7 Ways to Transform Self-judgment into Self-acceptance


Jun Zhong Counsellor_Self-judgment.jpg

“I’m a failure.”
“I’m too weak.”
“I’m so dumb, and stupid.”
“I’m a huge disappointment to my family.”
“I’ll never be able to do it.”
“I’m not attractive, and nobody wants me.”

Have you ever heard those noises in your head? Did you hear them recently?
Many clients have told me that’s how they see themselves. I feel sad for them. They judge themselves so harshly.

In front of me is a lovely young woman, and a bright future is ahead of her.

“You judge yourself more harshly than others.”
“Yes, I’m my worst enemy!”

Self-judgment often results from thoughts individuals have about themselves and the meanings they attach to those thoughts. We form opinions about ourselves through our experiences (such as past success or failure), up-bring, self-understanding, and opinions of our important others such as parents, siblings, and friends.

The negative opinions we have of ourselves can produce strong feelings like sadness, anger, nervousness, self-loathing, and shame.

Shame is probably the most difficult and debilitating emotion that there is. Shame tells us that we are not okay and that there is something deeply wrong with us that cannot be fixed or cured. When we feel shame, it is as if there is a stain on us that we cannot remove.

Self-judgment may seem harmless at the very beginning, but it can poison our mind with time. Those harsh words are deeply ingrained in our neural pathways, and are difficult to change. Eventually our reality is altered. Like a person wearing dark sunglasses, our world becomes dark, and our self-image becomes negative.

Why is it so difficult to change our habitual self-judgment?

Because often self-judgment serves positive purpose for us, despite all the negative consequences. To stop self-judgment we have to find out what self-judgment does for us. The intention of self-judgment is often related to protecting ourselves from emotional pains.

“If I blamed myself first, I wouldn’t feel too bad when my mom yelled at me. Nobody judges me more harshly than myself.”

“I called myself millions of names already before I did it. If I failed, I could bear it then.”

“It helps me not to forget my last failure.”

The antidote to self-judgment is self-acceptance.

According to Lorie Shepard, self-acceptance can be defined as:

  • the awareness of one's strengths and weaknesses,
  • the realistic (yet subjective) appraisal of one's talents, capabilities,
  • and general worth, and, feelings of satisfaction with one's self, despite deficiencies and regardless of past behaviors and choices

To accept yourself unconditionally no matter what!

Accept your imperfection.

You know you are not perfect. I know that. Everybody knows that. So stop trying to be perfect. Nobody in this world is perfect. Let go of what you think perfection looks like. Don’t let an obsession for perfection slow you down in accomplishing your goals. Good is good enough.

Be kind to yourself.

Love yourself as you are, not as you feel you should become. Blaming yourself only creates more pains.
Stop being your worst enemy. Treat yourself the same way, or better than you treat your best friend. If you have no problem to accept a friend as who he/she is, then you have the capacity to accept who you are. Have some self-compassion. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.

Overcome your fears.

We all have fears. Fear helps us to be more aware of what’s going on and be vigilant of our surroundings. As human, we’re bound to be hurt by something. But it’s the fear of the unknown that keeps us trapped. We’re so afraid to experience something unfamiliar that we allow ourselves to become stuck in what we know. It’s important to take baby steps to create change. One way to overcome your fear is called “the worst case scenario” approach. Figure out ways to handle the worst case scenario. When you are afraid of something again, you can remind yourself that you know how to handle the worst case scenario, and you will be fine.

Don’t take it personally.

If a colleague didn’t say "Hello" to you, probably he/she has something in mind and didn’t notice you. If your family member comes home with a black face, chances are that he/she had an unpleasant experience somewhere else. People spend less than 10% of their time to thinking about or paying attention to somebody else. There is no need to be overly sensitive and feel bad because others do, or do not do something.

Stop pleasing others.

Some people try to fix everything and make everybody happy. Does this sound like you? Then you got a problem because you can’t fix everything. We can’t sacrifice ourselves to please others. We have our own needs to be met, and they are important. Be more open and honest and say what you are thinking and feeling. Say "no" when you mean it. Let others have their feelings and let their behavior be about them and not you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or for another perspective.

Forgive yourself.

You probably made some mistakes in the past, and I did too. All humans are making mistakes every day and everywhere. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect.
Suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens only to “me”. Self-forgiveness is absolutely essential if we wish to become emotionally healthy and have peace of mind.

Believe in yourself.

At times, it can be hard for you to believe in yourself. You probably had some bad experiences and may have self-doubts. Maybe you feel you have nothing to offer or are unworthy of things, but only until you realize that the contrary can be true. Try to make a list of your past accomplishments. I guarantee it will surprise you!

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.   -- By Norman Vincent Peale

Lorrie A. Shepard's insights are from her article "Self-Acceptance: The Evaluative Component of the Self-Concept Construct". It is available in the American Educational Research Journal. 16 (2): 139.