Everyone has experienced the deep cutting pain after saying the wrong thing to their boss’s boss or a loved one. It is that gut wrenching experience that causes us to condemn ourselves and feel terrible for 3-5 days. It’s also that dreaded pain that seems to resurrect itself at the most inopportune time years down the road, causing us to cringe once again – Always wondering if we’ll ever be good enough to get away from that dreaded feeling.
There are days when I feel like I’m destined to relive that nightmare over and over again. Those are the days when emotional and mental freedom becomes a greater desire than anything else in my life. After all, I get tired of being the weakest link in relationships or at work.
However, my viewpoint is distorted, as would yours be if you found yourself at the other end of self-condemnation. My friends actually have a healthier view of who I am and will clearly tell you that I’m my own worst enemy. The amount of pressure I put on myself to be perfect, when perfection is unobtainable, is absolutely ridiculous. But, I was fortunate last Wednesday night to finally understand why the problem exists and how to correct it.
My friend Scott, who is the CEO/President of Heritage Counseling Center, gave a talk that I attended on “Mindfulness.” He shared the exact steps I needed to disarm those recurring nightmares and I thought it was valuable enough to share with you.
To gain the freedom from beating ourselves up, we have to address the following:
1. Understand What’s at Stake: The answer is simply our pride. While I know that sounds a little odd, especially when we find our activity of choice in certain circumstances to be that of cutting ourselves down, the principles make sense. We find it important to protect who we are, causing our natural reaction to be one of defensiveness.
2. Let Down Your Guard: When we are defensive, we are not able to receive the assistance that will make us a better person. We block the truth from entering our lives, thereby hindering our ability to get past our recurring struggles. Once we get past it, we can change the behaviors causing our problems.
3. Accept Who You Are – The Good and the Bad: Instead of holding ourselves to a high unobtainable standard, we need to accept who we are. We need to accept that God made us exactly how He wants us to be for His purposes. The good to reflect His glory and the bad to allow Him to demonstrate His love so others can understand who He is.
To accomplish these three steps, we need to understand how our mind works. To start with, when an emotional moment hits our lives, we have a visceral or knee jerk response – A strong feeling hits us. This feeling is neutral, not good or bad. Its sole purpose is to inform us that the situation has triggered something important deep inside of our hearts. It is a warning flag that we have an unresolved issue that needs our focus, in order to understand what is truly important to us. It will also help us to make the right decision in how to proceed through the circumstance.
What fascinated me, was Scott’s comment that it isn’t until we judge our feelings that we place ourselves in a tailspin leading to self-condemnation. In other words, our tendency is to judge ourselves based on the feelings we incurred. That’s right, we take the neutral feeling used to alert us that the outcome to our situation is important to us, and we judge it to be good or bad, instead of taking time for introspection and addressing the situation without condemnation.
The feeling is neutral and it’s our judgment that turns it into a good or bad scenario. Once it is a bad scenario in our minds, we suffer with it until we find a way to disarm it. But, what would happen if we didn’t judge it? If we just viewed our emotions as a flag encouraging us to reflect on our circumstance and make a decision based on who we are, we would be able to accomplish great growth with less pain.
According to Scott, by accepting our situation without judgment, allows us to face the condition in a healthy manner, which produces growth. Demonstrating a high level of acceptance toward ourselves diminishes defensiveness. Without defensiveness, we open our hearts to the truth, and emotional and mental health. In facing the truth, we are able to receive grace and accept the good and the bad choices we make.
We no longer see ourselves as something terrible to avoid, but rather as a person who has behaviors that can be improved. Self-condemnation falls to the wayside and we find ourselves living life to the fullest. We become truly whole and healthy. More importantly, we learn how to not react or judge other’s bad behaviors, allowing us to give them grace in their hour of need. We become Christ like, but still not perfect.
Accepting ourselves doesn’t suggest that we approve of the situation or behavior, nor does it mean we agree with it. Instead, acceptance means that we don’t judge ourselves, cutting us off from truth and healing. Acceptance allows us to live life with happiness, while always addressing important issues residing in our heart, empowering us to change our behaviors to match up with who God really made us to be. There is no longer any condemnation.
The next time I face a situation that generates a feeling, I will not judge the feeling, but look inside of myself and find what is truly important to me. Then I’ll bring my future behaviors into alignment. Once I’m whole, I’ll be able to show grace to those struggling with unaddressed feelings.
I will truly be free from beating myself up.