How To Not Judge Yourself

A few days ago I was supposed to be at the office at 2pm for a two-hour meeting. I was a few minutes late. Before I walked in, someone in the group chat suggested going to the gym together after the meeting. I hadn’t brought my gym clothes with me so I decided to go buy some new gym clothes. So I just missed the meeting entirely.

What the hell?

Usually I judge the shit out of myself for this kind of thing. I feel guilty or embarrassed. I kick myself for doing something so socially off. And then because I’m unable to accept my own behavior, I don’t expect others to accept it. So I spend a lot of energy coming up with my “stance” — what’s my story about why I just did what I did? What rhetoric am I going to use when people confront me? How can I justify my behavior? What circumstances can I blame my choices on?

Then I’ll start remembering all of the other times I made similar mistakes. I’ll reminisce on my utter incompetence and I’ll diagnose myself. In my mind, I’ll have this on repeat: “What the fuck is wrong with me?”

And suddenly, one moment’s poor decision has turned into weeks of cleanup and low energy and self-judgment.

But this time I decided not to judge myself.

I could feel the option to self-criticize but I chose not to take it. I stayed neutral. I insisted on not telling myself any stories. And if a story tried to sneak in, I forced myself to feel open.

Feeling open is not the same as “having an open mind.” Openness is a state of being. There’s nothing defensive or active or righteous about it. It’s empty and spacious. It’s a temporary release of all stories and biases and attachments.

This is a little hard to describe. It’s more visceral than mental. To feel open I didn’t think anything specific. It was more in my lungs and chest and heart. It’s the feeling of being open. The feeling of being neutral and unbiased and curious. Imagine watching the moment unfold on TV. Your character might be in a bind— but you’d be comfortable in your living room— just watching openly, interested in what comes next. 

Openness is incompatible with self-judgement.

Every time I could feel a negative thought creeping in, I would flood my system with openness. And I felt relief. I felt neutral and objective and clear. Consistently. Eventually the negative thoughts stopped trying.

It seems contradictory doesn’t it? It seems like if you feel a negative thought creeping in, you should protect yourself— guard yourself by closing down. Or overwhelm it by filling your mind with positive affirmations. 

I’ve tried that stuff. It’s never worked for me. Closing down or distracting myself just postpones the suffering. And trying to fill my mind with positive thoughts feels fake and wears me out.

Had I succumbed to the self-judgment, I probably would have ditched the gym to avoid my team, wallowed in my own shameful discomfort, and spent the rest of the evening coming up with reasons and justifications.

But by opening myself up to my behavior instead of defining it and judging it and making conclusions about it, I had access to options that perpetuated openness. I wrote a lighthearted message to my team apologizing for missing the meeting, went to the gym, laughed with some of them about my weird choice, then had a blast playing pickleball and basketball.

It was over.

We’ve all experienced the shittiness of self-judgement. Whether you said something inappropriate that offended someone or cheated on a partner or wasted an entire day watching Netflix.

Self-judgement breeds shitty solutions.

If you’re stuck judging yourself, the options you perceive will be weak. You’ll be inclined to withdraw or make excuses or overcompensate or pass blame.

But try feeling open. Try feeling it right now as you read this, just to experience it. Try it the next time you’re frustrated with yourself. Try it the next time someone cuts you off. Try it the next time you see Donald Trump speak. Do you notice how true openness and judgmental thoughts can’t coexist? 

7 thoughts on “How To Not Judge Yourself

  1. Yeah nice. Totally get the openness of being. I’ve struggled a lot with self judgement and criticism. I’ve found bringing in the energy of love in the moment of judgement works well for me. It’s similar to the feeling of openness actually. First bringing this vibration to the part of me that is judging and criticizing, and then to the part that is being criticized. Helps keep my vibration up in those moments and the judgement falls away. I made a video about this literally two days ago in case you’re interested. It’s the second post on this facebook timeline:

    Keep up the excellent work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m reading through some of your posts and I just relate to you so much! I love how open and real and human you are right alongside being wise and brilliant and amazing. Makes me feel more sane, like it’s okay for all those contradictory perspectives to share office space within myself as well. 🙂 So, I definitely relate to the self-judgment (and fear of others’ judgment), and all that ensues from that. I would love if you could recommend (or make?) a guided meditation.. something to help guide us into what that feeling of openness really feels like. Once activated once, then it’d be easier to re-activate it just by remembering the feeling. Just a thought. I think you’ve got some good hypnotist mojo you could be working. 😉


  3. Kate

    I read your first paragraphs under “What the hell?” and all I could think was “I FEEL LIKE I’M BEING PERSONALLY ATTACKED RIGHT NOW”. I can count on my two hands the number of times in my 24 years that I’ve felt this vulnerable, this stripped down to the essence that is the inner workings of my mind.

    This is terrifying.

    I took your advice, and I opened myself and for a good few minutes kind of felt like I was freefalling, if that makes sense? Like when I first started feeling like what you described, that sensation….God I’ve never wanted so much to run and hide and go back into my old thought pattern so much. I still feel like I’m freefalling – like there’s too much room inside my chest. But I’m breathing through it, and I’m trying to memorize its feeling, because you’re right. Self judgement is so incredibly exhausting, and I’ve been making myself sick with it.

    Thank you for posting about your experiences. This is what I’ve been trying to tackle with my counselor and I was….resisting. It’s so much easier to give into self-diagnosis, giving myself stories so that I can explain away what I believe to be my biggest inadequacies. But I can’t keep doing that if I want to grow and move forward.

    I’ll let you know how it goes hahaha….God even posting a comment is terrifying. But I want you to know that you’ve impacted me in what I think is going to be a major way, so thanks ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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