These 5 biases are getting in your way right now.
A number of you asked me to talk more about self-sabotaging biases. The truth is we ALL have cognitive biases. They’re unavoidable. Without these mental shortcuts, our brains would be in major trouble. And while they’re there to help us process the world, they also get in our way if we’re not aware of them. In this post, I’m going to cover 5 biases* that I believe hold us back from seeing and claiming our value.
Confirmation bias is favoring information that conforms to your existing beliefs and discounting evidence that does not conform.
Pretty straightforward, right? If I believe that I’m not good at public speaking, for example, then I may interpret an audience member’s facial expression as “they’re bored and can’t wait until this is over.” I won’t pass out my feedback form because I’m already convinced they hated it. I won’t actually hear the compliments I’m given. Instead I’ll think “they’re just being nice.” I decline further opportunities to get in front of a room.
2.Double-Bind Bias / Backlash Effect
Simply put: “You’re damned if you do and doomed if you don’t.” In this podcast interview, former Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz defines the double bind as “…if a woman acts like a leader, she becomes unlikeable…But if she acted like a woman, the way we expect a woman to be, then she doesn’t seem like a leader.”
Because self-promoting women violate the dominant stereotype, they get punished for displaying ambition. Hence the backlash effect, defined as “social and economic reprisals for behaving counter-stereotypically.” (Rudman, L. A. (1998)
So is there a risk to showing self-belief? Yep. But in my opinion, there is a much larger risk to NOT showing you believe in yourself.
3. Spotlight Bias
If you’ve done my 7 Day Self-Promotion challenge, you’ve heard of spotlight bias. This is where you think everyone is thinking about you and/or noticing you way more than they actually are. We also believe we know what people are already thinking.
An example of this is waiting around for your manager to recognize your work. “Of course they see I’ve been going above and beyond!” And then we wait and wait and wait…
For the entrepreneurs out there, it may come up when we’re about to promote something on social media. “Ugh, I’m going to be annoying if I post about this again!” (Even though the chances the algorithm got your content in front of those people is very low.)
4. Optimism Bias
This is where we perceive events more favorably, because that’s what we want the outcome to be.
On the surface, optimism bias is a positive thing to have. Hope keeps us going, right?! Optimism is linked to lower stress, higher self-esteem, and better well-being. So how does it become self-sabotaging?
Two examples I see most often:
1) I have an interview that goes really well. In fact, I believe it went so well that I stopped applying for other positions. I don’t get the job and I haven’t made any further progress on my job search.
2) I advertise a webinar and I have 50 people sign up. Amazing! I’m happy with that so I no longer need to market it. Phew! And…then only 5 people show up.
5. Gambler’s Fallacy
This is the trap where we think our past performance dictates our future performance, even when they are completely independent of each other. For example: You get offered a job at a new company. You know you made $75,000 in your last position. You’ve done your research for the new job and know what the range is, but you unconsciously anchor your salary to what you were making before.
Or… you get a new client and before knowing the full scope of work, you quote them a fee that you’ve used in the past.
So, how do you avoid falling into these?
Awareness! (Which you have because you’re reading this.)
What personal examples can you come up with for each? Name them here:
2. Double-Bind Bias / Backlash Effect:
3. Spotlight Bias:
4. Optimism Bias:
5. Gambler’s Fallacy:
Now, take a breath and slow dowwwwn. Take the time to ask “How am I getting in my own way around this?” Because there’s a big chance you are. Process it. Your brain may have jumped to a conclusion that you don’t actually believe.
To our big beautiful (and sometimes sabotaging) brains,