Escaping The Judgment Juggernaut

“It’s amazing to me how much you can say when you don’t know what you’re talking about.” ~ Phoebe Bridgers

Don’t throw these from a glass house

True story in fifteen words: I was most confident about who I was when I didn’t know who I was.

At that time, my only operational mode was filtered through a mindset of internal superiority. It wasn’t that I felt superior to anyone. Truth was I felt superior to no one. No. One. I protected my fragile sense of self by drawing distinctions between others and who I believed myself to be. Once I learned more about myself, though, once I was at last able to see the cracks in my unconsciously crafted facade, everything changed. I knew my structure was vulnerable, so I started treading more carefully after a thought popped into my head. I recognized that I should not believe everything I think about others or about myself. I started questioning more and being certain less. I accepted that I lived in an enormous glass house, and from this precarious position stone throwing might be ill-advised.

I am still not consistently able to catch my hypocrisy or haughtiness in the moment, but it doesn’t take me more than a few minutes to get to a more open headspace, to recognize where I took a wrong turn, and to embark on a more authentic and honest path with myself and others. This often requires apologizing for a conclusion I jumped to, admitting I made an error, and then pointing out how the comment I made arose from my insecurities. This was difficult at first, but with practice it is becoming much easier. As a side benefit, it allows those in my circle the opportunity to get to know the real me. Like an unboxed refrigerator in a discount warehouse, I’m a little dinged up but in decent working order. There is nothing broken about me. I just had to accept that it’s not my flaws that define me.

I am working to embody the Ted Lasso school of thought: be curious, not judgmental. When I feel that judgment coming up, I am more equipped now to stop myself and be curious about my thoughts and why they jumped straight to negativity and derision. I know the demons that sabotage my better self and throw me into judging mode: shame, guilt, fear, and ego. When I go from zero to judgment faster than a Tesla in ludicrous mode, one of those dastardly devils is behind it. But now that I know my triggers, I’m quicker to catch myself and say, “Whoa there, Nelly. That is wholly unnecessary.” I am able to remind myself that I am safe now, the judgment that secured my ego and made me so damn confident about everything without having reason to be is no longer a necessary survival strategy. If I make a hasty choice or assumption, there is no need to project negative emotions onto someone else to cover up my error. I simply made a miscalculation due to the muscle memory of judgment that kept my fragile ego in bubble wrap for decades. It happens a lot when you’re recovering from a fear-based world view. It’s astounding how a little self-kindness and compassion dosed out accordingly can reduce the adverse effects of fear-based living.

I am able now to give myself and others more grace. We’re all human. We all have baggage that directs our behavior. The path to freeing yourself of judgment is facing that baggage, inspecting it carefully, understanding why you’re carrying it around, and then setting it down. I am grateful to those who bravely and in plain view undertook this journey away from fear-based functioning before me. Glennon Doyle, Kristin Neff, Anne Lamott, and Brené Brown saved me from living the entirety of my life in a glass house I inherited but in which I never wanted to live.

Don’t believe everything you think. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re talking about.

The Growth Proposition

Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Angelou

This saying by Maya Angelou is what I have to remind myself every day. It’s not right to beat myself up over mistakes I made in my past because I was doing the best I could with the knowledge and self-awareness I had at that point. Current me wishes I had been capable of making better choices for myself back then because if I had grown more back then, I wouldn’t be working so hard now. I would have had a head start. But that is not how personal growth works. Personal growth begins with awareness. Sometimes we don’t recognize that we need help right away. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that we’ve been abused or that we have any personal deficiency at all (I’m looking at you, narcissists).

The good news is that I know better now and I am doing better. Yes. I still overreact and get anxious. Yes. I constantly think I am I am screwing up and then mentally beat myself up over it. Yes. I am still often incapable of seeing what anyone would see in me and I have a difficult time trusting people. But there are things I now understand about my past that have helped me to do better in my present. I was able to break cycles from my childhood and do better for my sons. I have learned to be braver. I am working at standing up for myself, asking for what I want, and even (gasp) inconveniencing someone else if what I have asked for has not been delivered correctly. I’m getting better at catching myself before my fears and anxiety spiral out of control and lead me to dark places. It’s just not going as fast as I would like, but I understand now that this is a process. And that thought is also proof that I am doing better.

I remind myself daily that I might not be as far along as I would like, but awareness is a better place than many people get to. You can’t have personal growth without it, and I like to think that I am a growth proposition. Put your money on me, people. I can do this.