Writing or talking about judgment still bothers me. I feel my body reacting: mild tummy ache, tingles at the back of my neck, goose bumps, cold sweat, difficulty swallowing. I even have a name for that overly critical part of me: The Judge. A few years ago I saw a psychotherapist for about a year and she introduced me to The Empty Chair method in an attempt to help me figure out the source of my distorted self image and negative self worth. We had tried creative methods before (visualization and painting) but chose this particular method because of my reaction and resistance to connecting with that part of myself. From our visualization session before, I realized that although my anxiety about criticism and judgment was rooted in my early relationships with adults, over the years I developed a powerful and relentlessly judgmental side of myself. The Judge. She was the one who I now I had a problem with and wanted to reach. After all, “many things that seem threatening in the dark become welcoming when we shine light on them.” The Empty Chair method, we hoped, would allow me to converse with that side of myself and work through the discomfort to accept and embrace her.
I sat on a chair facing an empty one. Switching back and forth between them I was going to take turns speaking for myself and for the Judge. We were going to have a conversation out loud. I imagined The Judge sitting across from me and was immediately uncomfortable. It was a bit embarrassing to see how my body responded to an imaginary version of me, pretty much the way I described above. It made me self-conscious and silly and I laughed but I knew I was going through with it. I was going to talk to The Judge and she was going to talk back to me.
Me: Um, well Hello. (I was actually sheepish and shy if you can believe it!)
The Judge: (In a tone of voice dripping with disdain!) Okay, hello. We’re here, now what? What do you want to say?
Me: Well, I’m not sure.
The Judge: As usual. You never know what you want. You’re always second guessing yourself.
Me: Ok fine! I want to know why you are so hard on me?
The Judge: You know why. (smugly)
(I have to say it was so weird being me and then being The Judge. My body language and tone of voice even changed from chair to chair!)
Me: No I don’t. (defensively). Well not really. Maybe. But even if I do, everyone makes mistakes.
The Judge: You are not everyone. You are supposed to be better than this.
Me: I can only be who I am.
The Judge: You should be more.
(I started to cold sweat and my breathing became shallow)
The Judge: You are supposed to be more. Not the mess that you are in now, sitting in this room talking to an empty chair. And crying about it! Smarter, wiser, more capable. No mistakes! You know better!
Me: At least I’m trying! Everyone makes mistakes. And I am not a mistake! (I was shouting back)
The Judge: Aren’t you?
Me: No! And I can be better. I am already better. And you have no right to talk to me this way!
The Judge: Why?
Me: (I was quiet) Because we are the same.
The Judge: Ah. (she smiled!) Why would you say that?
Me: Because I judged you for judging me. I called you mean, cruel, out of place, stupid.
The Judge: Well I suppose I am all of those things. Sometimes. But I am more than that too.
Me: As am I.
Judgment is a funny thing. I’ve realized that in as much as it can feel intimidating and crushing, it can also help me to improve, if given and received with kindness. I am still working on forgiving myself and I try to understand my motivations (without criticism) and acknowledge my good intentions instead of berating myself for my past mistakes.
“We can’t concern ourselves with what was. We must act on what is.” Gyatso
Judging closes a door. The opposite of judging is compassion. When I am compassionate, I am open, connected, and more available to communicating respectfully with myself.
I saw this Dove ad the other day. It demonstrates really well how easy it is to judge ourselves unfairly and how harsh we really can be sometimes.
Take care and be gentle with yourself. Hugs, Phoenix
This is Post J, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.
The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.