Why being Judged Really Doesn’t Matter!

I struggle to enjoy sports that require judges to score the athletes. It never feels like there is a clear winner because there is always room for personal judgement. Consider a diving competition. There are clear rules that determine the scores that a diver receives, yet there is always room for personal judgement. After all, judges are human.

All of us have a fear of being judged by others to some degree. We worry what peers, or family members, or even strangers think of us. Unfortunately, the simple truth is that humans do judge others. The real question is, does it matter?

I have a confession to make, I judge people. I may think that I’m judging people based on some agreed upon life rules (like a diving competition). Yet, I make the rules in my own head. So, when I judge someone, it says more about my rules than it does the other person.

Let’s say I drive a few miles per hour over the speed limit to stay with the flow of traffic. Today, the car in front of me is driving below the speed limit. Naturally, I judge this person (bad driver) because they should drive at least the speed limit, right? As you can see, I am judging another driver based on how I think people should drive.  What’s worse, is that when I’m in a hurry I expect drivers around me to be in a hurry! As ridiculous as that sounds, we all do it because we project our rules on everyone around us.

Sometimes I judge others based on my expectations of myself.  I’ve always been a hard worker, and sometimes I assume that everyone should always work hard. I judge others for not putting enough effort into various parts of life (school, work, health, etc.). The truth is, I have no way of knowing how much effort people give (I am yet to perfect mind reading).

A third way I judge others is based on my own insecurities. Sometimes, I’m insecure about being a good father and find myself being overly critical of other fathers. I might think that someone should prioritize one thing over another (projecting own rules on them).  We find comfort in comparing ourselves favorably to others.  

The worst thing I do is judge others that are different than me. I can’t help thinking that they should be more like me… When my thoughts go there, I try to get out of my own head so that I can understand their rules better.   

Too often, I catch myself judging others for not being… well, like me.  So, if you find yourself doing the same, try to be aware of those should thoughts and take a moment to understand your own rules. If you’re someone that worries about being judged, just remember that it’s more about them than it is about you.  After all, you live by your own set of rules!!

What’s in your Funnel?

I’m often asked for practical skills for getting unstuck when feeling anxious, depressed, or angry. Fortunately, there are some basic skills which have a tremendous impact on our emotional wellbeing.

One skill is understanding how thoughts and emotions are connected so you can change how you think about things. When we struggle, it’s hard not to blame the situation around us. Yet, even the most traumatic external events do not directly cause our emotions. They influence our emotions, but we always have a thought first. That thought represents our perception of what we experience, and that perception creates our emotional response.

When I talk to clients about perceptions, I imagine us walking around with a funnel over our heads. It reminds me of the novel, Insomnia, by Stephen King. In the book, everybody has invisible stems of light, lifelines, that beam up from our heads. In the book, the lifelines represent our actual life. The funnels that I imagine represent our truths. As we experience the world around us, everything enters our funnels which creates our perspective (our truth).

Here’s the kicker… our funnels don’t always represent actual truth. The wonderful (and sometimes frustrating) thing about our brains is that we take past experience, knowledge, education, beliefs, etc. into the present. While this helps us learn from the past, it also creates problems when we develop self-defeating beliefs. For example, if hardships in my life have me believing that I am a weak person, then that “truth” becomes part of my funnel. My perception of everything I experience includes my truth that I am weak.

So, in order to change the way that you feel, it’s important to focus on your funnel. You can start by writing down your specific thoughts when you feel bad.  Then, challenge those thoughts by looking for ways that you are twisting the truth. You might be focusing on negatives, blaming yourself for things out of your control, or assuming the worst. As you identify and shift your thinking, you can start to impact depression, anxiety, and other emotional challenges.

A great resource for leaning techniques to do this is a book called “Feeling Great,” by Dr. David Burns. If you are stuck in a certain unhealthy way of thinking, you may need to seek out a good counselor to help you get started.

So, what’s in your funnel?

Chris Guzniczak, LPC

Flower Mound Counseling

Life is like baseball…

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed a trend in adolescent and young adult clients (16-24 year olds) self-describe as being a failure, or not good enough. They record feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, anxiety, and low satisfaction in life. Interestingly, I live in an affluent area of the country where most of these young men and women have supportive families, great educations, and seemingly endless potential. Often, these are high achieving college and high school students. So why are they so down on themselves? I’m going to describe what I see in a baseball analogy.

Imagine that your favorite baseball team has finally pulled together a great year. Everything comes together at the end of the season and they win the championship. Fans flood the streets with excitement! The players feel like they’re on top of the world, celebrating the accomplishment of beating the best. In the off season, the team adds a couple of pieces and grows in confidence to become the best team in the league. They win the championship again, this time as the favorite. Once again everyone celebrates in the success. In year three expectations are much higher.  Fans expect perfection on the field. The team plays at a very  high level, but it’s less about enjoying the season and more about winning the championship. Mistakes become unacceptable.  When they win, players express relief instead of excitement. The expectations completely change their experience.  

Now compare those baseball teams to what adolescents and young adults face today. Their grandparents were that first winning team. They succeeded against the odds. Most didn’t have college degrees, yet they persevered through a depression and learned to sustain and grow wealth.  Rightfully, we celebrate their grit and their success. In the next generation (90s, 00s), college education became the norm for many as young adults strived to exceed parents’ standards.  Home ownership, incomes (along with cost of living) grew along with financial independence.  They (we) are the second championship team. This takes us to the current adolescents. They are the third championship team. Just like previous teams (generations), they are trying to exceed expectations. These kids are no longer able to be the first to go to college, get a Masters, or find a steady career. They have to accomplish these things just to meet expectations to achieve what their parents achieved. They carry a pressure to excel in a life defined for them. They aren’t afforded the opportunity to fail (at anything) from a young age.  

It’s critical that we allow our younger generations to define their own success. It’s on us to set aside our own expectations, let them struggle through their own challenges, and live meaningful lives.  

Chris Guzniczak, LPC

Flower Mound Counseling

Thinking in Absolutes

I wrote most of this blog about a month ago. I was watching one of the Star Wars movies and I noticed something Obi-Wan said; “only a Sith deals in absolutes.” What struck me was the similarity in what Anakin (the Sith) said; “you’re either with me, or you’re my enemy,” and what we see all around us lately. An “absolute” is a way of thinking that slices all of the complexities out of relationships and principles, leaving nothing but a binary choice. In cognitive theory it’s a type of “all or nothing thinking.”

Lately, it feels like the world has gone crazy and our ability to listen to each other has been forgotten.  We are treating differences in opinion and beliefs as personal attacks and it’s destroying relationships.

Where does the truth come from? Consider that our brains have been forming our own perspective of the world since we were very young.  Thousands of inputs (experiences, education, relationships, faith, love, abuse) contribute to what we believe.  Someone who has a different perspective may have had very different life experiences.  A differing perspective (truth) doesn’t make someone else wrong or ignorant. In fact, not listening to someone else’s truth makes us ignorant. We listen to understand, even if we don’t agree.

I picked this blog up again after watching the documentary “The Social Dilemma,” on Netflix, which connected a couple of dots for me. It’s pointed out in the documentary that our information sources are skewed (based on our digital profile). You see, the information (input) that each of us receives, is designed to strengthen our own beliefs and ignore other perspectives. This literally feeds and reinforces absolute thinking! By staying in our own “lanes” of thinking (a liberal, a conservative, as poor, as rich) we are more predictable (ie. valuable) as consumers.  For example, when something takes place and is in the news, what I read about it (on Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube) is different from what my neighbor reads based on our digital profiles. This misinformation leads to disagreement, lack of understanding, and even resentment. Does this sound familiar?

I think part of what makes me a good counselor is that I do listen. I accept people for who they are (sometimes before they accept themselves). I encourage you to listen to those with opposing views.  Try to really understand their perspective.  Remember that your truth isn’t necessarily everyone’s truth, and that’s not always a bad thing.

Chris Guzniczak, LPC

Flower Mound Counseling

“If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.”

– Mark Twain

Boredom

It’s hard to imagine that we are entering month six of the pandemic. I have observed (and experienced) a dynamic range of emotions associated with the worry of getting sick, fear of the unknown, social isolation, and anxiety around the economic impact. One negative emotion that we shrug off as being less important than the big three (depression, anxiety, anger) is BOREDOM. Ongoing boredom can lead to loneliness, lack of motivation, and even depression. In this pandemic, boredom has become one of the most common concerns I hear from clients.

In the book Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns, he discusses how to manage loneliness, and I think its relevant for boredom as well. As Dr. Burns explains, if you have ever experienced loneliness, you’re probably quite aware of how negative life can seem. Strangely, your current situation doesn’t actually cause loneliness and boredom.  The negative feelings come from how you think about your situation. You can prove this by simply finding one person in the same situation that doesn’t feel the same way that you do. If you’re willing to learn to think about your situation in a more positive way, you can overcome feelings of loneliness and boredom.

You must learn to appreciate time with the one person that will always be there, YOU! These are a few of the recommended activities to consider (per Dr. Burns):

  • Think of activities you used to enjoy (games, playing an instrument) Give them a try
  • Think of things you’d enjoy doing with someone else and try them by yourself (hiking, shopping)
  • Do something you’ve been putting off (balance checkbook, write letters, organize your files)
  • Seek spiritual growth (get involved in your church or synagogue)
  • Do something for self-improvement (exercise, diet)
  • Start a hobby (collecting, gardening, skydiving!)
  • Get involved in a sport (local team, events, biking)
  • Do something for others (a charity, big brother/sister, food drives, ministries)

Starting something new may feel daunting, even overwhelming. One way to get started is to only commit to a simple task. For example, instead of committing to balancing the checkbook, just commit to prepare it for balancing (find it, place a pen next to it, make sure you have what you need). Then, if you feel like doing more, go for it! Next time, commit to another new task (maybe just balance one page) and so on.

If this blog motivates you to start something new (or old) feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear about activities, hobbies, etc. that help you get through these days!!

Chris Guzniczak, LPC

Flower Mound Counseling