“When the parent heals, they heal their children’s children.”
The best thing my mother could have done when she was alive was to take accountability for what she took her children into. She never did. She died drowning in the river of denial. Why is this the best thing she could have done? Because it would have healed her. It would have healed my children, because it would have helped me heal long before I actually did.
What’s so hard about owning our own shit? Why do we so adamantly avoid it? What is this fear of accountability and judgment? I would come to realize, that understanding my mother’s refusal to own her behaviors would take me facing and looking at my own. Ouch. That stung to even write out. It’s true, though, and I’m going to tell you why.
“Don’t judge me.”
I know people who preface a story with this phrase. I used to sometimes do the same.
“Ok. I’m gonna tell you what happened but FIRST you gotta promise not to judge me.”
Judgement walks around leaving wafts of fear in its wake. Some of us fear judgment because we care what others think of us and derive our self-worth from the opinion of others. Some of us use religions as a basis to judge other people. Whatever the platform it’s performed from, there is one element that is constant across the board. No one wants to be in the front row when Judgment is on stage.
This has been one of the difficult parts of my healing journey; learning to stand without judgment and see a person exactly where THEY stand and not finding fault in them just so I could feel better about who I perceive myself to be. I’ve had to find my own well of confidence which was already bubbling inside of me. I just had not tapped into my own rich oil. In avoiding accountability and judgment, I was ignoring myself.
“I had to linearly eliminate my fear of judgment and stop caring about being judged. This was intensive self-work to take on.”
In this conversation on judgment we can rule out criminals. They break laws and must be judged by those laws. I’m talking about judgment that is often blanketed as “opinion”. That’s really what judgment is. It’s our opinion on someone’s life, their actions, behavior, decisions, choices, orientation, gender, skin color or whatever else we choose to focus in on. The point is, that for those skilled at the art of judgment there will always be something they can find to have an opinion about.
I found that step one of this learning curve in eliminating the fear of judgment was to look at why I had this fear. It lived in multiple facets of my life. I feared judgment on:
- My parenting skills or lack thereof
- My relationship choices
- My weight and the state of my body
- The way I spoke, or the words I chose
- My personal views on life/society
- My past
Here’s the kicker. I acted like I didn’t care at ALL what anyone thought. In fact I needed to reinforce that illusion by letting others KNOW every now and then that I didn’t care. I imagine many of you are feeling me on this. We are the skilled mask wearers, where on the outside we appear as if we do not give a stone cold shit. Oh, but I did. I cared very much what others thought of me. Words sunk into my skin like arrows. I was affected. I would ruminate on an opinion and even adjust my life out of that fear.
“To understand why I had so much fear of judgment took following the connecting strands into my childhood.”
I was surrounded by judgment as a child. Being a kid in Sam Fife’s “The Move Of God” cult meant walking around with an invisible “judge me!” sign on many of our backs. Day in and day out. Week after week. Year after year, I was subjected to judgment in multiple ways.
The ministers told us that God would be judging us. That judgment was so deep it could result in an eternity inside a pit of fire. That one messed with my head. Especially after kerosene exploded in my face at 12-years-old, and I learned firsthand exactly what a second degree burn felt like. I shuddered at the thought of my whole body being engulfed in flames. For a whole eternity, 24/7, I would be a ball of burning pain. I did, however, somehow have a smidgen of critical thinking as a child. I would waver between extreme fear of hell and a doubt that anything these people said was true.
I was surrounded by judgmental adults. They judged others together. Then they judged each other behind each other’s backs while claiming to be friends. There was no loyalty or trust existent for me to pattern as a child. Growing up in a cult, I quickly absorbed that no one could be trusted. I was enmeshed inside endless two-faced, judging eyes.
I watched kids lie on other kids to escape judgment. As a child in the cult, I both lied to escape judgment and was also lied about. This environment, which included a deep fear of brutal, physical punishment, was a viscous “Avoid Blame” game. We were all constantly side eyeing each other.
This is what prison is like, always watching your back just in case someone comes after you. This is what living in a domestic violence relationship is like, always worrying you’ll say or do the wrong thing and get beat. The consequences of being judged can range from verbal attacks to physical attacks and in some instances and regions of the planet, even death.
“Fearing judgment is a deep clotted vein in our bodies. It is real, and it is dangerous to our wellbeing.”
Cleaning out fear of judgment was part of doing intense inner child work. I looked at every piece of my life, the moments I judged others, and the moments I was crippled by judgment. It was an extensively long list. There were times I felt I deserved judgment, when I made mistakes as an adult. It was easy for me to say that I had the right to judge others because I was tough enough to take it. No. I wasn’t. That was a big, fat lie. Being judged hurt horribly.
Yet, no one would ever judge me more harshly than I would judge myself. I was my own United States of Vennie’s Supreme Court. I’ve come a very long way, and it’s one I actively work on.
A few years ago I was visiting a family member. We were watching a movie. Suddenly my family member’s husband muted the television and turned to me.
“I am curious about something. Do you feel successful? I ask this because you don’t own anything. You don’t own a house. You don’t have assets. What have you done with your life?”
I was blindside and stunned. I looked at my family member, whose eyes were big as saucers, equally shocked at what her husband had just said to me. I later realized she might also have been waiting for me to lose my shit on her husband. I didn’t. I didn’t even have a desire to lose it. All of this happened in my head in a matter of seconds. I understood clearly that I was dealing with a truly miserable person who thought it was alright to put me down and verbally abuse me. I could see the thing for what it was, and it had nothing to do with me.
What I said next would reveal to myself one of the biggest steps forward in my growth journey. I smiled and kept my voice steady and low.
“My life is so rich. I have two brilliant sons who are adults making their own way independently in life. I have amazing friends. I am free to travel. I’m not tied to anything. I feel the freest than ever in my life. To be free and happy. That’s what success is to me.” I responded.
His face twisted. It wasn’t the reaction he expected. This time, I didn’t take the bait and go off so he could enjoy watching the show of my negative emotions. I was a bit surprised at myself. He retorted some sideways comment I don’t recall or think I even tried to hear, and then resumed watching television. I realized in that moment that I had conquered a huge auto reactionary habit response which had always flashed when I felt judged. In my head I congratulated myself. Inside my spirit and thinking I didn’t feel affected. I didn’t have the usual body reactions such as warmth spreading over my face or fight/flight heart palpitations as I prepared to release my dragons. None of that happened. There was a calm inside me which felt new and permanent.
I had taken a massive step in eliminating my concern over other people’s words in regard to how my life path had emerged itself or the choices I had made. I realized I could actually own all of my stuff. I didn’t have to wear a mask anymore. This began to burst open in many facets of my life as I took accountability for the places where I actually had failed. I learned that there was a difference between my actual mistakes and all of my self-perceived “failures”.
This leads me back to the quote at the top of this post. Healing my fear of judgment released the ability for accountability. This helped me become a better mother. I could look at my children and accept the times I made choices which negatively affected them. I could say this to them without feeling like a horrible failure of a mother. I could hold accountability without excuse.
“I didn’t make the right choice, and for that, I am sorry.”
Holy shit! Do you know the power of healing these words hold? Oh, my friends, let me tell you.
A few years ago I was in a very stressful situation. I had a dear friend who was also going through stress. In the process of that friendship, I projected my stress out into a conversation my friend and I had. I literally screamed into a voice note that my friend was “dead to me”.
If you just said, “What the hell??” you’re a better person than I was being at the time. Exactly! Who says that to their friend? Someone who needs to grow. That’s who. I could have said, “Hey, I can’t deal with this right now because I’m overloaded.” Right? No. I was reactive, and I projected my personal stress into someone who didn’t deserve it. Bad behavior!
I justified the way I acted for a long time, until I had personal growth, and it began to bother me how I had spoken to them. I really loved this person and had promised never to betray them. Yet, I had horribly emotionally betrayed them. When we realize we have wronged someone it does not end there. This is where I have a perspective on the forgiveness concept.
“Forgiveness involves two steps. The first one is the most crucial and must happen if forgiveness is to be the end result.”
- I had to contact the person I had been cruel to and apologize. I had to detail my behavior, so they understood I recognized it. I had to say, “I’m sorry.” without expectations.
- They got to make the choice on how to receive my apology or if they even wished to accept it.
Accountability should not have expectations. I didn’t apologize with an expectation of acceptance. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Our accountability cannot be self-serving. It must stand with truth and the purpose of making a wrong behavior right again.
There is an inner freedom which comes with accountability. That does not mean we get to keep acting badly just because we own it. No. Accountability comes with change of our behavioral patterns. It means we look at ourselves and, through that examination, we create elimination of the rotten parts of our behavior and thought processes.
I found that as I worked on my self-accountability and my own fear of judgment something else happened. I judged others less. I didn’t have to work very hard at that. It came automatically. When we can connect how bad it feels to BE stabbed with the fact that’s exactly how it feels for someone else when we stab them, it helps us put the knife down.
Accountability is part of processing for me. It’s not just about actions either. I am accountable for how I speak to myself; how I self-care and how I conduct my life in as such as it relates to ensure that I am maintaining personal health; physically, mentally and emotionally.
While I no longer fear the judgment of others and don’t feel an urge to have opinions on other people’s lives, per-say, I am still working on self-judgment. I work on my body image. I work on how I speak to myself and about myself. Sometimes the people who appear the most confident can have some of the most self-destructive inner conversations.
Self-accountability takes a lot of work. One thing I want to leave you with is remembering this. We do not have full control over how others choose to see us. We have 100% control over how we view ourselves and others. We have 100% control over how we behave and process our own emotions. When I began to actively practice this self-control, many triggers naturally fell away.
When you have moments of self-judgment, apologize to yourself. Be accountable to your own being. You will immediately heal the wound you just created in yourself. Our relationship with our own mind and body is completely within our own choices. Forgive yourself for the past if you self-harmed with bad behavior, food, drugs, alcohol or whatever it may be. Tomorrow is a new day, and you get to choose. That is a freedom no one can ever take from us.
“Fear of accountability and fear of judgment often hold hands. What I can promise you from experience is that self-accountability will help heal your fear of judgment.”
Love yourself. You deserve it.