‘I’m not good enough. Why did I make that mistake? I’m ugly. I’m not smart enough.’ At some point in our lives, each of us has heard the voice of self-doubt. More so, we often find ourselves projecting these judgements onto others; They’re not good enough. Why did he make that mistake? That outfit does nothing for her. How doesn’t he know about that? In a popular culture that emphasises the physical, economic and cultural disparities between individuals and social groups, drawing comparisons and placing judgement on ourselves and others has become second nature, only exacerbated by the rise of social and digital media.
In recognising the effect of her own judgemental behaviour on the way she felt and the way she acted, life-coach and spiritual leader Gabrielle Bernstein identified it not only as a bad habit but a major obstacle to her personal growth and progression. “Judgement made me feel weak, sad and disconnected” she expresses “it even caused me physical pain”. Bernstein realised that left unaddressed the habit of judgement can weaken our immune system, limit (or even ruin) personal relationships, while when addressed, it can open us up more understanding and compassionate relationships with ourselves and others. From here, she went on to develop the ‘Judgement Detox’: a six-step practice to help people become aware of the root cause of their judgement, address it and to implement practices to effectively overcome it.
The Detox highlights developing an understanding of why we judge in the first place as the vital starting point in overcoming the obstacles that our behaviour creates. Bernstein describes judgement as a “reliable crutch for when we feel hurt, insecure or vulnerable” which explains why we may find ourselves turning to it when we encounter an individual or situation that arouses feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. Sometimes it’s easier to criticise than introspect. While the placing of judgement may provide a short boost of self-righteousness and preservation, the more you repeat this action, the more you come to believe that these judgements are true. The danger of this, Bernstein explains, is that “when your judgement is your belief system, you’ll always feel unsafe, under attack and defensive”.
A belief is just a thought you keep thinking.
Unpacking the reasons behind our jump to judgement involves taking to time to recall and resurface the personal stories that have led to its use as a defence mechanism. In many cases, Bernstein explains, we find it “easier to make fun of, write off or judge someone for a perceived weakness of theirs than it is to examine our own sense of lack”. Tracing back to the moments where seeds of self-doubt were first planted provides us with the opportunity to uproot the underlying emotions and fears that manifest themselves in expressions of judgement. When practiced, a detox from judgement can help to replenish emotional energy, increase your propensity for compassion and open the door to deeper, more authentic relationships. Based on Gabrielle Bernstein’s ‘Judgement Detox’ we have outlined below the first steps in the journey to overcoming the habit.
First steps to overcoming judgement
Recognise the difference between judgement and discernment. We must, of course, discern what is safe, moral and appropriate for us. Judgement is different because it’s based on separation and attack.
Perform an emotional audit. Identify the triggers underneath your judgement and get honest about how it makes you feel.
Be silent in the presence of other people’s judgement and gossip.You may slip up occasionally, but it is important to be aware and reflective of the reasons behind it.
See the tough parts of life as an opportunity to grow, learn and heal.This shift in perception makes it a lot easier to address difficult situations honourably.
Find a spiritual running buddy. All that’s required from this person is their willingness to support you and receive support as you both pursue a successful detox from judgement.
Gabrielle Bernstein is life-coach, motivational speaker and #1 New York Times best-selling author. Her newest book ‘Judgement Detox‘ seeks to encourage readers to release themselves from the beliefs that hold them back from living a better life.