Recognizing and Addressing Self-Judgment
Have you ever noticed how much judgment infiltrates conversations and the world around us? Instead of simply observing what we see in front of us, we often feel compelled to cast an opinion and verdict over it. Here are some examples:
Wow, that dress is really not very flattering on her. It makes her arms look huge!
She never cooks for her family. Isn’t that so selfish?
His life is so unbalanced. It’s all about his career, and he doesn’t care about anything else.
She is so obsessed with herself. I can’t believe how many selfies she posts.
That couple is so clueless about what is actually healthy. They say they are “into” wellness, but did you see what they ate at dinner?
Tuning into Judgment
You might hear, or say, such comments casually throughout your whole day—at brunch, in a moms’ group, at work, or on talk shows and morning programs. When we tune in to judgment, we will see that it is pretty much everywhere. And we’ve all had our share of participating in it, too.
A few years ago, I was complaining to my friend Justin about a trip I had recently taken. I was staying with some acquaintances and it was a difficult experience. These people were so controlling! I felt like I had been interrogated with fifty questions in a row and was being judged left and right. Justin said to me, “You must have that same trait in yourself, and that’s why they bug you so much.”
At first I balked at the idea and vehemently denied that could be a possibility. I couldn’t fathom at that point that I might actually be like these people. Yet deep down, this provoking idea hit a nerve. And when I really peered inside myself, I could see that I, too, sometimes try to control situations by repeating myself over and over again, instead of trusting I was heard the first time.
Seeing the Shadow
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung taught that we all have an unconscious drive to move toward wholeness and realization of the self. According to Jung, contained in our unconscious is our “shadow,” which is the repressed thoughts, feelings, and ideas about ourselves that we push down rather than confront. Our judgment of others is a way of acknowledging disowned traits and behaviors within ourselves without having to face the pain of knowing the imbalance is actually within us. It’s often agonizing for us to admit qualities or parts of us that we don’t like, so our minds project outward and pick up these very qualities in other people.
We are not inherently negative or bad. Don’t believe that for even a second! Yet we all do have areas for improvement. This isn’t possible until we first see and admit that the qualities we gripe about in others (being catty, self-centered, moody . . . you fill in the blank!) can also exist within us.
Of course, we may not express the quality in the same exact way. Let’s say you find a coworker narcissistic; she always brings up personal stories at staff meetings. If you get annoyed in the moment and then let it go, that’s natural. Yet if you become obsessed with someone else’s flaws and then feel the need to gossip and comment about it any chance you can, that’s an issue.
Let’s turn it around. How might you be narcissistic? Sure, you might not talk about yourself at staff meetings, but perhaps you talk on and on with your parents about your life and never ask them about theirs. Or maybe you always insist on eating at your favorite restaurants over those that your friends prefer.
I know looking at this stuff can be really hard for some of us! So why deal with the pain? Because as Jung would say, when we bring “our shadow into the conscious,” it starts to lose power. And as it loses power, negative patterns of reacting melt away.
Start to notice when even a twinge of judgment comes to mind or out of your mouth. Whenever we are strongly critical of others’ bodies, weight, skin, and other aspects of physical appearance, achievements, work, parenting, and so on, we are the most disapproving of ourselves. Check in with yourself. Judgment does not feel good, so pay attention to changes in the way you feel physically. Maybe you routinely experience a hollow feeling in your gut or even a dull ache around your chest or heart area. Start to tune in with the signals your body is giving you.
The cures for judgment are self-acceptance and living from a place centered on kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. When we open our hearts and stop judging ourselves, the need to judge others naturally drops away.
Recipes for Your Perfectly Imperfect Life
Excerpted from Recipes for Your Perfectly Imperfect Life, published by Harmony Books. Used with permission of the publisher.