I lay in my bed in a pile of self judgement when my cousin Laura texted me asking if I wanted to meet her for the 45 minutes between dropping her daughter at school and a 9:15 meeting. The idea of getting myself out of my shame spiral was enough to get me out of bed, get dressed and walk the 4 crosstown blocks to meet her for 30 min. I had a feeling that Laura, who has developed so many layers of compassion in herself, might help me to snap out of it. We sat on a wooden bench in front of Birch Coffee on Columbus Ave.As we sat there I complained that I am 40 years old and yet to develop a bit of the compassion I need. She kindly looked at me and said, “Esther when did u start working on this?” I laughed and said “ok, fine, just 6 months”.-And as I took a big mouthful of my cold brew she responded, I understand wanting to be valedictorian of self compassion but you can’t be, that’s not enough time.” I had to seal my mouth shut to keep from laughing and spitting the coffee all over the sidewalk and the oncoming pedestrians. When I finally gulped it down, I spit out a shut up, in that most loving way. A cross between fuck you, and why are you sooooo right? After the shock of my shut up wore off, we both laughed.
Self judgement has been my mantra for so long, I believed that if I judged myself I would make myself better. The thought that being kind to myself might actually be a better choice never occured to me. The truth is, I don’t think I realized how judgemental I was of myself. And even today when someone holds me with compassion, it hits up against my deepest vulnerabilities. I think it has something to do with a need to blame myself for everything that went wrong in my childhood so as to maintain some semblance of control. If it was my fault, then maybe I could fix it. If it was my fault that an adult exploded in a fit of rage, than maybe, if I was quieter, nicer, thinner, smarter... than I could fix it. Today that amazing tool that I created to keep me safe in a confusing, painful world is no longer serving me and yet I am grateful for all that it, meaning my self judgement, has given me. It gave me a sense of control in an uncontrollable world and as a child that is exactly what I needed.
Today I want to give the responsibility back to those that are responsible. It is not my fault and I cannot control your behavior no matter how good I am. Today I want to say thank you to the part of me that holds the judgement that kept me safe. And bring compassion to the parts of myself that have felt harmed and the parts that have judged, so that all of my parts feel welcomed and loved.
Rabbi Esther Azar