Judging Yourself Truthfully

One of the most important mental disciplines is to assess yourself honestly. We are so naturally susceptible to judging ourselves according to both the flattery of our admirers and of our own ego, on the one hand, and the disdain of our detractors and our own irrational fears, on the other. It takes a lot of work to look squarely at what we actually do and what it is actually worth. Our brains are structured in such a way that emotionally our fastest judgment is a simplistic positive or negative towards whatever we encounter, including ourselves. And because of this we can think only positively about ourselves one moment and only negatively the next.

So, I concentrate a lot on looking at myself as truthfully as I can manage and it is a daily uphill climb. And tuning out the misperceptions of others is a vital part of this process. I work very hard to not judge myself by widespread misconceptions of what value does or does not consist in.

And so I cannot express enough my agreement with, and admiration for, JT Eberhard’s frankness about his struggles with mental illness. He is able to insist on seeing the rational truth for what it is. It is not his fault that he has a sickness. It is not anything he should be ashamed of. And it is not anything he should hide from his enemies who would want to exploit it in order to undermine his credibility by trading on resilient myths about either the weakness or the culpability of the clinically depressed.

He will publish his experiences of temporarily losing his mind, even sometimes, intimately, right after they happened. He will publicly let others suffering like him know he is with them. He will model his successes in beating back the monsters and model resiliency after losses against them. He will vividly describe for the rest of us what it is like to live in a brain like his own. He will expose and articulately denounce the attempts to exploit his illness by religious people who misguidedly prey on those they perceive as vulnerable. He will refuse to confuse his sickness with weakness. He will actively counter such misconceptions step by step, putting himself and his own experience unashamedly on the line and daring those who want to assess him by false standards to expose their ignorance.

That is what living according to the truth is like and that is what fighting for the truth is like.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://wanderinweeta.blogspot.com Susannah

    This.

  • Bruce S. Springsteen

    This relates to my formulation of the three stages of skepticism, in order of difficulty:

    Skepticism of the First Kind: Recongizing the mistaken thinking others inflict on themselves and those around them.

    Sketicism of the Second Kind: Recognizing mistaken thinking others try to inflict on you.

    Skepticism of the Third Kind: Recognizing your own mistaken thinking, the ways you fool yourself.

    Too many stop the development of their critical skills at stage one or two and pat themselves on the back. The first and most important question I try to ask myself on any topic is “How might I be wrong?”

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Well put, Bruce.

      And unfortunately, those who do only 1 and 2 and never 3 become the worst sorts of people.


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