A lot of people have a passionate hatred for hypocrites. How do I know? I used to be one. Growing up, I’d constantly criticize other people for the insecurities I saw in myself. I’d also make fun of people for doing things that I did when nobody was looking.
I’m not proud of the person I used to be. But reflecting on my past self, my hypocritical actions weren’t rooted in bad intentions. In fact, it was quite the opposite. As Jeremy E. Sherman Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today:
“Hypocrisy doesn’t result from having double standards but pretending you have one standard when no one does. The problem with trying to live by absolute moral principles runs deeper than that. The more positive you are about one thing, the less positive you are about its opposite. If you really love justice, you really hate injustice. If you judge judgment to be bad, you’re judging. If you’re kind to one person, you’re unkind to others since kindness takes effort — you can’t be kind to everyone all at once.”
You see, I often climbed the moral high ground like a rock climber on Everest with no experience. I tried to get as high as possible by broadcasting my virtuous principles to everyone I met. But at one point or another, I’d always end up losing my footing and falling flat on my face.
I was frequently labeled as a hypocrite. People didn’t want to spend time with me. To be completely honest with you, it took me several months to realize the negative impact my actions were having on my social life. But sure enough, that eventual realization forced me to look in the mirror and change for the better.
On Self Reflection
Why am I telling you all of this? Hypocrisy is something that humanity has dealt with for millennia. Whether it be someone in the White House or your best friend, we’ve all experienced the frustration of dealing with a massive hypocrite. It’s annoying.
Thankfully, there’s a solution. Or at the very least, a way to recognize hypocrisy before it damages your social life. It’s called self-reflection. Like the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius once said:
“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”
Consider giving it a go. Whenever you find yourself getting annoyed at someone (either through their actions or words), take a moment to reflect on your own hypocrisy and question if you’ve done the same thing. Chances are, the answer is yes.
Likewise, if you ever find yourself being a hypocrite, consider what actions you can take in the present moment to become less hypocritical. For example, you could make a vow to practice what you preach and follow through on any promises that you make.
You’re not perfect. And neither are they. But that’s okay. Because when you commit to becoming a little less hypocritical each day, you’ll inevitably find yourself making a lot of progress over time.
I like to think of self-improvement like a tree. Your past experiences are the seeds of future growth. And as you go through life, reflecting on each action, you grow a little bit taller towards the sky each day.
Sure, it’ll take a long time to achieve your full potential. Meaningful change rarely happens overnight. But if you continually put one foot in front of the other, you’ll reach your desired destination.
We’re All Flawed, and That’s Okay
Today, I recognize that, like everyone, I have flaws and things about myself that I want to change. But that’s okay. It’s normal. I know that criticizing other people for the insecurities I see in myself won’t make me feel any better. So I don’t.
Instead, I do the opposite. Every morning, I write down my flaws. For example, I know that I need to improve my posture and workout a lot more consistently. Then, I work on overcoming my insecurities to improve my self-esteem and overall wellbeing. As a result of practicing the art of self-reflection each day, my life is so much better now. As Amanda Prahl writes in Thrive Global:
“Self-reflection makes you more self-aware by helping you understand yourself. It will help you understand why you act the way you do, why you have the thoughts you have, and why you respond to people as you do. You will then identify the areas you are struggling with and lay down procedures to deal with them. When you work on these areas, you will be more alert and able to see opportunities and utilize them. You will also avoid those things that are not helping you to grow.”
Take a look at yourself before you criticize other people. Show a little empathy by understanding why people think and act a certain way. The effect it could have on your life is genuinely profound.
I’m going to leave you with a beautiful quote from Dale Carnegie, who perfectly sums up what I’m saying:
“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn — and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
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