“I know you’ll judge me for this, but…” my client starts. She tells me what’s happened the previous week, and I keep waiting for the moment in which I will feel like condemning her to the ends of the earth. But… that moment never comes.
Oftentimes the depressed or anxious people who show up in counseling believe that I, or any other therapist, will judge them as much as they judge themselves. They feel so embarrassed or humiliated, so they assume we will laugh or humiliate them further. They look critically at themselves and their choices, and fear that I and others will too. This is why people dealing with depression and anxiety often isolate themselves and shut down. It can be terrifying to spend time with people if we believe that if they really know us they will judge us.
A big part of the work I do is helping clients look clearly at their own judgments of themselves, instead of simply staying immersed in the judgements themselves. Sometimes self-criticism can be a useful tool, but sometimes we can use it as a weapon against ourselves. Here are the sorts of questions I invite you ask yourself right now:
- How would my life be different if I was less self-critical?
- What stops me from being as critical or judgmental of my friends?
- How self-critical would I want any children in my life to be?