No one likes to be found at fault. In fact, this is what many of us walk around fearing–that we’ll be exposed as imposters, we’ll be put on the spot in front of people, we’ll have to admit error. This makes us defensive, it makes us play it safe, and in some cases, it even makes us dishonest.
It’s a cure, you could say, that’s worse than the disease.
Gandhi, once being interviewed by a reporter, dispensed with all that. “I am very imperfect,” he said. “Before you are gone you will have discovered a hundred of my faults and if you don’t, I will help you to see them.” Why would he do such a thing? Perhaps it was because he knew that as a leader, egotism and an outsized sense of one’s abilities was dangerous and destructive. Perhaps he was inoculating himself against the fear in advance–taking away the power of the reporter to control Gandhi’s fate by disclosing up front what might otherwise be investigated (or even misconstrued).
There is a line from Epictetus who, after being criticized, joked “Yes, and he doesn’t know the half of it, because he could have said more.” It’s not that Epictetus had a bunch of bodies buried somewhere, it was that he had also inoculated himself against criticism by being more aware of his flaws–and more concerned about addressing them–than even his enemies.
Why should we be afraid of criticism? As Marcus Aurelius writes, if that criticism is correct and we are in error then the person criticizing us has done us a favor by correcting it. If they are wrong, what do we care? More likely, if we are doing our job right, we should already be well aware of the issue that people are raising and already be fixing it. We should have no sense of ourselves as perfect or above critique. Nor should we be so fragile and vulnerable as to not be able to bear being disliked or disagreed with.