Breathe through harsh self-judgment

 Young man breathes deeply

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies, beating ourselves up and harshly judging ourselves instead of giving ourselves support. This practice will help you notice the self-critical voice in your head, and keep it from undermining your efforts.

1) Take a seat somewhere comfortable and supportive, and that also allows you to sit upright and feel alert.

2) Begin to notice your breathing, especially at your belly; how your body rises and falls with the inhalation and exhalation. You might place a hand there to feel the motion. Make this rising and falling the center of your attention and let the breath come and go on its own, in its own way and at its own pace. When the self-critical voice pipes up, return your attention to the breath and the movement at your belly.

3) You will soon notice that your mind is not that interested in following your breath—it wants to wander. You’ll need to (gently) bring it back, again and again. You’ll likely also notice self-judgment rising—I can’t do this; this is stupid and not for me; I hate noticing my belly, it’s so gross.

Be just a bit curious about the effect these critical thoughts have in your body; do they come with an urge to move or shift your position, maybe there’s a change in your breathing? Whatever may be there, just notice without getting into a conversation with yourself about it, and return to the breath and the rising and falling of your belly.

By simply noticing the self-judgment, you can quickly see through it—it’s just a fleeting thought. This is how you gradually, breath by breath, undermine the power of harsh judgment: “Just another judgment, back to the breath.” Simply notice and, with as much kindness as possible, begin again.



This copyrighted information is courtesy of

Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. August 2019.

Mindful, healthy mind, healthy life

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.