Can you recognize Self-Judgement?

I am grateful for the term Invisible Disability. Many times people are judged by what others see, and conclusions about whether one can or cannot do something are often made according to the way someone looks. This affects those who may appear unable, but are perfectly capable, and those who appear able but are not.

International Disability expert, Joni Eareckson Tada, explained it well when she told

someone living with debilitating fatigue, “People have such high expectations of folks

like you [with invisible disabilities], like, ‘come on, get your act together.’ but they have

such low expectations of folks like me in wheelchairs, as though it’s expected that we can’t

do much” (Joni).

The bottom line is that everyone with a disability is different, with varying challenges and

needs, as well as abilities and attributes. Thus, we all should learn to listen with our ears,

instead of judging with our eyes."


It's important to me that my limitations be acknowledged, not only so that I can be treated with respect and acceptance for all that I am, limitations included, but also so I can better learn how to treat myself. And while judgement from others is difficult to take, it's the self-judgment I am working most strongly on. I'm currently working my way through a book called Soul Without Shame. I'm on chapter 2, (and the reality is I never made it any further) entitled Recognizing Judgement.

"becoming aware of judgments will help you recognize that a judgement is the same as

an attack as far as the health of your being is concerned. One could even consider self-

judgment the original psychic auto-immune disease. Because judgement causes you to

reject yourself, the basic health of your soul is at risk. The more familiar you become with how judgement works the more it actually feels like a self-destructive

disease. The goal is to reestablish a vital survival energy and a healthy immune

system that will respond to both attacks and judgments with awareness, alertness, energy, capacity and appropriateness. The movement toward that goal reflects a continuing

process of unraveling why judgments have such a debilitating effect on you and

learning to defend your right to your present experience with strength and vitality."

-Soul Without Shame, Byron Brown

Having lived with low self-esteem my whole life, I suffered great pain by trapping myself within the confines of perfectionism in order to receive affection. This meant withstanding and bracing myself against constant self-judgment. Facing the judgments of others who did not have an understanding of my particular childhood trauma was unbearable, and I would use their judgments to berate myself. Self-loathing, constant criticism, doubt, a harsh and continual pushing to do things perfectly were my norm, and a feeling of never being able to do something well enough. I am choosing to look at these judgments I have toward myself in order to learn a way out of this dysfunctional pattern, in the hopes that it will help my body heal. I am also working hard to NOT use the judgments of those who do not understand invisible disability against myself.

Principles of self judgement:

  • "A judgement always touches on something you believe (and fear) to be true about yourself, your value, and your worth. The key factor is not whether or not a judgement is true but rather whether you think it is. This might be completely unconscious."

  • "Because you believe there is some truth in a judgement, it generates self-rejection rather than self-defense. Then you are not only attacked by the statement itself but further betrayed as the judgement turns you against yourself"

- Soul Without Shame, Byron Brown

"Healthy defense is a conscious act of supporting the truth [ie. you are a good person, doing your best, etc.]. It is recognizing that what the judge has to say is of little value, and finds you working to stop the attack against yourself that is trying to undermine your capacity, effectiveness, and sense of worth."

- Soul Without Shame, Byron Brown

According to Byron Brown, the truth is presented only to bait you and then it becomes a weapon the judge uses against you. He states that he judge has no real interest in whether something is actually true but If you are experiencing "feeling deficient", that's the clue that you are under attack from your own judge." (Egads! If the clue is "feeling deficient," then I have work to do. Does anyone on disability not feel deficient?!? I know the correct answer to this is yes, but it's a leap for me from where I currently stand.)

If I have this right, here is how it goes:

  • The judgement is presented.

  • You feel rejected but you don't present the healthy defense and stop it, cause you are caught up in believing it,

  • you feel deficient and and you join the judge in berating yourself (self-judgement).

  • You begin to feel more threatened by your own feelings of deficiency (self-rejection) than by the outside judgement/attack, so you can't defend yourself against the original judgement because now you are seeing yourself as the problem instead of the judgement. (This took me some serious time to wrap my head around this one, and the help of my therapist, lol)

So, once the attack is dealt with and looked at, not as a truth (ie. you are bad), it can be seen as evidence of my bumping up against the "walls" that my judgement is using to keep me contained/safe, my therapist explains. Oh, okay.

My judgment berates me to keep me safe?!?

Soul Without Shame explains that this harsh "self-judgement served a useful purpose in a [traumatic] childhood. The invasion, rejection, and hurt caused by the parent's critical energy was often overwhelming....So distancing from yourself with self-rejection dulled your awareness of the attack to help you survive what was intolerable or unstoppable. In extreme cases of abuse and trauma , the only way to survive was to completely dissociate from reality in that moment....We will see that your engagement with judgement is a mild form of dissociation, in that you lose touch with the experience of being attacked....Instead, you take on the content of the judgement, and the judge's perspective of what is important, and the instinctual movement to respond appropriately is blocked."

My Persephone © Gem Artemist 2016

So I guess, in a way, my own judgement used to berate me to ultimately keep me safe from the hell of the trauma. It amazes me when I find out what my body did to keep me safe. The human body is so complex. Turning on oneself in order to distance the pain, by hurting oneself further (berating), in order to ensure that the pain of the abuse could be blocked out (this is the defensive behavior that conspired with my judge to try and protect my world view that I was safe). It didn't always work, there were a lot of leaks, but at least I get the idea of what my judge/body was trying to do, and can understand a bit better why there was so much confusion/confounding messages. And the body does it all unconsciously, I was never informed, never made the decision for this pattern to be created. Nope, it's instinctual. It's self-preservation. It's survival.

But, I'm not 4 anymore, and I don't live in a war-zone anymore. And when survival mechanisms last a lifetime, and you can't find your way out of them, your body suffers.

"All treatments should be focused on stopping the cycle of victimization. Because when a hurt is lasting a lifetime, something needs to be done. Hurts should not have to last a lifetime."

" In a recent prospective study that followed several court-documented victims of abuse, researchers found that the risk of developing a chronic painful condition was significantly higher than in those victims who also have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as opposed to those who did not have PTSD. Thus, their conclusion was that PTSD was the major link between childhood abuse and pain."

Therefore, it's important to learn how the body became stuck in it's survival patterns, because how else can we learn to undo them and learn to heal ourselves anew? I'm learning about self-judgement. It's a lot harder to recognize than outside judgement. But if I listen to my feelings about my own worth, and the sensations in my body, that respond by tightening when there is anxiety, it's a start towards developing a healthy defense that finds me working to stop the attacks against myself that try to undermine my sense of worth.

I won't lie, I sure am glad this post is over. That book is brilliant if you have the stamina to deal with its dense complexity, but for me it's too much right now (never got past chapter 2 and even that was a struggle!) I'm moving on to something that doesn't hurt my brain quite so much.

Heal your heart. Heal your body. Heal your Trauma



show me how to release the limits

I impose on myself and to

experience all the success

and enjoyment I can out of life."

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 Gem Artemist

Painted Pinecone is a glimpse into my healing journey with Complex PTSD, Chronic Myofascial Pain, & Fibromyalgia.


Art gives my life purpose. This site honors my artistic creations but also the processing, the healing, and integrating that brought me to creating each piece, and moving forward every day. 


Nature is my religion, and the Creative Spark within each of us is divine.


I am grateful for the opportunity to share my journey with you, and my wish for you is that you find creative ways to tap into your strength on your own healing journey.


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Edmonton, AB, Canada

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