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Self Compassion or Self Judgment? You Decide.

Are you aware of how you talk to yourself and whether it’s from a place of self compassion or self judgment?  The truth is, most of us aren’t.  When you watch this Dove Commercial, it’s really obvious how horrible the comments to these women are, but how often do you say negative things to yourself and not even notice it?

We all have them – those self judgmental voices that spew shame and won’t leave us alone.  All day long, they barge into your mind, filling you with nasty messages about who you are, what you look like, what you’ve done, blah, blah, blah.  Like Pig Pen’s patch of dust, that Itty Bitty Shitty Committee is ubiquitous.

You weren’t born with those voices, you didn’t ask for them, and you don’t deserve them.  Not. At. All.

When a person I’m working with says something judgmental about him/herself, I will ask, “Whose voice is that?”  More often than not, the response I get is, “It’s mine.”   As I like to respond,  “Well it is now, but you didn’t come out of the womb with that voice.  Someone gave it to you.”

Mirroring is an important phase in your development.  When you’re a baby, everything is about you:  the blanket is you, the diaper is you, the bottle is you, etc.  In order to move outside of that realm (and let’s face it, some people never do, but that’s the subject for a different blog), you need to be mirrored, or have others reflect back to you who you are.  To travel that developmental phase in a healthy way, you need a balance of positive, negative and neutral mirroring, such as:
Positive: You have a beautiful voice.
Negative:  You’re stupid.
Neutral:  You have green eyes.

So when you got mirrored by all those different people in your life – parents, teachers, coaches, clergy, etc – if it showed up as mostly negative mirroring, and those people reflected back to you more of what was “wrong” with you than what was “right” with you, you learned to make that voice your own and carry it around in your head.  You don’t need those people judging you because you’ve gotten pretty good at doing it yourself.

The good news is that there IS hope.  The not so good news is that it requires a lot of work.

While looking at Dr. Kristin Neff’s work on self-compassion, I had an “aha” moment when I realized that not only do I walk around with the voice of self judgment inside of me, but there’s also a part of me that believes her.  For example, when I start writing a blog and my self judging voice says, “Why bother?  No one cares what you think,” the part of me that believes her responded, “You’re right.  I think I’ll just watch reruns of The West Wing instead,” and before you know it, I’d walked away from my computer and picked up the remote.

If I was ever going to post a blog again, I had to be willing to find – and build up – my voice of self compassion.  But how?  Based on Neff’s work, the psychodramatist in me knew that just thinking about it wasn’t going to solve it, so I did the following psychodramatic empty chair exercise:

I sat in a chair and took on the role of self judgment, “You’re doing a terrible job, Jean.  No one wants to read what you’re writing.”  Then I sat in a different chair and took on the role of the part of me that believes the voice of judgment, “You’re right; what ever possessed me to write a blog about self compassion?”

This was my choice point:  I could either believe that voice, or I could find another one.  So I sat in a third chair and took on the role of self compassion.  “Writing a blog is really vulnerable, and of course you’re feeling nervous about it.  But you’ve written quite a bit in the past and you’ve gotten really good feedback, so don’t listen to that other voice.  Listen to me, and keep going.”

And when I listened to that self compassionate voice, it allowed me to keep writing.  It’s still scary to put my writing out into the world, but when I click “Publish,” I will remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

How will you talk to yourself today:  from a place of Self Compassion or from a place of Self Judgment?  You decide.