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Beating Fear with a Stick, depression, Owning It!

Stop Judging So Much. By Jen Pastiloff

January 4, 2013

I wrote this a year and a half ago but it felt timely to repost. ~ Jen Pastiloff


Click to order Simplereminders new book. simplereminders.info

Click to order Simplereminders new book. simplereminders.info


The layers upon layers of judgments we hail at people all day. At ourselves. Morning and night.

I can’t believe you would do that.

I would never do that if I were them.

My family wouldn’t do it that way.

What are you wearing?

She is a good person.

I am ugly.

I am not smart enough.

Maybe you don’t do it.

I do. I judge all the time.

As I click clack my boots down the sidewalk in a hurry. As I waste time on Facebook, or sit on a plane, as I am now, my mind is full of misgivings and they did it wrongs. Its full of I am doing it wrong, I look fat/bad/ugly, I am stupid, this woman is walking so slow, that man looks like this, she looks like that, they must be a nice person, they are rude, a cacophony of noise all at once, and in between it all, moments of I feel good/happy, I am safe, I am not my body.

There are many parts to me. To all of us. We know this. There is the me that teaches my workshops, a combination of a Jewish/Baptist preacher in a Revival tent who likes to sing and dance and downward dog and read poetry and who knows damn well that we can manifest the life of our dreams if we change our thoughts and is spiritual and knowledgeable in the ways of the body, the heart, the mind. And then there is the other me who is also me, here and now. Drinking a shit ton of wine and wearing glasses and reading like I may never be able to read again.

Have you ever seen that old Twilight Zone episode? There is this man who is a lovely and shy eccentric. He loves to read. As far as I can remember its pretty much all he lives for. I forget where he was (maybe in some sort of basement) but the world explodes and ends and he is the only one saved. He emerges from some kind of cellar to find himself alone in the whole big world. Finally! He can read, and no one, no one at all, will bother him. It’s wonderful.

Until his glasses break.

Without them he is blind as a bat. In the last shot is his glasses break and that look on his face. That look on his face! It breaks my heart. Despair so great it would make me yell Shut if Off! I hate this one. Switch the channel. It’s too sad.

That episode makes me so sad and scared and yet every time it has ever been on I have watched it like the world was going to explode and I better learn a thing or two from my sweet nerdy friend. What would I learn? I don’t know. To always have a backup pair of glasses? To read all you can before the world ends? I don’t know but it is my favorite/least favorite episode.

Funny how most things can be at least two things at once, isn’t it?

At the Tate last week, I mentioned that I was going to write an essay on judging, and how we all do it. My friend, a talented actress named Laura Donnelly, said something  profound. We only call it judging when it is negative.

How true. Here I am deciding on people’s kindesses based on the shapes of their faces and the way they walk. They are nice. They are good people. Judgments still.

So we all have opinions. It’s true. We have to. You must know if you prefer the salmon or the beef (although I constantly struggle with even these types of small decisions.) You must know if you want to spend your life with Mr. T or Mr. Big. You must. You might change your mind. (You’re allowed to!)

But you have to make a decision. A judgment call, if you will, to walk through your life.

And yet.

The past few months I feel myself sliding down The River of Judgment without so much as a a raft. Lack of my own regular yoga practice, too much alcohol, too little sleep, weird hours, too much travel, jet lag, family stresses, whatever the excuse is, I have arrived at the bottom of the river and its dirty and I am soaking wet and freezing.

All of us have movable parts, this is the beauty of it. You can swim back upriver and dry off in the sunshine and it will be like you were never a bottom-feeder at all.

You ebb and flow. We know this. We all do this. Life is this. I was doing so well, I don’t know what happened. I was in a funk but I feel better. I was happy, but all of a sudden I feel really shitty again. I have stood outside the yoga studio or in parking lots so many times talking to Tribe members (I hate calling them Students), assuring them that such is life. Two steps forward, one step back. I promise.

How do I know? Because I am here, two steps behind you. Or in front of you. Depending on the day. On the year.

I know it sounds cliché to call it The Path, but for lack of a better word I will call it the The Path. I want to be back on The Path and quiet some of the shitstorm in my head. I already have enough trouble with my tinnitus, which rings 24 hours a day, why should I add to it with more noise, more judgments, more things that have no relevance whatsoever to my life?

Why shouldn’t my Highest Self and Best Version of Me operate more of the time?

I would like to have the parts of me meet, maybe in a bar, probably best in a coffee shop. Wherever. The yoga teacher fearless leader me buys the writer-type judgmental depressed me a nice latte and offers her love, her understanding, her knowing that this is only temporary.

And the judgy writer me buys the yogi me a nice glass of cabernet and tells her to look around and pay attention and that judging is good because it means your’e noticing and when you notice you write and when you write you connect and when you connect you feel and when you feel you feel You’re alive.

The yogi says she can very well take some of that and apply it but to judge so much would make her feel like a fraud, a big fat liar, and out of balance and balance is key in yoga.

The writerly one says Fuck Balance. Have another wine.

Yogi: Why is it so all or nothing with you?

Writer: I don’t know. I plan to write and write and write until I have some semblance of an answer.

Yogi: You know if you actually wrote the book, I mean really wrote it, it would be quite good. Why don’t you shut up and write it?

Writer: shuts up.

It would be something like that.


I judged myself viciously when I went on anti-depressants years back. How could I? How dare I? How wrong! Yoga should be able to help me 100%! How I have failed!

It was before I was an actual yoga teacher but I considered myself a “hardcore yogi” (yes, my words at the time) and I couldn’t possibly imagine taking medication to feel better even though I had been depressed as long as I could remember. At least since early childhood. I was also terrified of gaining weight. I had heard rumors that they made you gain weight and at the time I was battling a serious eating disorder and I would’ve rather been sad than fat. Or so I thought.

I probably would’ve rather been dead than fat at the time.

The phrase that swims in my head the most when I think I have gained weight, both now and in the past, is I can’t believe I’ve let myself go like this. There is such shame around those words, hovering right there between the shock and the letting go.

As if to let myself go was equal to being an un-person, to undoing myself so much that I wouldn’t even have the right to be called human being anymore. Again, judgment. Judgment. Self: Be judged. Be damned.

They saved my life, the meds did. I gave in and took them despite my fears and shame and eye rollings.

They. Saved. My. Life.

I saved my life, of course. But taking those meds helped me more than anything else in my life had ever helped me thus far. They helped me where numbing out couldn’t. Where starving myself couldn’t. Where yoga couldn’t.

Yes, it’s true. I have thought long and hard about writing about this. I am a yoga teacher! There is no way that up until recently I was on meds. For shame! Anti-depressants? Psha! Couldn’t I have just meditated longer? I have failed. These were some of the words that trolled through my brain like they were visiting a YouTube comment board. (Have you ever seen how nasty those comment boards are? Don’t look. Especially if you have a video up there. Its like the dregs of the Earth gathered to collectively write the cruelest things they could about people they don’t know beyond a veil of anonyminty called a computer.)

The medication did not go through yoga teacher training nor lead my first retreat for me or teach any classes or marry my husband or do any of the things I was worried people would say. I had to shut myself up first though. They saved my life. Truly. I say that with such a sigh of relief because I have been walling it up inside of me for so long for fear of what others thought. I am not advocating you to take them. Ever. Yoga your ass off! Dance! Sing! Write! See a shrink! Do it all and then, if and when, you realize that perhaps something inside of you is in fact a little broken, then perhaps, you can talk to a doctor and weigh your options.

I don’t know anything. I only know what I know or what I think I know. What worked for me. What is true for me.

I know they saved me.

I was in a pit, you see. I had fallen deep inside and someone finally threw a rope in and I was able to climb out. Once I was out, I was out. There was still work to do, a lot of it, and I still battle depression but I cannot even imagine what the alternative would have been. I would probably still be waitressing at The Newsroom Cafe, you probably would not be reading this, I would probably not be sitting on a flight headed from London to Los Angeles. Who’s to say? But I doubt it. Did my anti-depressants do that? No, but they sure as fuck helped me get through a day without starving myself and obsessing on my weight for the first time in 15 years. With the new space in my brain I was able to make room for other things.

And did I ever! Did I ever!

Judging. It’s a habit. We listen to our parents and we parade around in our lunchrooms at school listening to what people say over bagels and milk cartons and then we say our own what have you’s and we form habits around these things like little brick houses. Breaking a habit is hard. But not that hard. What’s harder is not going back to the habit. For years I had stopped sucking my thumb and then one day I started again. It was that easy. I hear it’s that way with smokers as well. One puff could be all it takes. One suck and the safety I had always known was back, the thumb was back in the mouth, the pleasure remembered. I haven’t broken the habit yet, again. It took one suck.

I won’t sit here and tell you from how many thousands of feet up that I am going to stop judging, that I am going to meditate twice a day, that I am going to stop drinking 100%, that I am going to love every single person I cross paths with, that I am going to write every single day. Sounds like a list of New Year’s resolutions. No, what I will say is this: I will do better than I did before. I will do my best. I will love harder.

I will look to myself with love and kindness as often as I can and when the I am fat/I am a monster or How did I ever take anti-depressants, what kind of asshole am I? starts to creep in. I will remember meeting myself in the coffee shop or bar or wherever we met and I will remember what I said to my other self: Shut up.

Its not harsh. It’s okay. It really is. I need to be told firmly. Shut up. Enough.

Enough with the noise. You don’t know all you think you know so stop knowing so much. Your mind is full up already. Put up a sign that says: No vacancy here.

And don’t worry. If you are anything like me, and I presume you are if you read my essays, you won’t listen to yourself either. You will listen a little bit and that little bit will be enough to keep you happy until you need another kick in the pants.

Life is just one series of kicks in the pants after another anyway.

Here’s what I say to you, to me, and to anyone that cares to read this: The long and the short is this: stop judging so much. People are doing their best. You are doing your best. You will keep getting better. You will keep rising to the occasion. You will keep meeting yourself in the coffee shop or bar and telling yourself what your Highest Self would do now. What Love would do now. And now. And now.


Hush, now.



All Jen Pastiloff’s event/workshop/retreat listings here.


Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

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  • Reply Sinai January 4, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    This really resonates with me. Inside we are all the same. I hear your words, judgment can be poisonous and hard to set aside, especially when you’re looking inward. Another moving and brilliant blog Jenn. Fantastic!!!

  • Reply terri January 4, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Thank you. I have been seriously considering antidepressants for the last year and all the thoughts you described have been dogging me too. I’m grateful for this post. You helped put it into a little more perspective than I had before.

  • Reply HAJ January 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    I’ve been reading your posts for awhile now, and this is the first one that has compelled me to respond. I am a stay at home mom of 2 awesome kids. I live in an affluent suburb, but we are not one of the affluent families. But what I see and what I feel is judgement everyday. Moms judging other moms and sizing themselves up against other families. Not even so much with regard to money (although that is a big one). But also, who “does more” or is involved on more committees, who looks younger, skinnier, prettier, has better clothes, a better house, better car, more toys, who is a better parent, has better/more friends… and on and on… I see moms older and younger than me struggling with trying to find their comfort zone, their place in the “social hierarchy”. And I’m sure the same thing is playing out in every suburb in our nation. Nobody wants to truly share their problems or troubles for fear of being judged or shamed. So thank you for being real. For sharing things that aren’t so pretty – but that make us human and relatable.

  • Reply barbarapotter January 4, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    Wow grabbed at my heart is all I can say. Judging we all do it and we all feel it too. I know it hurts and I can always tell. Lesson learned. Proud of you. Love you.

  • Reply Tara Lavery January 4, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Jen you are a soul sister for sure. Everything you write..wow..yes Big Thank You for being real, therefore allowing others to be real. I have learned so much about myself from your writing, Thank you. I Must come see you in Maui! Idk how, but me & my higher self are going to figure it out!! Is there still one spot left?? It doesn’t matter I’ll sleep on the lawn lol 😉 Love love love, Tara

  • Reply lubayogi January 5, 2013 at 12:51 am

    Thank you Jen. I hope your journey back from London went well. I needed this, this morning. I woke up judging myself because I drank too much last night (every night this week) and I was supposed to be having a ‘dry’ January, getting my life and my mind in order. I’ve been on anti-depressants for over a year now. The second time in my life. They help. There’s no shame in it at all. It doesn’t mean we are weak. Needing help and seeking it, admitting we are not flawless, admitting that this world we live in, that being human is really hard sometimes…. that’s just honesty. That is, in its own way, strength. But it doesn’t stop me feeling crappy about myself most of the time. I just wake up every day telling myself I have this day to make changes that, I hope, will lead me to peace and happiness. And if it doesn’t happen today then tomorrow…. Go well.

  • Reply heather January 5, 2013 at 12:56 am

    God Jen you are such an amazing writer! Thank YOU!!! I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me… more please!

  • Reply Stacey L January 5, 2013 at 5:10 am

    There is so much truth and honesty in that. My feelings are we judge others more harshly when we are judging/doubting ourselves the most.I don’t have personal experience with anti depressant but having worked in the human service field I do think they certainly are life savers as long as they are paired with behavioral changes. Sometimes a person can’t truly recognize what a funk they have lived in until they are on medication and feel differently, then the hard work starts on making small changes in thoughts and behavior that will hopefully stick in the long term.Thanks for sharing your reflections and wishing you continued happiness.

  • Reply Dottie Wagner January 5, 2013 at 5:17 am

    Thank you so much for this post and for talking about taking antidepressants. Antidepressants help people every day! Depression is a serious disease that often requires medication, just as many other diseases do. Too often people don’t take them thinking they should be able to just get over it, or that they are weak for seeking medication treatment. Mental illness, and depression is a form of mental illness, needs medication just as many physical illnesses do. I was depressed for many years before I took antidepressants. I wish I had taken them years before I did. It changed my life for the better in too many ways to count. So many people read your blog and love what you have to say. Thanks for this honesty. Hopefully this will help some people who have been afraid to seek the help they need.

  • Reply bewhereiam January 5, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Love this essay. It totally hits home. I’ll be rereading this one often… cause you know life is just a series of kicks in the pants…. brilliant! So excited to meet you in person on the 20th!

  • Reply tigerdawg27 January 5, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Love many the many wisdom nuggets I found in this post, Jennifer! I think you need to start your book today. Just take a few posts you really love and put them together in one word doc and see how you can tie them together. Starting, I believe, is the hard part…once you get going it will flow! Also, love the meeting between your ego self and your higher self. (I nicknamed mine “EJ” for Ego Janet and “HJ” for Higher self Janet. I don’t “hate” EJ…she’s been through a lot.) I love the “have drinks together” imagery! I too, took anti-depressants when I went through my divorce. I feel no shame about doing so. It helped me get through a very rough time! Finally, HJ keeps encouraging me to start doing yoga! But I don’t know how to get started. I need a little encouragement in that department! 🙂

    • Reply Rachael January 6, 2013 at 4:07 am

      Hello Tiger 🙂 I thought I’d give you a quick response re the challenge of starting a personal yoga practice. My advice would be to see if you can find a local beginners group that you can pop along to once a week and build up from there. Alternatively, here in the UK, colleges often run courses of 6-10 weeks that are specifically targeted at beginners. They start you off right from the basics so you can build up your practice and not feel overwhelmed. Mainly though, just start. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do it perfectly. There is no such thing as the perfect Asana (pose), your body will tell you what feels right. Listen to it, respect it and back off if anything feels wrong. Be gentle with yourself. Even doing 20 minutes of gentle yoga each day has an amazing effect on your mind and your body, flexibility improves quickly and, even better, after each session you feel so relaxed and peaceful that sometimes it is like floating on air. Go for it and enjoy!

      • Reply tigerdawg27 January 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

        Thank you so much for the tips and encouragement! I appreciate that so much. I bought Rodney Yee’s A.M. & P.M. Yoga for Beginners DVD. They are 20 minute workouts, and hopefully, a good way to get started. Thanks again, Rachael! 🙂

  • Reply amyesacove January 5, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Love this, Jen. Often I think we misinterpret discernment for judgement. Don’t be too hard on yourself about the decisions that have to happen to make life run smoothly. They aren’t judgements. Kindness is key…and you are one of the kindest I have known. As I said to you recently, “Im so glad I knew you were awesome before anyone else did.” Love you.

  • Reply Lori January 5, 2013 at 9:31 am

    You are inspiration. Thank you Jen. I want to leap from my bed this morning.
    I am a yoga teacher. I am a writer. I am judgmental. I am battling everyday. I am me. I am doing the best that I can and I can do better.

  • Reply Jenny January 5, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    your words really resonate….thank you for sharing <3 <3

  • Reply laurie mortrude January 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Burgess Meredith- his face popped into my brain and then his name…Twilight Zone- sometimes I feel like I really live there. Rod Sterling holding up a TV mirror to a TV anesthesized society – brilliant. I just by chance caught the episode of Monsters on Maple Street… again, brilliant –BRILLIANT and, yet why do i “judge” it brilliant?

    …because it makes us OPEN our eyes and SEE and when you are a WRITER, a SCIENTIST, an ARTIST, a TEACHER, A POET, a LOVER of LIFE – you want to SEE and you OBSERVE– the hardest part is to observe without judgement- I find that in my teaching every day– now I do not even say YES when a sweet 5 year old says “Mrs. M. do you like my picture? … my tower… my writing? ” I try to observe without judging- “I noticed you used lots of bright colors” or “you made a tower with three different shapes” I try to remember to say- “Tell me what YOU like best about it” because it SHOULD NOT BE about pleasing me… we fall into that trap so easily so early!!! and because I want them to reflect and see with their own eyes, not with mine…

    i love reading your blog – each one is a tasty morsel and I find such nuggets of truth and love and searing honesty and humor- i am itching again to write –write what… I don’t know, but I am grateful.

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  • Reply Renae September 23, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Yes…all the judgement… So glad those antidepressants were there for you <3 They do help alot of people..Depression is so so common.. I just wish more people knew how common so when it happened they wouldnt resist getting help. I heard just last week that there is a new blood test and I dont know if its on the market yet that can test for depression. Indeed it is biochemical..the clinical type anyway. Even when you educate people on the brain they still say " I dont believe it" and as a teacher I say "whats not to believe?"Its hard science…there isnt anything not to believe. Even though it is so hard and totally sucks when your going through it I think all the things you went through that you now talk about helps so many people. Thank you <3

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