I’ve been focusing on self-love and acceptance over the past couple of months. It’s been going well, overall. I mean, there are still ups and downs as I learn how to love myself. If you’re someone who hasn’t struggled with this, self-love sounds very simple. On the other hand, if unconditional love for yourself is a new concept, or has been an ongoing challenge, you probably know what I mean.
One thing I’ve been noticing over the past few days is when I move into self-judgment. Over the years of hanging out with friends with philosophy degrees, I’ve learned not to entirely condemn the idea of judgment. We need to be able to use our judgment to discern what we value, fine-tune our ethics, make wise choices, and discover our preferences. What I’m talking about is the negative connotation of the term: making our love or approval conditional, contingent on some action we may or may not take.
To use a common example, there’s exercise. When I choose to do my yoga routine or take a long walk, I’ve noticed that I feel good about it. On one level, there’s the release that my body and emotions experience, the actual “feeling good” part, which is natural and enjoyable. But there’s another level. I “feel good” about myself, as in “feeling virtuous for having done this thing I should do.” It feels like a false boost to the ego. It’s like I’ve absorbed, on some deep level, the punishment and reward system so prevalent in our culture.
The reverse is true as well. If my mental to-do list includes something like writing an article or doing the laundry, and then my day proceeds in a new direction, I may feel like I’ve failed in some minor way. Usually the emotions are easily worked through and I move on, but what I’m questioning now is whether I can get rid of this layer entirely. I’ve somehow trained myself to listen to that inner critic, but I think it’s time to send it home. This week, I’m working on not only noticing the impulse to judge myself, but also mindfully releasing it. It feels like a sigh of relief. Ahhhhhhh…