The self judgement of “should”

Judgement can be painful to receive. It takes strength to not take it personally. A way to assert boundaries is to ask for it to be constructive and not overly personal. Even when the intention is solely good, the judgement can be triggering. However, one can still learn by uncovering past, unreconciled trauma.

Judgement can also be self-inflicted. Self judgement can be rather intense and take the form of self-shaming. Self-effacing behavior is another form of judgement. We may put ourselves down, lowering ourselves to help people around us feel more comfortable and less intimidated by our successes. Even when done authentically, putting one’s self down can have a negative impact on self-esteem as well as lowering the expectations of people around us.

Using the word “should” can be yet another way we judge ourselves. “I should practice my instrument harder and longer.” “I should eat less.” “I should exercise more.” “I should save more money.” In her audiobook, F the Shoulds, Tricia Huffman talks about how we enslave ourselves by thinking and doing things according to what we think will make us look good.

Telling yourself that you “should” do something, gets in the way of fully experiencing joy in your life according to Huffman. For me, the question is, what is the source of this kind of thinking? For instance, why should I help another teacher clear music stands from the gym floor when it is clearly someone else’s responsibility? This really did happen to me recently.

The new teacher walked into her gym to find the floor full of music stands and chairs. I’m guessing her more experienced colleague suggested asking me about it since the teacher who left the stands behind was home sick with covid. I started racking up stands and fortunately a custodian finally arrived to help out.

Looking back on it, my intention wasn’t entirely altruistic. It was a way to be the “good teacher.” No one wants to be a teacher who is not giving. I wanted to be a “team player.” The judgement here is the feeling that deep down inside, maybe I’m not a good person and/or not a good a teacher. I’m not worthy of society’s view of teachers as being all-giving.

Huffman suggests replacing “should” with “want.” What I wanted to do that morning was prepare my own lessons and set the tone of the day in a more relaxed way. In the long run, it could have been an important lesson for the new teacher to learn how to advocate better for her teaching space. The day went ok for me but I know my students benefit from my steady, emotional regulation.

The intention behind a judgement is what will determine its ultimate impact on the recipient. Constructive criticism from an individual with honest intentions who is an expert in their field is helpful even if initially triggering. Boundaries can be set when the judgement is not entirely well-intentioned. Moreover, we can ward off self judgement by letting go of the “shoulds.”

The Inspiration for Violinists card deck
This “Judgement” card is part of a 50 card deck. Every card has a unique image and text inspiring musicianship, mindfulness and spirituality.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Sound Post Blog

Like Us on Facebook