I sometimes judge myself even when I look at my cat. I then think about what he thinks is not good about me. Ain’t that something? A being which is by its nature Zen. And I think it’s judging me 🙂
It seems to me that most of us are afraid of other people judging us. And what do we do? We don’t give other people the chance to judge us, because we choose to judge ourselves before they even spend one second thinking of us. I have been so obsessed with other people’s opinions even though I thought I wasn’t. Lately I’m starting to realize I’ve held on to some very limiting ideas about how the world and people work. Judging is one of them. You might recognize it.
If you really think other people are judging you, have you ever considered that all the others are thinking just like you? Which is to say; they all think they’re being judged. In this way we keep this judging cycle in its place, without questioning it. We go along with gossiping and discussing other people’s lives, rather than looking at our own life. We seem to have forgotten that we are in control of ourselves.
It takes some courage to step out of this negative judging cycle and to see what it really is. To me judging is part of being a victim, whether you’re conscious of it or not. Most of our lives we have been taught that we need to follow certain guidelines; we need to respect authority and listen to our parents and teachers. And there is nothing wrong with that, in our early years we need help to assist us on our way. But if you are taught you need to become more successful than your parents, because you have the opportunity to go to university and they didn’t, you’re being taught the wrong way. Parents should never project their own failed dreams on their children. Children should be guided to fully express themselves without being judged. And what to think of teachers telling you you’ll never make it in life?
All this judging comes with a price. We lose our ability to just be ourselves. We get caught up in this game of trying to gain popularity, money amongst other things. What has this all to do with judging? It’s the belief that when we’re famous or rich, people will like us. It’s a projection of the limiting belief we are taught. The limiting belief which is saying: “I’m not good enough”. So we strive and strive to reach ever higher heights and yet people are still not happy or satisfied.1 The self-help industry has never been this big, right?
What can we do to stop this all? We should examine our own core belief (e.g. to me it’s the belief that I’ll never be good enough or worth it). And if you do the examination, you may find out that this belief is not your own. It’s been imprinted on you since you were young. When you were a child, you weren’t concerned about what other people thought of you. No, you were just playing and having a good time or sometimes a bad time. But there was no inner dialogue telling you you’re not worth it or that you couldn’t do something. You knew you could do those things.
And to me it has proven very helpful to look at all my addictions: thinking, smoking, drinking (coffee and alcohol), eating without even tasting the food etc. I started to see the negative impact all these addictions have had on me. They’re all there to block me from seeing the negative belief I carry with me. I was judging myself by giving myself over to the addiction. “Oh you’re so weak, drink some more beer.” And the next thing would be “Did you drink too much beer? You’re so weak”. So I started to recognize the pattern. It’s a negative cycle which keeps itself in place when left unnoticed.
As I’m now finally paying attention to it, I can hear all the judgments in my head. And the good thing is that by being aware of the judgments, I can choose not to follow their lead. We’re always free to let the judging go and instead start looking at the good things about ourselves and others. If you’re feeling you’re judging yourself too much, write down a list of things you do well. It might be you’re just focusing too much attention on the negative, while leaving out all the good things in your life.
The process of self examination can be painful, but it’s so worth it. I can tell this from my own experience. I thought I knew it all, that I was happy and that I had things going. But then a good friend of mine suddenly died and I was in shock. It took me years to overcome this and in the last couple of months I’m starting to realize I have to change if I want to make something out of my life. By examining my own judgments I’m starting to learn my own limiting beliefs. This gives me the space I need to grow. One by one I’m working on the judgments and facing them for what they are: illusions. Because in reality I am a beautiful person and so are you! We’ve only covered ourselves because we think we need to be ashamed of ourselves. But there is absolutely no thing in the world to be ashamed of, however bad you think it is. Because you are alive! And if you appreciate life, why not start appreciating yourself with or without all the judgments?
As Anthony de Mello points out so beautifully:
“The understanding will melt the addiction. And you will be free. And you will understand the loveliness of what prayer is. Then you will discover what reality is. What God is. Cause we will have dropped one of our biggest illusions. The illusion that we need to be appreciated, to be popular, to succeed, to have prestige and honor and power and popularity. There is only one need and that need is to be real and that need is to love. When one discovers that, one is transformed. Once life becomes prayer.”
1 You can read many examples in the books of Wayne Dyer, which helped me to start examining myself. The book I read was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Your_Erroneous_Zones