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.