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?
I read a book this week (written about five years ago) that said that we have a NINE SECOND attention span before we succumb to distraction. I bet it’s down to five now.
(Ha ha. Are you still here?)
Then, I read an article that pointed out that WE (you and me, all of us) have the power to create change, especially in our culture in our interactions with each other, with friends and family members, with power and authority, online and professionally, in our businesses and our platforms. We can interrupt the cultural norms we don’t consent to, and we can create new ones. This wasn’t new to me, as it’s been an evolving part of my manifesto for years, but I liked the way the article was worded.)
Have you ever thought of yourself as a culture shaper?
When I was first learning the HeartMath tools (ask me more) I took a year long program called Heart Mastery, which taught me how to apply the basic tools to all the aspects of my life in order to live a more Heart Centered life. In one of those classes, we talked about the power –and the value of– our ATTENTION.
I’m writing this just days before the Super Bowl, so it’s very relevant. Guess how much it costs to run a 30-second ad? I wish I could make you guess a couple times before I just tell you, but: $5.6 million for a 30-second slot!! Crazy, isn’t it? That’s how much your attention is worth.
Think of that the next time you’re deciding what to do with it.
It’s true that we place more value on the things we pay for … and WE certainly don’t value our own attention that much, do we? That’s why it’s so easy to get distracted from the Things We Really Want To Do.
So this year, I quit a few things:
I quit binging shows on Netflix … and prioritized my “to-do” list instead.
I quit my negative self – talk. (Or at least cut it waaaaay back … ) My new mantra is “everything is figuroutable” –thanks Marie*.)
I quit isolating myself … and prioritized my friendships and connections instead.
I quit ignoring my inner wisdom and depreciating my woo* … and had some major break throughs just this week.
It’s your turn:
What things are you ready to quit this year? What will you do with your time and attention instead? Let me know!
Yesterday afternoon, Justin and I went to Christmas Eve Mass with my mom, my sister, and her family.
As is my practice since I was a kid, I zoned out during Father’s sermon. I have a special gift for this. Apparently, I’m so good at it that the priest generally thinks I’m paying rapt attention. (I know this because one of my favorite priests from my teen years told my parents he enjoyed giving his sermons when I was there because he could tell I paid avid attention. Ha ha. Not.) It’s my time during Mass when I allow my imagination to float away on its own. Who knows how many realms I’ve traveled during those sermons over the years.
Yesterday, I looked up at the mural of angels surrounding Mary, and began imagining myself into that scene, which reminded me of one of the spiritual practices I learned from Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. (See, I told you you’d be hearing more about this!) This practice is officially called Ignatian Contemplation. (You can learn more about Ignatian Spirituality here. Or under Resources in Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.) Vanessa and Casper (hosts of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text) tend to adapt the official practices a bit, which I love. In this practice, they invite you to enter the text through the eyes of any character you choose.
I decided to imagine myself into the gospel reading — the one you all probably know, from Luke, that begins “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken …” And then takes you through most of the characters and scenes you associate with the birth of Christ, from the angels in the sky to the shepherds in the fields, and into the stable with the animals, Mary, Jesus and Joseph.
I decided to imagine myself into the story, first as a shepherd, then as Mary. Before I could imagine any other characters, the congregation chuckled at Father’s second joke, which I missed entirely. (I was disappointed, actually, because the first one was pretty good.) So I popped back into the real world.
But, the practice made me feel more present to and added back a new level of sacredness to the story of Christmas that surprised me.
I thought as it was appropriate for Christmas, I would invite you to do the same, and give you a taste for yourself of one of the reasons I get so much out of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.
Sacred Imagination Practice
Step One: Choose any character you like. You can even choose other well-known characters not mentioned specifically in the text, such as the Wise Men or the Little Drummer Boy … or even imagine that you time-traveled and found yourself there as an invisible spectator.
Step Two: Once you have selected the character you wish to imagine yourself into, close your eyes and listen to the text. (I’ve recorded it here for your convenience.) Imagine yourself into the scene using all of your senses and emotions. What do you smell, taste, touch, see, hear, feel?
Step Three: Listen to it once more with the same practice. You can either switch up your character, or go a little deeper into the first character’s perspective.
Step Four: (Optional) In a true gospel contemplation, you would finish by speaking person to person to Christ, saying what comes from your heart.
I’d love to know how this went for you. What character did you choose? Did this make the scripture come to life for you in a way it hadn’t before? Did it change the way you relate to this well-known story?
Hope your final days of 2019 are wonderful.
PS) Looking for a beautiful way to set intentions and create a plan for 2020?
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.