In life, we tend to ruthlessly judge ourselves. We are self-critical and self-punishing, because we think there is something inherently wrong with us and we need to find that and change it. But, what if there is nothing wrong with us? Can we just let ourselves be? In this Ted talk, psychotherapist Susan Henkels draws attention to this behaviour, saying the concept of right and wrong is based on interpretations.
“How much time and energy we spend talking about what’s wrong, and actually we really do create this whole list of what we think is wrong. And then create an entire life around decisions we made probably when we were five years old,” Henkels says. “This is all about the practice of dissolving judgment, blame and criticism, and just replacing all of that with what is. And that makes ‘what if there is nothing wrong with you’ an enquiry worth having,” she continues.
Henkels goes on to share a childhood trauma, and how it changed her personality. How she judged herself growing up, counting her freckles and looking at her teeth. “I looked bad, I was terrified to open my mouth… It felt much safer to keep my mouth shut, and I lost my voice for my need to feel safe… This requires forgiveness, for how bad a person we think we are. And how we forgive ourselves for all the things that we’ve done or felt or thought or said or had done to us?” she remarks.
“It’s a choice,” Henkels states. “It’s a choice to let go of all the ways you have made yourself wrong… Choose to have something way more powerful for yourself in your life… One practice I have is I look in the mirror in the morning, and I say, ‘Susan, just for today, what if there is nothing wrong with you? And live your day into that possibility’,” she says.
Quoting her book, Henkels concludes her talk saying, “I am always amazed by how readily people judge the right and wrong of things they know only from the outside…”
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