Over the course of looking at blog topics and writings from numerous sources related to camp and others that focus on general well-being, I've wanted to bring up different topics for thought and discussion. This topic though, of not judging yourself, or maybe put another way, learning to love yourself, is a subject that has made the previous topics come together in a kind of “collective package.” As we go throughout our days, we encounter all kinds of situations with all kinds of different people. Some are very pleasant, some are…not so much, and most I would say are rather innocuous, as they just pass us by without us really noticing or taking the time to notice what they could really mean. The one constant as we move through the days though is that there always seems to be a lot of chatter going on in our heads. There is a kind of subliminal voice that is a narrator with the highest of demands for ourselves. Do you recognize this kind of voice? It appears frequently, but we may only be able to recognize at certain times when we actually put a voice to it. You’ll hear it when you see a tennis player slamming their racket on the court screaming, “Why didn’t you hit that?!” Or you’ll hear it when you’re driving to an unknown location, and you say, “How could I miss the directions for that turn off? Now, I have to waste another twenty minutes before I can get off and get back on the right track.” These statements are rather harsh, and when you analyze not just what is being said, but who is saying them to whom, the result can be enlightening or frightening.
It feels like at this time of world’s history that there is all kinds of expectations. We are putting ourselves through the ringer for all kinds of goals and aspirations whether it be promotions, advancing pay grades, reaching new athletic pursuits, etc. Having goals and aspirations are, I believe, what naturally make us human. When we do not have these kinds of pursuits to focus on, we enter a state of depression. That is not necessarily to say clinical depression, but as in a loss of purpose, a questioning such as "What am I doing in life?", or "What is my purpose now?" But how does it affect our minds and our bodies when we are too hard on ourselves in pursuit of these goals? What is the result of this voice giving us orders and yelling at ourselves when we, essentially, make a mistake? While the answer to this question is one that is probably specific to each, individual person, I think we could agree with the argument that there is not much good, if any, that can result. One possible reason to make is our inner motivation to endure and keep fighting to reach that goal, but I think there are more effective ways of reaching our goals, and also remaining much healthier overall in body and mind.
Who / What is the Voice?
This is an interesting topic when you start to think about all the times you have heard this “voice” within your own mind. In fact, while reading these sentences, are you saying the words in your mind? A lot of people still do this, and it appears to be a habit that has continued since we had begun learning to read in grade school. Can you remember the times when the teacher would say to “sound out” words as you were reading? The voice I am addressing is something similar to this, but instead of being benign as in just reading words from a page, it almost appears as if this voice has a certain personality behind it, a kind of thinking that happens all on its own. As mentioned above with the tennis player example, there is this vitriol in the voice behind the player as it attempts to control the person and make them, force them into doing better. However, better never comes about and the voice gets louder and angrier with the result.
So, where is this personality coming from? Where does this anger come from? The most common explanation provided is simply the Ego, or the I. We, as a people, especially those who live in the western world and believe in the individual over a collective, value ourselves and our position very highly. That in turn causes us to act with so much hostility toward ourselves, when we see our “self” threatened. If we encounter these kinds of situations, how can we navigate them, so as to not put ourselves down, since it only seems to cause a significant amount of pain?
Judgments – How We Use Them
Living day to day, we make judgments all the time. They can seem as trivial as what to have for breakfast or they can be as important as what new car to buy to replace the one you have had for years (or to even buy a car at all). When we are making judgments, we are trying to make the best possible decision for a desire outcome based upon the information we have available. Of course, things do not always work out for the best, but that doesn’t stop us from trying and reaching the goals we create.
Now, what if we can make judgements about ourselves that are not negative? What if we made a choice that instead of yelling at ourselves for missing a catch, throwing outside a batter’s box, getting several questions wrong on a test, etc., we turn the situation around and say, “Let’s try better next time,” or “I know what I need to do to succeed. Now, I just need to set myself to it and do it.” Those sound a lot more positive than the self-talk I usually hear from sporting events, so it's a great start already. But, what if we go one step further and stop the judging altogether? What if all that talk just stops? What if we are able to do an activity with not just silence but without constant criticism? It’s interesting to note people who perform better while in practice for an activity than in a competitive environment. It appears that when competition is introduced, you will see many people crack under pressure, choke in key moments, or otherwise just perform markedly worse than if they had the same performance in a competition. It’s an interesting difference, is it not? I’ve often wondered how people could take that kind of practice “feeling” and translate that to a competition. I believe that what want to translate more than anything else is that feeling of non-judgment. In practice, you can always try again, so there’s no need to think extraneous thoughts on how “good” something was or if it looked “right.” We can always just try again. Not so in a competition, right? In many cases, one performance is all you have.
And this is where non-judgment or at least positive self-talk can be so invaluable. I encourage you to try it today, at least starting with giving yourself a pat on the back. Give yourself some love for what you do each day and praise the way you do it. If you want to make improvements, then do so; tell yourself you’d like to do so. Little by little though, try to remove those judgments completely. Let go and just focus on the action in front of you.
Be Good To Yourself
In closing, the only really good example I’ve seen of other people engaging in behavior like this is in children. And young children at that. It’s an interesting point where it seems that children seem to have a joy about them, a wonder in everything that they experience. It seems as if they are joyful or happy, just for the sake of being happy. There’s no ulterior motive or reason; they are just happy. If we are able to tap into that feeling again, that feeling of being a child at play, we may find that we are bringing out the best possible person we can be. Everything else falls into place after that. My final advice would then be: find the child in you.
By Matt Buynak Jr. 1/27/2016
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