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How to Soften the Sharp Edges of Self-Judgement

By May 3, 2021May 30th, 2023No Comments

Beating yourself up and the habit of self-judgment aren’t productive and tear down confidence. Here’s how to be more kind to yourself:

When it comes to goal setting, you often hear “focus on the process” and “control the controllables.” What if something goes wrong or isn’t up to your expectations, but you have no one to blame but yourself? I put blame in italics because that word already puts you on the wrong track. 

How does taking personal responsibility for one’s actions differ from blame? Taking personal responsibility acknowledges that maybe you made a mistake (yes, we are all human) while committing to fixing it, while blame already feels constricting. Blame implies judgment. Blaming implies getting stuck in a loop of beating yourself up.

“How do I stop beating myself up?” is a common question. It comes down to self-compassion. (Here’s a podcast I recorded with the leading researcher in this area, Dr. Kristin Neff). For some, self-compassion can sound too ooey-gooey, but practicing self-empathy and treating yourself like you would a loved one when you make a mistake is important. 

Another way to practice self-compassion is through Metta or Loving Kindness Meditation. If your stomach was turning at self-compassion, it probably really is going at the term Loving Kindness Meditation. But those are just words. The gist of it is that you send out well wishes in your mind to someone, but you also send well wishes to yourself. I learned an impactful mantra for self-compassion from meditation instructor, Jeff Warren. It’s simply, “May I Be Well.”

How do you put this into practice?

  • Notice when you are judging yourself. Maybe you forgot about a meeting, and you start thinking, “How could I have made this mistake? I can’t seem to hold it together… (and on and on).” Maybe you had a sub-par workout, or your head just wasn’t in the game with something (personally, this is something I’ve been working on because I used to realllly beat myself up if I wasn’t riding downhill on my bike very skillfully).”
  • Pause and ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend who made this mistake or was feeling this way?” and say those things to yourself.
  • When the judgment pops back up in your mind over and over, simply note it. “Judging.” Noting it takes away its power. Or use a mantra that works for you. “May I Be Well.”
  • Ask: What would it feel like to be kind to myself right now? What would kindness look like right now? What’s one small thing I can think of to give myself a break?”

Many people worry that being kind to themselves will upend their drive or their personal edge. They think that beating themself up and using negative self-talk will drive them to better performances. In very short-term situations, that can work. But over the long-term? It chips away at your confidence. (Here’s an article I wrote on confidence as a bonus!)

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