Dunning-Kruger Effect at both ends

Here's a nice TED-Ed video explaining Why incompetent people think they're amazing.

To summarise: people who are very incompetent don't have enough competence to accurately assess how competent they are so they assess themselves highly. At the other end of the spectrum, people who are very competent often don't realise they are experts because they assume everyone else is just as competent as them.

I have the second problem in a lot of areas. I simply can't wrap my head around how incompetent the average person is, and so I assume they must be at my level.

My I.Q. is in the 'highly superior' range and according to the person who assessed me, I didn't make a single mistake, so it seems I'm very aware of the limits of my abilities, at least when it comes to intellect. And people have commented on how 'self aware' I am though I don't really know what they mean - I don't think of myself as anything special in that regard.

When it comes to mind training, I'm very aware of how much I still have to learn, how spectacularly undisciplined my mind is. I see myself as a sort of buffoon. Or perhaps as a toddler having a tantrum. Yet to the average person (if I'm really looking at the evidence, and not my sense of things), I'm unimaginably far ahead (not that most would even be able to recognise this).

I've been realising recently that all those normal people I always thought of as nice, are not only in their wrong mind but are also unable to even conceive of themselves without thought. Evan assures me that this is normal:

it generally takes years of discipline to separate self from thought. I'm not sure very many people accomplish it (or even try)

I find this hard to believe, but I suppose it must be true. The number of people who master Zen must be very, very low.

And my recent experience trying to teach strangers and family members reveal just how far 'behind' they are. With family members for some reason I assumed the mastery of Zen is the primary focus of their lives to which all else is a backdrop, and that in our long estrangement they would have progressed along that path as I have. But nope - they have approximately the same thoughts and attitude they had 10 years ago. And even strangers with a sincerity of will, don't understand what I consider the most basic teachings.


A particular challenge is that, if the world is really that insane, then choosing Sanity cannot be mainstream and is likely to be met with scorn from peers.

Not being able to rely on feedback from peers places one in a precarious, isolated position.

Perhaps I'm having a moment of faithlessness. Yes.

The overwhelming majority choose the wrong mind/the ego as their teacher. But the majority of what? The majority of bodies. If I feel influenced by 'peer pressure' it can only be because I've chosen to see the body instead of the Spirit. In other words I myself have been tempted again to choose the wrong mind.


My mind has a deeply etched habit of:

  1. taking criticism very seriously and trying to avoid sounding 'arrogant'; and
  2. discounting praise.

I see this as a personal failing.[1]

The way I address this:

  1. Wherever someone says something affirming (that rightly contradicts the false critical self-image I've been taught), I write the phrase in my Bullet Journal in a special colour.
  2. Spend more time interacting with people who (are competent enough to) recognise and appreciate me.
  3. Notice the wrong mind/ego in others[2]. This is actually a great way to get more insight into the nature of the ego, and develop compassion for those who have chosen it as their teacher. They cannot see themselves, so their ego has less need to disguise its activities, making it easier for me to examine.[3][4][5]

meta comment

Evan says "excellent read" so I guess it must be okay.

Addendum 2019-01-04

According to Theravada Buddhism's description of 4 stages of enlightenment: as a once-returner, my mind is "very pure". On face value this is hilariously untrue, but I suppose it must be pure in comparrison to the ordinary person. Maybe I just have a totally distorted sense of what's normal. I find things like greed unimaginable, and can only infer their existence from the bizare behaviour of the majority of humans.
I realise now that I spend a lot of time trying to process others' lies about me.
The lessons of the world are meaningless to me.


  1. yes, I see the irony ↩︎

  2. this is not a substitute for looking at the antics of one's own ego ↩︎

  3. It goes without saying that there's no difference between the ego in my 'subject' and the ego in me ↩︎

  4. It also goes without saying that pointing out their ego to them is not part of the exercise. ↩︎

  5. It's like the usual habitual activity of gathering evidence of wrong-doing/thinking (against those we purport to love), but instead of using it for condemnation, the entire case is dismissed; we are both innocent. ↩︎

Freyr LePage

autistic, nonbinary, white, middle class

United Kingdom