Question: How can we know if we are being justifiably strict with ourselves or unnecessarily self-critical in a negative way?

Sri Chinmoy: If we sincerely aspire, inside our aspiration there will be justice-light. If you have burning aspiration, inside your aspiration there will be light, and according to that light you will judge yourself in a just manner. The light will illumine the confusion of the mind that is too self-critical or the mind that is saying that you can take a little more leisure or pleasure. The intensity of your aspiration is bound to tell you whether you are too self-critical, too lenient or too indulgent. Aspiration has light in it, so the light will show you whether this place is dark, or full of confusion, or full of mental hallucination. Let us say that one side is hallucination, and the other side is confusion. If you bring a flashlight, then if you are criticising yourself and you want to be more strict with yourself, the light will say, “No, it is not necessary.” Again, if you are being too self-indulgent, the light will say, “You have to be more strict.”

There are very few people who are self-critical. Sometimes pride enters into self-critical people. They say, “Oh, I am the only one who wants to be perfect.” Self-critical people think that they are the only ones who are longing for perfect perfection. They feel that only they will attain perfect perfection, and others will not. Of course, that idea may not come to their conscious mind.

By criticising myself, I cannot come to the light. By criticising myself, I only weaken myself, because I am deliberately giving up the positive aspect of life. If I feel that I am not perfect, or I have not come up to a certain point, then let me become perfect. If I feel that today I cannot give myself a hundred out of a hundred, if I can only give myself 60, still I must not criticise myself. I should only say, “Today I have given myself 60. Tomorrow let me see if I can give myself 70.” By criticising myself because I have got a mark of 60 today when I expected to get 80 or 90, I lose my mental poise, and then I ruin my possibilities.

When I throw the basketball, even if I get only 50 baskets out of 100, I do not get mad. I just cut jokes with my ‘best disciple’ and insult him in season and out of season! Today I said, “My best disciple brings me such bad luck! Every second he is with me, it is bad luck. When he throws me the ball, I will not get even 50 baskets out of 100.” But only once I said that. Then my joking was over. Once or twice after that my score was low, but God said to me, “Keep your mouth shut!” Immediately God wanted to make my best disciple happy, so I got 69 out of 100 baskets. But if I had maintained the idea that this poor fellow carries bad luck, I would not have got even 30 out of 100.

Here also, if you have given a low mark to yourself, and you feel that you have been impartial and given a just mark, do not criticise yourself. If you criticise yourself, if you say, “How can I get only 50?” you are only weakening yourself. Instead, you should say, “I have given myself a low mark. Now let me have more determination. Instead of criticising myself, let me take the positive point of view. Let me get a higher mark on the strength of my determination.”