A trip down self-judgment lane – and how I got back

This weekend I went to an earth house retreatcenter in the countryside of Northern Thailand. I went to attend a moonlight steam bath event, spend the night away from the city and to enjoy time with my friends. It was an open event with a lot of people; dinner, music and relaxation. Sounds like a perfect and delicious weekend – but reality turned out to be more challenging…

From the moment I arrived I noticed myself feeling quite sensitive and shy, I was not exactly in a explorative mood, and would have preferred to curl op on the couch at home – like a child that snuggles in his mother’s lap feeling safe and connected, not having to do interact with anyone.

My inner world didn’t really match the outer world.

At first I just noticed this and allowed myself to be like I were. As the evening passed I started to feel more and more out of place, people were having fun, connecting & enjoying themselves. I couldn’t shake of the feeling of inadequacy, so I went to bed early.

The next morning I woke up feeling the same and the during breakfast the sensation of not being able to connect, of being shy, of being inadequate, grew, and I noticed that I started judging myself for feeling what I was feeling. The self-judgment just added to the emotional pressure I felt.


“If you get struck by an arrow, do you then shoot another arrow into yourself?” – The Buddha


When the judgment arose I could feel my body shrink and contract.  

In Buddhism they talk about being struck by the first and second arrow. The first arrow represents what is actually going on that feels difficult, challenging and maybe even painful that we can’t control. The second arrow we add ourselves; self-judgment, self-aversion and feelings of not being ok.


“In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However,
the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.” – The Buddha


Once I realized the judgment I was putting on myself, I could feel all the layers of emotions I was experiencing and I went for a swim, then to my room to relax and play ukulele. The emotions grew stronger and subsided as waves appear and dissolve in the ocean. I realized how much I had been trying to repress the state I was in, and that had built up a lot of pressure in my body. By moving and singing I felt a bit more open and less judgmental, I was softer towards myself, and my body felt more expansive. 


“In the moment of noting with awareness what’s happening, 
there is less believing in, less identifying with.” – Tara Brach


It wasn’t until I told a dear friend what was going on for me and cried that I felt a real shift inside of me. The pressure got released, and by saying it to someone else the shame that had been holding hand with self-judgment disappeared. I find sharing honestly and openly about my emotional experiences with people I trust to be extremely cathartic. As much as I know that it isn’t useful for me to delve in or hang on to stories and emotions, I find that expressing them in some way release their power over me.

I thought about using a more dramatic example for this post; sharing about a recent episode where I found myself having developed stronger emotions for a man, than he had for me. When we had a conversation about it, what brought me the most pain was my self-judgment. I’m sure many can relate to the vulnerability experienced in such a situation, but I think that we are even harder on ourselves in small normal situations, where we’re not supposed to get these kinds of emotional reactions, and we attempt to hide them even more.


 ”The second we name shame, it starts to lose it's power.” – Brené Brown


To express I talk to friends, or journal, write, sing, play, draw, move. Emotions are energy that needs to move through our body, the most damaging is to try to hide it, and simply prolongs the states – adding layers and more pressure. It is of course easier said than done; trust me I know!  

Have you had a similar experience? And how did you eventually make friends with your emotions? I’d love to hear in the comments below.