I was a guest speaker at Mount Royal University this morning when I noticed a board labelled “Judgment”on the wall of the class room with a quote. I paused for a moment and began reading the stories. Some of them were heart-breaking. I could feel their words in my own heart. It got me immediately thinking more on why we do what we do at the MDNA Institute.
Do You Know Thyself?
One of the regular comments I receive is how much we help people get to know themselves. It is empowering to understand one’s intrinsic motivation and social DNA. When we know how we are gifted, and that we can be gifts to the world, there is an empowerment that follows. We love it when people can connect professional success and personal fulfillment. They aren’t the same thing. To me, personal fulfillment means knowing who you are and living it to the fullest potential.
Then Why Do You Judge Thyself?
Yet at the same time, even though we may be working with individuals that have achieved high levels of professional success, they feel empty. They even feel ashamed about who they are in the deepest parts of their hearts. I know what this looks like because I’ve been there myself.
Now shame is different than guilt. I don’t mind a little guilt. Guilt is feeling bad because you did something bad. Guilt can cause change. For example, I apologized to my son the other day for a snap comment I made in anger. I felt guilty all night and the next morning I said sorry and that it wasn’t cool. He forgave me and we reconciled. My son is only ten years old but I know there is a profound impact of just saying “sorry” that will last a lifetime. I know this personally. This is something I never heard from my own father.
I also never heard the words, “I love you,” and “I believe in you.” These are words I was desperate to hear. Not because I felt guilt for bad things I did. But I felt shame.
While guilt is feeling bad because you did something bad, shame is feeling bad because you are convinced you are bad. There is a big difference.
An executive coach explained to me how shame and guilt actually operate in different parts of the brain. Without getting into it here, when your brain is seared with shame, you actually do not feel guilt. This made some serious light bulbs go off for me. It explained a lot in my own life and people we work with.
Shame comes from being judged. When boys are born, the most common question they are asked is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This immediately introduces judgment because if you don’t want to be a fire fighter, doctor or something respectable, there must be something wrong with you or your parents. Parents feel this too so they drive into their boys a desire to perform for acceptance. If they don’t live up to the hype or expectation (we rarely do in our own hearts) then we are bad–not good boys like we are supposed to be. We feel shame.
Women have it harder in many ways. From very early, girls are taught how they look is more important than how they feel/think or want to feel/think. Little girls aren’t asked the career question. They are just told they are pretty and that the types of clothes they wear make them more or less pretty. (I am obviously generalizing here, but just take a look at all the industries that try and reach young girls to eventually turn them into consumers as women.)
The bottom line is, right from birth, we are judged. This opens the door for shame. And in turn, to hide and protect ourselves, we judge others. It’s a natural cycle of shame. It is crippling.
Using Your Gifts to Give and Not to Perform
You have gifts. Everybody is gifted in something. But if you use your gifts to perform because people are judging you, then you will lose. No amount of professional success will ever heal the wound of unworthiness in your heart. You will feel ashamed that there is never enough to achieve or perform for acceptance.
But if you use your gifts to give yourself to the world, to serve humanity, to love, then there is no room for shame. You will know who you are and simply not care how much people judge you. You are to busy to let it sink in. When you love others freely with your gifts, you have to know in your heart, everybody, including you, deserves to be loved no matter what. You cannot give what you have not received. So the more you receive, the more you can give and the more you receive again.
This is a love cycle that trumps the shame cycle every time.
Don’t mistake knowing thyself for judging thyself. It’s a delicate line that you can cross without even knowing it. This is why you have to test your self-beliefs with other people by talking it through. Keeping them in your head only leads to a complete distortion of reality. This is when judgment becomes your identity. Shame will define you.
This is where I disagree somewhat with the quote on the wall. Yes judgment can be a subconscious act because we have been ingrained with it. But the process of knowing thyself means to make judgment, being judged and judging others, something you are conscious of. You can be. When you are aware of judgment, you can address it in a healthy manner from the inside-out.
A mentor once told me, “Most people are defined by how much they have been hurt versus how much they have been loved.” So true. Being judged hurts. That’s why, as corny as it may sound (especially coming from someone like me), love is the answer to all our problems.
Know thyself. Learn who you are and find that inner peace and security in who you are. Find that source of love that flows to every fiber of your soul and is impervious to shame. Be the gift to the world you are designed to be. Don’t let any judgment stop you!