What if judgement and criticism of yourself is not helpful?
One of the first insights I had when I came across the Three Principles was the realization that I didn’t have to believe everything I think. As I began to see that insight more deeply I started to realise the fact that self judgement and self-criticism were the least believable of all my thinking. Yet it was a habit of thinking that I had set so much store in for so many years.
After that first insight I started paying attention, to see whether it really was true that I didn’t have to believe everything I thought.
Are these thoughts true?
“I need to do some laundry.” Did I need to? No. Would it be helpful? Yes. Next thought.
“I’m going to lose everything if I don’t pay this bill on time.” Was that true? No. But I lived that thought as if it was true so often. Next one!
“My husband is going to die.” I mean, that one looked very real at the time, when he was lying on the floor after collapsing on a flight, with an oxygen mask over his face and an almost non-existent heart rate. But that one turned out to be not true too.
And the list goes on. I continued to notice a lot of thoughts that were either not true or would turn out later not to be true. Sometimes it’s pretty difficult to know in the moment whether the thought will turn out to be true or not. That turned out to be liberating because in the moment I could choose not to worry about those thoughts and wait to find out. So often, I mean I’m talking 99% of the time, they turned out not to be true.
What about thoughts of self judgement?
Then my attention focused on thoughts that I term self judgement or self-criticism. Thoughts that multiple times had had a debilitating effect on my life.
“I’m no good. I’m a bad person. I’m unlovable. I’m unlikeable. I’m selfish. I’m unkind. I’m uncaring. I’m worthless. I’m a doormat.”
“I’m useless. I’m stupid. I’m not creative.”
“I’m a bad wife, mother, daughter, sister etc.” (You might insert husband, father, son, brother etc)
“I’m not good enough at my job. I’m a terrible boss, team worker, communicator, writer, coach (insert your job title here).”
“Why did I do or say that? I should have done or said this. I shouldn’t have done or said that. I should know better. One day someone will realise what a terrible person I am and that will be the end of me.”
Sometimes these thoughts are fleeting, other times they hold me in their grip, sometimes for days and weeks.
I worry about what others will think of me. How I look. How good I am. How well I do my job and I’m certain that they will find fault. Only it’s me that finds all the faults.
What I’ve seen is that none of that is helpful.
I realised that I can make mistakes and not be a fool. That I can do something stupid but not be stupid. That I can have regrets and not be a bad person. I realised that I’m human and that’s ok.
I realised that self judgement and self-critical thoughts are like hitting myself over the head with a hammer and feel just as painful. And when I stop doing that I can learn.
I can resolve to do things differently given the same situation and the same context. I can vow to do better next time. And I can do all that without going through the suffering that self judgement and self-criticism causes. I actually can’t do better until I’ve left that thinking behind.
While I am in that thinking, I can’t learn from my mistakes.
So the sooner that thinking passes the better. I noticed that the content of all that thinking is also not true. Even if it seems true sometimes, it certainly is not true 100% of the time. What I noticed is that when that thinking passes, I can see truth, I can see facts more clearly and only when that happens, can I learn to do better next time.
If you'd like to learn more, watch the recording of our Livestream video on this subject.