“black biplane doing aerobatics” by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

Self-judgment as a kind of motion sickness

Many years ago I had the gift of a peer review, getting honest, uncompromising feedback from a group of colleagues I trust and respect.

The waiting period was anxiety provoking. I thought about being poorly rated, and how that would feel. OK, well I have some work to do, don’t I.

Then I imagined getting a unanimously excellent assessment. Hmmm, I fooled everyone. Low standards, obviously.

Eventually I noticed how I was equally uncomfortable with either outcome. Since I was already down on myself, the external feedback would just give me different flavors of disappointment. It wouldn’t cause it, or relieve it. I already knew where I could have done better and what I’m capable of. Making good on that was the only thing that would make a real difference.

I often advise others against negative self-judgment. The whole point of seeing how you can do better, the value of it, is to do better! Not to beat yourself up.

So why the discomfort? After my peer review, this thought occurred to me:

That uncomfortable feeling of comparison, of self-judgement, is a kind of motion sickness.

We are always in the NOW, the present moment.

And NOW is an inflection point between history and possibility.

And there comes a moment when you become aware of the chasm that exists between the two, history compared to possibility. Who you’ve been up to now, compared to who you now see you can be.

The shift is happening, and you’re experiencing it as it’s occurring. And you feel motion sickness.

As long as you sit in that place, aware of but not actualizing the potential you saw, not completing the shift, you are at risk of generating that uncomfortable nausea that comes from negative self-judgment.

Once you have made the shift to being / doing / creating what you now know is possible, you’re out of motion sickness and back to joyously resonant integration.


The fact is, when I’m at my very best — when I’m the most “on” and in flow — my head positively races with an endless stream of potential improvements. Right on the heels of—or even in the midst of—what I’m doing, I’m thinking of ways it could be better.

Well this is the experience of being awake and perceptive and focused. It’s what the state of rapid growth feels like as it’s happening. It’s not a condemnation of my actions, unless I deliberately spin it that way. At any given moment I’m doing everything the best I know how. And becoming aware of what can be better, even in the moment, doesn’t take away from that. It’s actually precisely what I want to happen.

Remembering this allows me to sit in the rapid movement of self-growth without the motion sickness of negative self-judgment.

(I know this from personal experience: if you’re on a winding road navel-gazing in the back seat and getting nauseous, look out the window! Let your senses come back into agreement that you are in motion.)


Copyright 2016, 2018 by Ken Blackman. All rights reserved.