Self Criticism

The Art of Effective Self Criticism

If you value your own progress, you need to learn how to criticise yourself. We are often eager to criticise others, but when it comes to criticising ourselves we are strangely reluctant. The art of self criticism is essential to learn ing from mistakes and gaining an improved perspective on life.

Consider Your Motives

We maybe able to fool other people, but we should never try to fool ourselves. It is important to be aware of our motivation for doing something. For example, are we being kind to someone with selfless motives, or is it being undertaken with an ulterior motive? At times we like to fool ourselves into thinking we are being altruistic, when actually we are acting from the basis of our ego. This is when we need to be self critical because otherwise our mind can trick us into feeling we are a very good person, when actually we are just being selfish. By being aware of this, we can try to reduce the power of the ego in our lives.

Be Honest with Yourself

Self criticism means we have to be honest with our-self. There is no benefit from trying to justify our bad actions. If we can learn to be honest with ourselves our conscience will prevent us from undertaking regrettable actions. Many bad people, will try and find a way of justifying their actions to themselves; this is the danger of not being honest with yourself.

Avoid Excessive Guilt

Self criticism is not easy, but it is a valuable aspect of our self improvement. However, when we criticise our bad actions, it is unhelpful to retain a powerful sense of guilt. Guilt does not help us to improve, it can just make us feel miserable. When we have become aware of wrong thoughts, make a resolution to avoid doing it and then focus on doing the right thing. This is much better than becoming debilitated from guilt.

Don’t Judge Other People by the Same Standards

Often we see a defect in our own behaviour, and we quite rightly want to improve upon it. However, the problem is that, in our eagerness, we can gain an evangelical fervour and seek to proselytise to other people. We want to improve ourself, but, also start to feel others should be making the same change. Stick to self criticism; other people will go at a different pace, and we are not responsible for what others do.

Self Improvement not self contempt.

Self criticism does not mean self contempt. We have to draw a careful balance between working at our self improvement and feeling useless and worthless. Remember we are only criticising a certain action and not our self. If we make mistakes no harm; mistakes are an essential part of learning and developing. The important thing is that we are able to learn from our actions. Self criticism should be looked upon as a positive thing, and not a tool for beating ourselves up.

Don’t Let Pride Get in the Way

It is our pride that dislikes being criticised. Our ego likes to believe we are always right and therefore it becomes difficult to examine our inner motives. However, to continue doing the wrong thing from a sense of pride only serves to magnify the existing mistake. If we are reluctant to make some changes because of a false faith in our ego, we will feel a permanent tension. If we can learn to let go of pride, we will gain joy from our own self-improvement.

Know Your Values

It is important to criticise ourselves for the right things. Work out what matters in life. For example, if you fail to meet the expectations of your boss in working overtime, this is not necessarily a thing to be self-critical about. However, if you are letting down your friends by being thoughtless and unkind, this is far more significant; be self-critical about the things that matter.

Invite Suggestions From Others

Quite often we cannot see our faults, even though they maybe glaring to others. In these circumstances, it can be very beneficial to invite criticism from a close friend. This can help us to see faults, that we are just unable or unwilling to be aware of. If you do invite criticism from others, don’t respond by being defensive and aggrieved. Be calm and detached; and see it as an opportunity to learn from the mistakes.

Self Criticism is a Path to Happiness

I feel self criticism is synonymous with self improvement. Self improvement doesn’t mean we just maintain a cheerful disposition; we also have to be able to be reflective and honest about ourselves. It is only when we can impartially judge our motives and actions that we can overcome obstacles and weaknesses. It is in overcoming these weaknesses that we pave the way for long term happiness.Tejvan Pettinger is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre. He lives in Oxford where he works as a teacher, and also offers free mediation classes. He enjoys writing on themes of self improvement and meditation, he updates a blog called Sri Chinmoy Inspiration.

19 Responses to The Art of Effective Self Criticism

  1. Ainsley says:

    Great advice – all of it! In the business world I mentor other (usually younger) people. And I find it a constant source of amusement that no matter how delicately or sensitively you try to approach someone you are mentoring about an area in which they need serious improvement… most all of them are offended. As if the world should change to accomodate them. Seldom do they see that to be successful you must know who you are, what you want to accomplish, BUT ALSO that you must be relatable to others if you want to succeed.

    I heard a guy say it best in this way… “There is actually an 11th commandment – Thou Shalt Not Jive Thyself”. Which means, you may fool others but you are being a fool if you lie to yourself.

  2. Thanks Ainsley,

    I shall remember that 11th commandment “Thou Shalt Not Jive Thyself”. – It certainly made me smile :)

  3. Great post, Tejvan. I think one of the reasons we find it so hard to criticize ourselves is because it forces us to admit we’re not perfect. Nevertheless, it’s obviously very important we learn to become our own biggest critics because that opens the door to a lot of learning and insight.

    I also really believe in asking other people for their feedback and suggestions simply because they are usually a lot more impartial. It takes some getting used to, but the things you discover about yourself in the process make it all worthwhile!

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  5. Jason says:

    Consider your motives. You’re selfish. Everything you do is selfish. Every decision you will ever make is undertaken in the pursuit of personal gain, whether it be economical or merely emotional. If you do what you believe are ‘good’ things, it’s because you believe you will benefit in the doing of them. If you do what you believe are ‘bad’ things, it’s because you believe you will benefit in the doing of them. Sometimes the benefit is experiencing something pleasant; other times it is avoiding something painful. Either way: selfish. All your morality, charity, and altruism are ultimately fear, vanity, and narcissism. If that thought doesn’t sit well with you, ask yourself why. But don’t feel too bad. Everyone else is just as selfish as you are.

  6. Jason,

    But, what do we mean by the ‘Self’ ? Do we wish to please our little ‘self’ or please the Universal Self? Some people identify with others so much they instinctively put their happiness above their own.

    Some Mystics have said that in meditation / prayer, they no longer identify with the ego. – They no longer identify with the little self. Therefore their motives no longer stem from purely selfish aims.

    I do believe it is possible for us to act without regard to the little self.

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  10. This is a very interesting post. Effective self critism is essensial for success in any endevor!

    -Jeff Milincheck

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  13. Nathan says:

    THIs self-critisms are VERY GOOD FOR ME
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  14. Ask says:

    Meditation is one of the easiest techniques you can learn to refuel your body, mind and spirit. While many of us have heard of the benefits of meditation, few of us actually want to spend the time it takes to learn how to meditate. We often cling to stress, fear and anxiety because we think we need these things in order to function in this fast-paced world.

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  17. Muruniidukid says:

    I am not sure, if self-critisicm can take increase your success and activities or make you feel low and unsecure instead. In today’s society I have seen that people, should rather think positively and motivate them all the time, than just critizise..


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