“I do all the work around here,” or, unconscious overclaiming.

The Happiness Project Blog Logo

I’ve been reading about “unconscious overclaiming”—and realizing that I’m a big offender.

In “unconscious overclaiming,” we unconsciously overestimate our contributions or skills relative to other people’s. This makes sense, because of course we’re far more aware of what we do than what other people do.

For example, in one study, when students in a work group each estimated their contribution to the team, the total was 139 percent.

I’m squirming as I realize how often I make this mistake. I complain about the time I spend organizing babysitting or paying bills, but I overlook the time the Big Man spends dealing with our car or food-shopping (I do nothing in these areas).

It’s easy to see that overclaiming leads to resentment and an inflated sense of entitlement.

So now when I find myself thinking, “I’m the only one around here who bothers to…” or “Why do I always have to be the one who…?” I remind myself of all the tasks I don’t do.

A funny related bias is the “Lake Wobegon effect,” the tendency of most people to believe they rate above average. (It’s named for the imaginary town of Lake Wobegon, where “all the children are above average.”) Studies show that most people think they’re above average in fairness, luck, popularity, investing ability, and many other traits. In one survey, 80% of respondents put themselves in the top 30% of all drivers.

I love the mere word “overclaiming.” It’s perfect for what it describes.


From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Interested in happiness, habits, and human nature?

Sign up for our weekly newsletter “5 things making me happy”.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.