Tools for Inner Unworthiness & Self-Judgment
This is for anyone who feels not good enough, like a failure. Maybe you feel like you wasted your life, money, time, heart, career, 20’s, 30’s, fill in the blank. This feeling of not knowing who you are – not knowing why you’re behind everyone else, why you can’t seem to build a life that makes you happy – and it comes with an itchy state of discomfort with self. A constant narrative of self-judgment – the voice that isolates you and makes you feel worthless and like you need to escape social situations or at the very least have something expensive or exotic to talk about otherwise everyone will see what a loser you are. Maybe you’re one of those people who feels like their skin is crawling when they’re around happy and beautiful people: you look at other people and think – they’re so much skinnier, smarter, funnier, happier or ____than I am. Whatever the voice in your head says, this one's for you if you're hating on yourself and your life path.
TOOL 1: Quality Control!
You know those weird stickers you find in your clothes from time to time? It’ll be a tiny number in a coin pocket. It’s a check for quality. I want you to do that right now with your present-moment habits. Ask yourself: where is my focus going - in my mind - throughout the day? Take note of your thoughts - literally, on your phone or a small piece of paper. Begin recognizing the thoughts that are extra bitey and nego. Also, recognize the thoughts that are trapped in future-disaster scenarios. This is really about seeing from a third-person perspective - the voices that are currently steering your personal ship.
The only relevant information at any given time is right now. Where you are today and what you are doing at this moment. For example, if you are constantly replaying your past mistakes – in your present moment, the ratio of your life is 50% here, 50% somewhere else: a presence stuck in the pains of the past. A half-life. This is a habit that is retarding your current walking pace. In other words, mentally, you’re hobbling in pain while you live.
You have no other job than to just exist. When you catch yourself looking backward and re-evaluating, that’s a sign to stop. I want to isolate that very habit as the thing you need to work on and not a problem in the past. Because the past cannot be altered. In other words, it’s not about how bad 'you suck,' it’s about how badly trained your mind is. Like a puppy. Remember to stop it in its tracks and take it outside before it pees on the rug.
TOOL 2: Future Prototyping
This is a journal exercise! For life-trajectory purposes, I want you to think about where you’re headed in a different way. I’ve given this on recent podcasts but I think it’s helpful for this kind of situation. We often dictate life trajectories to ourselves based off what we feel we MUST do to be cool, successful, smart – or finally feel of value in our own minds. This is a ruse, as I mentioned, as it doesn’t lead to our happiness. It leads to a dry well where we say, “Fuck, I am still unhappy! What gives?!” So instead I want you to do some prototyping based off of the very valuable lessons you’ve learned about yourself. Think of 3-5 different perfect days 5 years in the future, when you are doing all the things that make you happiest. For example, day one might involve going to work at x job for a few hours, then going to pick up x number of kids, or going to x exercise class right before being interviewed about x project you just launched. Whatever they are - really visualize the time spent during that day on each facet of your life. Got that part? Good. Next, I want you to pick your favorite of those days and start to prototype what needs to happen from now until then - to make that happen. That might mean you need to sign up for an online class OR you need to get a bunch of dating apps on your phone. I want you to literally make a calendar of the upcoming milestones that need to go on your next few months to make shit happen. And don't worry if you don't end up pursuing your day 1 - the learning will always inform the ultimate future you choose.
TOOL 3: Ice Cold Water Faucet or, Judgement Smolder
Think of the harshness of your judging voice as a giant foam pointer finger that is pointing to the place that needs some softness and love. It really just shows you where to knead a knot in your muscles that is currently hurting you and making you focus outwards. By softening into this area deliberately, we can alleviate a place we are being overly rigid and not helping ourselves. It changes us from “look, I’m on fire.” To “Give me some ice cold water – I have got to put this out because it hurts.” The next time you find yourself judging yourself OR others, I want you to stop and examine that voice. Take it apart and soothe it. I have five steps I want you to move through. The goal is to find out, “How am I judging myself in my life, right now? How can I soften in that area and instead choose to accept that underlying feeling?"
You can apply these steps anytime you’re pedestaling. That's my word for when you are separating from your experience of your life (a way to control pain) by placing yourself higher or lower than someone else. You're either higher "They're so lame" or lower, "They're so much better than me." In each scenario, you are attempting to control a feeling of fear.
Step 1 – Recognize you’re pedestaling.
Step 2 – See if you’re the high one or the low one
Step 3 – Take apart what false underlying belief is underneath that act
Step 4 – Forgive that scared and vulnerable self: soften, choose to embrace and accept that feeling for what it is. The underlying feeling - the raw one, is what needs the love and attention in your life. It's not the superficial judgment that matters - it's the fearful one, the one that needs love.
Step 5 – Disprove the false belief and change your voice from harshness to love. More on how to do this step, below.
For example, let’s say I am saying about someone else, “they’re so much happier together - they’re like a perfect family,” I would stop and say to myself, “You’re pedestaling!” that is step 1. Next, I would ask myself to look at which version I’m doing – in this case – placing someone else higher and myself lower. That is step 2. Next, what is the underlying belief that creates that? In this case, it’s “there is something lesser and not as good about my life and my family. I am ugly and flawed and old and out of shape,” this is step 3. And this is the map for step 4 – how can you now soothe and forgive that vulnerable scared self? When you can see that feeling, you can work on it. Like the knot in your shoulder.
Step 5 is really examining the harshness of that voice – ask how you can turn that voice into something more positive. This can be helped by doing an inventory – making a list of things that disprove that truth. Keep going on this list. It’s really about writing down every little thing that is positive about your life as it is- for example, I might write, “I have a beautiful family. We laugh all the time. We have beautiful trees. We have taken perfect portraits together. We are so happy when we are together. We do lots of fun activities together. I don’t care about the perfect photos of others, because they are misleading anyway.” Etc.
TOOL 4: Close the You-Weekly, aka Life-balance role model
This is an exercise to break you OUT of the Instagram deception. We get lulled into seeing that as real life – when it is far from it. It’s a retouched advertisement for our life.
I want you to glean some insight into a fulfilling life from a person who you are witnessing living it – in person. Think of someone you know who lives a happy, balanced life. What do they do? How do they approach a day? What can you add to your regimen based off that – is it leaving a phone in your purse instead of having it in your pocket? Is it spending more time in gardens? Is it spending more time with elderly people or extended family? This is about taking actual practices that bring more grounding into your life and adding them to your life-ratio.
TOOL 5: Interview the Spectators
This is a journal exercise – getting to know your voices of doubt and criticism in your head. I recommend doing this with each of your situational voices. Here are some journal prompts to get you started in recognizing your particular spectators (those voices in your head that commentate about how you're lame or you're going to fail at the worst possible moments).
• What are the voices saying?
• When do they say it? What are their cues? For example, maybe it’s right before sex – when there is a moment you think about pursuing sex.
• When have you heard something similar in your life – what could these be related to in your upbringing? Who do these voices sound similar to?
• Now develop compassion for yourself and – this is a funny weird one, I want you to actually take this voice and respond to it in the third person, in your defense (in your journal).
• Next, I want you to strategize some ways to respond to and accept the voice in the moment it occurs, next. I want you to think of strategies or ways you can change the behavioral reactions you might have to that voice at the moment – so what are ways you will respond, in your mind. For example – the next time I hear that voice attempting to stop me in my tracks, I might say, “Blah blah blah! Here comes the security guard with the plastic baton trying to threaten me. You can yell all you want.”
(A second half of this tool...)
TOOL 6: Spectator Debunking
Make a list of all the nego thoughts that typically run through your mind. Then make a list of the underlying beliefs that induce those particular thoughts. Go one at a time and investigate the hidden "truth" beneath it. What is the source of the "true" belief? What is its origin? Maybe it’s not you at all. Maybe it’s your mom. Or that coach who hated you in 4th grade. Once you can recognize the fearful voice for what it is, you might say next time you hear it, “Oh mom, you’re always muttering away in that kitchen. I'm good - thank you. You can go.”
TOOL 7: Keeping Running – the gnats are bitin’
It’s important to turn self-judgment into the little bitty thoughts versus me and who I am. Change it to an awareness of my thinking, versus just thinking. That’s what’s most painful: getting fixated and obsessed with what is wrong. We are the ones doing that part – we get stuck playing a game of dolls, “Everyone in the dollhouse is sad” – instead of standing up and living life. This is really about removing one individual thought and seeing it for what it is: a thought, an echo, a product of some chemical emotions in your body – and not you. They are happening inside of you, like muscle tenses or twitches – but you can always just watch them like gnats flying around your head. Most importantly, keep running toward what it is you want – don’t stop to pay attention to them. I think running or deep-breathing really is what you can do at that moment to alleviate the more intense negative thoughts. Unless you get addicted to exercise* – then I am going to say do something physically immersive and try to breathe LOUDER than your thoughts. I recommend holding your ears closed and doing very slow, even deep breaths. Do at least 10. This gives some momentary relief from the noise. It’s a starting point for remembering where the truth lies: you are not your thoughts.
Before I close…
I want to thank my latest donors! Michelle, Nancy, Janet, Pamela!! Thank you so so much – you very much make this work happen so I appreciate you all greatly.
There is no wrong way to have lived your path to this point right now. All of it is showing you to this moment right now – including all that you need to learn. It's like you just opened a board game and now you just have to organize it and play it! Nothing has been wasted, you’re already on your path – it has shown you everything you need to know to take your next step. Nothing is better or worse about that step than all the ones everyone else has taken. It just is. I want you to think about if you were washed up on a desert island – and your shit has been torn apart and washed up on the beach. You have your friends there with you, and you are alive. There are fruits and things to eat. You need nothing more. The same goes for today right now. You need nothing more – you just forget that now and again. We collect all the play money and set all these pieces on our spots on this board game, but they’re all just plastic in the end. Don’t mistake the game for what matters in your life. You’ll forget all of the stuff – what will stay with you are the deep emotions and loves of your life. That's all that remains, ultimately.