I bet when you think of all the things that might be holding you back from attaining the life you desire –career, relationship, love, friendships, support, health, creativity, finances, etc.– you don’t automatically put self judgment at the top of your list.
In fact, many high achieving people, perfectionists included, think that negative self talk is beneficial.
But the research shows a different story:
“The #1 barrier [to a willingness to learn how to release self judgment and learn] self-compassion is fear of being complacent and losing your edge. And all the research shows that’s not true. It’s just the opposite,”
Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin
In fact, according to Dr. Neff, there are five myths about self-compassion that keep us stuck in the negative mindset loop.
Self-compassion is a form of self pity. ➡️ The research shows that compassion and pity are actually near enemies. Pity is a form of separation, while compassion allows us to see ourselves and all of humanity as imperfect evolving beings.
Self-compassion is a sign of weakness. ➡️ The research shows that self-compassion leads to higher levels of resilience, inner strength, and achievement.
Self-compassion will lead to self-indulgence. ➡️ The research shows that replacing self-judgment with self-compassion is actually linked to healthier behaviors.
Self-compassion is selfish. ➡️ Research shows that self-compassionate people have more concern for and are more caring and supportive and forgiving … and that this is reciprocated in their relationships.
Self-compassion will undermine my motivation ➡️ The research shows that self-compassion is actually linked to higher motivation. Our personal standards remain high but we have less fear of failure and more grit and determination to succeed.
Let’s look at another researcher:
“Self-criticism can take a toll on our minds and bodies. It can lead to ruminative thoughts that interfere with our productivity, and it can impact our bodies by stimulating inflammatory mechanisms that lead to chronic illness and accelerate aging.”
–Dr. Richard Davidson, founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Does that sound like something you want in your life?
Choose to interrupt those negative patterns and replace them with a new soundtrack.
If you’re anything like me, it’s more often than you realize.
Last Lent, I chose to give up judgment. Going in, I didn’t think I was a very judgmental person. But I figured it was a good thing to do anyway. “Even a little judgment goes a long way, and the world is a better place without it,” I said to myself smugly, (unaware that I was already judging those people I know who are always judging others.)
The challenge induced me to pay attention to all the different ways I judged. I was blown away by how often I really did judge other people, especially loved ones, and even more amazed by how often I judged myself!
Of course, judging in its principle form is neutral. You’ve just formed an opinion of something. “Judgment is a good thing, really,” I can hear you saying to yourself. “Without good judgment, people make poor decisions.” (I’m imagining a finger wagging lecture here.)
But (without going into the difference between judgment and discernment,) many times our opinions are toxic and mean, and they contribute to the toxicity of the world (even if we don’t mean for them to.)
We get a fix of self righteousness for judging others. And for a minute, it makes us feel better than them.
But what about what it’s doing to us after that first minute? What’s causing us to feel those feelings that come before we judge another anyway? Perhaps we feel hurt, or betrayed, insecure, disappointed, or vulnerable. After all, we’ve probably been judging ourselves all day.
According to research, all that negative self talk is the root of many of our other struggles.
“Self judgment leads to feelings of shame and unworthiness, and is the basis of many problems we experience with our relationships, careers, and creative endeavors.” –Clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Tara Brach
Hmmm. Self judgment could be the root cause of those areas where I’m still feeling stuck?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself …
Have you done tons of personal growth work, yet still feel like you’re hitting a brick wall in an area (or two?)
Are you tired of being single, but have trouble finding the trust you require in a relationship?
Or are you married but your relationship isn’t giving you the strength and joy you need?
Do you have an idea for the next phase of your life but feel afraid of letting go of the known to make that next leap into the unknown?
Maybe you’ve been thinking about trying something new FOR FOREVER, but stay frozen in indecision, unable to be sure it is right for you.
Do you want to feel supported, but struggle to ask for and accept help?
Do you have good solid friendships and a full life, but still feel alone?
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
See, here’s the thing: all these negative thoughts running through your mind turn into beliefs when they’re repeated often enough. And beliefs are the hidden scripts that run our lives.
“Your beliefs are THE master commanders of your behavior and your results. Beliefs control our bodies and how we respond to crises, criticisms and opportunities. They tell us what to notice, what to focus on, what it means, and what to do about it. “–Marie Forleo, entrepreneur, writer, philanthropist
And on top of that, beliefs beget behavior.
Which is a fancy alliterative way of saying that the script running through your mind all day long can keep you stuck …
OR you can choose to interrupt those negative patterns and replace them with a new soundtrack.
I found the detox process so valuable, I put together a 30-Day Challenge so I could offer it to you this year.
I’d love to hear from you … when are you at your most self-judgmental? What have you noticed about how you feel inside just before you snap a judgment about someone else? What practice(s) have you found most valuable to curb your natural judgmental tendencies? Do you –like I did– think of yourself as a mostly non-judgmental person?
Personally, I’ve always had a love / hate relationship with Valentine’s Day … here’s where it started:
When I was in the 4th grade, I had a huge crush on this new dark haired boy in my class named Daniel.
I’d like to tell you that it was because he was kind, or brilliant, or the best speller in the class. But honestly, it was just because he was new, and I thought he was cute. And maybe because he was shy, and that seemed sweet.
I kept my feelings hidden to anyone but myself and my best friend Sherry –who liked him too– for months. We both spent many a daydream sitting by him in class, hanging out with him at recess, and other acts of 4th grade love.
Finally, on Valentine’s Day, we decided to reveal our secret crushes.
I scrutinized my entire box of Valentine’s cards to find the perfect phrase — one that said “I really like you a LOT” but that could also pass for just an average valentine’s card in case I needed to save face.
Probably something like one of these:
Next, I spent days agonizing over whether or not to sign my name or to be anonymous.
In a big burst of courage, Sherry decided she was going to sign her name to her card, so I was encouraged to risk it too. And then just to be certain he knew it was a special card for a special person, I also added a handful of cut out hearts inside the envelope.
Man. I still remember the breathless anticipation of waiting for acknowledgement… in vain … inspecting each of the valentines I received … breathlessly anticipating one with his signature. … Nothing!
And then the masterfully orchestrated denial that fell into place …. First, I convinced myself he hadn’t given valentines to anyone.
And then, once I knew I’d been dissed after Sherry reluctantly showed me her card (with such grace and genuine sadness for me, and no gloating at all) she suggested that his card to me must have fallen out and been accidentally thrown away by the janitor.
Because that’s the kind of friend she was.
My second major Valentine’s Day memory is from years later, when I was a junior in high school. I was the publicity manager of our student council, and that year we decided to sell carnations as a fund raiser.
By lunch time, it felt like everyone in the school had received a carnation –except me!
I was pretty forlorn and feeling sorry for myself, and my best friend Sherry had transferred to another school, so there was no one there to convince me my carnation had been dropped and accidentally thrown away by the janitor.
Just when I was ready to throw myself off the second floor balcony, the delivery person handed me a pink carnation –for friendship– from one of my guy friends.
I will never forget that small kindness.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Let’s pause for a moment to consider …
It’s wonderful to have amazing friends who will either help you concoct the perfect face saving excuse when you didn’t get that valentine from the boy you liked, or that interview … or that second date, or whatever.
Or one who will supply you with exactly the encouragement you need at exactly the right time … whether that comes in the form of a pink carnation or a beautifully selected card, or simply kind words on a rough day.
I wish those kinds of friendships for you. Always.
Wouldn’t it also be amazing if you could always be that kind of friend … to YOURSELF?
Here’s a little quiz for you:
Do you often call yourself names (like dummy or stupid or ugly or fat)?
How often do you treat yourself with sarcasm?
Do you criticize yourself frequently?
Do you always say kind things to yourself when you look in the mirror?
Do you isolate yourself when you’re feeling most down?
When you’re having a bad day, do you obsess or fixate on everything that’s going wrong?
How do you treat yourself when you’re going through pain?
When you’re feeling inadequate about something, do you compare yourself to everyone else who seems to be better at it than you are?
How do you treat the parts of yourself that you don’t like?
When something painful happens, do you find yourself thinking about it over and over?
Based on your answers above, if YOU were your own best friend, would you even hang out with yourself?
For most women, the answer is no. And if someone was treating OUR best friend the way we treat ourselves, we’d tell them to end that friendship immediately. Right?
Even if not all of your answers to the questions were terrible, I bet there is still room for improvement, am I right?
So what can you do to practice being a better friend to yourself?
And you -what of your rushed and / useful life? Imagine setting it all down -papers, plans, appointments, everything, / leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields / to be lovely. Be back when I’m through / with blooming.”
Poet, Lynn Ungar, from “Camas Lilies”
February was an unseasonably cold and snowy month for those of us on the Olympic Peninsula. The snow started falling Sunday the 3rd of February, and we can still see patches of unmelted snow in the field behind the house.
The dogs and I enjoyed trompsing in it, but I’m grateful that my lifestyle allows me to limit my time on the roads .
Now that the Equinox and the frogs in our pond have loudly proclaimed it to be spring, I invite you to imagine setting down everything in your life, and writing the note described above. Do you even know what you would do if you could “go to the fields to be lovely”? And be back when you’re “done blooming?”
If you’re like most people, you’re too caught up in your “rushed and useful” life to imagine that it might be different. Until, that is, you’re forced to … through a threshold not of your choosing.
A colleague and I used to walk the waterfront trails in Seattle, to help us think more creatively as we brainstormed a workshop on living a vital life.
One day we got onto the topic of societal expectations: how so many of us simply set out into the world following the blueprint society created for us –go to school, get a job, get married, have children, buy a house, acquire things, raise children, retire –without thinking about whether those choices are suitable for our unique spirit.
In following this pre-subscribed routine, many of us end up with health problems, or become increasingly restless or burned out. If we’re not working in a job that utilizes our best skills, and the lifestyle best suited to us, we muddle along feeling frustrated. Over time this disconnection from our “best-ish” self –the one connected to our highest potential– can contribute to anxiety, depression and lowered self-esteem.
When either of these scenarios play out, instead of looking inside to our own inner intelligence for solutions, we tend to look outside for prescriptions or escape. We choose things like prescription drugs, substance abuse, or excessive entertainment which keep us stuck in the scenario of escaping, and watching / consuming other people’s lives rather than figuring out how to better live our own.
There is nothing wrong with any of these choices as a temporary fix. But practices become habits when we do them over and over. Habits can be beneficial: the habit of brushing your teeth twice a day, for example, leads to good oral hygiene and prevents tartar build up, cavities, and bad breath.
Plenty of your habits may have served a purpose at one time in your life, but if you continue to follow these habits without listening to your inner voice –your spirit, or Wild and Wise Heart– eventually you lose the ability to connect with this part of you that is deeply connected to your own well-being.
So, what can you do instead?
Step One: Quiet Your Mind
You can google benefits of meditation and find hundreds of articles on how a meditation practice will benefit you, and plenty more that will teach you how. But I know that those of you who do not already have a meditation practice are skeptical. The good news is that if sitting quietly cross-legged on the floor repeating simple mantras to yourself doesn’t sound natural to you, there are other ways to quiet your mind.
A few are active choices –yoga, xi gong, trail running, hiking, fly fishing, knitting, collage, coloring, gardening– to list just a few. Quieting your mind, or mindfulness, is simply the ability to pay attention, on purpose, nonjudgmentally, to the present moment.
Honestly, this can be done anywhere and anytime, especially doing the things you already love to do. You simply need to be taught how, and then make it a practice, until it becomes a habit.
In my opinion, the easiest, most powerful way to quiet your mind is to leave it.
To do this, simply drop your awareness down to your heart. You can place your hand over your heart to add a physical component to this practice, but it isn’t necessary. When you drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe, just slightly more deeply than usual, imagine that your breath is flowing in and out of this heart area. This practice essentially creates a “time-out” for your mind, which enables you to let thoughts go.
Then ground yourself to the earth, by imagining that your awareness is dropping down into your hips, then down your legs to your feet, and connecting you to the earth with invisible roots, intertwining you with loved ones, like trees.*
Then bring your awareness back to your heart, and continue to breathe, imagining your breath is flowing in and out through your heart area for 30 seconds, more if you have the time.
I call this tool my inner sanctuary tool … everything else begins to drop away, and it’s just me and my heart, and the Earth. This tool helps to clear all the static, stories, and amplified emotions your mind creates on a regular basis and begins to reconnect you to what I call your Wild and Wise Heart.
As with all habits, this becomes easier over time. I tell my clients to practice this tool 20 – 25 x per day … but in the beginning, for only five – ten seconds at a time. Essentially, what you are doing is creating a new very simple habit, which will then serve you when you need it the most. You can use this tool in-the-moment and on-the-fly. Or you can combine it with any of the active mindfulness activities I suggested above.
Step Two: Reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart
There are numerous ways to reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart. Kicking off the Inner Sanctuary practice will help you jump start this relationship.
However, once you start to feel this reconnection, you will want to kick it up a notch. For this, you’ll need to set aside some time for yourself. Trust me, even though this might be hard at first, it will be well worth it.
Get out a journal or a piece of paper and begin by writing down five things you love to do.
Next, write down three to five things that get in your way of doing these things on a regular basis.
Now, do a time inventory. Think back over the past five days. Did you fall into any of your old “time quick-sand” habits, where you got lost in an activity that didn’t bring you as much value as the time you spent on it? (If so, don’t beat yourself up for this. Just bring awareness to it, write it down, and then drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe until you can feel yourself in your inner sanctuary again.)
Next, do a mindset inventory. Did you fall into any mindset obstacles? (These are things like: I need to set aside hours to do this, I need more money to do this, I can’t do this because ….) Again, the goal here is simply to bring awareness to these thought habits, and then go back to your inner sanctuary.
Release your attachment to all the obstacles. To do this, simply ask these questions, “I wonder where I could find 10 – 15 minutes in my day to do one of these things I love?” And “I wonder if there is some approach that belies these beliefs that I might be able to try today?” Write down your answers. (Try this: write your questions with your dominant hand, then switch to the other hand and write the answers. This is a trick to further interrupt your neuro-typical habits.)
Then act. Follow through –for a minimum of ten minutes– on one of the suggestions you gave yourself.
I’d love to hear how this challenge goes for you. After you try it, please drop me a note in the comments below.
Navigating your own grief is challenging, no question about it. In theory, the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, are a part of the framework originally proposed by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, while writing about coming to terms with one’s own death. These five stages have since been used as a helpful framework for anyone in grief.
In my own experience, just as difficult –if not more difficult– than navigating your own grief is navigating grief as a couple.
Between my partner and I, we’ve lost four people we care about in the past 7 months. In order: my aunt, his dad, my dad, and most recently his grandmother, (just this past weekend) who was also a mother figure to him.
We’ve been further challenged by our self employment. There is no such thing as “time off with pay” when you are sole proprietors. And we’re also navigating a reconciliation period from last year’s 8 month separation while he fished in Alaska.
It’s difficult to balance your needs with your partner’s needs during the everydayness of a relationship, but add grief and extra challenges and this balance becomes even more difficult.
For one thing, the stages of grief have been proven to not be linear stages. You can dance back and forth between depression and acceptance for months if not years. And of course, you are unlikely to be in the same stage at the same time. So when one partner is moving on, the other might be depressed, which creates tension and feeling a need to tiptoe around one another which feels inauthentic. Also, with multiple deaths in a short time frame, there is almost a sense of rivalry (comparison for sure) at who is grieving the most and when and why, and whose funeral was the best, and how we honored the lives of those we lost. This is ridiculous of course, but human emotions are not always rational, even in the best of times.
Other questions come up:
How can I support my partner without losing sight of my own boundaries and needs?
How do I deal with my anger and impatience when I don’t feel like being understanding and patient right now?
How can I best help my partner process his / her grief while still honoring my own process and continuing to move forward with my own life?
Of course, being me, I hold myself to a high standard and expect to do more than just muddle through. I am still learning to be gentle with myself and accept that I have to take care of myself first in order to be there for my loved ones.
My most relied-upon tools are the same ones I teach my clients.
HeartMath(R) –to transform the negative and draining energy into positive.
Walks in Nature –to bask in a sense of awe and wonder.
Creative Expression –to help process the emotions
A reliance on Spirit –to help when it gets too tough.
But unexpected encouragement that shows up in your inbox is also a big help. This past week was a particularly challenging one for me. I didn’t handle any of it as gracefully as I might hope, although certainly better than I could have.
I subscribe to Notes from the Universe, by Mike Dooley. This morning, here is what it said:
“You’re simply the best, Kristin. You blow my mind. We’re all in total awe. How you hold together under pressure. How you face up to your challenges. And your rebound ability totally rocks. You’re driven, persistent, and strong. Playful, silly, fun. Compassionate, sympathetic, understanding. You’re just plain unstoppable. And you always have time for others. What a package. Soooo…
How ’bout cutting yourself some slack every now and then?
Beautiful. Thanks Mike. And this goes for all of you as well.
I haven’t written a thing since last October! This is, in part, because I wanted every blog post to be “meaningful” and “perfect.” Of course it never will be, but before I let go of that expectation, it was difficult to start.
To be fair, beyond that self-imposed restriction, it has been an unusually unusual year. Along with Joy and Goodwill and New Year’s intentions, the holiday season folded in three important deaths: first my aunt, next my partner’s Dad, and then my Dad.
I know that the way each of us will grieve and process these three deaths is still unfolding … but the initial impact reframed my chosen theme for 2017 from abundance to serendipity.
You might think that death is an unusual place to find serendipity. But both my father’s death and my partner’s father’s death brought with them reconciliations that were both unexpected and valuable. And my aunt’s death brought both adventure and an opportunity to spend lengthy time with my California relatives. Now of course, I’d trade all of that to have our loved ones back; but since that isn’t how life works, I’m happy to have experienced the serendipitous moments.
Looking forward to sharing more of those with you in the days to come.