Facing and Overcoming Self-Doubt and Internal Criticism

As the spiritual seeker develops the internal witness awareness, viewing the actions and reactions of the various parts of the being, it is frequently noted that the closeness of the view leads the aspirant to become overly critical of one’s own flaws, weaknesses, habits etc. This same type of perspective leads to the proverb in the outer life that ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the street’. Distance provides more perspective and one does not fixate so intensely on the flaws.

Development of the witness consciousness does not imply, in and of itself, that the ego-standpoint has been reduced or minimized. As long as the standpoint remains fixed within the ego-consciousness, there can arise either a sense of puffed-up importance, or the sense of highly over-accentuated weakness or failure. When the consciousness shifts to the Divine standpoint, the evaluation of actions can take on a more balanced sense of perspective and there can be a reduction in the amount of self-doubt or inflated sense of importance that the ego brings to the review.

The more one concentrates on any specific movement, thought or action, the more power it tends to have over us, so the extreme focus on what are, after all, tiny details in a large process of transformation over time, simply increases the time needed and the strength of the opposition to be overcome eventually.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The difficulty you find results very much from your always worrying with your mind about things, thinking ‘This is wrong, that is wrong in me or my work’ and, as a result, ‘I am incompetent, I am bad, nothing can be done with me.’ Your embroidery work, your lampshades, etc. have always been very good, and yet you are always thinking, ‘this is bad work, that is wrong’ and by doing so, confuse yourself and get into a muddle. Naturally, you make a mistake now and then, but more when you worry like that than when you do things simply and confidently. “

“It is better whether with work or with sadhana to go on quietly, allowing the Force to act and doing your best to let it work rightly, but without this self-tormenting and constant restless questioning at every point. Whatever defects there are would go much sooner, if you did not harp on them too much; for by dwelling on them so much you lose confidence in yourself and in your power of openness to the Force — which is there all the same — and put unnecessary difficulties in the way of its working.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Work, Meditation and Love and Devotion, Work pp. 129-145

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