Tag Archives: judgment

Apologizing and Pleasing

Tonight I am curled up in a chilly Liverpool flat after a long day’s travel to Scotland and back. As I settled down under my covers (1 duvet and 2 sleeping bags–it might be warmer in Liverpool than in Canada, but they don’t know anything here about proper insulation!), my thoughts drifted to the idea of apologizing for one’s self, and how harmful that can be.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to apologize for our behaviour. More often than not we know exactly when we owe an apology, but we just hate to admit that we were wrong. After snapping at our partner for not doing something, or being short with a sibling because we had a long day at work, or forgetting to do something that was important to someone we love. All of these behaviours deserve an apology, if only to show the person we love that we know we’ve unnecessarily hurt their feelings.

I was thinking not about those kinds of apologies, but about really acting in ways that are about apologizing for one’s self. By that I mean, apologizing for how we experience the world, or how we feel, or for what we love, or for what we need. This kind of apology undermines the very core of who we are and reinforces the belief that we are simply not enough. Not good enough.

For example…have you ever found yourself apologizing for needing some time alone? For crying? For wanting a change of scenery? Or what about when you’ve made big plans with someone but find that your needs are changing and you want something different? Or for needing a little extra time to handle a difficult situation? Or for not acting the way someone wanted or expected you to?

Perhaps the most powerfully detrimental way we apologize for ourselves is by saying ‘yes’ when we mean ‘no’. Because every time that happens, you’re apologizing for your own needs and choosing to value someone else’s self over your own. You’re choosing to please someone else and to apologize for that part of yourself that is displeasing to the other person.

If you’re too busy apologizing for parts of yourself, or trying to change them to please someone else, then you’re not giving yourself the respect that you, and by ‘you’ I mean all of your self, deserves. You’re reinforcing every thought you’ve ever had about how you’re not as good as someone else, how you need to improve, change, morph into someone you’re not but that someone else might be more pleased by.

I’m inviting you now (as if you need an invitation, but hey, sometimes we all need a gentle nudge) to think about what parts of yourself you’ve been apologizing for, and why…and then to give yourself permission to just stop. Stop apologizing. Stop self-criticizing. Instead…embrace. Explore how you feel and why. Ask yourself who you are trying to please or change for, and why. Re-discover the parts of yourself that are valuable even if they are different to others. Savour your own experiences and adventures, even when they’re not what others expect.

And then…step into those parts of yourself, without apology.

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Lessons in Catastrophe – Resentment

Resentment is one of those emotions that doesn’t get talked about much. It’s a tricky, complicated, and poorly illuminated emotion. It’s not one of the pretty, shiny emotions like joy or compassion or selflessness.

But we all feel it. Just like we feel guilt and shame and anger and jealousy. I am going to speak about resentment because shoving it back down and trying to ignore it doesn’t help.

I am resentful that all my friends are living their lives and I can’t live mine because of my physical condition.

Yep, there I said it. It’s not pretty, is it?

Every time I listen to a friend talk about a great school project, every time I hear about their travel plans, every time they land a great new job or tell me about an adventure…every single time, I am reminded that my life is on hold and that I hate it. Every time, I am resentful that they are able to take active part in their lives while I feel like I am stuck waiting until I can participate in mine…stuck at home, alone, resting my back in bed.

Emotion is complicated: I am thrilled for my friends. I’m thrilled about their internships and their studies and their travels and I am genuinely happy that they are happy. I am excited for their adventures. I want them to share their joys with me, and I would be devastated if they felt that they could not. I am still…resentful.

So how do I handle this resentment? I make sure that I am clear with myself about the target of the resentment: I do not resent my friends, I resent my own situation. This allows me to make sure that I don’t take out my resentment on the people I love. When I speak to them, I allow myself to be happy for their achievements and adventures. I reserve the resentment for myself, when I am alone, afterwards, and I can process this resentment.

I try to remind myself of the ways in which I am lucky–and there are many–and to acknowledge that while this feels permanent, it is not. I will also have my own adventures.

And then…I take a deep breath, and I tell myself that it is ok that I am resentful. I do my best to sit with how I feel, and to acknowledge it without judgment or shame.

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Shades of Grey…and Compassion

When I was younger, so many things were black and white.

If in a relationship your partner hit you, you left, automatically, like a knee-jerk reaction. Same if he cheated on you. If someone raped you, you went straight to the police and gave them all the information you could. If someone in a position of authority to you sexually harassed you, you reported them to all the relevant people immediately. Your responsibility was partly to yourself, but it was also to every other person that might potentially be hurt by your decision to not speak out. Right and wrong. Black and white.

I can read the paragraph that I just wrote, and believe every word to be true. I can read it and feel the fierceness of the statements: a reminder to all the world that such acts can not go unreported, without consequence, that individuals are strong and that no one, no one should take advantage or abuse in such a way.

This I believe. I swear I do.

But…

But so help me God, I have come to know shades of grey in the midst of that stark black and white. And suddenly I can’t see the way forward, because every path that once was white is muddled by things I never thought could exist in those situations…

Like fear. Like trust. Like uncertainty. Like family. Like power. Like habit. Like self-protection.

Like (and oh how unbelievable this might have sounded to me, once upon a time) that keeping silent might be the very thing, the only thing that gives you the space and time to heal, because speaking out might actually shred your heart in ways which would only continue to damage you, at a time when any more damage might truly break you.

I am learning not to judge those who live through situations that were once so black and white. Because they are coping the only way they can. They are doing the best they can. They are protecting themselves, and trying to heal, and holding on as best they can. Because nothing is black and white anymore. Because unless you can feel just how a soul is being broken and trying to piece itself together again, then you are in no position, and have no right, to judge them.

Because I’ve had to learn not to judge myself.

So here, in the midst of the shades of grey, between old convictions and new understanding, I am learning to hold compassion instead of judgment.

How about you? Is the world as black and white for you as it once may have been?

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