It has been important for me to learn that failing at activities, or perceiving myself as having failed with them, is not a reason to judge myself. In fact, judging at all is a huge waste of my energy. When I get caught up in thoughts about how I am not measuring up to where I think I should be, or judging myself based on how close I come to a goal or exceed it, I am putting energy into thoughts that are meaningless.
What do I mean by that? I mean that spending my mental and emotional vitality measuring my worth based on the outcome of my efforts and wishes only feeds my ego or cuts it down. The effort of it is exhausting and doesn't help feed my soul. By spending energy on thoughts that center on judgment (ways to avoid feeling worthless, or to ensure feeling worthy), I have no energy left to do very much. All of it is burned up on speculation on how to justify my actions and running through scenarios in which I can save the day with some heroic calculated move.
The best use of my mental powers would be to simply see what is happening, but try to stop there. When my emotions get stirred and I feel bad that something is not going the way I planned and hoped, I could try feeling that without adding in a mental chorus of finger-pointing and "See what you've done!" Since that voice is going to be in there, I can try listening to it and noting that it is just a thought, and it can't hurt me. Along with "See what you've done!" there is also, "Well, that sucked," which is a bit kinder. There can also be, "Wow, what can I do now?" and "Everybody fails sometimes." It is when I am desperate to avoid being judged by others that I panic and feel the most terrible. I think it's probably true that others are not judging me as harshly as I am judging myself. They might not even be judging at all!
I have found it true that people only judge others in passing, rarely holding onto a judgment unless the person is currently bugging them or currently delighting them. Most of us are so caught up in our own personal dilemmas and hells that we don't really have time or energy to spend on someone else for very long. We are all the center of our own universes, and judge others only insofar as they relate to us. Who has the capacity to see a grand picture that doesn't include herself somehow? It is too abstract to relate to for very long, and so we return to our self.
Since this is probably the case, why should we spend so much energy judging ourselves? Why do I spend what little energy I have figuring out what it means that I didn't market effectively for a quarter, or that I stretched a bit beyond what my business is capable of hosting as far as workshops this early on? All of this effort into finding a meaning behind it all results in no answer. The simple fact is that it happened, and that is all. Now what?
The judgmental voice within tells me, "Well, since you messed this up you probably will mess up again even worse, and that'll eventually lead to your financial ruin as well as the deterioration of your reputation as an artist and gallery owner." When I type out these thoughts it is pretty laughable, but it all feels so emotionally real to me. It is hard to separate myself from the judgments I have about what it means to have made some mistakes. I associate myself with my business very closely, so making mistakes with it this year causes me to feel hurt and responsible for the destruction of myself and not just a few dollars. But I am not destroyed. Here I am, breathing, eating dinner, able to walk around my home and snuggle with my husband. I am able to play with our cat, type this article, drink some water and yes, figure out some ways to improve my work situation.
The thoughts of not being good enough, of not being strong, or clever, or charismatic enough all drain out my energy. I am left feeling small, tired, and unable to do anything because no matter which move I make, it will be somehow wrong. I can see how these judgments do nothing for me. I become paralyzed, in a constant cycle of fear and hurt. What is worse is that I run from the fear, and find more reasons to fear while doing so.
There is a rabbit in my heart and guts that has been running for years to escape these dangerous pitfalls. And now, it's run out of steam and has stopped, shaking in a wide field. It feels completely vulnerable and exposed. It would like to keep running and hide. But there is no energy left. To run one more step will cause it to collapse and die. And so, it shakes, and is letting all of that fear finally drain out into the ground below its feet. It turns out there is nothing immediately dangerous around. It still feels terrified, but nothing is chasing it. Sure, there were some dogs that chased it once, but they've long since forgotten about a rabbit that evaded them years ago. To the rabbit, it's all still real. But there is no choice but to sit and shake now. And the rabbit is finding out that it feels pretty good to shake and to sit. It might even eat some grass soon and stretch out those bunched up legs. The scenery is constantly changing, and it could be nice to just observe it and become a part of it instead of running to a new place all the time.
When I think of myself as this terrified rabbit, I can feel compassion for myself and what I have been through. I can feel sympathy for how exhausted it is and how much it fears. I am exhausted and scared, too, and that's OK. Everyone experiences that, not just me. I don't need to decide that because I feel that way now, I always will and must always have felt so, and therefore I am exhaustion and fear. It is temporary, as is everything. There is comfort in that, and a reason not to judge. Nothing is fixed, nothing is forever. Ebb and flow could be a liberation for me instead of something I resist until I keel over dead.
I will remind myself of my rabbit this week when I get worried and fearful, on the edge of bolting from the room, or bolting away in thought to some far away place. If I can sit, and shake - stop my habit of running and learn something new - ah, what possibilities are there ahead?