How do you deal with self-judgment? A Letting Go Breathing Practice


It’s a no-holds part of everyday life. Studies show we’re wired to make immediate judgments even before our brains have had time to consciously process the new information. And since humans have a natural bias for negativity, guess which half-glass you’re most likely to grab?

Of course, it’s not all bad. Your brain is wired to prepare you to jump out of the way of a speeding biker before you have time to get distracted by the details. Which is perfect when there’s a speeding biker or some other real danger.

The problem is that uncertainty, like we’re experiencing so much of right now, activates the brain’s natural alert center. The extra dose of anxiety this delivers, mixed with the stress of uncertainty is a recipe for self-judgment. You’re not sure we did it right, so you keep trying to figure out what we should have done.

This is when the thought loop replay, also known as rumination kicks in.

Now before you know it, you’re stuck in a thought pattern it’s hard to break free from.

Uncertainty can lead to self-doubt

It doesn’t take much to trigger the stress response during times of uncertainty. Like now, as communications norms keep changing. Did you ever think you’d spend so much time on Zoom?  Did you do or say the wrong thing? Maybe you should have worded it differently. Before you know it, the anxiety-driven thought loop continues to distract you as you replay the situation over and over again.

Or shame and blame

Let’s say you’ve done something you’re embarrassed by. You experienced the pain of the situation at the time, and now whenever you’re reminded of it, which is often, the same bad feelings suddenly arise. Much as you hate it, you’re hooked in a negative thought loop.

Shame and blame are difficult emotions. It’s tempting to see them as helping to keep you on track. Like if you stop holding yourself accountable with high expectations, you’ll slack off. So you have to keep reminding yourself of what you should have done.

Yet holding onto what we should do or have done keeps us in a state of stress that not only feels bad, it keeps us stuck. Yes, we want to remember and learn from our mistakes and move on from there instead of staying stuck in self-judgment.

So instead of letting negative self-judgment keep your mind set on replay, use this process to take a step back and let the feelings go as you replace them with anxiety-reducing self-compassion.

A Letting Go Breathing Practice

1. Find a quiet place where you can take a comfortable seat.
Name, or label your emotions as a way to downregulate them. Use straight forward descriptions like embarrassed, awkward, less-than. You can say to yourself in the third person, you were embarrassed. You felt awkward.

2. Now focus on your body and see if you can feel the place you’re holding these emotions. Maybe it’s the pit of your stomach, or a tightening of your chest, or a flushed feeling in your face.

Keep your attention on that feeling, as you continue to breathe. See if you can imagine softening that place, that feeling, using your breath.

3. Now, ask yourself: How do I respond to other people’s mistakes? With kindness, compassion? Feel that place of compassion in you. Feel it in your heart.

It’s so much easier to extend compassion to others than it is to ourselves.

4. A short visualization. Visualize your heart in any way that’s meaningful to you; the valentine’s version, a glowing sphere, a white light; whatever you most naturally envision.

  • Reconnect with your breath. Put your hands on your heart center and see if you can use your breath to send compassion in the form of a warm glowing light into your heart center.
  • Continue to visualize breathing that glowing light of compassion filling your heart center for as long as it takes to feel complete.
  • Now check in with yourself, with your body.
  • Breathe into any places of holding any tension.

5. Use a deep breathing practice, like 2-part breathing to relax your body’s natural alert system as you recognize and acknowledge that it’s only trying to protect you.

Sense the quality of presence that has emerged. You may be feeling more balanced, more compassionate, more aware of your needs.

6. When you’re ready, close your practice by gently opening your eyes, and asking yourself,

How can I reconnect to this source whenever I need to feel grounded?  As always, the answer begins with the breath.

Sign up now for Breathe Into Breakthrough! This popular free 10-day workshop is a great way to learn proven strategies for reducing anxiety at the moment and overall. Just 10 minutes a day for breath-based stress reduction!

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