I work with clients daily to clarify their efforts toward success and to see what is hobbling them in that process. After over twenty years of this, I see over and over again how some form of self-judgment and self-criticism is the major culprit. I see how it establishes self-doubt, stops possible solutions from developing, and diminishes the vision and energy of what could be. It keeps many people within the realm of what they have already learned and not taking new strides forward. What steps would you take in your business, what results would you expect, what would you dare if judgment wasn't present? It may be a more important question than you even realize! For many people this dynamic is silent and is like the air that they breathe. For others it is loud and clear but accepted as just the way they are. So the question is, "Who is in Charge Anyway?" Is it some idea based on your cumulative experience, some old voice that has haunted you for years, or is it the full force of your vision and your creative ability?
All self-judgment is a reflection of learning from the past. It is the fabric of things you were taught by your parents, teachers, religion, media images and constantly offers you advice, evaluations, information about how short you are falling. Self-judgment creates ideas and images of who we think we need to be in order to be acceptable. Its action is very cruel because it attacks the core of who you are. Many people when life has been inexplicably difficult for some time call themselves a failure; if they make a mistake they call themselves stupid they repeat what they were taught somewhere along the line. Often when I am working with a client they will cling to some self-judgment saying, "But it's true, I did fail at that." The issue is how that is used to diminish yourself. It is very different to recognize you made an error than it is to attack yourself saying you are a failure. In the first instance you may be able to look objectively at what has happened and find a solution. In the second instance you end up feeling small, worthless and helpless.
Operating within an inner or outer atmosphere of judgment deprives us of a large percentage of our creativity and connection to our deepest acceptance and therefore access to the deeper qualities of functioning. Self-judgment keeps old limiting beliefs about our selves in place and often prevents us from creating what is that we truly want and from achieving broader levels of success. Often judgments are felt as: criticisms, condemnations, guidelines, motivators, accusations, advice, rejections, suggestions, comparison and questions. They have energetic effects including: loss of energy, anger, tension, depression, anxiety, heat, weakness, restlessness, deadness and numbness. The feelings generated in us are to dislike and to reject ourselves.
Because they seem generated from inside us and are largely unconscious, we don't recognize them as attacks and do not know how to defend against them. Attacking ourselves is a major source of self-betrayal and sabotage. Attacking others is an important cause of separation and alienation.
The first step in learning how to dis-engage from self-judgment is to begin developing awareness of it. As I said, sometimes it is like the air you breathe, so much a part of you that you can't identify it. When this is true I often ask clients to notice it's results: when you feel small, helpless, when you are walking into a meeting and anxiety is high, when you suddenly erupt when someone misunderstands you, when you feel collapsed in the face of someone or something. During these circumstances I ask clients to notice if they are judging themselves and then begin to notice the voice or energy of judgment: "I'll never get this right," "I'm useless," etc., etc. Self-judgment diminishes you and these are some of its hallmarks. When you become more aware of it you then have an opportunity to begin finding ways to stop it.
One of the things that self-judgment accomplishes is to keep you in a very old internal relationship. Because the basis of most of these judgments is in childhood — when we were told how to behave, when a look made us feel there was something wrong with us and we better adjust ourselves quickly, when we learned the standards that were expected of us, when we felt awkward and incapable — when these arise again we are energetically back in that situation and robbed of our power. So the thrust of work with self-judgment is to finally cut that relationship to bring the support for yourself back home to you, and not resident in a list of rules and regulations, spoken or unspoken, that told you who you were supposed to be.
In working with clients I have come up with an acronym that covers 5 of the basic strategies of dis-engagement. The acronym is SPACE because that is what occurs when you are successful at stopping self-judgment: you have SPACE just to be who you are, SPACE to develop yourself, your real talents and what it is you want to do in the world.
STRENGTH: Access your natural indignation when you recognize how damaging self-judgment is and the toll it takes on your life and your aliveness. Use this STRENGTH to literally tell the judgment to stop.
PLAY: When a self-judgment arises you can use humor to disarm it, i.e. you can say to the judgment, "Yeah right, I am the stupidest person in the whole area." Or, "I only let bullies say that to me." Be absurd about it so there is nowhere for the judgment to stick. Be like teflon not fly-paper.
AWARENESS: Use a sensing exercise to keep you present as self-judgment always accesses the past or future. The more you are in the present the less a judgment can arise. Notice the many ways in which self-judgment comes up and notice the immense toll it takes on your aliveness, your creativity, and your joy. When you are feeling particularly tried, deflated, fearful, or anxious look around and notice if there has been a self-judgment and find away to desist from it.
COMPASSION: Let yourself really be aware of the pain that self-judgment creates in you and how it sets up situations that support the belief of the self-judgment. Notice it in others and how it damages them. Allow this recognition to bring up your natural compassion for anyone in pain and use it to support your determination to stop engaging in internal attacks.
ENVISION: Allow yourself to imagine what your life and you would be like if judgment were never around. Feel the deep safety and support of that, feel the aliveness that is present. Nourish yourself with this feeling and know that this is what you are creating in your life.
When you have successfully dis-engaged you can feel an energetic shift. You feel strong, intact, in the moment and accepting of yourself - you feel freer. I believe this area of work is one of the most important in developing satisfaction in your business and in your personal life. I have only skimmed the surface in this short article. I invite you to attend a workshop or teleclass that will develop your skill in working with this issue.
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