the compassionate critic

There’s this notion of an intolerant and scathing inner critic that we’re taught to silence for our own well-being.

In general, I agree — but I also wonder, is there not a more compassionate version of this critic that we can invoke for our benefit?

Is there not a version of our inner critic that can say (to oneself), “Hey, you made a mistake — you’re human, it’s OK”, and in the next moment say with firm resolve, “but now let’s move forward and figure out how to get this thing done.”

It’s not acknowledging setbacks that hinders progress; it’s ruminating and becoming complacent with them.

The critic that can’t stop lamenting the past — we probably would benefit from silencing that one. But the critic that wholeheartedly accepts you and your circumstances, eagerly seeks to learn from past mistakes, and rejects using setbacks as an excuse to give up? That one is probably worth keeping around (and embracing).

In the movie Hustle, Stanley Sugerman — a recruiter for the Philadelphia 76ers played by Adam Sandler — shouts out to a promising basketball player that he’s coaching, Bo Cruz, in the middle of a frustrating practice: “it’s you against you!”

I love that.

We owe it to ourselves to get out of our own way.



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William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (