It’s an esteemable act to see yourself clearly.

It’s easy to be grateful when you receive compliments because they validate who we are and who we want to be. Positive feedback feels good. And some people believe we should only be given encouraging, appreciative feedback. However, while positive feedback is satisfying, it doesn’t always help us get to where we want to be. To succeed, we must be willing to hear what works and what could make us even more effective. For example, for a business to thrive and be financially stable, it must be open to the continual examination of its assets and liabilities. Often, in order for a business to see itself clearly, it needs to hire outside consultants. It is the same with us. The key is to select someone we trust to tell us the truth.

I, too, need to be prepared to hear the truth in my business. I’m usually very organized, especially for my presentations. I prepare carefully, and on the day of the event, I arrive early enough to set up without stress. But not long ago I blew it. And there was no excuse valid enough to justify it. While I was prepared for the event, I arrived at the meeting room only thirty minutes before the session. There was little time to double-check my equipment, and as luck would have it, I encountered a problem. Due to this last-minute mishap, I appeared disorganized and scattered. My evaluations reflected that sentiment.

There was a time when I would have been devastated to receive negative feedback on an evaluation. I would have been obsessed with the thought that I was perceived as less than perfect. I also would have anxiously tried to explain to my critic that normally I was extremely prepared, even if not today. But I’ve changed. Now I ask myself, “Is there truth in that criticism?” And in this particular case, there was.

I want to be the best I can be, which requires me to be open to the truth about what works and what doesn’t work in my life. Having the courage to identify areas in need of improvement is an esteemable act.

When we see ourselves clearly, we gain a greater sense of freedom because our character defects can, and do, control us. The more we deny their existence, the more control they have. Self-knowledge can also free us from secrets. We are as sick as our secrets, as the saying goes. The more secrets we keep, the more imprisoned we feel. The more imprisoned we feel, the more our character defects sur- face. Finally, self-knowledge enhances our ability to love others. The more willing we are to receive feedback, the more human we become. The more human we become, the more we can connect with the humanity of others.

There are many reasons for not wanting to know the truth. Perhaps we’re afraid of what we might find, or we’re afraid people will judge us. Maybe we have an investment in maintaining a certain image, or we’re afraid people won’t like us once they know who we are.

So how do we get past the obstacles? We take an action by following these steps:

  1. Do an inventory of your personal strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Ask for feedback from friends and co-workers.
  3. Identify conflicts with others and ask, “What part did I play?”
  4. When someone gives you feedback or criticism, ask yourself, “Could what they say be true?”
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