Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
Sometimes I assume that people already know my story. But I realize that you might not. So I'm going to give you the Cliff Notes version here.
I grew up a sensitive kid in Maine. My perception of my childhood is that I lived in my own little world of books, music, and hiding places. I had this feeling that I was broken, unloveable. Like something was wrong with me. I either said too much or too little. I felt like an outsider, even from my family. It was easier to hide than to be seen. Because being seen meant being judged and rejected.
I also grew up with the feeling that I needed to take care of others; that I was a protector. A cheerleader, a supporter. And if I did these things, I would earn love. My personal relationships expressed this belief. I picked young men who needed support, cheerleading, and potentially protection (from themselves, often!).
With this combination of being an outsider (judged & rejected) and needing to earn others' love by supporting them, I became a chameleon in my interactions. I could become anyone, depending on the situation. There was so much of this, through my life, I lost the sense of who was hiding underneath.
In my academic & work life, I found that relationships and social skills/emotions didn't get you anywhere, but confidence, hard work, and muscling through to achievement would get you recognized (and loved). Do it. Succeed. Whatever it takes.
Until the job that cracked me open.
It wasn't the job's fault. I suppose it was a perfect storm of timing. I was 37, had three kids and a big job. I worked a lot, exercised a lot, and by the end, drank a lot, too. I wasn't healthy in any way, but I constantly got accolades from friends and co-workers about what a super-woman I was to be excelling at everything. When really, I was lonely, sad, and could not hold it together. I was looking for the job to tell me I was good enough, but really it told me I needed to be different.
I should give more. I should be "vulnerable" and at the same time "principled" and "efficient." I should know what I want and ask for it. I should be able to do it.
But I couldn't. I honestly could not figure out how to tie together my head and my heart. I had been living from the neck up for so long, I couldn't imagine how that might change. I didn't know what it meant to be vulnerable or how to do it.
I remember a friend during this time telling me I might work on "conscious embodiment". I had no idea what that meant. "It means being in your body and paying attention to it," she told me. Huh. It was the beginning of my transformation, my shift.
After the latest school shooting, I wrote an entire essay on Judgment. On disconnection, self-loathing, bullying, violence. What I realized through the writing process is that I want to share some ideas about how to move past the judgment. Releasing the judgment we feel from others and the barbs we hurl back.
"You judge because you are not comfortable in your own being" - Ram Dass
Many of us feel unlovable. We feel broken, often because of our histories, and we feel judged for that brokenness. We judge ourselves for it. We tell ourselves we are not good enough.
Even deeper than that, we try to separate from the parts we don't like. And if we see that same tendency/trait/word in others? We lash out. I see this every day in the US political system. I see it in myself when I shudder at our "leaders", when I blame, when I criticize.
So what's the cure? What can you actually do to make this world a better place?
#1. Deal with your shit. You can do this lovingly, gently, kindly. It sounds easy & trite "Be nice to yourself." Experiment with what it means to be unconditionally loving to yourself. What does it feel like to be loved? Maybe it's journaling, talking kindly, taking a walk, taking a nap.
#2. Notice. notice the thoughts that run through your mind and the words that escape your lips. Are you separating from yourself? Are you judging? It's ok. It's not going to change overnight. Now, notice the feeling in your body. For me, judgment feels like a pit in my stomach and a constriction through my chest, my throat starts to hurt. I hole up into myself like Picasso’s Blue Nude.
#3. Open & Release! Once you know where the feeling is (like how I feel judgment through my torso and a lump in my throat), you can move with the body to work it out. In the heart and shoulders, yogic cat/cow breaths might feel nice. Fold into yourself and then open/expand real big!
#4. Get Quiet. Every moment of every day, we have choices before the next moment. In practice, you can slow down your thoughts and your reactions. You can pause. You can choose a new way. If meditation is your thing, do it. If not, start with a centering idea of "How can I love myself better today?"
#5. Choose a new way of thinking or speaking. Already came out of your mouth? OK. Write it down. That thought or those words. And then flip the paper and approach the situation from a different perspective. So much of our angst stems from denying how things are.
#6. Keep working on it, with an open heart.
We absolutely have to start with ourselves. As you find more compassion for your own way(s) of being in the world, you can find that compassion for others.
Feeling judged by others? Try this exercise!
You gotta feel it to heal it.