Releasing Self-Judgment

Living a sublime spring break, I made it to three yoga practices, three days in a row. One particular yoga practice continues to resonate with me; the mantra, “Today, I release _________?” echoes through my mind. I thought, “What do I have to release? What holds me hostage?”

A few exchanges and interactions washed over me and lead me into deeper reflection regarding what I might want to release. One encounter involved my reaction to having to quickly change room reservations for an upcoming sporting event. The second involved my son’s lack of appetite after I had prepared a hearty, home-cooked meal for him. The third and fourth involved missing an interstate toll and exit on the Interstate both in the same day! In all four events, I felt the anxiety of fight or flight as I lashed out at myself for messing up, not getting it right, and having to adjust or alter my course in the moment. Why was I struggling with these common, everyday occurrences? What was I holding that I needed to release?

As I thought about my behavior in each of these instances, the word “resistance” flashed in my mind. Resistance? In each of these encounters, I experienced outcomes that I didn’t expect. I felt out of control and it did not feel good.

Whether we believe that we have issues with control or not, sudden unexpected outcomes or reactions can send many of us into a spin. Our chests tighten, it’s hard to breathe, our hearts race, our vision blurs, and anxiety, literally sweats out of our pores. For me, a moment like this is pure, raw anxiety. We’re unable to accept what is unfolding in the moment and we fight with all our might to regain control. But why?

The Facade of Control

When we think we’re in control, we feel safe and secure. We falsely assume that we know what to expect, everything is checked off, we are in full control…or so we think. Likewise, the facade of control convinces us that, “If I get it right, everyone will approve of and accept me.” We don’t have to look into judging, disapproving, critical eyes, when in fact, the eyes that we are looking into are our own. When we are in control, self-judgment and self-criticism takes a breather; however, we know the facade of being in control only last for a short time…until the next shoe drops.

When we are out of control, we feel vulnerable, not so much to others, but vulnerable to ourselves. We are our own worse critics. Reflect on the voice in your head when you mess up, drop the ball, or forget something or someone. Thinking we’re in control quiets the self-judging monsters that live inside our minds, cocked and ready to fire at the slightest inkling of anything less than perfection. Yes, I believe that perfection is within ear-shot of needing to be in control; however, that’s another blog.

What we need in these vulnerable moments when we feel out of control is acceptance, particularly self-acceptance. I think we also need to love ourselves and create a sense of belonging within ourselves. We’re fragile beings that depend on love and belonging as a basic human need. What’s funny is the very things we long for, such as love, belonging, and acceptance are the very things that we do not give ourselves. We look outside ourselves desperately hoping to receive these gifts from others and neglect giving these fundamental human needs to ourselves.

Loving Me

I didn’t always love me. I looked outside of me for love, belonging, and acceptance. It was a lonely existence. I was always disappointed in what I received or didn’t receive from others. I knew what I wanted and needed, and yet, I continued to look outside of me for answers.

Yoga has helped me find my way to loving me, all of me. On the mat, I learned to release self-judgment, criticism, and control. I learned to love and accept me, first. The process wasn’t easy. My first few yoga classes were messy. I compared myself to others, judged myself for wobbling, and cried buckets while in child’s pose. Over time, my heart opened, my mind cleared, and I felt the power of release from self-judgment. My perspective and attitude began to shift. Life felt easier, more peaceful, even amidst storms and chaos. My journey toward self-acceptance continues to be part of my daily self-care practice. It’s not always easy and much like life, ebbs and flows. Yet, the peace and grace I feel inside toward me is priceless.

Loving Ourselves

If you’re seeking acceptance, love, and belonging from others, reflect on whether you show self-acceptance, love, and belonging to you, first. Honestly, we cannot love others truly and deeply if we do not love ourselves. You might begin with completing Dr. Robert Holden’s Self-Acceptance Scale, which I found on Oprah’s website. It’s a quick, ten-question assessment that provides immediate results and invites you to participate in a 10-day self-acceptance plan. I found the assessment enlightening, in addition to the 10-day plan. It gave me questions, exercises, and reflections to contemplate, which I still do today. It’s important to know that any self-care plan is a practice. It’s ongoing and always evolving. We never fully arrive. It’s the journey that’s important.

Sending you inspiration,

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