Challenging Self-Judgment

I came across an interesting statement recently:

If someone makes a remark about you and it’s something you also judge in yourself, it will most likely hurt. However, if they make the same remark and you don’t have that judgment about yourself, it probably won’t bother you at all.” – Tiny Buddha

To me, this statement makes a lot of sense.  Here’s how I unpacked it in a session with a client (Gill). You may also want to work through this process yourself, on an issue that is pertinent to you.

Note: My questions and counselling interventions are highlighted below in bold font.

1.Think about the kinds of remarks you find particularly upsetting. (For example, it might be related to the kind of partner, spouse, parent, daughter, son or employee you think others view you as being).

2. Next, try to summarize – in a sentence of two – what, specifically, you find so upsetting about these comments or remarks.

Gill stated the following here:

I feel my siblings think I don’t do enough for our aging parents. But, honestly, it wouldn’t really matter how much I did, in their eyes it still wouldn’t be enough. There is nothing I could do that would ever be enough”

3. I then asked Gill to think about the following: “Why does this statement hurt so much? What do you feel is so unfair about it? Also, what would you like other people to know – so they have a clearer, and more accurate picture of things?”

Gill responded as follows:

“I have tried so hard to show my parents that I love, and care about, them. Yet, I feel as if all my efforts are ignored. No matter what I do, it doesn’t count in their eyes. It also doesn’t count in my siblings’ eyes.”

Gill then added:

I live in a family where everyone is hypercritical. No-one ever looks for, or comments on, the good. And that means you never feel you get it right.

“And I try to be a good daughter. Because I care about my parents, and because I genuinely want them to be happy.”

But I always feel I’ve failed. Somehow, I never seem to measure up. And that really hurts. I feel I’m being judged for being the opposite of who being I’ve honestly tried so hard to be.”

3. I then turned the conversation round to explore self-judgment. I asked Gill if, perhaps, there was an extent to which she, herself, she had internalized the attitudes and judgments of her parents and siblings? Was she actually using their measuring stick to assess herself?

This seemed to resonate with Gill – for she responded by saying:

I think there might be something in that. When I hear my sister’s voice inside my head, I automatically think others will be thinking ‘She’s right!’ … And that all these imaginary people will be ganging up against me, and criticizing me, and putting me down. I then attack myself for being a failure, too.”

4. Next, I asked Gill to think about whether or not her self-judgments were reasonable and accurate. I asked her to create a list of concrete evidence backing up the negative self-judgments, and another list of evidence which contradicted these internalized self-judgments.

Gill found very little to confirm the negative self-judgments, and plenty of evidence to contradict her self-judgments.

This exercise was useful in challenging and changing Gill’s self-judgment, and emotional reactions.

I hope you are able to find freedom, too.

“Never allow yourself to be defined by someone else’s opinion of you.”

14 thoughts on “Challenging Self-Judgment

  1. I wonder if Gill, like me, is a middle child. So many family scripts are written long before we realize the part we played. I had a father and two older brothers who often told this precocious young lad his opinion didn’t matter all that much. Even today this effects my self-confidence. I’m no psychologist, but family scripts are real. And they aren’t always accurate!

    I like how you said don’t let the opinions of others define you. It’s difficult to not be influenced by the thoughts and actions of others (unless they’re complete strangers), but these people should not have access to the “command center” of your life. That’s your head quarters!

    My favorite quote about living your own life:

    “Make of your life an affirmation, defined by your ideals, not the negation of others.” Gen. Alexander Haig

    You always make me stop and think. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s an interesting point … Is Gill a middle child? I think birth order can play a significant role in the way we see and feel about ourselves. Also life scripts are extremely powerful, and they aren’t often accurate.
      Great quote by Gen. Alexander Haig

      Liked by 2 people

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