“A man [or woman] cannot be comfortable without his [or her] own approval.” — Mark Twain
I just had this sort of eureka moment while cooking breakfast for myself and my fiancé. Judgmental people might just be insecure. I know this may be common knowledge, but it also might give you some kind of self-illumination like it did me.
But first, let me explain the thought process from its inception to a fully blossomed realization.
When the seed was planted
I’ve finally been getting back into my yoga practice lately. I haven’t been able to teach since COVID hit. To be honest, I’ve also let my own practice dissipate slightly as well.
On a positive note, starting almost from scratch with a new routine I’ve been playing around with has allowed me to adapt my approach. I’ve focused more on my intentions going into my asanas.
One of my intentions I was focusing on one day centred around confidence. That’s always been an area I’ve struggled with in the realm of personal growth.
It’s also something I’ve always admired in my fiancé — and probably one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place.
Anyway, I was taking myself through a manifestation-style meditation: visualizing myself with the confidence I’ll one day have. Refraining from separating myself from this attribute in my mind, but instead conjoining myself with it. Becoming it.
When the seed was nourished
So those thoughts kind of lingered with me as I made coffee and breakfast…and I started thinking about the reasons I struggle so much with feeling confident (and have for so long).
What must have happened to me to make me so fearful of rejection and judgment?
I’m a pretty sensitive person, so it’s not hard to imagine…after a few hurtful things said and done to me throughout grade school, a few awful breakups in high school and college, I had withdrawn inward. A lot.
From that point on, I did what so many people do. I became protective of myself. I’d programmed new reactions to things in order to avoid those painful responses I’d experienced from others throughout my life.
I doubted myself constantly. I depended on the approval of others more than I’ve even realized until pretty recently.
I built myself up to be completely acceptable to most kinds of people I would meet. I still followed my own passions and led a unique lifestyle living abroad, but my day-to-day life was comprised largely of fitting into the expectations of those around me.
I’d spent my single years working on myself, vanquishing my insecurities while also encompassing myself in a ‘safe’ and hardened exterior. Why?
Being sensitive was annoying. People didn’t like it.
And being insecure made me a terrible person.
It sounds crazy, but my experiences taught me that. People made me feel that way. And it was all part of growing up, becoming a somewhat better person.
BUT, it wasn’t exactly a healthy way of growing. Mostly, it was a process of shutting everything in tight, numbing it, and shunning it from my existence.
I’d worked on all my insecurities as they related to being in relationships with other people, but I was still so insecure.
Trying so hard to please everyone around you all the time gets exhausting very quickly. Being an introvert as it is makes it pretty draining. Mix this with being conflict-averse AF, plus highly valuing balance and harmony, and you can imagine how easily my inner peace could be thrown off.
The plant starts to grow, breaching the soil
I realized I’d also cultivated a pretty limited mentality when it came to accepting others. I essentially projected my own insecurities onto everyone else. I had very little patience for anyone too sensitive for my liking, or with obvious insecurities. I was quick to avoid or cut people straight out of my life.
Those people were quickly labelled ‘clingy, controlling, needy, insecure,’ etc. Because I was far from those things, and I had no time for those who hadn’t gotten themselves together yet.
I became super judgmental, seemingly overnight…
According to Caroline J. Simon, Ph.D., “Being judgmental distorts our perception of other people, of ourselves and of what matters most in living a well-lived human life. It feeds on and engenders a lack of sympathetic understanding of others.”
As I continued with breakfast, it all just fit together like the missing piece of a puzzle I didn’t even know existed.
I’m unaccepting of things in others that I’ve conditioned myself to not be or do. I always prided myself on being open-minded, but am I really?
I went back to the moment I’d visualized myself being confident. In order to be that, I’d have to completely be comfortable in my own skin. I’d have to be less fearful of people’s negative reactions to what I say or do. I’d have to simply be myself.
And there are very few people I feel I can do that with, meaning I have not been living my truth. Were I confident, I wouldn’t be so mentally limited about what is ‘okay’. I’d have more space for people proudly living their own truths, instead of trying to fit them into my little box.
For example, I mentioned my partner is one of the most confident people I’ve ever met. It’s surely no coincidence that he’s so accepting of others. He’s what I call a ‘lifter-upper’. He elevates those around him — especially those who seem to need it the most. Especially those others have doubted. He loves himself a good underdog, and I love that about him so much.
The plant blossoms
Lack of confidence comes from fear. And fear makes us insecure. Insecurity in ourselves often leads to projection of our fears onto others.
So if you know that person who tends to try bringing those down around them, try to give them a little grace. They might just have a lot of growing to do. They may have been conditioned to be fearful, and fear does manifest negativity.
If you think that person might be you, being able to admit such things is growth in itself.
And be kind to yourself, giving yourself the same love and grace you’d give another person feeling insecure.
“It’s painful to feel insecure! People in pain deserve kindness, not judgment,” says Gilbertson.
So how can we start being less judgmental?
We can go into our days with intention. Be conscious about our words and reactions. Correct thoughts or behaviour we notice to be projected from our own insecurities. Start gradually making habit tweaks. Also, work on building self-confidence!
Becoming more accepting and open is one of the many amazing lessons I’ve learned through my yoga practice. I have more to come in the next few articles.
Have you had any meaningful realizations lately?
Until next time, may both your plants and you keep on growing.