6 Ways to Release Self-judgment and Start Accepting Yourself
Self-judgment holds you back from experiencing a free and fulfilling life. When you release self-judgment, you gain control of your life.
When you experience self-judgment, you may experience negative thoughts about your own emotions, who you are as a person, your abilities, and what you’re capable of.
People tend to be their own worst critics, but the beautiful thing is that we have the power to release self-judgment.
By incorporating practises that allow you to become more aware of your inner critic, you can replace self-judgment for self-acceptance.
What is self-judgment
The voice of self-judgment is the voice of your inner critic.
The inner critic can fill you with insecurities, self-doubt, low self-worth, low self-esteem, and feelings of not being good enough.
It's the voice inside your head that is essentially your inner bully.
It's the voice that comes up when you find yourself being mean to yourself. The inner critic is the voice telling you that you're a failure, that you're not good enough, or that no one can love you.
The voice of the inner critic can be so loud, and the things that the inner critic says can truly feel like fact. It can make us feel so small.
When we judge ourselves, it blocks us from loving ourselves.
Sometimes, the inner critic will give meaning to experiences by creating stories in our minds that don’t serve us.
For instance, let’s say you struggled with addiction for many years and are now in the early stages of recovery.
Your inner critic is making you feel guilt and shame about struggling with addiction, and about things you might have done while you were using.
You may have thoughts revolving around being a bad person and not being worthy of anything good. You ruminate on these negative thoughts and feelings, causing you to go into a downward spiral.
Silencing the inner critic with self acceptance
On the flip side, someone else who comes from a place of self-acceptance rather than self-judgment would move through this scenario entirely differently.
They would look at the experiences they’ve gone through and the lessons they’ve learned without allowing those experiences to give meaning to who they inherently are as a person.
They wouldn’t place judgments on themselves for going through the things they’ve gone through. In turn, they don’t spiral downward, and are able to freely move forward in life.
As you can see, self-judgment can be incredibly toxic and damaging to our well-being and growth. Fortunately, we’re all able to release self-judgment.
It isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it is an ongoing practise that will allow us not only to treat ourselves better, but also sets the foundation for us to have full, meaningful lives that are in line with our desires.
What does self-judgment look like?
Self-judgment takes on many different forms.
The voice of our inner critic can come from beliefs that we have formed about ourselves based on our experiences, our trauma, or how we have been treated by other people.
Not only does the inner critic put us down for who we are as a person, but it also makes us have secondary emotions of guilt, shame, and anxiety, for having emotions to begin with.
Having emotions about having emotions
When we struggle with self-judgment, we may struggle with feeling guilty, shameful, or anxious for having difficult emotions.
For instance, let’s say you got into an argument with your spouse because they had to stay at the office late and nearly missed date night. You feel angry towards them for showing up late, even though they didn't want to be late, and wanted to be there for you on time.
Then, you experience secondary emotions of guilt for feeling angry, since this was something out of your spouse's control. In addition to already feeling angry, your inner critic piles on secondary emotions of guilt and shame. You feel guilty for feeling angry and for feeling needy, and you feel shame for getting so upset with your spouse.
The secondary emotions make us feel even worse for having normal human reactions. Judging ourselves for our own feelings can cause us to spiral even further downward.
Who you are as a person
Sometimes, struggling with self-judgment means judging ourselves for who we are and how we are.
For instance, let’s say you’re someone who feels that you’re always late, or that you’re a shy person. Rather than looking at these qualities about ourselves from a neutral perspective, we spin them into elaborate stories that mean something about who we are as a person.
For instance, rather than just holding the neutral belief of, “I’m always late,” we may spin this into a thought of self-judgment that looks like, “I’m always late. I can’t do anything right and people think less of me because they don’t even expect me to show up on time anymore. It’s no wonder that no one loves me. I’m a failure.”
As you can see from this example, sometimes we judge ourselves by giving meaning to our qualities. The meaning we give doesn’t support us, but instead makes us feel even worse about ourselves.
In regards to believing “I’m shy,” instead of looking at that as a neutral statement about ourselves, we spin it into an elaborate story that looks like, “I’m shy and no one likes me. I’ll never make any friends or meet my soulmate. I’ll be alone forever.” The narrative that we spin, like this one, can cause us to spiral downward emotionally and feel even worse.
Changing the narrative & negativity
The thing is, when we judge ourselves harshly in this way, the narrative that we create and tell ourselves isn't ultimately true.
Is it true that all people who are late are unlovable and are failures? Is it true that all people who are shy have no friends and stay single forever? Of course not!
When releasing self-judgment, we learn to stop giving negative meaning to our qualities. We are far less likely to spiral, and we’re better able to regulate our emotions.
Benefits you’ll experience when you release self-judgment
When you release self-judgment, the benefits are endless and are truly life-changing.
Some of the benefits of releasing self-judgment are:
- Experiencing more peace within your life
- Going through less inner turmoil
- Feeling braver and bolder
- Knowing how to regulate your emotions
- Becoming more mindful
- Emanating more compassion towards others
- Improving your relationships with people
- Living a more authentic and aligned life
- Learning how to better navigate life’s challenges
- Loving yourself
Read on to discover 6 ways you can work on releasing self-judgment.
6 ways to release self-judgment
1. Parenting the inner child to release self-judgment
One way to release self-judgment is to work on reparenting your inner child. Your inner child consists of the versions of yourself from when you were younger. These versions of you may not have felt safe, supported, nurtured, or validated. As we get older, the inner child remains within us, and we see it emerge when we become triggered by something that subconsciously reminds us of how we felt when we were young.
If you never received emotional support, validation, or unconditional acceptance for who you were when you were young, this could be causing you to judge yourself now as an adult. By reparenting your inner child, you’ll be able to shift away from self-judgment and towards self-acceptance.
2. Give yourself permission to feel
Allowing yourself permission to feel will help you release self-judgment. If you feel shame around experiencing normal human feelings such as sadness, hurt, fear, or nervousness, know that this is your inner critic coming out. Rather than criticizing yourself for experiencing emotions, accept them for what they are. This doesn’t mean that you’re dismissing the situation that caused you to feel the difficult emotion, it just means accepting the difficult emotion as a normal, healthy part of the human experience.
In recovery, it can be difficult to get acquainted with our emotions after numbing them out and pushing them down for so long. Know that it isn’t the emotion that isn’t good for us, but rather what we do with that emotion that can get us into trouble.
Let yourself process how you feel in a healthy way instead of beating yourself up for feeling it. Understand that everyone experiences difficult emotions, and they’re an inevitable part of the human experience.
Try to work on no longer resisting, ignoring, or suppressing difficult emotions and shift towards accepting them as a part of your human experience. Once we learn to accept difficult emotions, they become a lot less strong, and have much less power over us.
3. Drop the shoulds
Using the word “should” against yourself is an act of self-judgment. When you use the word “should” to set expectations for how you think you should be reacting or feeling about something, it can make you feel even worse. Additionally, it causes internal resistance to where you are in the present moment.
There is never a right or wrong way to feel about something. Accept how you feel in the present moment without adding on secondary emotions of guilt or shame by thinking you “should” feel something else.
4. Practise meditation to release self-judgment
Meditation is a great way to learn how to release self-judgment. This is because when you meditate consistently, you’ll learn how to become more aware of your thoughts. When you become more aware of your thoughts, you’ll notice just how frequently you may be judging yourself. You’ll become more aware of when you’re having negative thoughts about yourself and when you are tearing yourself down. By noticing this, you’ll be able to catch yourself when you’re doing it, and you can work to change your thoughts of judgment into thoughts of acceptance and grace.
Additionally, through practising meditation, you’ll come to learn that you are not your thoughts. You’ll discover, firsthand, that your thoughts are something external from you. When you realise this, it gives your thoughts much less power over you. Moreover, you’ll discover that you have the power to shift your thoughts, thereby shifting the way you feel.
Journaling is a great way to become aware of your inner thought patterns to release self-judgment. Oftentimes our thoughts can feel so chaotic in our minds, and putting them on paper really helps give them clarity. Journaling can give us insight into what the voice of our inner critic is saying to us.
For many people, it can be difficult to be aware of your own thoughts. You may be judging yourself all day without even realising it. By journaling about your day, your thoughts, and how you’re feeling, it can give a clear channel for that inner critic to come through.
Sometimes, simply being aware of the negative self-talk is enough to help dissipate it. Other times, journaling through the negative self-talk and reframing it with more supportive, helpful thoughts can be a great practise.
6. Talk to someone
If you’re having a hard time working through negative self-talk and self-judgment, it may be helpful to speak with a therapist or counsellor. They can help you get to the root of where your self-judgment came from, and can help you work through any trauma or limiting beliefs associated with it.
Talking with someone also gives you someone to vent to when you need to let something out. It gives you a safe environment to freely feel all of your feelings without the fear of what you may do with those feelings.
Replacing self-judgment for self-compassion
Choose to replace self-judgment with self-compassion. When you start feeling bad about feeling bad, be easy on yourself.
Have compassion towards yourself for things you may have done in the past. We all have demons that come out in different ways, and you aren’t a bad person for having human struggles.
The things you did from a place of pain and numbness don’t define who you are. You get to define who you are every single day.
Forgiving yourself for mistakes you’ve made will take so much weight off of you. The burdens you bear for things that have already happened are holding you down and are keeping you stagnant in a cycle of negative thinking.
You deserve to free yourself from this and to release self-judgment. You deserve to love and accept yourself.
Author - Thurga