One of my observations this week has been around judgemental minds. I noticed myself commenting or criticizing myself in my thoughts and words. I have observed that this habit can be particularly dominant during difficult times, which is when our personal demons seem to surface. In this week’s blog, I thought I would explore for judgemental minds toward oneself in the hope of shedding some light on this dark corner of our mind.
We are always critiquing and judging ourselves in everything that we do. This can be particularly challenging for those in the world who are more inwardly focused. When difficult situations surface, there are times we turn inward and assess our action or inaction contributing to the situation in which we find ourselves; for many, this often occurs in the workplace. You feel as though you have failed, or someone has told you that you have not performed in a way that meets expectations. There is a sense within yourself that you are not good enough in some way. At these times, the mind becomes fixated upon one’s perceived failure as opposed to the potential learning opportunity. For those that are perfectionists, of which I include myself, not being perfect is difficult. The inner dialogue can become filled with judging thoughts and negations. The inner voice can often create harsh thoughts that would be very hurtful if they were said to another. We critique and look at the situation, judging everything that has been said. Our minds rerun negative thoughts again and again until we feel really beaten up. When we slow down and don’t have other distractions, such as during sleep time, these thoughts can become obsessive. Many of us find we wake up during the night thinking and making judgements about what has transpired in the day.
One of the areas that so many individuals have a great deal of judgemental thoughts is around our physical appearance. We criticize our features, weight, height, shape and condition in ways that can be very judgemental. Each of us has something about our physical body or appearance we don’t like. I recall in interview with a long-time friend of Whitney Houston’s after she died in which they indicated she did not feel that she was beautiful. It is ironic that others can see our beauty but all we most often see is our faults. Similarly, people whose careers are in front of the camera, like super models, have thoughts of self-criticism regarding their appearance. If we were to listen to the things we say to ourselves with a detached observation, we would likely find our judging comments to be hurtful. For example, how do we feel when someone tells us we are fat? Saying it to ourselves has the same effect. When we articulate our own self-judgements we are solidifying the beliefs we hold about ourselves. Hearing the words we use and re-scripting them positively is a powerful way to transform our negativity.
Many judgemental thoughts are so engrained we aren’t aware of them. For our entire lives, we have been judging and criticising ourselves to the point that a judgemental mind is automatic. When we look in the mirror, we instantly see our flaws. When we keep forgetting to complete some work task, we go right to criticising. You may say this is procrastination, but in our delay to complete a chore there is often a seed of criticism or judgement. When we keep eating the things we love and can’t stop, our negative thinking surfaces instantly. Noticing the automatic thinking is challenging because it is so ingrained and repetitive. It simply is how we have become conditioned to think. Interrupting this automatic judgemental mind is not easy. Enough awareness needs to be created to listen to what you are telling yourself with detached observation. Practicing being in the witness of oneself helps to become reflective. The key is to approach our observations without judgement and to learn from being the witness.
When we can’t take the internal criticism any longer we often lash out in anger. The inner comments have become so toxic, we can no longer keep our thoughts to ourselves. We have to release some of our own negativity by projected it outward. Anger is about showing how hurt we are truly feeling. This hurt can be precipitated by external words or factors but it is our own judgemental internalized thoughts which creates strong emotions. Like a covered pot of boiling water, steam has to be released at some point. When anger surfaces, looking inwardly to see what is at the root of this anger will help us to understand and deal with the inner judgemental dialogue. It may be thoughts of not being good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough or tall enough. Whatever we are telling ourselves repetitively leads to emotions of anger.
We need to treat ourselves with compassion and loving-kindness. When we notice that we are being judgemental towards ourselves, we need to be compassionate creating an inner dialogue based upon caring words. When we feel the weight of our own judgemental mind, we need to pause and use inner words of loving-kindness. “Aw, I see you judgemental mind and I love you as my child. I will be patient, forgiving and loving towards you.” Like all mental formations, we can choose to nurture a judgemental mind or we can choose to water its opposite compassionate, loving mind. We are always at choice which inner seeds we choose to nurture. Choose wisely through aware observation of oneself in each and every moment. Meditation prepares us to be in the observation of what is. Only through detached witnessing of our mental formations can we hope to fill our lives with loving-kindness and compassion.
Throughout your week, observe the mental formations you are nourishing. Notice the inner dialogue of judgemental mind and consciously choose to feed positive thoughts about yourself. If you see negativity begin to water the seeds of its positive counterpart. Treat yourself with loving-kindness in each and every moment. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself.