Photo by Ningren

Negative Self-Judgment

The people we tend to be hardest on are ourselves. Some folks are an exception to this, but it seems to be true for most of us.

Photo by Ningren
Image courtesy of Ningren

The people we tend to be hardest on are ourselves. Some folks are an exception to this, but it seems to be true for most of us.

While I was in Pennsylvania helping care for my mother, I fell into judging myself… harshly… a lot.

I should be doing more. I should move back to Pennsylvania in order to help my sisters meet my mother’s needs. I should not feel guilty that my nephew gave up his bed for me and is sleeping on the couch for five weeks. I should not be afraid to drive a (huge) van for the first time in my life, down unfamiliar winding roads, and over freeways and across bridges under construction. I should be able to stick with my dietary regimen and exercise program, even though I am constantly on the go and thoroughly exhausted.

How often do we hear ourselves say, ‘I should’? Have we not been ‘should’ on enough in our lives? What coding is embedded in the human psyche that prompts us to judge our actions, or lack thereof, so harshly?

I think we all know the answer to that question: Guilt.

But from where does guilt derive? How does it become embedded? Is it innate or learned? Unless it is a defensive mechanism all babies are born with, it is learned. So how do we unlearn it? How do we unlearn anything that has become a bad habit? We need to look at what caused the habit to develop in the first place.

Negative messages received in childhood imprint on our psyches. We play these messages over and over in our minds until they are embedded as core beliefs that become self-fulfilling. Thus, our life experiences generally result from what we believe to be true.

Energy follows thought.

It is also important to be cognizant of the pitfalls of perpetuating negative self-judgment. Those pitfalls are the tradeoffs garnered through self-denigration. One example is the ‘poor me’ attitude. This may elicit the treasured attention that was absent in childhood, but it is merely Band-Aid treatment for a fractured psyche.

Once we discover the origin of guilt, we need to recognize it as a mental process conceived of the emotion, fear.

All emotion stems from either LOVE or FEAR.

We might feel guilty, but the truth is we feel afraid – afraid of being disliked, shunned, rejected. As this primordial broth simmers, the subconscious mind attempts to make sense of it and accommodate what it perceives to be our needs.

The subconscious is a servant that takes all we feel at face value.

Photo by Ningren
Image courtesy of Ningren

If we are afraid of something, it infers we must want to defend against it and does all in its power to make this so. In the case of negative self-judgment, it armors us with guilt. However, we oftentimes are not aware of the underlying feeling(s) driving our behavior. Yet guilt will not be denied.

This is a good thing, because guilt forces our feelings into the realm of the conscious, providing an opportunity for change and growth. Accepting all fear as fear of death might make coping and dealing with negative self-judgment a little easier. After all, rejection is certainly not going to kill us.

Negative self-judgment is a mask worn by fear, and guilt is its weapon.

Upon recognizing this, we can address fear by first acknowledging and thanking it, and then working on letting it go.

* Acknowledging and thanking our feelings before attempting to change them is crucial. *

When we humans were still in the food chain, fear kept us alive. Fear honed our instincts and was our biggest ally. Criticizing or denying it serves only to repress it, leaving it to marinate and continue surfacing, possibly in less-recognizable forms.

The next step is realizing that the rejection we anticipate might not be what will actually occur. When we are seated in fear, our perception is distorted.

Fear obscures clear thinking and eclipses sound judgment.

Thus, we conclude we are inadequate, for reasons we are not aware of or do not fully understand.

Society holds adults accountable for all behavior at the moment it is manifest. But when judging ourselves, we have the time to explore our feelings, learn what drives them, and change what we do not like and/or what holds us hostage.

Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. –Buddha

Photo by Lucie Stastkova
Image courtesy of Lucie Stastkova

It follows that the same can be said of fear. Self-denigration impedes our growth, while forgiveness and love nourish the eternal spirit and help it flourish.

Although it can be difficult at times to stand firm in the face of judgment, it is not impossible. Focusing our intention, thanking the fearful little voice inside, and then envisioning change as having already occurred will move us toward our goal.

Negative self-judgment and ensuing guilt serve only to make us aware of underlying feelings. They do not serve if we forgo exploring the root of our emotions and causes of our behavior.

Meditating and walking in nature are two things that help me work through chaotic feelings. When I need a break from this work, dancing and listening to music elevate and comfort me.

What do you do to help you understand your emotions and behavior?

Until the next time, my friends . . .  Namaste ❤ 

© Tina Frisco 2017

Written for Chris the Story Reading Ape published October 20, 2017

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