I do yoga and I meditate.
I completed a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program. I try to eat and walk mindfully, and practice loving kindness. I have been to more than a few silent, art, and yoga retreats.
I’ve also participated in more than a decade of antidepressant and psychological counseling, different diets and supplements, body and energy work, aromatherapy, crystals, and singing bowls.
As a last resort, I even quit a traditional high-stress, high-pay career to “find my purpose.” But still, nothing miraculously fixed me.
I relapsed from every epiphany I ever had. But recently, something got my hopes up again.
Judgment Detox by Gabrielle Bernstein, whom I have grown to love since her other New York Times bestseller The Universe Has Your Back, has created a real shift in me. I am two months into this practice—which is longer than I can say for most other phases I have been in but hey, no judgment thanks very much.
Overseeing a cliff in Big Sur, California, I set aside one week to work through the six-step detox offered:
- Take inventory.
- Heal the trauma with tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT).
- Offer up judgment through prayer.
- Practice seeing someone for the first time.
- And finally, forgive.
This is what I realized: all judgments come from the same source. Self-judgment, feeling judged, and judging others have one thing in common. And it is shame.
In the last few months, I have struggled with my judgment pattern more than ever before. Faced with my second entrepreneurial endeavor falling apart, and the fourth anniversary of my melodramatic declaration to quit my high-flying legal career to “find my purpose,” I have nothing much to show for it except proven failures and paramount self-doubt. I feel judged and I certainly judge myself.
I acknowledge this is possibly imaginary or at least exaggerated in my own mind, nonetheless I feel ashamed that I have let down my family and friends, whose opinions range from being supportive but worried that I was throwing my life away, to outright disappointed and choosing to give up on me. And then there are my customers, suppliers, business associates, and (few) followers. I also feel like a failure among my cohort of postgraduate students in entrepreneurship, who have witnessed my downfall from passionately pitching my business to putting the last nail in its coffin.
Within the group is one young woman who has really been triggering me. It so happens she is also taking a break from a successful career to give it a go at becoming an entrepreneur. She is a typical Type A personality and has been a star in the classroom, at networking events, founding her business, interning, multitasking a million folds, and to top everything off, she even got engaged during our one-year program.
Her success got on my nerves. My judgments of her got harsher and harsher over time—from judging how she thinks she is always right about everything to her being a suck-up.
After a conversation where I felt she lectured me on how I should treat my depression, my judgment blew over to a point where I could not even bear the sight of her in class. I kept analyzing how she offended me and reenacting in my mind how I should have responded at that moment to win the argument. I was consumed with anger and cynicism. I was not a pleasant person to be around with. The unresolved emotions impacted my relationship with my boyfriend, friendship with others in the cohort, and even my commitment to the school program and my business.
That was when I retreated to work on my judgment detox.
While I know that I am excessively judgmental, I have always attributed it to me being too much of a perfectionist and having high standards, unable to accept and let go of what has happened—or maybe I am just a natural-born critic! But as I tap through meridian points on my body following the script in the book, I dig deep into the root of why I fixate on others’ shortcomings and my own inadequacies, or why I get outraged over someone’s opinion on politics, yet another video outing the cruelty in factory farming, or quite simply hating the world for what it is.
As I tap through my own judgment, this is what I hear:
“Judging makes me feel better about myself…they deserve it…I feel justified…I’m so triggered…if I give up judgment, I will be giving in…I judge to protect myself…it feels safer to judge…”
As I tap through feeling judged, this is what I hear:
“How dare they judge me…they’re not better than me…their judgment makes me feel small…their judgment makes me feel less than…I feel like I’m not good enough…it makes me feel better to judge them back…”
Whether it is self-judgment, feeling judged, or judging others, it all comes down to me feeling, “I am not enough.” This belief in my inadequacy creates the profound shame. I try to run away from the shame by judging to prove that I am right and worthy. But judgment does not heal. It does not set me free or make me happy—only love can cure my deep conviction in my unworthiness of being completely loved and accepted for who I am.
After a week of deep reflection, without distraction, I came back and asked to talk to her. Becoming aware that I have been so triggered by her because of my own shame—of no longer being the perfect student or star on the work team or successful person fitting societal expectations—helped me recognize that I judged her because in some twisted logic I thought judging her would make me feel more safe and worthy. The truth is that judgment only trapped me in hate, both inward and outward.
Once I witnessed my wound and owned up to my shame and triggers, I was set free.
How she responded to my confession did not matter to my healing. The awareness of the pain and call for help behind my judgment helped me see myself, and others, with more love and compassion.
This will be a continuous practice—in fact, most likely a lifelong one, to clean up the old judgment patterns and nip new emerging ones in the bud.
Here’s how I try to incorporate the judgment detox practice into my daily life:
1. Set an intention: “Today I will judge nothing that occurs.”
2. Morning energy exercise, plus oil pulling (my existing routine).
3. Wash my face and brush my teeth (my existing routine).
During the Day
7. Be mindful of judgment as it occurs. I take notes on my phone for ones that need more work.
8. Whenever a judgmental thought appears: “I forgive this thought and I choose again.”
9. Ask, “who do I need to forgive today?” Choose to see them only in the light.
10. Pray before sleep
There are also two prayers from Judgment Detox that I have tweaked and adapted for my own use, and which might be helpful for your practice.
Prayer to Surrender:
“Dear Universe, I need help with my judgment toward X. I’m ready to surrender this now. I’m ready to release this judgement and see through the eyes of love. Please guide me back to truth and grace.”
Prayer of Acceptance:
“I am angry, because I find some person, thing, situation—some fact of life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I choose to accept that person, thing, situation, as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Acceptance is the solution to all my problems and sorrow today.”
As I meditate on my own judgment patterns, I pray for all of us to be free from judging and feeling judged. Heal the wound and honour the shame underlying our judgment. May we all be happy and free.