Pause before judging yourself and others

The festive season of 2017 is over and a new year has begun.

Many people start the new year with resolutions, wishing to change something about them or their lives, and hoping to start something new such as a new job, a new direction or even a new relationship.

I am skeptical about new year’s resolutions.

The reason being that often after a short while people become discouraged and find that this new venture does not happen as fast as they had hoped or does not fulfil them in the way they had imagined.

However, I am not skeptical about the energy the sense of new beginnings engenders in us, and it’s an energy which can be used to get us reconsidering our lives and what we do.

I do believe, though, that it is most helpful when it comes from a place of deep self-exploration and awareness.

On embarking on this new direction, certain questions are good to ask oneself, such as what is it that I want to change or start and why?

What is my intention and motivation?

Am I buying into a fad or fantasy of something that I heard about that promised everlasting happiness, tranquility or wealth?

Today, with all the more potential for being swindled into something through the various forms of social media and the like, it is very easy to be pulled into the latest trend or fad with the hope of experiencing everlasting wealth, joy and peace. We all dream of obtaining these, its human to desire these aspects of living a “good” life.

However, I believe that we need to trust ourselves first and know what will work for us and not fall prey to potentially exploitative experiences.

So what is it that we need to change or start? Is it that we have naively entrusted our lives into the hands of another and have fallen asleep in a bad situation, remaining there, seemingly helpless.

Is it inertia that we just got used to things and feel we don’t have the strength to change or make a difference in our lives?

Maybe we need to ask ourselves first, what do I need, and how do I go about meeting this need? Do I want my relationship or job situation to improve? If so, what am I doing or not doing that’s contributing to a stuck or dead-end relationship or job? Could I change my attitude or perception?

It may be that our perceptions are keeping us feeling unhappy.

That we judge our lives/partners/children/jobs/homes as not good enough or messed up and we may look at others and imagine that they have it all.

This may be further exacerbated by being active on social media and viewing the seemingly happy pictures and experiences of others.

We imagine that they don’t suffer, that they have it all and are experiencing everlasting happiness, peace and wealth.

Maybe they are, but it may also be that their lives only appear impressive on social media but that the reality (which we don’t know and can’t see) might be the opposite… just “normal”, mundane and mostly challenging.

Not many people upload their difficult and conflict filled experiences.

Everybody wants to present the best side of themselves and their lives, including the achievements, the fun-filled holidays, the happy family visits, the celebrations, the new purchases, the new job, and the list goes on.

What this does to viewers usually is that it engenders comparison, with viewers feeling seemingly worse off.

It also creates a deep sense of envy as to why you don’t have what Mr and Mrs Jones has, often triggering an intense feeling of inadequacy.

However, we often forget that difficulties, a degree of suffering or challenging experiences are an intrinsic aspect of life and that our suffering is exacerbated when we attempt to resist or avoid these.

In fact, when we are able to accept and tolerate difficulty, and learn from these, they have the potential to lead to greater self-awareness and growth.

Personally, I rarely go onto social media. I find it too time-consuming, however, the times I have gone onto it, I have had moments of similar feelings, including that other people’s lives appear to be so much better than mine. I would then exit social media feeling somewhat deflated and inadequate.

On investigation I came upon research showing that we often evaluate and compare ourselves to others. This is part of the wiring in our brains.

We also tend to evaluate ourselves negatively and in comparison, others positively (except if you are a narcissist).

With more awareness of these human tendencies, we can choose to respond in a manner that is less self-deprecating, and also not disparaging of others’ achievements.

Responding in a kind and compassionate way towards your own feelings will allow an openness to perceive others in a more compassionate way, whether you feel they deserve it or not.

The ego is a “sneaky” aspect of our psyche, and unconsciously convinces us to fulfil its wishes including to be better than others, to come out the winner and others the loser.

But perhaps, with our contemplative capacities, we can take a moment to think about what is going on inside us and not react immediately to the feeling of not measuring up.

To just pause, take a breath, and allow the feeling to come and to go. To pause before we react either inwardly, harming ourselves, or outwardly, harming others.

So this is my new year’s wish for you, and for all of us… to pause regularly, before judging, doing or saying anything harmful, to yourself or others.

To pause and allow the mind to settle, to ask yourself, what am I feeling now and why, in a very gentle and friendly way.

Know and trust what comes up from deep inside, beneath the anxiety, the envy, the worry, the anger and the jealousy. The feeling changes usually into a tenderness, and the answers to questions come.

This pausing has great power in it. It can change how we feel and how we respond to ourself, to others and to life.

When this practice is done regularly, it can make significant shifts in our lives at any time, during beginnings, middles and endings, whether we have resolutions or not. Good soulful wishes for 2018!

Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical

psychologist. Write to her at Send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.