Decreasing Judgement & Growing Self-Compassion
“...research tells us that we judge people in areas where we're vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we're doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people's choices. If I feel good about my body, I don't go around making fun of other people's weight or appearance. We're hard on each other because we're using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived shaming deficiency.”
Compassion means: to suffer with; offer understanding and kindness to others, rather than judging them harshly.
To have compassion for others, we must first have compassion for ourselves and continue to notice when we are judging ourselves in elusive and hidden ways. Practicing self-compassion helps us discover and overcome our self-defeating criticism and judgement.
Many people say that having compassion for ourselves means accepting ourselves just as we are with all our perceived flaws, but that has always been very hard for me to accept. There have always been things that I didn't want to accept about myself, so I like to look at it as accepting ourselves for where we are while we become who we want to be. We must accept where we are and not judge, reject, or speak unkindly to ourselves as this only tends to inhibit our growth. When we use harsh judgement of ourselves, it carries beyond us and we judge others for the same things that drive our insecurities.
My self-criticism and negative self-talk has improved greatly; however, it will still manifest itself in new and elusive ways. This makes it harder to recognize and takes some introspection to discover. I recently discovered that I put other people’s faces on judgement and criticism, so rather me seeing my own harsh judgement, I imagine someone else, usually someone I really respect, is saying the discouraging words to me. At first, I didn’t feel like I was judging myself, but it became apparent that it was only my judgement with someone else’s face to it. For example, a couple weeks ago I was mowing the lawn and I only had time to complete about half of it before I needed to get ready to leave. As I was mowing the thought of my husband making comments about how I might as well not have tried at all circled in my head over and over, but he wasn’t even there! I was associating my fear of the lack of perfection of doing something "half-assed or lazily" with his face so it was harder to identify that it was my own judgement. We have tricky, tricky minds!
This has happens in many scenarios, especially where I feel the most vulnerable or shameful or outside my comfort zone. One of my deepest areas of healing has been around people liking and accepting me, and I discovered that I was creating judgment in the middle of social interactions. I would identify a tiny, trivial reaction of the person I was interacting with and convince myself that they didn't like me. I was recently on a coaching call and as I was answering a question I caught myself thinking, “Wow, she must think I am a total waste of her time, an idiot and a loser.” It really caught me off guard that this was occurring in the middle of an interaction, but it was a total Aha moment. Talk about setting myself up for failure! No wonder I have been feeling so uneasy in social situations when that is my go to response.
Once we begin to notice when and where we are using harsh judgement with ourselves, we can begin to change the behavior. We can practice more self-compassion by:
- When we are in the midst of a crisis or stuck in a loop of self-criticism or judgement, talk to yourself as you would lovingly to a child or your four year old self.
- Ask yourself questions like
- What do I need right now?
- What do I feel right now?
- What do I need to know about this situation?
- What is causing me to judge myself in this situation?
- How can I help myself heal from this fear or shame?
- What can I do and say differently next time?
- It’s also important to feel and accept your feelings while going through crisis or self-criticism instead of pushing the uncomfortable emotions away. Recognize the thoughts for what they are: just words moving through your head, and instead feel the emotions, accept them, and let them move through you. You don't have to give those words in your head any power, and you can choose a new, more compassionate inner voice to listen to next time.
In her article on Psychology Today, Alison Abrams states, "...research has consistently shown a positive correlation between self-compassion and psychological well-being. People who have self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. Self-compassion has also been shown to correlate with less anxiety, depression, shame, and fear of failure."
When we have more compassion with ourselves, we have more compassion for the rest of the world as well.
Kirstin Neff has some wonderful exercises at http://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/ to help increase our self-compassion.