by Andrea Chilcote
I love it when this happens: someone very wise states a basic truth in a simple and elegant way and I hear it anew.
That’s what happened when I read scholar Brene Brown’s advice to examine my judgments, to see if they’re really self-criticisms that compare something I feel is inadequate in me to someone who I view as “worse.”
I’ve known about this mirror thing for many years. The things we like or dislike about others serve as a mirror for those things we like or dislike about ourselves. The judgments we have of others are really self-criticisms. It all make sense, yet Brown’s message gave me a tool to go beyond self-awareness – to transformation. And, it’s important because without the process she outlines, looking in the mirror just produces more self-criticism.
Like every great tool, her process lends itself to interpretation. I’ll share mine here, in the hope it will be practical and useful to you too, spirited women.
- Examine the judgment. Ask yourself: “In what way does this behavior I’m judging in someone else remind me of something I don’t like about myself?” This step requires introspection. Don’t rationalize it – seek the insight, even if it seems illogical.
- Give yourself a break. Practice self-compassion. Forgive yourself. This is the most important step, and it’s easier because you have company.
- Then, (are you ready for this?) – feel empathy for the person you were judging. That’s easy too, if you acknowledge the ways in which you thought or acted in similarly. Compassion for the other person becomes automatic because – and perhaps only because – you just felt genuine compassion for yourself.
This new insight doesn’t change the inevitable fact that judgments will arise in me. It doesn’t change the need to practice self-acceptance. But in the week or so I’ve been focusing on this, I’ve transformed quite a few criticisms of myself and others – things that were sitting below the surface affecting my quality of life in some small way.
Brown says the practice will bring more joy. I welcome that. How about you?
“It starts with showing compassion for ourselves. Only when we feel comfortable with our own choices—and embrace our own imperfections—will we stop feeling the driving need to criticize others.” —Brene Brown