Judgment, Approval and Growing into Yourself

person holding a green plant

Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

The following is a story from Rachel Naomi Remen about how we judge, seek approval, hide our true selves – like spores. At some point, when the time is right, we grow by accepting all parts of ourselves and finding our way to become all that we can be.

I was in my forties when the light started to touch the spore in me. I was drawn to become a certified coach and to take up yoga. And then everything started to turn upside down, especially in my relationships with my husband and family.
Growth never happens in the comfortable. But I was lucky to have mentors to support me through this mid life confusion and into the transformation that followed.

Who would have thought that I would uncover such a big part of myself that was hidden. Or would now be calling myself a yoga teacher, coach, mentor and blogger! I am honored to be on this journey with you.


“The life in us is diminished by judgment far more frequently than by disease. Our own self-judgment or the judgment of other people can stifle our life force, its spontaneity and natural expression. Unfortunately, judgment is commonplace. It is as rare to find someone who loves us as we are as it is to find someone who loves themselves whole.

Judgment does not only take the form of criticism. Approval is also a form of judgment. When we approve of people, we sit in judgment of them as surely as when we criticize them. Positive judgment hurts less acutely than criticism, but it is judgment all the same and we are harmed by it in far more subtle ways.
To seek approval is to have no resting place, no sanctuary. Like all judgment, approval encourages a constant striving. It makes us uncertain of who we are and of our true value. This is as true of the approval we give ourselves as it is of the approval we offer others. Approval can’t be trusted. It can be withdrawn at any time no matter what our track record has been. It is as nourishing of real growth as cotton candy. Yet many of us spend our lives pursuing it.

Some people spend enormous amounts of time considering the impression that their words and behaviors create, checking how their performance will affect their audience, playing always for approval. Others make a tiny gap between their thoughts and their words which allows them to say only that which they feel will please others. A great deal of energy goes into this process of fixing and editing ourselves.

We may have even come to admire in ourselves what is admired, expect what is expected, and value what is valued by others. We have changed ourselves into someone that the people who matter to us can love. Sometimes we no longer know what is true for us, in which direction our own integrity lies.

We surrender our wholeness for a variety of reasons. Among the most compelling are our ideas of what being a good person is all about. Sometimes it is not the approval of other people but the approval of a spiritual school or teacher which dictates which parts of us we keep and which we hide.
The natural self, a complex living interchange of seemingly opposite characteristics, gets whittled down against some acquired standard of social and spiritual acceptability. Few of us are able to love ourselves as we are. We may even have become ashamed of our wholeness.

Parts of ourselves which we may have hidden all of our lives out of shame are often the source of our healing. We have all been taught that certain of our ways don’t fit into the common viewpoint and values of the society or the family into which we have been born. Every culture, every family has its Shadow. When we’re told that “big boys don’t cry,” and “ladies never disagree with anyone,” we learn to avoid judgment by disowning our feelings and our perspectives. We make ourselves less whole. It is only human to trade wholeness for approval. Yet parts we disown are not lost, they are just forgotten. We can remember our wholeness at any time. In hiding it, we have kept it safe.

One of the most dramatic manifestations of the life force is seen in the plant kingdom. When times are harsh and what is needed to bloom cannot be found, certain plants become spores. These plants dampen down and wall off their life force in order to survive. It is an effective strategy. Spores found in mummies, spores thousands of years old, have unfolded into plants when given the opportunity of nurture.

When no one listens, children form spores. In an environment hostile to their uniqueness, when they are judged, criticized, and reshaped through approval into what is wanted rather than supported and allowed to develop naturally into who they are, children wall the unloved parts of themselves away. People may become spores young and stay that way throughout most of their lives. But a spore is a survival strategy, not a way of life. Spores do not grow. They endure. What you needed to do to survive may be very different from what you need to do to live.

Plant spores are opportunists. The life force waits in them, scanning the environment, looking for the first opportunity to bloom. But people may forget that becoming a spore is only a temporary strategy. Few check the environment, as plant spores do, to see if conditions have changed and they can find what they need to bloom and reclaim their wholeness. Many of us still hide the parts of ourselves that were unacceptable to our parents and teachers although our parents are long gone and their world with them. In the world of my childhood, boys never cried. Those that did were sissies. Of course, all girls were supposed to be sissies. The world we live in now offers far greater opportunities for expression, but we may still live in it as if it were the hostile terrain of our childhood. The saddest part is that we may have forgotten what it is like to be whole. What it is like to feel and to cry, what it is like to take initiative and have a viewpoint.

Reclaiming ourselves usually means coming to recognize and accept that we have in us both sides of everything. We are capable of fear and courage, generosity and selfishness, vulnerability and strength. These things do not cancel each other out but offer us a full range of power and response to life. Life is as complex as we are. Sometimes our vulnerability is our strength, our fear develops our courage, and our woundedness is the road to our integrity. It is not an either/or world. It is a real world. In calling ourselves “heads” or “tails,” we may never own and spend our human currency, the pure gold of which our coin is made.

But judgment may heal over time. One of the blessings of growing older is the discovery that many of the things I once believed to be my shortcomings have turned out in the long run to be my strengths, and other things of which I was unduly proud have revealed themselves in the end to be among my shortcomings. Things that I have hidden from others for years turn out to be the anchor and enrichment of my middle age. What a blessing it is to outlive your self-judgments and harvest your failures.

~ Rachel Naomi Remen*


*Remen, Rachel Naomi. Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal, 10th Anniversary Edition (pp. 35-38). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

If we Believe in the Unity of us All


Photo by Matheus Bertelli on pexels.com

If we believe in the unity of us all
Then we must let go of judging an other.
Judgment keeps us separate
And grows thorns around our hearts.
As long as we judge, we will suffer.
We are no longer living in connection
With ourselves or others.
Pause and listen to what wants to be known
Let go of spiraling thoughts.
Feel what needs to be felt.
We must touch the love within
And open our hearts to all.
This is the path to contentment.

* Its Never too Late for Self Acceptance

Young Val and twin bro
I came across this old photograph (of me and my twin brother) and not longer after, found an exercise on self acceptance.

Turns out they both went well together. To find out why, please read the exercise below…. and take some time in doing it for yourself.

Step One
Imagine someone you love and admire sitting opposite you. He or she is smiling at you. How do you feel about them? If this person was to make a mistake, could you and would you forgive them?

Step Two
Using your imagination, put yourself in the chair opposite you. Imagine you are sitting there smiling back at yourself. How do you feel about her or him? Do you feel the same way about her or him as you did towards the first person, the one you love and admire, or is the feeling different? If this person made a mistake could you, or would you forgive her? Are you more forgiving of the other person?

This exercise often highlights a discrepancy between how we love and accept others, compared to ourselves.

Step Three
Find a photograph of yourself as a child, and place it where you see it everyday. Let this remind you to be loving and accepting of yourself.
This child is precious, as are you.


p.s. When I did this exercise myself, even after all the inner work I have done, there was a difference in how I perceived myself making a mistake compared to my response towards someone I love. With the person I loved, there was an surge of love and empathy and urge to understand. With myself, there was an initial  slight withdrawal and contraction in the body and some judgment before I was able to feel empathy and compassion.

Notice what you notice without any more self judgment.

Its so helpful to keep coming back to where we are on our journey…. and to remind us of our infinite capacity to grow our love. ❤️


* M..M..Moment

mini mindful momentHere is a lovely Mini Mindful Moment that helped me find my Middle Ground today:

Walk Slowly by Danna Faulds

It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.

And that is why it is called a practice.

It begins with bringing our attention to our breath.

Patience little ones … and big ones too 🙂


* Pondering – What’s Wrong?

man shouting out

I woke up this morning with a memory that is still with me. Whenever I hear something out of the ordinary like a loud bang, or a groan, or even an unexpected noise outside. I call out “What’s wrong?” 

This is an automatic knee jerk reaction of mine, and one I learned in my family growing up.

… No one ever asked “What’s right”?

The words we choose influence our thinking about the world around us.

“What’s wrong?” has an assumption and judgment that something out of the ordinary is wrong or is about to happen in a “bad” way. Its actually quite alarmist… and can put others on the defensive if they haven’t done anything wrong. I recall my brother saying “Nothing! I didn’t do anything wrong!!”

In my experience, more often than not, nothing is wrong. Its just life!

Something is happening that may or may not require my attention…. and I’ll find out soon if action is needed.

When we accept that life is a series of highs and lows, then nothing is wrong. It may be challenging and difficult but there is no right or wrong about it.

From now on I am going to remember to pause in the moment and ask  “What’s happening”? and take it from there 🙂

* Mantra for Today – join in

I have a white board full of short inspirations and reminders that work well for me at work and in life.  This mantra is for when I find myself being critical and holding back.

Why not put this one in your pocket and take it along with you today 🙂


Notice judgment

Let it go

Open heart

Join in