The Un-Wholly Power of Judgements
Updated: Apr 1
Judgements hurt the most when they come from the people we respect and trust the most. If they won’t believe and validate us, we tend to have a hard time validating ourselves.
“Maybe my pain isn’t really important… Maybe there really is something wrong with me.”
Do You Remember Feeling Judged?
Can you remember the last time you felt judged? Perhaps you found the courage to express a vulnerable side of yourself, a deeply held belief, or maybe a deep secret, only to have it ridiculed or invalidated by the people around you.
What did that Judgment teach you?
Did it matter who the person was? If it was a stranger or someone you don’t care for then maybe, “Hey, forget them!” But if it was someone you really respected or admired the sting of that judgement probably went a lot deeper.
If you’ve ever found yourself on the receiving end of someone’s “you can’t be serious” glare, then, like most people, you probably weren’t too eager to express that part of yourself… maybe to anyone… ever again.
Now maybe what you’re keeping buried inside is something rather small and innocent. Like sometimes you like to write Star Wars fan fiction. Maybe you’ve never told anyone about it. Maybe you did one time, but they made fun of you so you decided to never again share your ever-expanding collection of manuscripts.
But maybe someone really ridiculed you and you haven’t put pen to paper since - - you completely shut down a beautiful and creative part of yourself.
Judging Your Truth
But what if you were judged when you found the bravery to express a more painful truth. Like sometimes you feel so overwhelmed that you binge eat until you need to vomit. Or that the combination of your loneliness and work stress has gotten so bad that you find yourself contemplating suicide. Or that a few years ago someone drugged and raped you at a party.
Locking away parts of our truth almost always comes with negative consequences. But some consequences are bigger than others…
The Fall Out
When we move through the world unwilling, or unable, to express a painful truth for fear of being judged, ridiculed, and rejected, that pain grows. It can grow so much, and become so powerful that we aren’t able to tell the difference between those who would help us and those who would hurt us.
We can become suspicious, and on edge. Ready to believe that anyone who shows interest in supporting us is actually just looking for a way to tear us down even further. We’ve learned that isolating is the best, and perhaps only, way to stay safe.
One of the most insidious parts about judgement is that it doesn’t even need to be directed at us to impact us. To keep us quiet and locked away. This is especially true when we’re children. Our young minds soak up and are shaped by all that we experience – especially when we see others being judged and shamed.
There’s a reason people with eating disorders keep it hidden – they’ve seen others shamed for “being gross” or even congratulated for being so “in control.”
There’s a reason people who contemplate suicide don’t reach out for help – they’ve seen others get told they’re “weak” and just need to “cheer up.”
There’s a reason people who’ve been raped don’t reach out for help – they’ve seen others get told, “well, you shouldn’t have worn that outfit.” “you should have just fought back.” “you probably wanted it.”
Whether the judgments are directed at us or someone else they get internalized (reoccurring messages we’ve engraved on our sense of what is right and wrong in the world). If part of us or something we’ve been through lines up with a message about what is wrong, we try and reject that part of ourselves.
We try to break it off, bury it, silence it, push it away, remove it.
The problem is that we can’t actually do these things. These pieces of ourselves we try to break off keep looking for a way out. For a way to rejoin the whole.
Like a puzzle that’s missing some of its pieces, it just doesn’t feel right. Our bodies and minds want to be whole. They want to be integrated with everything that makes us who we are.
Living without wholeness is painful.
One of the surest routes to that pain is internalizing judgements. On the flip side, recognizing and challenging these internalized judgements can help us regain the sense of wholeness we are longing for.
These issues are complex and multifaceted with NO quick and easy solutions, yet it would be hard to overstate the important role that judgment, especially from the lips of those that we respect and trust, plays in keeping people quiet and ashamed.
It's All About Connection
One of our greatest needs as humans is to find acceptance, belonging, and safety in a community of support. Strong connections to a safe community is one of the greatest indicators of someone’s resiliency (the ability to bounce back after a hardship). We can survive without it, but not on very healthy terms.
If you’re living with something painful locked away inside you, screaming to get out, please remember that there are good people in the world.
There are other people who’ve been through similar things that you’ve been through. It is possible to connect with them.
There might even be support groups in your area. There are also some wonderful healers in the world that can help you move through and transform the pain you’re holding.
Remember too that your words and actions have power – especially to the ears of young ones. Please hold the trust and respect that others place in you with care.
Please be mindful that if someone is nervous or apprehensive to tell you something, it probably means they’re in a place of vulnerability. They’ve likely been judged, or seen judgment, before. You have the power in that moment to create some real change in their life. To help them accept their whole self.
If you or someone you know has been silent for far too long, has been hurting for far too long, please know that there is help out there.
If you or a loved one is working to move through a process of healing from sexual assault I strongly encourage you to find more support. It can be through a survivor group, a therapist, a spiritual community, or even an activist organization, but connecting with others is so very important. Isolation breeds shame, and shame breeds dis-ease.
Today is the perfect day to begin reaching out for support.
Always remember two things: Healing Is Possible, And It’s When We’re In Connection With Others That We Thrive.
Hudson Wilkins, MA, LPCC, EMDR, IFS. Hudson is a nature and mindfulness based trauma therapist inFort Collins, CO. He operates a private practice with a specialty in supporting folks who have experienced sexual violence first hand, and those that love them to heal and rebalance their lives.