Friends & Friction: Stop being your own worst critic

The first step to success is to stop being your own worst critic. Self-judgement is nothing but self-mutilation of the soul. If you criticise yourself, you are cutting off the “limbs” your inner self needs to climb to the next level.

I don’t believe the saying, “You are what you eat.” What happens to people who eat bacon? On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to prove that you are what you speak. If you persist in telling yourself you are useless at something, sooner or later you will be useless at it.

That is because words are self-fulfilling prophecies, and since destroying is easier than building, most people are prone to destroying themselves rather than building themselves up.

Perfection is the highest goal. We’ve been misled into trying “to get it right the first time”. Such language is true only in ivory towers and boardrooms, but where fingers meet grime, people do make mistakes.

Don’t get it twisted, I am not selling you the motivational charlatan’s story of “you can do anything”. Know your limitations then embrace them because absence of limitation is the enemy of greatness.

There is no point in trying to be a skydiver if you have poor vision – if you lose your glasses, you might land on a sharp pole. There is no greatness in that.

Also, it is not like your inabilities are kept in a vault, and once you’ve found the key, you will see them all at once. You will discover them as you grow.

So the next time you want to criticise yourself for what appears to be a silly mistake, think of a rose – it grows at its own pace and works with the seasons, never against them. It stops growing in autumn, lies dormant in winter, blooms in spring and thrives in summer. It doesn’t try to change itself. No one criticises the rose for its life cycle and development. So why criticise yourself for going through a dry patch?

If things go wrong and you get the urge to say a four-letter word, remember that “love” is also a four-letter word. You’d be better off choosing that sentiment.

A negative sentiment makes your muscles tighter, putting you in a defensive position where you are ready to pounce.

Equally harmful is the urge to always receive applause – to praise yourself and expect others to praise you. It raises undue expectations, and when the compliment is missing, it is misconstrued as silent criticism.

This is what ego is about – that internal beast that must be fed at all costs. An ego is a manifestation of a gross lack of self-confidence; the flimsy fabric that cloaks the cowardice of bullies.

True success lies in beating the most difficult odds. It is in the realisation that your competitor is not the enemy, but a representative of the obstacles you must overcome to be the best business manager or entrepreneur.

Casting an evil spell or wishing someone ill does not lift your game, it only serves to lower your bar.

Success is a mind game, and a strong mind does not derail itself with self-praise or criticism. Instead, it works like a mirror that reflects the state of the body without passing any judgement, for only you know whether you’ve failed or succeeded.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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