Own My Growth

Helping folks with practical tips to manage themselves better

Be(A)ware Of Your Self Serving Bias

Self Serving Bias

It is a normal human tendency to take credit for positive events or outcomes when they happen but blame outside factors when anything negative or wrong happens.

When things go well, we want everyone to give us credit. “I delivered on the goals. I am really good, and I deserve a promotion and a big pay rise,” we say to ourselves.

When things don’t go well, we start looking for excuses. ” The targets were improbable. What support did I get? No one appreciates my efforts. It’s always about the results,” We tell ourselves defensively.

We All Display Self-Serving Bias 

As you are reading this, you may be thinking-” hmm, not me. Thank god, I am not like this. I give credit to others liberally when good outcomes happen.” Its easy to be positive when everything is positive. But what about when things are not going in your favor.

Self Serving bias is very insidious and often unconscious. It is that rush of indignation that rises inside you when your boss tells you that the results are not good. It is that urge to hit back with all the external factors or reasons you believe prevented you from achieving the results. “Why can’t others see what I am seeing?”-It is that belief that you are right and others are wrong.

Become Aware Of Your Self Serving Biases

Self-serving bias is a huge impediment for personal development because it blinds us to the possibility of our limitations and gaps. It prevents us from taking responsibility for our actions when adverse outcomes happen. More dangerously, it impairs our ability to learn from mistakes, failures and distorts our judgment.

Success and failures are two sides of the same coin of our life. Learning from our failures is how we succeed. If we cannot attribute our failures to mistakes we may have made; then personal improvement is unlikely because all we are thinking is, “I did no wrong!!”

My intention is not to portray self-serving bias as some horrible trait that only weak people suffer from. On the contrary, self-serving bias is an essential factor contributing positively to our self-esteem. It helps us feel competent and good about ourselves.

That said, understanding self-serving bias, how it appears in our life, and how we can avoid it to make better choices and decisions is essential if we want to develop ourselves.

Guarding Yourself Against This Bias

A great start point is to become aware of what the self-serving bias is and figure out how you are possibly using it in your own life. I always say this- Under the spotlight of your awareness, all negative tendencies will dissipate. When you start to notice your own biases, you win a big part of the battle.

Two, develop thick skin. Get comfortable with criticism. Try not to let criticism undermine how you feel about yourself. See it as an opportunity for improvement rather than a personal attack.  

Everyone suffers from a self serving bias. However, with awareness, if you can deliberately train yourself to avoid this bias, you get a significant advantage over everybody else because you acquire the superpower to learn from your mistakes.

Examples Of Self-Serving Bias

  • Good grades happen. You say “my preparation was excellent.” Bad grades happen in a different test, and you say the teacher was biased or the test covered topics not taught in class.
  • You get into an accident, and you blame the other party for the mistake and vice versa.
  • There is a tough business situation where you are forced to take a business call, and it turns out well. You start attributing this to your smarts even though there could have been a significant luck factor involved. 
  • You lose a big sales deal. Instead of looking at what you could have done differently, you try to convince yourself and your management team that the decision-makers were biased against you. You rationalize that you were never going to win the deal.

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