Do I feel liberated or oppressed when judging myself?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

How would you feel before a severe judge who was judging the most insignificant of your actions, thoughts, feelings, qualities, aptitudes and impulses? It would be like carrying a judge inside you. Would that make your feel liberated or oppressed?

All of us have a judge inside us. Our brain is prepared to judge all our moves as acceptable or not. And it does it constantly, using the laws and norms, written or unwritten, that we have learnt since we were children, in our families, at school, from friends, society, the media etc. All of them have taken pains to communicate to us what was acceptable according to their system of beliefs and norms. Some of them, those that arisen when we were already grown up, have been open to question and we have got rid of those that have not suited us. But there are many that, because they are ingrained, were adopted in a quite unconscious way. Those continue to work by contributing criteria for us to judge ourselves. The brain is very quick and we are so distracted that we do not realise that we operate in this way.

We always make judgements about ourselves by comparison with an ideal that we have internalised: norms of conduct, beliefs, virtues and qualities that are widely accepted by society.

If I do not comply with them, I feel that I am crossing a red line, I may risk being guilty of some kind of infraction and receive some form of punishment. We are created to live in society and it is for this reason that a respect for the norms is so important. It makes some sense.

The problem arises when we accept a norm or ideal without questioning it at all. If for next season they announce that the colour yellow will be used to make men’s clothes, it will probably make us laugh. You will imagine that no one is going to wear it. But if a famous person that you admire puts it on that will be enough for it no longer to seem so outrageous to you and you may even start to wear it yourself. We like to resemble the group with which we identify. It is difficult for us to do something strange or eccentric because it is not well regarded, unless you want to stand out for being strange and your group is a group of rebels. But we do not normally like to be the odd one out. That is why fashion works, because we like to be accepted in a group. It provides security. Think of very well defined groups that you know and you will see that they wear clothes and have similar behaviour and ideas: financial executives, ladies in local high society, young girls, teenage boys, rockers and rappers. All of them adopt the norms that are implicit in the group.

If you are on trend you will be doing jogging or cross fit or yoga, you will read about certain subjects, you will eat certain things, you will have certain tastes, you will go to certain restaurants, you will be particularly interested in one kind of music, you will wear a certain kind of clothing, you will get a tattoo or you will take your children to a certain kind of school.

We live by moulding ourselves in some way to the group we have chosen.

Originality is scarce, although, when we start out, we do not believe it.

That is why it is so important to question the norms and principles that we have accepted without even realising it.

We may suffer and feel oppressed by the limits of the judgements we make about ourselves.

Observe the reasons and judgements that motivate your acts.

Observe when you feel guilty, as you will undoubtedly believe that you are transgressing against some kind of norm or principle. That is not the done thing, you should not think that, it is bad to feel that way…Questioning my principles does not mean becoming a savage!

Questioning involves a serious exercise of introspection and the creation of new criteria in a conscious way and oriented towards inner peace.

Listen and observe what guides your judgements and, if they cause malaise to you or to others, put them under the microscope. Whatever does not bring peace, causes conflict and conflict brings inner violence. Treat yourself better, do not be a blind and harsh judge of yourself. At least remove the blindfold from the judge and ask him to relax a bit and observe you with affection.

It is just a suggestion.

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