7 Ways to Defeat The Lake Wobegon Effect

We all create positive illusions about ourselves.

Your temper isn’t that bad. After all, you don’t blow up as often as your mother did.

People who lack positive illusions about themselves are often depressed.

Your three selves:

Self-discrepancy theory says we have three selves.

  1. Actual self.
  2. Ideal self.
  3. Ought self.

You feel disappointed, frustrated, even depressed when your actual self doesn’t align with your ideal self. But you feel insecure and anxious when your actual self doesn’t align with the self you think others want you to be – ought self.

Positive Illusions: The Lake Wobegon Effect:

Lake Wobegon is, “… where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Positive illusion #1:


Make a list of your three best strengths. Now list your three worst weaknesses.

You tend to believe your strengths make you special. But your weaknesses are common. Lots of people have your weaknesses.

Positive illusions happen when you compare yourself with people who are worse than you.

Positive illusion #2:

Negative feedback is flawed. They don’t understand. It’s dumb. It doesn’t matter. But positive feedback is right on.

Positive illusion #3:

Taking credit.

Failure is about a bad team, bad boss, or bad situation. You didn’t have enough resources.

Success is because you’re just awesome.

7 ways to defeat positive illusions:

Depressed people are often more realistic. Small doses of self-deception protect you from anxiety and depression.

Positive illusions gone wild make you a jerk-hole.

#1. Take responsibility more. Blame less.

#2. Use “we” when you win and “me” when you fail.

#3. Search for the nugget of truth in negative feedback.

#4. Reject entitlement. Embrace an earn-it philosophy.

#5. Admit your mistakes and work to improve.

#6. Practice compassion and empathy.

#7. Practice humility.

What’s good about positive illusion?

How can leaders live above positive illusions?

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