On becoming your own harshest critic.
Criticism seems to be taboo these days. We blindly praise everything fearing that honest feedback might offend someone or make them feel bad, but a constant stream of praise and support can make us complacent.
I hope these thoughts on the value of self-criticism help you ask more of yourself and fuel your ability to become a bit better each day.
Self-criticism is the gateway to high performance.
- Andrew Huberman
We all have an innate desire to improve. We're always adjusting to a new baseline and looking to see how we can be better. But to continually improve, we require a steady supply of constructive and critical feedback.
We take action, receive feedback, and adjust our actions accordingly. Through each iteration, we become a bit better over time.
Feedback is the key step in this process. If it’s critical, it stings a little, but we can identify areas of improvement and take action to improve. If it’s positive, it feels great, but it doesn't provide the information needed to make improvements.
When we provide feedback to others, it's a lot easier to say how great someone's work is than it is to provide them with honest feedback. It feels great to be a supportive friend and praise the people you care about even if their work isn't perfect. Telling someone, especially a friend or family member, their work could use improvement is very uncomfortable, so most people stick to the feel-good praise.
This trend makes it very difficult to find constructive feedback.
In the absence of constructive feedback from external sources, we have to rely on internal feedback to move us forward. If we're serious about continuously improving, we need to become our own harshest critics.
If we're highly critical of ourselves, we'll develop higher standards for our work. If our standards are always slightly higher than our current results, it will drive us to continually improve. The inverse is also true if our results are constantly exceeding our standards.
Even if our results are the same, the feedback we receive decides if we continue to improve, or stagnate and decline.
That said, too much self-criticism leads us to anxiety and hopelessness. Like anything, we will find the best results in the middle ground. Developing a practice of gratitude can help us appreciate what we have and feel proud of what we’ve achieved while still striving to do more.
Regardless of the pursuit, a balanced habit of self-criticism is the driving force in our journeys to become a bit better each day.
When I criticize myself, do I take action to improve, or I am just complaining?
How can I remain self-critical without feeling hopeless?
Am I providing the people I care about with honest feedback?
My recent blog post on leveraging self-criticism to fuel personal growth.
A wide-ranging conversation with neuroscientist Andrew Huberman.
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.