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Is it healthy to be my harshest critic?

Posted by on January 11, 2009 2 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog

Josh writes me asking:

Is it good that I am overly critical of my flight training? My instructor tells me that I am doing a great job, but I criticize everything I do. For example, I will tell my self, “that approach was not good, I was high..” or, “that was not a good landing” for most of my landings. A lot of times I believe that I am my worst critic. Is this good?

You and I were cut from the same cloth Josh . I am also my own harshest critic when it comes to flying (or anything else for that matter).  I realize long before my passengers or co-pilot when I’ve made a “mistake”.

I think this trait, like anything else in life, has to be balanced.  During primary training it is important that you realize your instructor is in charge of your training, not you.  You might be so hard on yourself, that you lack the confidence required when it comes time to solo.  You may also see this self-doubt when you are ready for your final checkride.  You may not think you’re ready, when in fact you are.    And also like anything else in life, any success is all about confidence.  Your self-criticisms may detract from your self-assurance that yes, you can safely pilot an airplane.  Don’t let your own perceived errors keep you from your dream of flying!

It is apparent that you are a perfectionist.  You believe, that everything HAS to be perfect, or it is simply not good enough.  One of the hardest things for me to learn as a perfectionist pilot is that NO FLIGHT IS EVER PERFECT.  I have yet, in all my flying, to have completed a perfect flight.  Even if it was something small, such as a misread ATC clearance on the ground, or a bad landing, no flight is perfect.  The thing to remember is that as pilots we always strive to be better and safer than we were in the previous flight.

The good news is that the real danger in flying is not being overly critical of ourselves but the opposite.  It is when we get complacent and think that we have this flying thing down, that aviation rudely reminds us that we are all eternally student pilots.

So my advice is to trust your instructor now while training but to remember how to be critical of yourself once you get your license.  This will be a great way to stay humble and to keep your edge sharp.

Fly Safe!


  1. Mark on Jan 12, 2009

    I have to agree with Paul. When it comes to having confidence as a pilot, the extremes are what really make me nervous. As an instructor, what I want to see is someone who has a balanced opinion of their abilities. Remember, when you are PIC, you are in charge, and a lack of confidence could be a killer. Having said that, to much confidence can also be a killer. It really is all about balance.

  2. Rich pilots are safer | Plastic Pilot on Jan 25, 2009

    […] of checklists and to keep a fluent radio phraseology. There is nothing like a perfect flight (click here to read more about that from Paul on askacfi.com) but I flying more re-inforces self-confidence and enlarges ones comfort zone. By the time I flew […]

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