Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Personal Self-appraisal.

By Titu22
Titu Barua
The human being as a personality is a self-appraising being. Without this ability it would be very difficult or even impossible for anyone to assert his identity in life. A true self-appraisal presumes an adequate degree of self-consciousness and knowledge of one's intellectual, emotional and volitional powers, the features of one's character and in general everything that goes to make up one's mental and spiritual world, and also one's physical abilities. Life makes extremely varied demands upon us. We are constantly obliged to relate these demands to our capabilities so that our obligations do not exceed our powers. Otherwise there are bound to be internal conflicts and breakdowns, disorders of our neuro-psychological organization, which may lead to various kinds of illness. An adequate self-appraisal implies the ability to set oneself realizable goals, to rationally control the flow of one's thoughts, to guide their general direction and choose their final destination, to constantly check the suppositions one is making and to weigh up pros and cons, to reject unjustified variants and hypotheses, in other words, to be self-critical. In performing the very important function of organizing effective control of one's behaviour, self-appraisal is a necessary precondition for measuring the level of one's expectations, i.e., the tasks that a person sets himself and considers himself capable of accomplishing. A true self-appraisal enables us to abandon any undertaking we may have begun if we realize that it cannot yield good results, and particularly if we see that it is a wrong or harmful course.
Self-appraisal helps to establish a person's dignity and gives him moral satisfaction. A correct appraisal leads to inner harmony, ensuring a reasonable self-confidence, an incorrect one, to constant conflict. The ability to see oneself as one really is is the highest degree of self-appraisal and is to be found only in wisdom. As the experience of history has shown, even some very intelligent people, not to mention mediocrities, suffer from conceit, while others, on the contrary, fall into a state of self-depreciation and acquire an inferiority complex.
To make a true appraisal of oneself, a person needs to take into consideration all his personal experience, although sometimes even this is not enough. One must test and check on many levels: one's own experience in personal life, the overall experience of humanity, public opinion, particularly the opinion of those who are something, and also the power of one's own reason. The ability to assess one's own value springs initially not from the depths of the personality itself but from outside. A person begins to sum himself up more or less correctly after he has learned to adjust to other people and take in their assessments of himself. A child acquires a notion of himself on the basis of the assessment made by adults and by children of his own age. Subsequently a great deal depends on teachers, who check both the pupil's intellectual development and behaviour, pronouncing their judgment both in words and in marks. Here one has an intensive daily correlation of oneself with the behaviour, words and actions of others, particularly one's classmates. The growing child comes to know himself more and more fully and accurately and to judge himself by receiving encouragement or criticism that corrects his own self-appraisal. In short, the result is that we find ourselves in others and begin to penetrate more and more deeply into our own world. We thus look at ourselves primarily through the eyes of society, the eyes of its whole history, and then through the eyes of the future, which emerges as the supreme judge of our present, of our thoughts, actions and our own self-appraisal. At first the individual assesses himself through others, and later he himself becomes a yardstick for assessing others. In this complex interaction of personal relationships one observes a general principle: self-appraisal and self-testing of the personality is mediated, indirect social appraisal and testing.
Self-appraisal has a wide range of modalities, beginning from Narcissus-like self-adoration to pitiless self-condemnation, bordering on cruelty, or pangs of conscience so violent that they may sometimes drive a person to a tragic end. An abated and more relaxed form of self-condemnation is constant scepticism, remorse, a painful contempt for oneself, an inferiority complex and, in general, a convoluted personality, which has no confidence in anything and believes in nothing, a personality tangled up in itself. Such self-consciousness is permeated with a feeling of constant anxiety and tragedy. But this state of mind, no matter how regrettable, is often the fate of people with a very subtle and hence vulnerable spiritual make-up. Self-admiration, over whelming self-confidence approaching arrogance and acting on the principle that everything is permissible, is quite a different matter. Arrogance uses not the mind but the elbows and fists, bulldozing its way through. It can be put down by a sudden and vigorous rebuff or protest. Otherwise it runs riot until it is curbed by severe public censure or even by legal coercion. The mild appeal to the conscience of those who have no conscience is useless.
Personal self-appraisal and also self-appraisal by a social group, a party or nation is an exceptionally complex psychological phenomenon. People have somehow evaluated themselves from time immemorial. We find such self-portraits in diaries, autobiographies, letters, paintings, religious and other forms of confession. True self-portraits are rare. Most people are tempted to embellish themselves in the eyes of others and of history. It is rather different with one's own self. In his secret thoughts a person can be perfectly frank and trust himself with the whole truth. Yet much of what people think about themselves is pure illusion, which they nevertheless cherish because it helps them to endure the difficulties and disappointments of real life. Here not only moral but epistemological factors come into play. A person is not really so clearly visible to himself. Fear of public opinion and fear of losing prestige, lack of clarity in one's self consciousness, all these things lead people to misjudge themselves. Here we may observe a specific tendency to compensate one or another kind of one-sidedness in the personality, a quite understandable desire to maintain psychological equilibrium, which has a valid biological purpose. This is no apology for incorrect self-appraisal but a desire to understand what brings it about. Knowing all this, everyday wisdom advises us to judge a person by his deeds rather than by what he says about himself.

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