The Eyes of Love vs the Stare of Judgment
From: Kaplan, B. & Manchester, J. (2018). The power of vulnerability: how to create a team of leaders by shifting inward. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Press.
"Remaining courageous, humble, and fascinated makes us more open to seeing where we have opportunities to grow and learn. And there are other mind-sets we can adopt to keep on the learning path. One I especially like is looking at ourselves and others with what we can call 'The Eyes of Love.' It's about choosing to be gentle with ourselves, especially when life gets tough, rather than giving in to our crocodilian reflex of self-judgment.
We grow so much just by being gentle with ourselves. Think about how quickly children grow when they are in an atmosphere of love rather than judgment. Unfortunately, as adults, most of us have PhDs in judgment. Our inner critic is super strong. We judge and criticize ourselves for not knowing better and for not growing faster, or tell ourselves that growing is too hard, that we aren't worth it, and that we don't have time for it.
Looking at ourselves through judgmental eyes slows down our growth. We end up in a downward spiral. Let's examine how this self-limiting pattern works.
Afraid of judgment if we try and fail, we look the other way from our growth opportunities. As a result, we slowly become unable to see those opportunities - we become deaf to the whispers in our lives, since these ask us to make changes and take risks that our inner critic fears. This means we end up making the same, self-limiting choices over and over again. Then, because we can't easily overlook the consequences of our self-limiting choices, such as dysfunctional relationships, lack of fulfillment, and lack of effectiveness, we start judging ourselves for those self-created misfortunes, feeling even worse about ourselves. As we stay in our unconscious, self-punishing, downward spiral, the layers of self-judgment become so thick that they paralyze us over time. We feel bad about ourselves and bad about feeling bad, becoming ever more resistant to letting go of old limiting ways. With every setback, we judge ourselves more feeling worse and getting more entangled in this downward spiral, which then discourages us even further.
Reflecting on some of the following questions with kindness can help us snap out of a negative judgement spiral:
- What can this station in life teach me?
- What old ways of thinking are limiting me?
- How have these ways of thinking helped me? How are they common and understandable strategies of the mind to help me live?
- What do I not want to see? What if I allowed myself to see these limiting thoughts?
- Who would I be without these ways of thinking? What new ways of thinking can I adopt that fuel fulfillment, connection, and effectiveness?
- How can I respond differently to my current situation?
- What am I grateful for? How can I bring more of the things that make me grateful into my life?
Or, in one question: 'How am I growing?'
Sometimes, we may find the answer is 'not at all' or 'not in the ways I would like'; that's when we know we need to find the courage and humility to keep pursuing our own expansion, without self-judgment (p. 64-67)."