How Loving Yourself More Leads to Judging Others Less

Rear view of person with long blonde hair sitting on suitcase at the end of a dockHow we treat ourselves affects our interactions with others. If I beat myself up for not being perfect, how will I be loving toward a friend or a romantic partner who has “failed” me? How will I be able to set realistic expectations for others if they aren’t realistic for me?

So often, we are unloving toward our perceived flaws. We criticize our bodies, without thanking our body parts for the important functions they serve. We criticize our personal qualities, without practicing compassionate curiosity. Our mistakes are rarely used as opportunities for growth. Instead, our mistakes are used to create a track record proving how “incompetent” we are.

In an ideal world, we would be in control of our lives and tailor them to our liking. In the real world, however, we are faced with messiness on a daily basis. There are more gray areas than black-and-white ones. Our plans don’t always pan out, and our expectations are not always met.

It always surprises me how dehumanizing our problems can be. Anxiety convinces us that we are “crazy.” Depression convinces us that we are “worthless.” Perfectionism convinces us that we are “never enough.” Yet we invite these abusive voices into our daily routines. Whatever happened to healthy self-love and self-respect?

In today’s modern world, many people appear to be self-absorbed. We often spend more time on our phones than actually socializing with those around us. There is difference between being self-absorbed and practicing healthy self-love, however. Being self-absorbed centers on the idea of empty external validation. On the other hand, healthy self-love invites acceptance, integrity, and creates space for personal values. Healthy self-love is the ability to notice one’s “flaws” and attempt to improve those areas through compassionate healing. Healthy self-love allows a person to be human. Healthy self-love does not connect one’s self-worth to one’s performance.

Think about it: A lack of healthy self-love leaves us feeling ashamed and alone. Over time, a lack of self-love can lead to depression, anxiety, loneliness, and a sense of emptiness. These issues develop such a centralized position in our lives that we may grow fearful of leaving them behind. We latch onto them as though our identities will be compromised if we try to move beyond what they have planned for us.

If it was up to depression, we might lay in bed most of the day. If it was up to anxiety, we might avoid speaking in public. We know that not loving ourselves may leave us feeling lonely and tired. We know that negative self-talk may only invite more anxiety. Yet we continue to stay married to our challenges. We offer loyalty to our problems and, in doing so, leave less space for self-love.

If it were up to depression, we might lay in bed most of the day. If it was up to anxiety, we might avoid speaking in public. We know that not loving ourselves may leave us feeling lonely and tired. We know that negative self-talk may only invite more anxiety. Yet we continue to stay married to our challenges. We offer loyalty to our problems and, in doing so, leave less space for self-love.

Our problems attempt to compare us to an unrealistic standard that is never consistent. The standard continues to grow as we age. As we age, the standard attempts to find a new cohort to compare us to.

We carry “suitcases” from childhood into adolescence. We fill up our suitcases with more unmet expectations and perceived disappointments and carry them over to adulthood. The cycle continues until the day we die or we realize our problems will never allow us to love ourselves.

When we judge others, it’s usually because they have “failed” to meet an expectation that our problems have set for us. Either we have “failed” to achieve that expectation as well, or we have “succeeded” at complying with the expectation. Lack of self-love steps in and whispers: “I have failed at meeting this expectation, and so has this person. I don’t like myself, so I don’t like this person, either.” Lack of self-love also can whisper: “I have complied with this certain expectation. This person has ‘failed’ to meet this particular expectation. They are not perfect and not worthy of my time.”

The way you treat others is a reflection of your internal dialogue with yourself. If you have cheated on a romantic partner, it is less about your romantic partner or the third person in the scenario. It is more about who you would have hoped to be with, alongside the third person. It is about you.

If you have judged another person, it is more about your relationship with mistakes or differences than it is about the other person. Problems have a way of tricking us into loyalty. Problems guide us to black-and-white thinking. Our goal is not to step away from personal values and morals. Our goal is to have acceptance and love for ourselves—enough acceptance that we are able to remind ourselves that we will be okay regardless of how others choose to live, regardless of other people’s actions.

Do you love yourself enough to forgive yourself for the things you think you have not accomplished? Can you be compassionate with yourself and accept yourself so fully that you stop looking for others to do what you have “failed” at? Can you remind yourself that where you are at this very moment is exactly where you need to be?

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Ida Khamesy, M.A., LMFT, therapist in Irvine, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 16 comments
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  • Heidi

    Heidi

    November 18th, 2016 at 11:09 AM

    It has been my experience over the years that the more I like who I am and I am feeling good about myself then the less I spend time picking apart other people. I think that it is only natural to want to commiserate with someone or I guess it is a better term to say that if we are feeling bad about our self then we want to look down on someone else sort of goes away on its own even more.
    But when you love yourself you don’t tend to do that. That need to tear down someone else

  • Brian T

    Brian T

    November 18th, 2016 at 12:10 PM

    This is very encouraging and relevant for this day and age. Looking forward to sharing this with others and relating on many of the insights and encouragemental therein!

  • Tierney

    Tierney

    November 19th, 2016 at 8:25 AM

    It is always a very sad day for me when I realize that the person who is treating me badly isn’t doing it because they don’t like me- they just don’t like themselves and somehow think that taking that hatred out on me is ok

  • tods

    tods

    November 20th, 2016 at 7:05 AM

    This is always the key with being happier with others. Sometimes it is only all about being happier with yourself. It sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world to do but truthfully at times it feels like it is the absolute hardest.

  • Celeste

    Celeste

    November 21st, 2016 at 11:05 AM

    It is a tough pill to swallow when I think back on all of the things I have screwed up on in my life. Missed chances, blown opportunities. But you know, I have to just get to the point that there is not much more that I can do other than pout one foot in front of the other and just keep going. It is always about leaving the past behind and looking to the future because there is no way I can change what has already been said or done.

  • Zena Tucker

    Zena Tucker

    December 4th, 2017 at 1:24 PM

    Celeste: I 💗 your typo: “There’s not much more can do than ‘pout’ one foot in front of the other.” I know it’s not what you meant, but it made me laugh because unfortunately that’s exactly what we do!

  • gertie

    gertie

    November 21st, 2016 at 2:48 PM

    I don’t think that there is anyone out there who would ever say that they have regretted coming to love and accept themselves more.

  • Jay

    Jay

    December 6th, 2016 at 3:37 PM

    This is a concept I struggle immensely with. Having grown up with no love, I was never sure what exactly it is. I learned exactly the opposite; to hate myself for just being on this planet. I have learned that love is impossible to define and different for every person. I always viewed self love as conceit or sheer selfishness. I’ve learned a lot about codependency and lack of self love. Shame was dominating my life and I did not even know it. Everything I was taught was all totally bogus and patently untrue. Putting everyone’s needs first for fear they would not ever love me. Then one day I heard someone say “WHAT ABOUT ME?” I thought, yeah, what about ME??” I started to realize I matter, I do have some worth. I tend to absorb the pain of other people or their difficult situations and am learning about boundaries. Such as to do what is best for me, not what others expect from me. Knowing that has really started to free me up to know I matter and do not have to take on others self-created problems. Learning to love myself is challenging but I’m feeling better gradually. I’m gaining momentum and soon hope to hone this skill where it is a habit of sorts and a very healthy way to be with oneself.

  • Jack

    Jack

    November 22nd, 2016 at 7:44 AM

    How do I get someone who is depressed to understand that this is what is going on with him, that he is not worthless but that he needs help in working through this?
    It seems that nothing that I say or do ever makes a difference and I am always so tempted just to stop and give up but I don’t think that a real friend would ever do that to someone that you really care about.

  • avril

    avril

    November 23rd, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    There was a point in my life that I honestly felt like I was being so selfish because I cared about my own feelings.
    I think that I had too many people in my life at that time that made me feel that way.

  • Helena D.

    Helena D.

    November 24th, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    Everyday is an opportunity to do something good not just for yourself but for some other person in your life as well. The best time and the best opportunity really to do this is when you are feeling the best about yourself and the contributions that you can make to life and to other people.

    I am always so surprised to learn that someone that I thought liked me and respected me has actually been tearing me down either via practice or vicious words, and while that is hurtful, I try to view it from the standpoint that they are doing that because they like themselves even less than what they probably like me.

    Hard to accept at times, but very important to understand.

  • Trent

    Trent

    November 25th, 2016 at 5:04 PM

    Something that might otherwise be seen as a liability might come to be used as a crutch for others.

  • joey

    joey

    November 26th, 2016 at 8:58 AM

    I know that I am not happy with who I am and therefore it makes me angry with others jealous, envious when I have absolutely no reason that I should be.

  • Cason

    Cason

    November 27th, 2016 at 7:38 AM

    I am not really all that sure that it has become about judging or not judging, but what i do believe is that learning to like who I am makes me more open to liking others for who they are.
    I have let go of much of that competition that I always seemed to feel, and now I ca appreciate this person for who he or she is and not always think only of what they could be doing to get an edge up on me.

  • Redd

    Redd

    November 27th, 2016 at 1:39 PM

    there will always be those people who thrive more on the anxiety than they do the calm and so they ensure that in ways subtle or not that there will always be that in their lives

  • callie

    callie

    November 29th, 2016 at 11:26 AM

    it’s definitely a big balancing act for most of us

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