Confident, yet critical?

Is it possible to be critical of one’s self and still be confident? The short answer is ‘yes.’

The subject came up at lunch with a friend. I mentioned that someone expressed amazement at my ability to examine my own behaviors critically. My friend said “What I find more amazing is that you can do that without taking a hit to your confidence.”

It’s insights like these that get me wondering “How did I get here?” I can assure you I wasn’t always this way.


As I pondered these insights I came to realize that thinking critically about our own behaviors, while not necessarily common, is essential to personal growth. It comes from a desire to grow personally and professionally.

The question is “How do we think critically about ourselves while maintaining…or better yet, enhancing…our confidence?”

Understanding learning

The first step is to understand that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. You don’t have to trust me on that. You know it’s true from your own experiences.

If mistakes are essential for learning and progress, then we should be examining our behaviors for better ways to do things. Of course critical thinking can help us learn from our successes as well.

When examining a situation you faced, how you dealt with it and the results you got, first think about what went well. Make note of what you said or did that helped move you forward to a positive result. Doing so will keep these behaviors front of mind for use in other challenging situations.

The reason for making this the first step is that it’s easier to acknowledge the mistakes we make after we’re aware of our success. The second step is to examine those instances in which you created resistance for your idea, lost the other person’s interest, or generated an unexpected, undesirable result.

Explore why your behavior triggered the result it did, what you could have done differently, what you can do to produce a more favorable result. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that even when I botch an interaction with another person, I can go back, reopen the issue and produce a favorable result for both of us. Another way to look at that is “The door may close, but it’s never locked.”

The third step is to avoid converting learning into judgment. I do NOT view myself as a bad person because I made a mistake. Nor do I judge myself stupid, lazy, uncaring, or a lousy human being because I made a mistake.

Look at it this way “When others make mistakes in your presence, even mistakes that initially  impact you negatively, do you judge them with these negative terms? Or are you more likely to think “We all make mistakes.”? If you’re more inclined to the latter, then why are your more harsh in your judgment of yourself than you are of others?

Don’t judge yourself. Instead view mistakes as an essential element of learning and growth, take pride in what you learned because it indicates growth. As a result, confidence in your abilities grow rather than diminish.

So ‘yes’ thinking critically about our own behaviors can boost our confidence in our ability to deal with anything that comes our way. Yes, we will make mistakes. It’s inevitable, but that should never translate into a hit to our confidence.

For you

Set aside 15 minutes everyday to examine what worked well that day and what didn’t. Make note of the things that went well so that you can employ these behaviors again and again. For those that didn’t go well explore alternatives to the way you handled the situation. As you discover them, congratulate yourself on the learning that occurred…and never again will critical thinking diminish your confidence.

For our kids

Teach your kids these simple steps, then reinforce your message by living the message. Kids emulate the behaviors of the adults in their lives…especially when they work.

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