Part of social life is to present our best self to every situation. Part of presenting our best self is not presenting that side of us that we think is not our best. That is normal social interaction. We read people and we present ourselves to them so that they will like us. If we know something they won’t like, we don’t present that.
We also dress to expose and hide parts of ourselves. If we are at the beach, we expose a lot. If we are at the theater, we expose a little. The same issues of pride and shame come up whether we expose our personalities or our bodies. People judge us, we judge people, we judge ourselves, we judge what people may be judging about us. We feel good or bad, comfortable of uncomfortable, depending on what judgements we are experiencing.
We can’t stop other people from judging. They will judge and they will suffer. We may not be able to stop ourselves from judging. We have strong habits of judging and suffering. We judge parts of ourselves to be good and parts to be bad. That kind of judgement leads directly to suffering. Even if we can’t stop ourselves from judging immediately, we can work with our habit to be compassionate in our judgements. We can notice when we are judging.
Intellectually, we can all understand that we are basically good people who don’t want to suffer and don’t deserve to suffer. We can understand that we are no better or worse than any other person on the planet. We can use that understanding to help us judge ourselves less harshly, more gently. When we notice ourselves feeling ashamed of a part of who we are, we remind ourselves that we are good and we are trying our best under difficult circumstances.
When we notice that we are worried about what somebody else is thinking of us, we do the same thing. We remind ourselves that no matter what another person thinks, we are good and trying our best under difficult circumstances. If the people judging us were better at being compassionate, we would not be feeling the sting of their judgement. We can feel compassion when we understand that their judgements are hurting them, just as our judgements hurt us. With practice, when we stop imagining that parts of us are bad and shameful, we develop a sense of security in who we are. When we are comfortable with who we are, other people’s opinions will not bother us as much. We will still feel happy when people like us.