What if judgment had no power over you? (Episode 27)

Can you imagine what your life might look like if the judgment all around you wasn’t such a big deal? 

Judgment is really a big and painful part of life as a family caregiver, and of course it’s all around us in all areas of our lives because we’re humans. It’s what humans do. It doesn’t make us bad people, it just means we are normal.

On the podcast this week (episode 27), Kay  Coughlin talks about how you can change your relationship with judgment – you can learn to notice it and feel it, but not make it into a problem. Maybe that sounds impossible, but it’s not. Kay is doing this work in her own life and with her clients, too. This is real.

Listen to the episode to open your mind to this possibility that judgment doesn’t have to keep you stuck any more. Not when it comes from others, and not even when it comes from inside your own mind. 

The From One Caregiver to Another podcast isn’t about being a better caregiver. Plenty of resources are available for people who want that information. This podcast is about becoming the person you really want to be – a person who also happens to be a caregiver. 

Transcript is below.


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Feel trapped by the definition of being a “good” caregiver? We should talk.

Transcript: What if judgment had no power over you? (Episode 27)

Hi there. I’m your host, Kay Coughlin and you’re listening to From One Caregiver to Another. This is episode 27. There’s going to be two basic parts to this podcast today, about learning to live a life where judgment doesn’t keep you stuck anymore. But before I get to that, I just want to remind you, since this podcast is new, I’m not here to teach you how to be a better caregiver, whatever that means anyway. I believe you’re already good at whatever you’re doing, and you can have other things in your life that are as important as, or maybe even more important than your role as a caregiver. So, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to be us as caregivers and other things too, and how we can live big, expansive lives that are filled with whatever we want, and we happen to be caregivers too.

Okay. So, back to the two ideas that I’m going to give you today. One, I will not judge you ever, and two, we can give ourselves the gift of learning not to judge, or at least when we do judge, to make it not mean so much in our lives. Okay. First, I’m not going to judge you. I want this podcast to be a safe space for you to explore yourself and your thoughts and beliefs, and also your feelings and your life. I really want to say this to you now, before we dive into anything too deep together, your life is your own. If this was a two-way conversation, you’d find that I won’t go anywhere near blame or shame or guilt. In other words, no judgment.

But I didn’t start out this way in life. Honestly, I used to be one of the most judgmental people I knew. I don’t actually know how people could stand me and there were a lot of people who couldn’t stand me. I had these ridiculously high standards, and I really expected everybody to be able to live up to those standards. But over the past 20 years or so, probably more intensely during the last 10 years, I’ve done a lot of work on my own self-awareness. So, I’m a not enlightened. That’s hilarious to even think about as it relates to me, but I have come a long way. I mean, these days I tend only to judge myself. I still have standards for myself that are practically impossible, but as far as anybody else’s concerned, I try so hard to just be curious about them. And that’s really my style of unconditional love. I guess that’s the best way to describe it.

I believe you can do whatever you want, but because it’s my style, I might ask you questions about it. Not because I question your reasons, but because I’m so curious. Now here’s the thing, I fully expect you to judge me for at least some of the things that I will be saying, because some of the things I’m going to say are hard and I really go against conventional wisdom, and I might end up questioning things that you believe. I want you to know that is totally okay, and I think it’s natural and I want to encourage you to do it, if you need to. You can judge me because it’s safe for you here with me. I’m a big girl and I can take it, so please practice challenging me so that you can learn to challenge all the things you need to, to change things in your life.

And if that means you have to judge me so that you can challenge me, go for it. I think you could ask any of my clients and they’d confirm that I’m really serious about not judging people. I’m not perfect, even thinking that makes me want to laugh too. But I’m going to try very hard between you and me and I’m going to keep working on my self-awareness so that I can give more love to the world and less judgment. And that’s what leads me to this second part about judgment today. I want every family caregiver to have the gift of no self-judgment. Now, I just admitted to you that I’m not there yet, but I’m a lot better at it than I used to be. And I have to say, if I can do it, if I can come this far, no matter how far I still have to go, than anybody can do it. You can do it.

And the reason this is so important to me, other than just the idea of encouraging us to have this abundant self-love, is that the people around us, they’re already judging us. We don’t need to make it any worse by heaping more of it on ourselves to punish ourselves. One of the most, I think, shocking aspects of becoming a caregiver, at least for me, was how it seemed like it was open season on my choices and my actions, and even on my intentions and motivations. I’m going to talk a lot in this podcast about my decision to become a caregiver and my own experience. And that’s even though I really should say our decision because my husband has been an important part of this, but I don’t feel comfortable telling his story for him.

So, even though we decided to do this together, I can only tell my part of this. That’s the only true way to do this between us. So, if I start at the beginning of my decision to become a family caregiver, there are these areas in which I felt intensely judged. Sometimes the judgment was coming from other people, and of course, sometimes it was coming from my own head and it still happens. When this all started for me, and that would be a little over 10 years ago at this point, there was a lot of judgment about what my motivations were for making the choice. So, we did this, became caregivers in this caregiving situation with my parents or for my parents, or however you want to phrase that. So, it was not my husband’s family, but mine.

Anyway, the thought was that surely we were doing this because I wanted to “get something” from my parents. And we’re talking, maybe it was their land or their house or their love, or some free babysitting or whatever. And then there was this judgment that came from friends. Some were very sad and had a kind of pity for me that I would make this choice that meant that surely I was going to have to sacrifice so much of my life. Some of them were confused because this isn’t a choice that they would want to make in their lives. And some even said that I was a Saint, which is totally ridiculous.

Then when I decided to buy my parents’ house from them, the mortgage company we went to was fiercely judgmental and assumed that our unusual arrangement meant I was trying to hide something like, maybe there was a divorce or a financial disaster I didn’t want to disclose to them. None of that could have been farther from the truth. We were very open with the mortgage company about what it was we were trying to do here, but it just didn’t matter to them. They even went so far as to give me a choice about facing a fraud investigation or withdrawing my mortgage application. And of course, I withdrew my mortgage application and I found a mortgage company that didn’t approach the situation as if I was a problem, and as if I was a fraud.

And then I started a new job and it was one where I traveled a lot. And many of the people there thought I was cold to leave my parents and husband and kids so much of the time. They said to me, “Oh, that’s just not something I could ever do.” What a lot of them didn’t realize was that taking that job was what allowed my family to move away from our home in Cleveland and relocate back to central Ohio so that we could be here with my parents. I actually took that job to make this caregiving situation possible. So, then I decided to go into business for myself full time and then people judged that choice too. By that time, my dad had passed away and they said to me, “Oh, you’ll never have time to start a business and take care of your mom and your family.” So, just to set the timeline here, that was 2015.

At the time, my mom needed almost no taking care of any way and she still mostly only needs us to drive her around and help with a few things. So, my caregiving situation, most of the time, wasn’t intense than. And most of the time now, it’s not intense as well. But it was intense last year at the end of May, when my mom was in the hospital for a couple of days. I wasn’t allowed to be in the hospital with her because of the pandemic, and I got some very angry messages from family members who insisted I should fight to be with her. Someone even said to me that I should fight my way into the hospital if that’s what I needed to do. So, those are all of the ways that other people have judged me or some of the ways along my journey to becoming a caregiver.

And now, I have to confess to you that I tend to judge myself still pretty harshly for the amount of time I make for my mom. I really can’t win with myself, no matter what I do. If I spend more time with her, I think I’m neglecting my own family. And if I don’t spend enough time with her, I worry that I’m leaving her alone too much. So, remember that I’m recording this during the pandemic, so she isn’t really going anywhere and isn’t having other visitors in the house either. So, I’m just going to take a guess here and say that if you made a list of the places you felt judged by others and yourself, it would look like my list in some ways, but you’ll have your own areas of judgment too. Your situation is unique, so this isn’t going to look the same for us.

But what I know is that judgment is painful, no matter where it comes from. And what if we could learn to live without dwelling in the pain of judgment? That’s what I want for you, that’s what I want for myself. So, after all these years of being a caregiver, I have trained myself to notice the judgment and to feel it. Okay, so it’s really important to know that I’m not saying that we shouldn’t feel it. Feeling it, processing those emotions is a very important part of being a human. But now, instead of resisting it, I try to figure out what I want to do about it. I spend time deciding what I want to make it mean to me and in my life. I don’t let the pain grow and grow anymore, well, at least not most of the time, I still do that some, but I’m so much better at it now than I used to be.

So, I don’t think the goal here is to stop the judgment, but it’s to make it so that the judgment doesn’t really mean anything big in our lives. We can see the judgment and we can notice it and we can feel it, but we don’t have to make it into a problem. Do you see the difference there? It’s important to know here that the reason that we can’t stop the judgment, and that’s not even a helpful goal, is because we can’t change the people around us. No matter what we do, we won’t be able to force the people around us to stop judging. It just doesn’t work that way. Now, over time, we can change ourselves. Those are the only people in our lives that we can change. If you didn’t know that, if no one’s already said that to you, please know this, the only person that you can change is you.

And that’s the work that I’m doing on myself now, to stop judging myself, and of course, for sure, to not judge other people, because that is the only hope I have of changing anything is working on myself. And when I do judge myself, I try not to make it mean that I’m a bad person or that I’m wrong, or that there’s something wrong with me. I try to notice it and say, “Oh, okay, there, I’m doing it again. I’m judging myself again. What do I need to feel? How do I need to go through this? And how am I going to work on this so that it doesn’t mean something big in my life?” You can learn to do this too, if you want. I will be going into this more in the podcast over time.

But if you are ready now to start working on this very important work of being able to go through judgment, without it crushing you anymore, you can read my book and that’s called From One Caregiver to Another: Overcoming the Emotional Grind. And I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. Or if you really want to move very quickly to get out from under this gigantic weight of feeling judged all the time, that is for sure, one of the things that I help a lot of my coaching clients do. And you can contact me about what that looks like, if you’re interested. Again, there’s contact information in the show notes.

But this really all starts with just believing that you can change your relationship to being judged. First, you can decide just to believe me, that I won’t judge you. If that seems like a step that you could take right now, then work on believing that. Work on trusting that I’m not going to judge you here in this space we have together. Second, you can start to believe that the judgment you’re feeling in your life right now, doesn’t have to keep crushing you forever. That relationship with judgment will keep you stuck over time, but you can begin to believe that it can be different, that, that’s something that you can change.

And I think I’m just going to leave that right here for today. I would love to hear from you and learn a little bit about what goes through your head when I tell you that I’m not going to judge you. Do you believe me? Can you believe me even just a little? And what does that judging in your life look like right now? Do you believe you can change what you make it mean? Do you believe it even just a little, can you believe it even just a little for yourself? That’s what I really want to know. My email address is in the show notes. If you’ve got some thoughts about what I’ve had to say today, of course you can leave a comment, but if you want to make this private, you can also email me. I welcome that. I want to hear from you and I want you to know that I am here for you.

I’m so glad you’ve been here with me today and I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode. Thank you so much for listening today. You can learn more about me and about this work at facilitatoronfire.net and that’s facilitatoronfire.net. There you can also sign up for my newsletter, which is also called From One Caregiver to Another. Please follow me on Instagram, look for that link in the show notes. If you want almost daily doses of straight talk for family caregivers, just like we’ve done here today for family caregivers who are tired of feeling trapped by the traditional definition of being a so-called good caregiver, whatever that means anyway.

If you liked this episode, please consider leaving a review which will help other caregivers find their way here too, so that they can get the help they need to. And definitely tell a caregiver friend who also needs a boost in their confidence to design and live their best life, which just happens to include their caregiving responsibilities, but doesn’t have to be centered solely on those duties. I can’t wait to be here with you again in another episode.

your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO and Chief Facilitator of Facilitator on Fire, has a dream to create a world that is generously inclusive of all adult generations. The best place to connect with Kay is on Instagram.

Caregiver Coaching” is for family caregivers who are ready to overcome the emotional grind of caregiving. 

Facilitator on Fire’s “Building Trust Across Generations” seminar helps leaders and managers build amazing teams that are attractive to people of all ages. Kay’s keynote address, “Top Myths of Leading Generations,” helps businesses see the hard costs of miscommunication between generations.