This is Part 2 of a series on self-judgment. In Part 1, How to Stop Judging Yourself, we looked at what self-judgment does to us, how it arises, and how to “stop” this habit.
I have a very active inner judge, and she likes to attack. What I’ve learned is that we typically can’t stop the inner judge before she (or he) attacks. If we can, I don’t yet have that skill. But, we can stop the cycle from perpetuating. When the inner judge attacks us, we can stay with the emotion and respond to it in ways that keeps us from entering the judgment spiral.
How can we do this?
Here are 7 ways we can respond to self-judgment.
(1) Love Yourself and Others
Sometimes self-judgment and comparison can reflect a lack of self-love. If the judgment is really coming from a lack of self-love, then learning to love and accept yourself as you are will help you judge yourself less.
Remember, too, that our self-judgment sometimes shows up as judgment of others. Accepting and loving others as they are will help you judge them less, which, in turn, will help you judge yourself less.
A word of caution: It’s not always about love.
Self-love is an easy answer here, but it’s a mistake to assume this is always the cause or the cure.
Self-judgment can arise from a place of love, as a path to self-improvement. Some of us have developed the habit of judging ourselves harshly as a way to catalyze growth.
Be aware if that’s your habit. (See #7 for more).
(2) Tame Comparison
Trying to stop comparing is like trying to stop breathing or thinking. It’s just a natural response to the world. It’s human nature to compare.
Comparison is how we learn as children and how we sort things in the world. This is a tool that facilitates our progress and advancement. It also keeps us alive. If you lost the ability to compare you wouldn’t retain information and distinctions that lead to more sophisticated knowledge.
What we can do intsead is to acknowledge comparison.
When we can acknowledge that “I’m comparing here,” we open a space to see the nature of our comparison. Perhaps the comparison is unfair. For example, you may be comparing your worst moment to someone else’s best moment.
Seeing the comparison for what it is can stop the cycle of judgment.
If self-judgment is driven by fear of not being or doing enough, then to curb self-judgment requires trust that you are doing exactly what you need to be doing.
This is easier said than done, of course. It’s not an instant process.
One way to cultivate trust is to remind yourself that you don’t see the full picture from where you stand in this moment. It is possible that what feels like “not enough” in this moment will turn out to be exactly right.
For example, this past weekend, I found myself in self-judgment while at the gym. I head the voice of “you’re not doing enough.” That picture looked a lot different a few hours later when I was climbing a rope to the catcher’s trapeze at Trapeze School New York. With the benefit of the full picture, it turned out that a lighter morning workout was likely exactly what I needed that day.
Consider how you would respond if someone judged your friend. You would be compasionate towards your friend, reminding her of why she is so amazing.
Try to bring this same approach to yourself. (Again, I know this is not always so easy).
Self-compassion opens us to see the complete set of facts, and paves the road to acceptance of what is.
(5) Be a Fair Judge
Often, we judge ourselves and others based on a partial set of facts.
If you’re going to judge, then at least be a fair judge.
Seek to compile all the facts. Consider all the evidence. Don’t render judgment based only on the prosecution’s case. Allow the defense to present its evidence.
Remember that all stories are lies — they represent a subset of facts. We often hide relevant facts even from the stories we tell ourselves.
Look for all the facts so you can judge fairly.
(6) Don’t Judge the Judgment
Don’t judge your self-judgment (or your judgment of others) or make it wrong.
The Buddhist have a term called the “second arrow.” The idea is that if you’re being shot by an arrow, the arrow causes you pain. If someone were to shoot a second arrow at the same spot, it would intensify the pain to create suffering.
When we get mad at ourselves or judge ourselves for behavior we consider “wrong,” we are shooting the second arrow at ourselves.
(7) Consider How the Judgment Serves You
Everything we do serves us on some level. Sometimes my self-judgment keeps me locked in fears and doubts. But other times, my self-judgment is a catalyst that moves me forward.
Consider whether there is a higher purpose to your self-judgment. Maybe it is arising within you to catalyze growth.
If you find yourself in the same judgments repeatedly, consider that the judgment wants you to listen to it for a reason.
What if the purpose of the judgment is to open a path into yourself, where you can expose your deeper fears so that you can neutralize them?
An easy question to ask in every difficult situation is: What is the gift in this?
The First Step: Create Space
Of course, all of these responses to our self-judgment require that we create space to notice the judgment in the first place. If you don’t create a space for noticing, you cannot respond; you will be drawn into reactivity. That reactivity creates the negative judgment spiral.
It is human nature to get locked in fear, comparison, and the demands of expectations that lead us to judge ourselves. Learning how to pause so you can observe what is happening is the first step to getting out of reactivity and putting yourself in a place where you can respond.
What other techniques and tools have you used to respond to self-judgment? Please share in the comments.