In Letter XXVIII to Lucilius, Seneca commends his student to take up the practice of examining one’s faults.
For a person who is not aware that he is doing anything wrong has no desire to put it right. You have to catch yourself doing it before you can reform. Some people boast about their failings: can you imagine someone who counts his faults as merits ever giving thought to their cute? So — to the best of your ability — demonstrate your own guilt, conduct inquiries of your own into all the evidence against yourself. Play the part first of prosecutor, then of judge and finally of pleader in mitigation. Be harsh with yourself at times.*
His advice got me thinking about my faults, so I decided to list and publish them.
I’m a perfectionist. I tend to wait until I’ve got something perfect before taking action. Being a perfectionist also means that I make unrealistic demands of those around me and can be unappreciative when people try their best but where those efforts don’t reach my standards.
I can be stubborn. Sometimes this comes across as being strong-willed but at others I can get stuck on issue that my pride won’t let me get off. I’m particularly like that if there’s a risk I’ll be shown up as being wrong.
I’m inflexible at times. If I’ve developed a system or policy that some people can’t follow I’ll force the issue instead of accepting sensible feedback. If it’s not my way it’s the highway. Some would call this being a control freak.
I can be judgmental about people who don’t look, act or behave like me. I’m very quick to judge people as mentally weak and this reveals a lack of respect for others.
I lack courage to claim what I want. I fear rejection and tend to manipulate people to take a position that suits me. That usually allows me to get what I want without asking. I’d be more effective if I knew my mind and stated what it is that I want.
I’m evasive. Linked to my lack of courage I tend to avoid taking a position until I have to or until it suits me. I tend to glide over issues and dance around problems rather than stating what it is that I believe.
I’m uncertain. There’s plenty of issues in my life about which I’m not certain and this comes across as evasiveness.
I lack emotional honesty. I tend to hide my emotions and treat their display as a sign of weakness. At other times I’ll use softer emotions as a way of eliciting a favourable response from a person or an audience.
My values aren’t always clear. I have values such as honesty and fidelity which have been inherited from my upbringing rather than developed and owned. I’ve invested insufficient time on the creation of my own moral code.
I could go on but this list gives me plenty to work on.
*Seneca p. 77,78