Picture this: It’s early spring and your best friend from high school calls you. “Did you hear that we’re going to have a 25th high school class reunion in July?”
A lump starts to form in the back of your throat. “Reeeally” you say, dragging out the word as you try to seem interested while dreading the mere thought of it.
“Yep,” she says. “And I told Jane that I would let you know.”
There is a long pause. You don’t know what to say. Do you go? Do you pass? You don’t even know what you want – except that you don’t want to commit to ANYTHING. Finally, after hesitating as long as you can, you say, “Well, sounds good,” without emotion. “I’ll put it on my calendar. I don’t know whether or not I can go, but thanks for letting me know.”
“OK,” she says without emotion. “Just let me know what you decide.”
“I will,” you say, wanting the conversation to end as quickly as possible. “Talk to you later.”
You take a deep breath as you put down the phone. A rush of anxiety leaves your body as you breathe out. “A class reunion, really????” you say to yourself. Your anxiety begins to build again at the mere thought of having to go.
“There is no way I can go to this thing if I don’t lose some weight,” you say out loud not even realizing it. “And what am I going to talk to these people about? They’re all going to be millionaire executives who are happy in their jobs and in their marriages, gloating about their three perfect children!
“Why would they want to talk to me? What am I going to tell them? I certainly can’t tell them the truth of how I feel about MY life,” you think as your anxiety builds.
Your head begins to jump in to solve the problem. “I better come up with an excuse now as to why I can’t go. That will make it easier. But what if everyone goes except for me? I mean – it could be really nice to see Jack and Jill. I haven’t seen them since high school and I’ve missed them. But…I seriously don’t know if I can do it. I’ve gained so much weight and no one will even recognize me. Why would I put myself through all this judgment from these people I haven’t seen in 25 years?”
Does any of this sound familiar? If it doesn’t, hats off to you, and I’m serious!
The mere thought of a reunion of any kind can call up one of the strongest “inner critic” voices that we have in our ego mind – The JUDGE.
Sometimes, the Judge can feel like the voice of your overbearing mother, or your least favorite elementary school teacher who always corrected you, or that mean piano teacher you had as a kid that constantly criticized you for not practicing enough.
The Judge just loves to show up in the moments when we are least sure of ourselves. She judges us for being either good or bad, judges others for meeting our standards of good or not, and judges circumstances as good or bad. Her judging way either tells us that we are more worthy of love than others or that we are less worthy and need to get our act together quickly.
The Judge is trying to keep us from being hurt by others by telling us, in advance, what is wrong with us. This way, the Judge believes, she will save us from being hurt by others because we will already know the truth, or we will at least have time to come up with a reason why we are better than they are so we can defend ourselves from “their” judgment.
Unfortunately, even if we believe her (which we usually do), this is not at all what happens.
When I’m working with clients, I get curious when I notice a fear of judgment by others. It’s a classic sign that their Inner Judge has decided to show up and ruin the party.
Our fear of judgment by others is actually a projection of our own judgment of ourselves against a standard we hold or believe is held by someone whose favor we seek. It’s something we never think about, or rarely realize. The Judge isn’t protecting us from being hurt at all! In fact, she’s using our own unreasonable standards of ourselves to beat us with a switch – creating inner pain that is completely self-induced.
For example, say we worry we will be judged for being overweight. But when answering the question, “Who is judging you for being overweight?” we realize that it’s coming from within – from our own Inner Judge. Most importantly, it’s only bothering us because WE are insecure about it and believe that WE are somehow less adequate because of it.
So by now, I know you’re ready to tell me that other people really do judge you and you know so because you have been guilty of judging others yourself! And yes, people will judge because their Inner Judge will judge them, you, and their circumstances against their own unreasonable expectations.
But here’s the key to remember: Their judgment won’t hurt you unless their judgment compliments what your own Inner Judge believes and if you let it.
Let’s say you’re all excited about your new hairdo and feel awesome about it. You get to the reunion and feel wonderful about yourself and your new ‘do. A few of your former classmates notice the purple streaks in your hair and say to each other, “Look at her crazy purple hair. Who on earth would do that???” Then someone who you really admire asks you, “So what’s up with the purple hair?”
If your Judge tells you that what other people think about you matters more than what you think, you will have second-guessed your decision before even leaving the salon. And when that someone you really admire asks you that same question, “So what’s up with the purple hair?” your Judge will jump in to slap you before you can even answer.
“I told you people would think it’s stupid!” the Judge will say.
Before you know it, the answer out of your mouth will be, “I don’t know what I was thinking. It is kind of childish, isn’t it?” And there you’ll stand – feeling like an unworthy idiot because you believed your own Inner Judge to begin with.
However, if you are honestly in love with it, you’ll say, “I was in the mood to spice things up a bit and decided it would be a fun change!” That will likely end the conversation about your hair and you won’t think another thing about it.
Here’s the thing to remember: YOU are the one that chooses to listen to your Inner Judge or to tell her to take a hike. And the more you pay attention to your thoughts and when she shows up, the easier it is to CHOOSE to listen to your Wise Self instead.
The Wise Self sounds:
The Wise Self is always encouraging, like Glinda the Good Witch. She’s like that favorite teacher who totally believed in you and guided you, propped you up for following the beat of your own drum and cheered you on when few else “got” it.
She shows us how it can be easy and often brings surprising or out of the box options to the surface. Listening to our Wise Self is what keeps us aligned with our values, our hearts, and our dreams.
Accessing our Wise Self is accessing a part of us that is secure, calm, loving of others and of ourselves, knows our values, and knows exactly who we would be if we were brave enough to be fully authentic. The Wise Self is our true self.
Your Wise Self knows that you love purple and that your hair looks killer – so don’t let that Judge sap your joy. And if you let her catch you off guard, choose to take back a wiser point of view. And tell your Judge to go — your Wise Self is in charge today.
If you take your Wise Self to your next reunion, and tell your Judge to take a hike any time you notice her showing up, you’ll have an absolute blast reconnecting with those crazy, fun people you went to school with – all of whom are also nearly double (or triple!) the age they were when you (all) graduated.
From my perspective, when it comes to mindset – everything comes down to our ability to tap into our Inner Wisdom and access our Wise Self. When we hear the voice of that relentless Judge, and we know the voice of wisdom inside of us, we can choose to follow the voice of wisdom and navigate our days with more peace – and more power.
To connect with your Wise Self:
Begin by sitting quietly and open yourself to the possibility of hearing your Wise Self. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself.
Allow yourself to see a vision of the wisest, most loving part of yourself. Spend a little quiet time asking this part of yourself questions about who you are and what you really want.