Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When we Judge Ourselves Harshly | The Yoga of Non-Judgment

I knew that this particular blog post would be difficult to write, so I have been putting it off for days. Only today, when I revealed a glimpse of it to my Twitter followers and received words of support and requests for this topic, did I feel fully prepared to share.

While sparing you the details, I have been under a good amount of stress lately. In response to that stress, I have done a number of things, from making sure I practice yoga to comforting myself with food. Both can be healthy, but with regards to food, I have been disregarding my body's signals when I am full, and I have been excessively consuming sweets. I have been using food to calm and soothe me, but the food choices haven't been the healthiest. For a number of reasons in the short and long term, this is not good for the body.

In fact, it's not good for homeostasis in general: mind-body-spirit. It's not to say that we should never curl up with a bowl of ice cream when we are feeling down or indulge a little bit more when at a buffet, but given that I have had a pattern of disordered eating throughout my life (ever since I can remember, really), I need to be kinder, more compassionate, and loving when I notice that my day to day food choices have swung in an unhealthy direction or when the messages I am telling myself become unkind or judgmental.

Image Courtesy of The Body Shop

Judgment from the Self:

A psychologist friend who implements a lot of Buddhist practices into her work mentioned the concept of judging the other day.  In this example, if we look at my reaction to my weight gain, judgment vs. non-judgment would look like this:

Judgement ("negative"):  I gained 18 pounds over the past 5 years because I've been eating a lot and not exercising as much as I should to keep up with it. I am repulsive, and because I'm not a size 2, I look horrible.

Judgement ("positive"):  I gained 18 pounds over the past 5 years because I eat a lot and I've enjoyed every second of it.  My curves look good.

Non-judgment:  I gained 18 pounds over the past years because I've been eating a lot and not exercising much. 18 pounds over 5 years amounts to an average of 3.6 lbs per year.

Do you see the differences between the 3 mindsets? Some would say that the "positive" judgment works for them, and that's fine. This illustration is just to show judgment vs. non-judgment. When we operate from non-judgment, we take away "good,""bad,""right,"and "wrong," and we just state the facts.

Judgement from Others (that we take on...or not):

Someone close to me recently commented that they were concerned for my health because they saw the spare tire I carry around on my belly area. I was laying on the floor, carefree, playing with my cats, unaware that I was "exposed." This person sees me all the time, but in this moment, my belly happened to show. I am usually a master at camouflaging my waist and belly - I layer Bali form-fitting tanks, wear looser tops, and things of this nature.

Yes, my jeans have gotten tighter. (That's usually my gauge). I had been walking around noticing and realizing this and it hadn't really bothered me all that much, but when I heard the comment, along with, "It's really hard to lose the weight when it gets out of control," I suddenly panicked. Given my history with eating disorders, I am not completely surprised that this reaction showed up. Fear took over, and this a dangerous emotional state to live in.

I had an almost instant judgment: "This person thinks I look fat and gross. I'd better lose this extra weight!"

In a more peaceful compassionate moment, we can take a look at moments where we judged ourselves (or others) like this and find a non-judgmental stance. I did this in this case.

My non-judgmental stance: "This person commented that they were concerned for my health because I have gained weight, and they also said it's really difficult to lose extra weight when it gets out of control."

Really, that's all that happened. Am I a mind reader? Do I know the other person's intentions? I know that this individual wouldn't want to hurt me with these words. I know that this person has had struggles with weight.  I had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to what I thought  the comments must have meant. I could have asked if I had any unclarity, but I didn't.

Having ALL PARTS Show Up on The Yoga Mat

Yoga, for me, is about more than the physical practice on the yoga mat. It is also mentally soothing and balancing, and I feel very spiritually connected to it on and off of the mat.

This week, our teacher said that in order to grow in our yoga practice, we need to keep showing up to the mat. All of us. Rainy days. Sunny days. All parts of us. For me, at this time, this would be:

  • the young me who didn't always have food to eat
  • the teenage me who strove for perfection by extreme restriction of caloric intake
  • the adult me who has grown to love and appreciate food: cooking, going out to eat various cuisines, and baking
  • the adult me who sometimes becomes so stressed that she goes the other direction and completely loses her appetite
  • the part of me who fears judgment from others
  • the part of me that judges herself

ALL OF US will be showing up tomorrow to yoga class. All of us will be on the mat, mindfully engaging in purposeful movements and meditation.  All of us will release judgment.  I will feel safe to let my belly hang out in downward dog.  I will not look around and judge others' body shapes, "good," "bad," "thin," "chubby," "fat," "better than me/worse than me."

I will go within to what really matters. I will be in my body, loving every cell. It is here that I will remember that God loves us as we are and where we are at, and the issues we amplify and become consumed with must be considered on a grand, eternal scale. We are loved. We can love ourselves through anything.

Yogic Raisin to Consider: In what areas of your life have you noticed judging or non-judgment?  Who do you tend to judge more: others, yourself, or are you an equal opportunity judge?  How would you describe your relationship with food? Body image?

Please show yourself kindness, and I will do the same.



  1. That was such a beautiful blog. I even love this more than I loved the sand blog and you know how i felt about that.

    You have such a beautiful, serene way of expressing yourself, even when you are talking about things that distress you.

    Your ability to open up and show others how you truly feel is such an blessing. Your gift with words moves me in ways I don't have words for.

    I know the journey is a bumpy one. I know things are easier said than done. But, remember on the days when you cannot see how beautiful you are, that there are so many of us that can.

    You are an amazing person inside and out. That is far greater than being a supermodel ever could be.

    I <3 u. So thankful to have someone like you in my life. xoxo

  2. Glad to see you write this. I like the three judgments broken down. I honestly never seen them as that. I know for my-self i do all three. Depends on how I feel. I haven't started to love me for me or to love and appreciate myself till this year. I know personally what I want to do and what I need to do to make me feel better but for me its also being more healthy for me to make me feel good. Yoga is a wonderful thing to do and you seem very active in life. I know when someone close to you mentions something about your body you get insecure. We all do it whether your a size 0 to 100. I feel like you saying that you gained 18 pounds in 5 yrs is nothing! As we age you gain weight that is such a natural thing. To me you seem very Healthy! I actually admire you for how you eat, and how involved in yoga you are. Like i told you in the first blog i read, we are too harsh on ourselves. Its because of society's pressure. Like that picture says only 8 woman are super model sized. They are so unhealthy and I have so many guy friends who said they rather have a girl that looked healthy.

    Like I told you God created us in his image. We are what God had in mind for us. People dont turn to God enough, we turn to a plastic surgeon, or a fad diet but where does that leave u? With new plastic body filled with harmful chemicals, and health issues from new diet fad.

    I can't say i'm not guilty that I have wanted to try diet fads t loose weight and it made me feel worse about myself and half the time gain the weight back. When the answer all along was inside me, i have the will of what i want to do and I have God's strength to help me through.

    You should be proud of your curves, you should be proud that you are Healthy!

    Everyone should know they are beautiful within and out. Your soul is the one thing that leaves this earth, your body is here forever. Wouldn't you rather have a beautiful soul that lives on forever or a fake plastic body that will be eaten by bugs, birds, etc. That's the reality of it, thats what people don't see.

    Well I am done with my rambling for now. LOL! Your a beautiful person Debbie inside and out. Shine your light!

    "You got to stay bright to be the light of the world!" Godspell

  3. I love the way you write... But... If you were fine with yourself before someone said anything, then you ARE JUST FINE.... I don't sugar coat and I don't tell people what they want to hear... If ur not meant to be a size 2 you're not gonna be one.
    I was always under 100 lbs. when I gave birth to #1 I was 120lbs. To #2 140lbs
    Now. I have no idea at all what I weigh
    I eat what I want when I want it. I could drop dead tomorrow , but I would have enjoyed that slice of BLT pizza.....
    I'm only 4" 11. I wear a 4 sometimes and sometimes a 6
    At that height I should be a 1. But who cares... I'm happy , I have a spare tire and sometimes I don't...
    Sometimes I eat junk sometimes I don't. But I never ever say, oooo I'm not gonna eat that cause it's fattening....
    Enjoy everything you do and everything eat for today, because tomorrow we might not be here and would have missed that enjoyment

    Just my two cents

  4. Ps
    I love your soul
    Debbie again

  5. After I read one of your blogs I always end up asking myself, "Why am I reading this a second time?" The answer is simple. Your words are a true glimpse into your soul. Your's is a soul so special, it beckons my attention a second time.

    I cling to each word, for I can feel the passion in your writing as you sit there and open your heart to all your readers. There is a bit of sorrow followed by a glimmer of light. A negative aspect countered by a positive outlook. It truly is a special thing to see how one persons insight, holds so many peoples answers. As you spill your soul, it not only allows us to learn more about how special you are. It too, allows us to view ourselves and other's with the same compassion.

    You keep pouring your heart out Debbie and I promise my glass will always have room for more. I am beginning to believe it is one of your callings in life. It is obvious by looking that you're a beautiful person on the outside but until other's read your writing, they'll never be blessed with just how beautiful you are on the inside.

    I don't believe this is about being a size 1 or 4. I believe it's about being content with yourself and who you are. I think you've found the answers dear, don't lose sight of that! You are adored, appreciated and loved by many just as you are... perfect!

    Forever a reader,

  6. Debbie, I've said it before and I'll say it again: your way with words astounds me. Reading this, even though I have no clue what you sound like verbally, I can hear your voice, peacefully guiding me through every word. You put so much of yourself "out there" and with the purest intention: to help others. You're beautiful each way - inside & OUT. Your heart and compassion is bigger than one could explain. Please know that your inspirational and eye-opening words WILL and DO help people. This will reach SO many people - who will never comment on this post - but will take the words in. They will take them to their heart. I've seen people around me struggle with weight their whole life. It's an ongoing battle. You just have to remember to handle it with the grace and dignity that you do for every other situation in your life. Personally, I think you look GREAT AS IS - gorgeous smile, amazing cheek/bone structure and a stunning, curvaceous figure. Not to mention the soul of a saint. Bless you, Debbie. I've been lucky to be able to get to know you. Your tweets always make me think, introspect or just smile when I need it most. I can't thank you enough. Love & light.


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