Judgment is a topic that is currently at the forefront of my mind. Why? I started my Your Memoir: Just Write It! Zoom course and realized how prone to criticism and self-judgment many writers are. I decided that today, I would share my thoughts about the subject. Judgment is a vicious cycle. If you judge others, you are likely to criticize and judge yourself. If you are perfectionistic and judgmental of yourself, you’re probably the first to judge others. When it comes to judgment, there are no winners.
While judgment of others is usually a way to make yourself feel better—at the expense of those you are judging—self-judgment is like drinking poison. It stops you from following your dreams and prevents you from doing what you love. Self-judgement stops us from speaking our truth, prevents us from taking risks, makes us second-guess our talents and abilities and keeps us in a cage of our own making.
When it comes to creative thinking, self-judgment is more damaging than judgement of others because it can result in anger, anxiety and depression. The real cause of self-judgment is our thoughts and the meaning we attach to them. For example, if you’re writing a book or working on a project and you get stuck, your self-judging self-talk might lead you down a rabbit hole. I’m never going to get this right. I’m just not smart enough. Why did I even start? This type of thinking is not only counter productive, it’s destructive. It doesn’t have to be this way.
There are several things you can do to banish self-judgment.
- See it for what it is—negative self talk reflecting your frustration and feelings for the moment. There are times when even the best and brightest get stuck. When this happens, rather than let it get you down, try changing the scenery. Go for a walk, head for the gym, stretch, do some jumping jacks.
- Go back to the task. If you’re still stuck, try some mindfulness breathing. Close your eyes. To the count of four breath in…hold your breath…exhale. Focus on your breath. Repeat for five minutes or until your mind is cleared of all negative thoughts.
- Return to the task. If you’re still feeling stuck, solicit help. There is no shame in asking for input or advice. We are all better together.
- Make an effort to say good things about yourself, your work and your life. If it helps, write affirmations on sticky notes and post as reminders. Look in the mirror and repeat statements like, I am open to new possibilities…The solution to my problem is on it’s way…I am confident and capable.
Often self-judgment comes from messages we received during childhood from a teacher, a parent, an older sibling or even a friend. Perhaps you were teased when you slipped an fell or got a bad grade on a test. Maybe you were called names or taunted for your appearance. Even comments made in jest can have a negative long-term impact. There is good news: As adults, we have the ability to reframe incidents from our childhood and discard limiting thoughts and beliefs.
So the next time, self-judgment creeps into your world, instead of letting it get you down, take some action and get back to the task at hand.
Jan Fishler is the author of Searching for Jane, Finding Myself (an adoption memoir), Don’t Stop Now: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life, Flex Your Writing Muscle (365 Writing Prompts), and PTSD: Lessons From Vietnam. She is a motivational speaker who also teaches writing classes online. More about Jan at www.JanFishler.net