There’s no denying it, inherent in our human make-up is the need to judge and criticize. Some of us are more naturally talented at this than others. It’s worth getting curious about how the act of criticizing or judging others affects us. The truth is it rarely – if ever – has any lasting effects of helping us feel better. In fact, it usually has the opposite, like a slow leaking toxin in our minds and bodies. So here’s a practice for today.
See if you can be aware of the impulse to criticize another person. If you notice this impulse, get a sense of the emotion that is underlying it. Is there a feeling of annoyance, irritation or maybe tiredness? Usually the urge to criticize others arises out of some uncomfortable emotion we’re experiencing in the moment. It’s as if the mind’s strategy is to use criticizing to get away from what’s uncomfortable.
This simple practice can help us become more aware of our automatic reactivity and give us the power back to make a change.
The reality is most of us actually criticize ourselves more than other people. We can play this same game. In other words, we can notice when we’re criticizing ourselves (there is likely lots of opportunities). Then we can become aware of the feeling that’s there and break the cycle of self-criticism.
Now, there’s an extra layer I’m going to suggest in helping break this bad habit.
Whether the criticism is toward the other person or yourself, see what’s it’s like to connect to your heart and intentionally wish well for yourself or the other person.
You can say lovingkindness phrases like this to build compassion:
May you be well.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
May you be free from self-criticism.
May you be happy.
Just to review:
Step 1: Become aware of the judgment.
Step 2: Step into the feeling, acknowledge it, become aware of it.
Step 3: Send lovingkindness phrases to yourself or the other person.
Like all things in life, see if you can let any judgments about this practice come and go and let your direct experience be your teacher.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Photo by Bill Bradford, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
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Last reviewed: 31 Aug 2011