Self Criticism

Dad was a brilliant academic.

He topped his class all through medical school. And was later widely revered as an excellent teacher.

And yet… he didn’t publish a single paper in any medical journal!

Each time he set out to work on one with great enthusiasm. But it quickly petered out as he found flaws in a design, or limitations in his data.

Often, before even reaching the stage of a draft manuscript, he’d abandon it.

Once I recall helping him out. When he rejected my seventh revision of a paper, I lost my temper and cried:

“Why don’t you just let the Editor do his job?”

But no.

Dad was his own editor – and critic.


I sent in my first international paper while still a postgraduate trainee in General Surgery.

To my shocked surprise, it was accepted for publication – in the British journal ‘Tropical Doctor‘.

I sent one of the Author’s Proof copies to Dad… by courier.

And still have the 100 rupee note he sent me back, with a note of congratulations on my ‘success’!

He felt really proud – at my becoming an author.

I felt prouder – at silencing my inner critic.


My daughter got her first paper published while still an undergrad student.

I sometimes wonder if she ever even listens to her critics!



At the heart of self-criticism is the value we place on other people’s opinions.

Our audience.

In our minds, we magnify both their size – and interest.

Here’s a revelation…

The most successful creatives – writer, singer, painter or any other artist – will be seen, heard or felt by no more than one- or two-percent of the world.

And that’s for the most successful bestsellers.

For the rest, this fraction is tinier.

Much tinier!

Almost… non-existent.

Now, of that small sliver, 99% will only be ‘casual consumers‘.

They may invest a passing moment into enjoying your work – before moving on to whatever matters more to them.

So in the ‘best case’, you’ll only have 1% of 1% of your potential audience as ‘serious’ reviewers of your work or art.

Should you obsess over that lot?

Let it hold you back from sharing your gift and talent with the rest of the world?

Think about it.



Critics are a necessary evil.

But no matter how sharp, incisive or informed their criticism, it’s a fact that no critic ever made the world a better place!

Even an artist with the worst talent will take a field further ahead than the most brilliant critic.

In other words, a creative’s mantra should always be:

Ignore Critics.

And that includes the worst critic of them all…

The one that has a permanent residence – right between your ears!

Yes, YOU.

You are often your worst critic.

And so you must learn to tune out that little but loud voice – if you ever plan to live to your fullest potential.

Think about that, too.



There’s another angle to self-criticism.

It goes hand in hand with that ‘Destroyer of Dreams‘.

It’s called…


The desire or attitude to have everything be the ‘best possible… ever’.

Some things call for perfectionism. Like my specialty of pediatric heart surgery. Where being perfect can literally save little lives.

But most things don’t need you to be perfect.

Yet you tend to believe so.

In a hopeless quest to reach perfection, you sacrifice or abandon what’s good enough to wow the world!

And that’s a shame.

What’s the solution?


An iterative process is one that incrementally improves. In little steps. One after another.

Gradually becoming better. Richer. Grander.

And maybe, eventually, it approaches perfection.

Meanwhile, it impacts people.

Warms hearts. Or breaks them.

Eases pain. Or evokes it.

Soothes nerves. Or agitates them.

Sparks love. Or kills it.

Kindles thought.

Touches lives.

Changes them.


Art in any form is interactive. And both art and artist are shaped by society.

Reactions are reflected in edits or future adjustments.

Observations fuel minor tweaks or radical revamps.

And as an artist views the effect her art has on her universe, she evolves.

And iterates.

That’s why barely any art stays static and constant.

It morphs and grows. Alters and merges. Imbibes and shape-shifts.

Each change varies its impact.

Extends its reach.

Touches another slice of a potential audience.

And that’s what you’re depriving the world of… by refusing to silence your inner critic…

By not iterating but striving straight out for perfection…

By hiding your light under a bushel.

Marianne Williamson’s lovely poem ‘Our Deepest Fear‘ has more than a grain of truth:

“It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be?

Be brilliant.

Be gorgeous.

Be talented.

Be fabulous.

Be yourself.


Right now.