I see it all the time. Too often, as someone is trying to make some sort of progress in her life, she undercuts herself with judgment.
Just a few weeks ago, I was leading a group of professional women through an exercise on self-care. As they wrote out a list of what they most needed to be their best selves (eight hours of sleep, some quiet time, daily movement), I could see a little cloud cross each woman’s face.
“How many of you spent more time judging yourself for what you aren’t doing than considering what you could do during that exercise?” I asked.
Most of them raised their hands.
We grew up in a world of gold stars and checks or minuses. We now live in a world of performance evaluations and 360-degree feedback sessions. While all those things serve a purpose, if we aren’t careful with our reflection, we can move pretty quickly from healthy self-evaluation to judgment.
And judgment, I have found, is about the lowest common denominator when it comes to motivation. Judgment doesn’t move you. Judgment isolates and paralyzes you. “Why bother?” becomes the battle cry of the judged, not “Why not?”
“It is only when we take the emotion out of the situation that we can do something powerful with what we are learning,” I told the group and then I let them in on something I have come to understand in the last few years.
It is all just information.
We are so inclined to think we are colossal screw-ups and that we are just one mistake away from being found out. But we’re not. Maybe we have slip-ups. Maybe we said a thing we regret or forgot to do something we promised someone we would do. But that doesn’t make us bad.
Just because we don’t attend to every detail that we thought we should or could or that others wished we would doesn’t mean we are flawed or imperfect or bad. It is simply information.
Whatever it is that has made you call yourself a screw-up is lying to you. You are not a screw-up. The things that turn out differently than you expected or that you aren’t able to make happen shouldn’t be taunting you. They shouldn’t indicate that you are irretrievably broken. They are giving you information. See them that way and there’s a way to grow, there’s a way up, there is possibility.
The thing we carelessly said can make us aware that something or someone is a sign we didn’t get enough rest last night or we waited too long between meals. The thing we forgot to do can make us aware that our calendar system isn’t working or that we didn’t really want to do it in the first place or that we are overcommitted.
When you see things for what they are and not what you label them, you get information that helps you grow, a place to go, a prescription for real motivation and you sidestep the judgment that foils you.
Rosie Molinary is the author of “Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance.”
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