As a physician, I totally believe in prevention. Breast cancer treated at stage 1 has almost no adverse effect on survival, while 80% of patients diagnosed at stage 4 do not make it past five years. Diagnosing and curing cancer early in its course prevents children from losing their mom or dad, protects a loving son or daughter, prevents toxic side effects of treatment, and so much more.
Most patients are grateful when a physician detects their cancer early. I, too, will be, if that is my experience.
Not so for my mistakes. I feel angry when I am told I am wrong — about a thought, word or action. I fiercely defend my version of the truth. When someone rejects my truth, I feel that person is rejecting my entire being. I seldom recall being genuinely grateful to anyone who helped me by showing me how I was incorrect.
There are many reasons. Perhaps I can’t take rejection, have an inflated or insecure sense of self, am uncomfortable accepting I could be wrong, get insulted easily, feel like I am being intentionally demoralized when shown a different viewpoint. Barring a few exceptions, none of this is helpful.
It might work better to consider my mistakes as early cancer. Someone helping correct my errors — particularly a loved one, friend or colleague who cares about me — is like a doctor detecting early cancer. If I can be truly grateful to the doctor who saved my life by diagnosing my cancer early, why not be equally thankful to the person who helped remove the potential cancers lodged in my mind?
Humility will help me develop such a mature attitude.
Cultivating humility can teach me the path to learning from feedback. Humility doesn’t mean I lower myself compared to others. True humility helps me nurture healthy self-worth, reminds me we are all equally worthy, helps me avoid comparing myself to or judging others, and guides me to be open and willing to learn.
I wish myself the gift of humility so instead of snapping, I can bend in the storm, and thus save much grief for myself and, sometimes, many.
Here is my wish for you: May you be surrounded by caring people who can critique you; may you be humble and graceful in receiving critique.
Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email email@example.com.