Lately I’ve noticed that I am very hard on myself—particularly after I interact with others. Although it is quite common that we judge people automatically and usually before we really get to know them, we are also very self-critical. And though it is important to practice judging others less, today let’s talk about our propensity to judge ourselves. Think about your day and reflect on how often you are self-critical. Did you do or say something that you wish you hadn’t then berate yourself? Have you make a horrible comment to yourself aloud or in your mind? Something like, “I am so stupid, I shouldn’t have done that” or “Why am I so clumsy or clueless?” Perhaps you say something on the not-good-enough-scale like “I’m not smart, thin, pretty, or whatever enough.” Or have you called yourself fat or lazy or just plain bad?
Here’s the thing: we are human and we tend to be very critical of—everything! Judging is a skill that we have developed for many, many years because judgment is a very useful human tool. We need to judge the safety of situations. We need to judge physical distances while we drive and simply walk. We need to judge whether food has gone bad before we eat it. And on and on. However, the ease with which we make judgments doesn’t always serve us, particularly when it has to do with other people and with a very precious person—yourself.
One of the difficult aspects of becoming more mindful and conscious about your own behavior is you might find that you are upset by your own thoughts and actions more often than you would like. Just remember that you are constantly growing and changing and if you are open to practicing, you will get better at being with whatever you uncover about your own behavior. If you discover that you are unkind to yourself and perhaps even mean to yourself at times, please don’t beat yourself up about it. That is just layering on the negative energy. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have judged myself negatively and then berated myself for being so unkind to myself. That is another human foible.
Instead, today we will practice the game of being gentle and kind to ourselves. When you notice that you said or did something that you were not very happy about afterwards, the first step is to just notice. You might acknowledge that perhaps you could have handled that situation differently. Remind yourself that you are only human and you say or do things that aren’t helpful to yourself or others from time to time. You could investigate what caused your reaction to the situation and learn from the experience. And although that is helpful, in the moment a kinder move is to simply let it go.
One of my favorite phrases is “let it go.” When I hear that expression in my head it is a male voice with an Aussie accent because I have a favorite meditation tape done by an Australian man who likes that phrase. Oh, but if it where so easy to just “let it go.” For most of us, that is one of the hardest phrases to put into action. It takes practice to just “let it go” when something is distressing you. And when you are being hard on yourself it can feel awful when you can’t seem to let it go.
So don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, send loving kindness to yourself and recognize that in various circumstances, different experiences will occur and different aspects of your own insecurities will come up. Undoubtedly you will feel human emotions. That is all part of living our lives in this world. You are a wonderful person and you have a unique set of qualities and experiences and you deserve kindness. You are the best person to show yourself gentleness and kindness because you know yourself the best. So when you notice that you are once again judging yourself harshly, be kind and simply notice that there you go again being human. And what a wonderful thing it is to be human with all of its beautiful idiosyncrasies.