For this post, I'm mostly going to speak about negative self-judgement. By negative self-judgement, I'm referring to the thoughts you have about yourself compared to the expectations you have for yourself, and making that mean something negative about yourself as a person. As a highly ambitious perfectionist and people pleaser, I experience self-judgement on the regular. I have a running dialogue that I'm only now becoming more aware of and it goes something like this: I'm doing it wrong. I could be doing more. I should be doing more. I should have gotten more done. I should be better. I'm in trouble.
Why does it matter? Several reasons, but it really hit home for me this week how I've been using self-judgement and the judgement of others to sabotage myself. Judgement leads to separation, and lack of understanding - with ourselves and with others. We think that judging ourselves will make us do more, do better, live up to our own expectations. It doesn't work like that. Judgement stalls us out. Love and acceptance for ourselves moves us forward.
The key is awareness. This can come in two ways. The first is to notice what I call "frequent flyer" thoughts, or thoughts you think regularly. For me, "I'm in trouble." is triggered regularly when I'm in a student or employee role. The other one for me is any sentence involving the word "should." That's a dead giveaway. The other way to start to gain awareness is to notice what you're feeling. I've learned for me the bright red blinking warning sign that I'm in judgement is when I'm feeling shame or self-loathing (when judging myself) or self-righteous or angry (when judging others).
The other fun thing I like to do is judge myself for judging myself. Or get mad and frustrated with myself for feeling shame. I don't recommend this strategy. I do recommend noticing the thoughts and feelings you're having. Start to notice the frequent flyer thoughts. Write them down to help yourself see patterns. What triggered that thought? What was the situation? Notice if you have the same thought in similar situations.
These frequent flyer thoughts are beliefs and beliefs are just sentences we keep thinking. Once we're aware of them, we can question if we want to continue to believe them. We can question if they are useful to us. Do they serve your highest good? Do you feel good when you think them? Remember, no thought is truer than another for you. Your beliefs just feel truer because you've had a lot of practice thinking them. They're automatic, but that doesn't mean you can't change them. You just need to decide what thought you'd rather think instead and practice thinking that thought on purpose.
What does that look like? When you notice a frequent flyer thought pop up, acknowledge it. This might sound weird, but I like to say, brain, I hear you, but we're not thinking that thought anymore. We're thinking (replacement thought). You can also write down the new thought and practice saying it to yourself whenever you remember. It takes some effort and time, but it really does work. You don't have to stay in self-judgement, it's totally optional and pretty useless, if you ask me.
If you want to learn more about how to think on purpose - I'd love to chat with you!