Why don't people accept their mistakes?

Self-deceiver: It is always the other person's fault

People who idealize themselves and consider themselves better than the rest of the world often have no sense of guilt and cannot admit mistakes. But if they get help, many are immensely relieved.

There are very many self-deceivers among us, more than one would generally like to believe. “It is truly astonishing how many people misjudge themselves, how often external and self-perception diverge. I am now primarily talking about people who idealize themselves, who always overestimate themselves and are far from being as good as they think they are, ”emphasizes the Viennese neurologist, psychiatrist and psychotherapist Univ.-Doz. GDR. Raphael Bonelli from the Sigmund Freud University Vienna. He and his colleagues would repeatedly meet downright "masters of self-deception", in whom the idealized self is miles away from reality.

Fragile self-esteem

And woe to anyone who draws the attention of such a self-deceiver to his real self, who, as it were, exposes him. “That leads to a massive offense, because deep down these people fear that they are not as great as they think they are. “Narcissists have an increased, but often fragile, self-esteem,” the expert knows. “They are always afraid of being puffed up. When it happens, they usually react with aggression. ”Because it is of course embarrassing and uncomfortable to be seen through by others.

Whether real narcissists or simple self-deceivers, both suffer from the fact that others do not recognize them, that others do not see how great they are. They then like to say: “They just don't understand me.” They feel neglected, misunderstood and as “sacrificial lambs”. It's always the other's fault. “The 'bad guys' attitude is almost part of the zeitgeist these days,” says Bonelli.

Self-deceivers slip into burnout more easily

He experiences this very often in couples therapy, where both see themselves as victims and are convinced that the other has to do something, then the relationship will work out again, says Bonelli from the psychotherapy school. This “innocent sacrificial lamb role” would also be assumed by the self-deceivers towards friends and work colleagues. “They come and complain that the others are always so angry with them. And they see it as a real threat if you ask them if they haven't done something wrong after all. Then they react very aggressively because they can't stand their own mistakes. Like the green alternative that advises everyone to cycle, but drives a super-fast car himself. In all seriousness, he says, he only has that because he uses it less often than others. In this way he protects the environment - a classic case of self-deception.

Self-deceivers also slide into burnout much more easily. “It's no wonder, because they feel like a victim who is always given the work of others, who always has to pay for everything. In this case, burnout has nothing to do with overwork; those affected simply misjudge themselves and are unhappy. The living conditions are always blamed for their own fate. ”At the moment, that is easier than taking responsibility yourself.

Partnership catastrophe

Of course, such people with not exactly happy character traits also make others unhappy. Like the partner who always looks to the other person to blame. “I often have women in my practice who complain that their husbands cannot admit the slightest mistake, think they are perfect and only see deficiencies in others. It's a catastrophe for partnerships. ”It can also end catastrophically if someone who overestimates himself and has no empathy at all studies psychology and then lets loose on his clients. Or when a young car owner has to race faster and faster because he’s a great guy. He already notices that he is doing something wrong, but he cannot admit that the speed poses a danger to him and others because his conscience is drenched by oh-so-great manhood.

Self-deceivers are often lonely too. On the one hand, because everyone else is more stupid than they are. But above all: “You soon turn away from people who are not authentic, who always bluff, who always think they are better than all the others. Because there is something incredibly unsympathetic about this senior teacher, ”emphasizes Bonelli. So self-deceivers shouldn't be surprised if at some point they are left behind, isolated and finally embittered.

The truth sets you free

“I experience over and over again that such a self-deceiver is incredibly relieved when he can admit a mistake,” says Bonelli. Life is then much more carefree, because you no longer have to be constantly on guard, do not have to constantly fend off the fact that one could be uncovered.

“Admitting that you make mistakes, that you can also be guilty, can heal a lot. The truth sets you free, ”explains Bonelli. And finally: Those who give up constant self-deception, who do not always look to blame others, who can also admit mistakes, will become more lovable and popular again. Seen in this way, being honest with oneself can also be a way out of isolation, a gateway to new friendships.

At a glance:

People, who think they are much better than they are are often afraid of being "exposed". When that happens, they usually react with aggression.

These "self-deceivers" are encountered much more often than one might think. They also have great difficulty admitting guilt - it's always the other's fault.

Such traits of character meet rejection in the environment, which is why self-deceivers are often lonely. However, if they manage to get away from the role of the eternal know-it-all and innocent sacrificial lamb with professional help and admit mistakes, they feel enormously relieved and find new ways for social contacts.

("Die Presse", print edition, March 15, 2011)