by Jess Campbell
It’s no secret that we are our own worst critic. But figuring out where that criticism comes from can actually help you be a little easier on yourself.
I’m such an idiot!… Why did I say that?… Why did I DO that?… What the hell is WRONG with me?!?!
We all do it.
And typically, it’s not helpful. But learning where the judgement is coming from in the first place can begin to help you not only understand what’s happening but also stop self-judgement in its tracks. And that is always helpful.
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
When you’re in self-judgement – whether it’s a little whisper or a loud yell – that’s fear talking. To begin the process of understanding why we self-judge, we first need to understand what we’re so afraid of that’s causing us to self-judge in the first place.
For example, a common judgement that may run through your mind from time to time is that you’re not good enough. This concept of “good enough” could be in relation to anything: as a farmer, as a partner, as a family member, as someone trying to eat better/contribute to their community/be on time – the list goes on.
But what is the definition of “good enough” and who decides? The answer: YOU.
You decide what that definition is for yourself. And perhaps you have no idea what “good enough” means for you, so it subconsciously freaks you out every time you try to do literally anything. It’s why people are afraid of succeeding or doing more with their lives and stay stuck in jobs or relationships that make them unhappy. They’ve never taken the time to define what success means for them, so to try for something so undefined seems super scary.
EMBRACE YOUR ORPHANS
Another aspect that will often garner self-judgement is all the things we don’t like about ourselves. Maybe it’s the way you’re always impatient with your young livestock. Maybe it’s the way you speak to your kids when you’re tired. Maybe it’s your nose. The point is, we are quick to criticize what we’ve deemed to be our less desirable features and behaviours.
Instead, try embracing them. Yes, you read that right. Take a hard look at the behaviours and traits you don’t like, and give them a lot of love. In reality, the things you don’t like about yourself aren’t anything less than a facet of what makes you you. You are not made up of only good things; it is the light and the dark that makes you who you are. Try to consider embracing both sides equally a little more often.
HARNESS THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
The next time you catch your inner critic yammering on in your ear (or beginning another rampage in your mind), stop and forgive yourself. Say the words I forgive you, either out loud or inside your mind. Tell yourself that you are doing the best you can with what you know in the moment, and that you can choose differently – either right in the moment or the next time it happens. Because it’s true, isn’t it? Yes, you may wish you hadn’t done or said something that you now regret. But the act of self-forgiveness allows you the opportunity to learn and to make a different choice next time, one that’s more in line with how you aspire to behave as a person and how you’d like to live your life overall.
Recognize your fears, hold tight to your imperfections and forgive yourself. These are the beginnings of your path away from self-judgement and toward a more loving, authentic you.
by Jess Campbell
Knowing the difference between guilt and shame is vital to understanding your own behaviour.
Take a minute and think about how you feel when you make a mistake.
Do you feel frustrated and annoyed with yourself? Maybe a bit embarrassed – but ready to apologize, make amends and move on?
Or like you’re the biggest idiot on the planet and should never do anything, ever, because you’re a terrible person for having made the mistake in the first place?
Guilt and shame, terms that are often used interchangeably, are two very different emotions. Knowing the difference between them will not only help you improve your communication and relationships with others but also your communication and relationship with yourself. How? It helps you to understand both your behaviour and how you truly feel about yourself – and how to change.
DEFINING GUILT & SHAME
When we feel guilty about something, we are focusing on a certain behaviour. You eat too many cookies each night after the kids are asleep, you are consistently late, or you can’t seem to get yourself to bed at a decent hour knowing full well you have chores to do at 5 AM – and you feel bad about it. But these are all things you can change about yourself if you choose.
Shame, on the other hand, focuses on how you feel about yourself. For instance, you genuinely feel you are a terrible person because you eat cookies at night or because you’re consistently late or because you don’t go to bed at a decent hour. You feel these behaviours make you a bad person on a fundamental level; you feel you are flawed and that those flaws make you unworthy of love, belonging and connection with others.
According to the world’s leading researcher on shame, Dr. Brené Brown, guilt can actually be helpful. It allows us to hold up our behaviour against what we truly value and get uncomfortable about it, which then instigates change. Shame, though, is not at all helpful, according to Brown. In her TED Talk, Listening to Shame, Brown explains that shame is directly and highly correlated with things like addiction, depression, suicide, eating disorders, aggression and bullying – but that guilt is inversely correlated with those same things. That means if you’re depressed, suffer from addiction or aggressive, you feel that it’s who you are instead of feeling it’s something you can change about yourself.
HOW GUILT CAN HELP
Essentially, it’s much more productive to feel guilt than to feel shame. Again, feeling guilty focuses on a certain behaviour. You are entirely capable of changing your behaviours – overeating, being late, sleeping in – and you know that you can change. Yes, it might take awhile to recognize that you can change and then take some work, but you can do it. Setting your alarm to ring a bit earlier and then NOT going back to bed once it goes off is entirely within your control.
What guilt allows us to do is adapt. We recognize our behaviour as undesirable by feeling guilty and so we have two choices: either continue feeling guilty every time the behaviour occurs, or change the guilt-inducing behaviour.
But we can’t get rid of shame altogether; it’s a natural human emotion and we’re all going to feel it from time to time. The antidote to shame, according to Brown, is vulnerability. If you can allow yourself to be vulnerable – to admit to someone how you’re feeling and what’s happening, with the goal of feeling and getting better – then shame loses its power, and you can begin to move forward.
Remember: we all make mistakes and fail at things – but that doesn’t make us a bad person.
by Jess Campbell
Healthy relationships that are a positive force in your life are possible if you decide to put up a few guide posts.
Setting and maintaining boundaries is vital to nurturing functional, healthy relationships. Healthy boundaries are also crucial to self-care. The thing is, not many of us understand what boundaries are, why we need them or how to set them with the people we choose to have in our lives. So, let’s change that.
Having personal boundaries means that you understand what your own limits are, and you create parameters around those limits to keep them safe. Boundaries can be physical or emotional: physical boundaries include your body, personal space and privacy, and emotional boundaries include separating your own feelings from another person’s feelings.
The key here is knowing what your own limits are, which isn’t always as simple as it seems. If you’re unsure of where you stand, think about what is tolerable, comfortable and acceptable when it comes to your physical and emotional self. For example, does it make you feel bad and physically hurt when your cousin punches you in the arm every time you see them? Getting punched in the arm is your limit. And you can say no to that.
Another example would be a salesperson who calls you “Sweetie” or another overly affectionate (read: inappropriate) nickname. If that makes you uncomfortable, it’s outside your limits and you can say no to that.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever said yes to something you really, really wanted to say no to – but saying no would mean having to endure passive aggressive comments from a family member or being shamed about “that time you were a jerk and refused to help me” for the rest of your days.
This is a very clear example of a boundary being disrespected. Even when you might feel guilty about trying to enforce that boundary, you have a right to say no to things you don’t want to do, regardless of how the person asking may feel about it.
Building healthy boundaries begins with understanding you are responsible for your own words, actions and behaviour, and that you are not responsible for the words, actions and behaviour of others. The next time you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do, say no, regardless of how you think the other person might react. Unless that person is falling down a well and really does need your help, you are not responsible for how they choose to feel about your decision. No matter what their reaction, they are choosing to react that way and it does not actually have to affect you.
BOUNDARIES = FREEDOM
You are your own individual person who chooses your own feelings and thoughts. This means you and your emotions are and can be separate from the emotions of others; how you feel doesn’t have to be tied to how someone else feels. If the person from the saying-no scenario above decided to react with anger or use guilt to attempt to sway your decision, it is key to understand they are choosing to react that way and their choice is not your responsibility.
If setting boundaries scares you, that’s okay; you can start by setting small, non-threatening boundaries. Commit to becoming more aware of your own emotions and putting your own needs first. It may be hard work at first but always remember – you’re worth the work.