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The Stickiness of Judgment

Over the past few months, there are two words I keep coming back to — compassion and curiosity. When I get caught up in my thoughts or feel overwhelmed and all judge-y, getting curious and holding compassion for myself has been a powerful nudge for me to take a big exhale. These two simple words have anchored me in my personal life, as a yoga teacher, and as a coach. When I can get curious and have compassion for myself and others, the judgment I'm holding fades away.


The key word in that last sentence is "when." It's when I fail to step back and embrace curiosity that I become entrenched in judgment and begin to attach greater significance to my emotions. 

Making It Mean Something

There’s a big difference between failing at something and being a failure. And there’s a big difference between disappointing someone and being a disappointment


In both cases, the former statements are reflections on circumstance. Maybe you sent a proposal at work or had a product launch in your business that was met with crickets. Or you received a bit of feedback you didn’t really want. Maybe it stings a little, but you shake it off. You learn something from the experience, wipe the dirt off your knees and move on to the next opportunity or deadline. 


C’est la vie.


But the latter statements are judgments of who we are at our core. They’re judgments that are reflections of our deepest fears. I’m a failure. I’m broken. I’m weak/incapable. I’m not enough, etc. Or, they're judgments of someone else's character. They're unreliable, they're not to be trusted, or they're a cheat


When we experience failure or disappointment, it's easy to misinterpret these events as reflections of our worth and abilities, especially when our feelings and let's be real, other people, get involved.


Our feelings and the opinions of others can sometimes cloud our perspective, leading us to believe that these experiences define who we are. So we distort life’s events (a failed product launch, a rejected proposal at work, being turned down by a love interest) and make them mean something fundamental about who we are as humans.


It’s a pretty shitty way of looking at us and others in the world. It’s a perspective that lacks nuance and keeps us stuck in a self-defeating cycle of our own personal flavor of self-sabotage.


I’m never going to be successful in my business. 


Why would I ever rely on another person again if they’ll always disappoint me? 


No one will ever love me again. 


This type of black-and-white thinking shows up time and again with my clients (and myself). It can be self-defeating and often leads to procrastination, perfectionism, and rigid boundaries with others. All because we want to protect ourselves from being hurt in some way.


The most powerful antidote to this way of thinking? 




Compassion softens the grip of judgment and provides perspective and lightness. But how do we cultivate compassion in moments when it feels inaccessible?

Breaking the Cycle

For many of us, this automatic way of thinking is exactly that: automatic. Therefore, unwinding it takes some time, but it IS possible.


By incorporating the following practices, we can shift our perspective from self-criticism to self-compassion, allowing us to grow and learn from our experiences.


Identify the Pattern:


Start to notice when you use words that reflect all-or-nothing thinking. Listen for when you use phrases like 'always,' 'never,' 'can’t,' 'ruined,' 'useless,' or 'hopeless' when you talk about circumstances, yourself, or others.


If you have trouble recognizing this pattern, enlist a friend or partner who you trust to reflect your language back to you. Alternatively, you can practice by listening for these words when others speak. It's a useful way to become more aware of when you fall into a pattern of all-or-nothing thinking. 


Set down the Judgment:


Show yourself and others compassion. These thought patterns likely developed as a way of keeping you safe in uncomfortable or threatening situations. By recognizing that these ways of thinking have served you in the past, it becomes easier to let go of the judgment and approach the situation and yourself with gentleness. Even better, try to find some humor in the situation. This lightens the weight of judgment and gives you some space to reflect. After all, it's pretty silly to make one mistake mean the end of the world, right?


See the Impact:


That thing I just said about these patterns serving us in some way? They’ve also gotten in the way of us getting what we really want. Once you step back from the story (your flavor of 'I’m never going to be successful in my business.' 'Why would I ever rely on another person again if they’ll always disappoint me?' 'No one will ever love me again.') ask yourself: If I continue to believe these stories about myself, what will always be impossible for me?  


Choose from your Commitment:


Now that you see the cost of this thought pattern (no judgment!), it's time to get super clear on the benefits of untangling it. What is your big vision or goal? What's that one thing in your life, your relationship, your career that you want so much but are too afraid to admit? Hint: It's probably that "impossible" thing you identified above.


Remember it and come back to it often. When the judgment arises and you feel like giving up, acknowledge with compassion that you can choose to show up differently in this moment.

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