No legal system in the world would sentence someone to prison for feeling angry. No matter how rageful a person felt, as a society, we only judge people for what they do — for their observable behavior.
And the reason for this is simple: It doesn’t make sense to judge someone for something they can’t control. And you can’t directly control how you feel: you can’t just turn down your sadness any more than you can crank up your happiness!
But it’s a strange quirk of human nature that while we know this is true, especially for other people, we ignore it when it comes to ourselves.
We empathize with other people for feeling anxious but tell ourselves we’re weak the minute we start to feel nervous about something.
We’re understanding with friends who are feeling depressed or grieving, but we tell ourselves to “suck it up” and “stop being such lazy bum!”
It’s more than a little ironic:
You’re compassionate with your friends when they feel bad, but the moment you begin to suffer emotionally, you criticize yourself for it!
One of the problems with judging yourself for how you feel is that it adds a second layer of painful emotion on top of the pain you already feel:
- When you put yourself down for feeling sad, now you feel sad and ashamed.
- When you worry about feeling angry, you feel anxious on top of feeling angry.
- When you criticize yourself for feeling afraid, now you feel frustrated and scared.
Feeling bad is hard enough without making yourself feel bad for feeling bad.
If you want to break free of the habit of criticizing yourself for how you feel, learn to practice a little self-compassion. It’s all about recognizing your feelings and make it a habit to counter negative feelings with positive, happy feeling.
Negative self-judgement is damaging emotionally, and it leads to all sorts of problems. As well as damaging your self-esteem it can be associated with anxiety or depression, along with many chronic illnesses. It may prevent you from doing things you want, and it can isolate you from people. However, you can lead a more fulfilling life and increase your self-esteem when you stop judging yourself negatively.
Negative self-judgement might be a habit and something you do automatically. You need to get out of that habit. Stopping the negative self-judgement is all about changing your thoughts and words. The good news is that you have the power to change the way you think and talk about yourself. Here are some tips on how to stop judging yourself negatively and increase your self-esteem:
- Catch your negative thoughts and words.Pay attention to and stop the negativity in its tracks. Resist the habit of calling yourself stupid, ugly or incompetent. Stop putting yourself down. Challenge, and replace the negativity with positive thoughts and words.
- Practice mindfulness and being in the present moment.Practice being present and noticing things as they are without making a judgement. Use your senses to see, hear, smell, feel and leave it at that. Just be present.
- Stop overgeneralizing.Failure in one situation does not mean you’re a failure, stupid or incompetent in general. Don’t judge yourself negatively based on a single experience. Instead focus on the lessons you've learned, what you did well, and think of failure as a growth opportunity. Make any criticism specific and constructive.
- Don’t believe your negative thoughts.The more you talk or think about yourself in a negative way, the more you believe it. Get out of that habit. Know that you are not stupid, ugly or incompetent even if you believe it.
- Accept compliments with gratitude.Say "thank you" and show appreciation for the compliments you receive. Don't respond by saying something negative about yourself; that is a form of negative self-judgement. Additionally, it could be taken as a rejection by the person who gave the compliment, and that could turn them away from you.
- Focus on the positives about yourself.You have many positives and it's important to keep those in mind.
- Love yourself in your entirety. You are valuable as a whole person, including your imperfections.
- Treat yourself as you would a best friend. This is very important. Other friends will come and go but you're guaranteed to stick around for your entire life. Treat yourself with care and respect and practice positive self-compassion.
It's important to know that change is not going to happen overnight. Stopping the negative self-judgement will take effort and commitment on your part. However, it's well worth it and you deserve it.
This isn’t about smiling and telling everyone your happy. These habits should be thought of as medicine, Taking your “medicine” is a good hygiene practice that shouldn’t be ignored.