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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Critical (And How to Strike a Balance)

The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Critical (And How to Strike a Balance)

It is easy to hear the term “self-critical” and be immediately put off. After all, it’s difficult to be our own critics. However, utilizing self-criticism means taking a more self-aware path to ensure that you aren’t overlooking any possible areas of self-improvement.

Self-criticism affects your self-esteem and can be a useful tool to identify patterns of weakness that you can look to eradicate by adapting your behavior.

Self-Criticism Vs Self-Deprecation

In exploring the idea of self-criticism, one has to first consider what it means for the individual. It’s important to remember that there is a significant difference between being self-critical and being self-deprecating.

Self-deprecation is the act of putting oneself down, sometimes in an attempt to be humorous, but oftentimes out of a place of doubt and insecurity[1].

Self-deprecation erodes one’s confidence. It isn’t something to use lightly, as your own self-talk will play a part in defining your existence and how you are perceived, and, more importantly, in how you perceive yourself.

At the same time, you can’t take yourself so seriously that you are unable to make light of your mistakes as you pursue self-improvement. There is, of course, a balance to be struck, and both self-criticism and self-deprecation can be utilized in moderation.

Learning the difference between the two is the key to pursuing a productive life that will allow your successes to compound and your failures to be reduced. While self-deprecation can highlight flaws in your approach to life, self-criticism is more concerned with addressing those flaws and then acting to correct them.

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Self-Criticism: A Roadmap for Positive Change

Self-evaluation as a tool can open your eyes to the problematic behaviors that are derailing your goals. By identifying those behaviors, you can identify the steps to become the best version of yourself.

“Your thoughts affect how you feel and how you behave. The way you think has the power to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” -Amy Morin[2]

This idea underlines the importance of not allowing self-criticism to blur into the realm of self-deprecating behavior. That will only work against you as you are attempting to constructively analyze your own behavior.

Auditing is necessary and good. Look at industries across the board and you will find that the most successful companies, people, and products have worked hard to refine their final output. Auditing your life, schedule, clients, contacts, and more will help you to identify the good from the bad.

If you don’t look back on what you’ve done and allow yourself to be self-critical of the areas that created more problems and less results, how will you learn how to avoid those missteps in your future endeavors?

Auditing with critical thoughts will allow you to build your own map to success by targeting behaviors that are ineffective in your pursuit of goals, and it will help you realize the changes that need to take place in order to correct for those inefficiencies.

The Pros of Being Self-Critical

Self-Criticism Opens Your Eyes to Areas of Improvement

In life, you ought to be your biggest fan and instill the confidence in yourself to show the world that you are worthy of the life that you’ve achieved up until now.

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At the same time, however, you need to have the self-awareness to understand that you can feel like a million bucks while still having room for improvement. Learn to be self-critical enough to increase your overall success in the pursuit of your goals.

You can check out this TED Talk with Tasha Eurich to learn more on how to improve your self-awareness:

We all need to look in the mirror at times and work to identify the deficiencies in our own behavior in order to find room for improvement. So many people live their lives in a manner that allows no room for self-reflection and thus are missing out on key opportunities.

For example, many people complain about not having the money to save for retirement, but instead of working to identify a solution, they assume that it cannot be fixed. Some of those individuals might find that if they challenge themselves and open themselves up to criticism, they may find the source of their problem.

Perhaps they don’t have a proper budget in place and are spending more money than they bring in on a week-to-week basis. Being self-critical would help them realize this.

I’d argue that if we all spent more energy evaluating our place in life, how we got there, and where we want to go, it would clear up what is missing from the equation.

Self-Criticism Allows You to Realize Your Potential

By working to analyze your own behaviors and identify areas that need to be improved upon, you will be able to better strive to reach your full potential in life and unlock success.

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Being self-critical will help you to go from where you are now to where you want to be, and it will increase your self-awareness. There are so many positives to be gained by adopting a self-critical attitude.

Read more about self-improvement: 42 Practical Ways to Improve Yourself

The Cons of Being Self-Critical

Self-Criticism Can Overemphasize Negatives

The problems that could arise if one is overly self-critical are not always clear, but there are a few issues that can pop up if you start being too hard on yourself.

If you are self-critical too often and don’t allow space in your own audit of yourself for praise, celebration, and reassurance in your victories, then you may be on a path of negative self-talk and perhaps even depression.

If you are constantly looking for what is wrong with your actions or pursuits while failing to see what you are doing right, then you aren’t utilizing self-criticism properly. While the line is thin, there is definitely a difference between appropriate, foundation-building self-criticism, and over-zealous, confidence-eroding self-deprecation.

Self-Criticism Can Lead to Negative Distortions of Yourself

One struggle I often see in individuals is with their own perception of self. If you have been raised to believe that you are a failure, for example, then you may not have a healthy expectation of yourself.

By being overly self-critical, you might be distorting your own self-image. The key here lies in utilizing the device of self-criticism correctly, which many people often do not do.

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If utilized properly, self-criticism can be a fantastic tool, but if used incorrectly, it can have devastating effects on your own self-worth and confidence.

Final Thoughts

When used properly, self-criticism can be a tool for success.

We must work hard to ensure that we are in fact exercising a constructive analysis of our own behavior and not falling into self-deprecation.

Unfortunately, it seems as though many view the idea of being self-critical with a negative connotation. However, it can be an extremely positive and fruitful exercise if pursued with the right mindset.

It helps tremendously when you have a community of friends and family who also help to uplift you and encourage you as you are pursuing your dreams in life.

In evaluating your own situation and in attempting to constructively self-criticize, you should also take a look at the people you surround yourself with to try and better understand if those individuals are helping you in your aspirations or if they are holding you back as you work to better yourself.

“We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn[3]

If you work to adopt a healthy version of self-criticism and avoid allowing it to delve into self-deprecation or self-doubt, then it will serve you well as a tool to lend support to your goals and aspirations.

More Tips About Building Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Elijah O’Donnell via unsplash.com

Reference

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Colton Black

Motivational Coach, Self-Help Blogger, Recording Engineer, Professional Dad

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning

What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning

“What is the meaning of life?” is one of the most fundamental and ultimate questions that has captivated the greatest minds of humankind for centuries. To live with meaning seems to be the ultimate goal.

The answers, as varied as they come, go back to the very, very beginning of things—to our existence, to the reasons why humans were “created,” to our quest for self-improvement, and, of course, to religion.

There is hardly a shortage of interpretations of what the “good life” is about, what makes us happy and fulfilled, and what we can do to get to this coveted state.

If you talk to a scientist—say, a physicist and biologist—about the purpose of our being, they will likely tell you the fascinating story of the Big Bang, the origins of the universe’s existence, and the evolution of the species to where we are today.

But evolution is not what really drives us and makes us want to keep living and persisting through life’s adversities, is it? It is a whole lot more than this. It is what makes us human—our minds, our sense of self-awareness, our ambitions, dreams and goals.

So, when you ruminate on your reasons for being, you should actually think along the lines of your values, progress, community, family, and, yes—reproduction.

Historical Perspectives on Living With Meaning

Before we unpack these elements of meaning, let’s take a step back and see what wise men through history believed a life of purpose to be.

The Greeks

The ancient Greeks believed in the concept of eudaimonia, which translates as “happiness” or “welfare.” All the great Greek philosophers—Socrates, Plato, Aristotle—believed that the good life means to live in a state of eudaimonia.

The interpretations of what it means vary. Some used to think that purpose can be found in acquiring virtues (as self-control, courage, wisdom).[1]

Aristotle, for instance, believed that eudaimonia required not only a good character, but taking actions and achieving excellence. Epicurus—another prominent Greek—understood the good life as one of pleasure and freedom from pain and suffering.

Cynicism

The famous Greek school of thought believed that the meaning of life is living a life of Virtue that agrees with Nature. The happy life is the simple one, they taught—free from possessions, rejecting the desires for wealth, possessions, fame, or sex. Rather, people should undergo rigorous training and live in way that is most natural to them.[2]

Stoicism

The Stoic school of thought, founded by Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C., considered the good life to be “living in agreement with nature.” Stoicism advocates doing good while staying calm, focusing on what’s important and under our control, not wasting thoughts on what we can’t change.

Theism

Theists believed in the existence of a deity, a God, who created the universe. Our life’s purpose, then, is aligned with God’s purpose in creating the universe, and it is God that gives our lives meaning, purpose, and values. This relates to modern day religious studies and how and why we search for meaning beyond what is readily seen or understood.

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Existentialism

According to this 20th century philosophy, supported by famous minds such as Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Friedrich Nietzsche, all human beings have free will. It’s believed that each person gives meaning to their own life, not the society or religion. Therefore, everyone’s purpose is unique and subjective to their circumstances and understanding.[3]

Simply put, your life’s meaning is what you decide it to be.

What Creates Meaning for Your Life?

Based on the above brief walk through history, it seems that the interpretation of what infuses our existence with meaning and purpose somewhat varies depending on the historical period and the school of thought.

But undeniably, there are still some commonalities and recurring ideas. Our reason for being emerges as something greater than ourselves—such as serving God’s will or contributing to society. At the same time, it’s all nuanced because it’s refracted through our individual prisms.

Still, the things that may be good candidates for meaning-creators in our lives can be separated in few main categories:

Social

As human beings are social creatures, we have an innate need to connect to others, to be part of a group, to sense that we belong, and that we have someone who cares about us.

According to the longest study on happiness and life satisfaction[4],which spanned over 75 years, the good life lies in the quality of our relationships. “Time with others,” Prof. Waldinger, who led the research tells us, “protects us from the bruises of life’s ups and downs.”

But it’s not only our friendships that make life worth living. It’s our families, children, and siblings. It’s all the people who we feel love and affection for and who, in turn, give us theirs.

Achievement

Although tying our worth solely to the outcome of our endeavors can create an unstable sense of self-esteem, we still want the net of our successes to outnumber that of our failings. We want to sense that we are moving forward, progressing, and realizing our goals.

Studies have found that achievements bring greater meaning to our everyday lives.[5]

And it’s not the lure of the limelight or the desire for kudos that will make our existence worthwhile. It’s the recognition of our efforts, the appreciation, the acknowledgement that counts. In other words, we want our actions to matter and make a difference.

You can learn more about what personal success looks like in this video from The Lifehack Show:

Competence, Knowledge and Expertise

These purpose-drivers are closely linked to the concept of achievement.

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Konrad Lorenz[6], the Austrian Nobel Prize winner, best known for his principle of attachment, once said:

“Life itself is a process of acquiring knowledge.”

Becoming the best at what we do is a large part of the self-improvement movement today. It’s perhaps most famously expressed in the Japanese notions of kaizen and shokunin. Kaizen is the process of continuous improvement—through learning and gaining expertise, to better ourselves as a way of life.

Shokunin means craftsman. And it’s about taking pride in what we do and in ourselves. It’s the drive to become better—personally and professionally.

How to Craft Your Own Purpose in Life

In reality, though, there are many more shades and understandings of a life well-spent than the three categories listed above.

Here are some further ideas on where to look for your own sense of purpose and fulfillment.

1. Be Aware of What Makes You Happy

This includes your passions, the desire for connecting to others, for reading, writing, travelling, staying in shape. These activities that you enjoy, although they may not give you The One Meaning of your life, still carry a great potential to make you fulfilled and happy.

They are spurs of joy. You can call them mini-meanings, which, over time, may contribute to your bigger goals and purpose.

But today, they will still offer you something to look forward to, a reason to wake up in the morning.

2. Reproduction

Evolutionary biology provides us with the very primal reason behind our existence as humans—to ensure that human life continues into the foreseeable future

. That is, meaning comes down to survival and continuance of our kin.

In this vein, having children and family is often at or near the top spot when people talk about what makes life worth living. This is also liked to our basic need to belong and to have someone to share our successes with.

3. Desire to Leave a Mark in the World

With the realization of the transience of our lives comes a natural desire to create something of value to leave to the world.

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We all have the capacity to influence others’ lives. You can begin with one small thing—whatever it is that matters to you, and build on it.

For instance, if you like animals, you can adopt a puppy—give it a better life. You can also volunteer at your local food shelter, or start separating your garbage to help the planet.

It is as Mother Teresa once said:

“We can do no great things, but small things with great love.”

A meaningful life is about caring.

How to Lead a Meaningful Life

1. Be Compassionate and Care About Yourself

According to research by the British National Health Service in 2014, there are five steps we can take to lead more meaningful lives:[7]

  • Connect with community and family
  • Physical exercise
  • Lifelong learning
  • Giving to others
  • Mindfulness of the world around you.

What these recommendations imply is that what brings sunshine into our lives is finding the ways to care about ourselves and to do what makes us feel good.

There is barely a need to convince you of the benefits of giving and meditation—these are well established—to both our physical and mental health.

Being kind, compassionate, and helping others are, indeed, the winning behaviors to increased longevity and decreased stressed and depression so that we can also experience life in all its colorfulness.

2. Make Yourself Useful

According to Darius Foroux, a famous entrepreneur, author, and influencer, the meaning of life is not to seek happiness, but to make ourselves useful[8].

“It comes down to this—what are you DOING that’s making a difference?”

Rather than seeking happiness and meaning through the material things, we must engage in acts of usefulness—to help and make others happy, to create something.

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Create meaning in life by making yourself useful to your community

    “The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there’s zero evidence that I ever existed.”

    3. Connect With the World

    Another influencer, Alain de Botton, the founder of the famous blog The School of Life, believes that the meaning of life comes down to three activities:[9]

    • Communication
    • Understanding
    • Service

    “Some of our most meaningful moments are to do with instances of connection,” he writes, be it to a person, song, or a book, for instance. It takes us out of our isolation. Understanding is our ability to make sense of the world, and service is to work on improving others’ lives.

    4. Use the PURE Model

    Finally, Peter Wong—a Canadian existential psychologist, has proposed a model known as PURE for individuals to discover meaning in their lives:[10]

    • P: Purpose and having worthy goals.
    • U: Understating—of who we are and of the world around us.
    • R: We have sole responsibility to choose the life we want and to own our actions and their consequences.
    • E: Evaluation, to ensure we are on track with our goals.

    There are many avenues you can explore that will bring you a sense of purpose. It’s true that you may sometimes feel that your actions are just a drop in the ocean, that you are too small to make a difference.

    But it’s not true.

    Meaning is about bringing out the best in you, about doing good by yourself and others. If we all commit to the goal of improving ourselves and the world we live in—as cliché as it sounds—the single drop can grow to become a wave.

    Summing It All Up

    The quest for meaning in our lives is perhaps the most important driver behind everything that we do. It’s the reason behind all reasons. And there’s no simple answer to the question.

    Some of the most prominent ways to build your purpose is by creating your own tribe; by striving to become a better version of yourself; by helping and serving others, and by setting goals and striving to achieve them.

    What makes it challenging to put our finger on what purpose means exactly is that it’s a rather vast concept. It can be interpreted as many things by each one of us.

    Perhaps, in the end, there is no one and only meaning in life. Perhaps a better way to view our purpose and existence is more as a mosaic. Each experience, each facet in our lives—family, friends, achievements, recognition—constitutes a piece. You have to look at it in its totality to be able to say if you are happy with the picture you yourself have painted.

    Or, perhaps, it is as Viktor Frankl said:

    “The meaning of life is to give life meaning.”

    And each of us has the freedom to decide on what when and how life is meaningful.

    More Inspiration About the Meaning of Life

    Featured photo credit: Donald Giannatti via unsplash.com

    Reference

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