Judgement is leading us to unhappiness, how to let go of criticizing.
How to Let Go of Judgment
As a coach, I am still a work in progress too. On a recent trip back to France, I surprised myself by noticing how judgmental I was being. I consider myself open and compassionate, so it was hard to admit that I was being negative, typically in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. I could feel how those heavy thoughts were affecting me, my energy, and my relationships, too.
So I decided to explore and share applying my own process, Planting the Seeds of Change, to help me create change and let go of this judgment. Here is how I did it.
1. Prepare the Ground: Observe Your Thoughts
The first step towards non-judgment (or any change) is creating awareness. I asked myself how, when, and how often was I judging things instead of accepting them?
Judging others is understandable. We are conditioned by society, education, culture, religion, experiences, and self-beliefs, to name a few. Before doing this work, I never noticed my judgmental thoughts, yet these thoughts arise frequently, naturally and subtly. They happen in a split second. As you practice, you will notice more of them.
Mindfully observe yourself. Whatever you are doing—pause, scan, and listen for your thoughts about things, people, or your experience. See what comes up. Don’t judge those thoughts or banish them; simply listen and notice how they come. You are collecting data.
While relaxing at the beach, for instance, I found myself judging what people chose to wear, their shoes, what they did, and their weight. My mind was telling me that here were people and things that appeared different from my own standards and points of reference. As I watched, I also noticed my friends and people talking at other tables doing the same thing. I could feel it dragging my energy down.
(Ironically, it’s not only negativity that hurts us. Positive judgments can be just as draining when they create separation and duality, comparison, and a sense of fitness or unfitness.)
2. Fertilize the Soil: Consider the Source
While you observe, make a list of your judgments. My list included: Interesting (bad) outfit. This car is dusty inside. He’s too tan. This is a messy place. This food is good. This candle smells wonderful, but not this one. She looks older.
Now consider your list. One or two items might surprise you. You might instantly let go of some simply by seeing them—where they come from might not be “you” any more. Congratulations!
This step is also about awareness. Ponder your list and where those judgments come from. Do they arise from a past experience? Cultural differences? Religious beliefs? Societal standards? Many magazines for women have set up harsh visual standards that few can reach. Can you understand their source?
What’s important here is to look at your comments without shame, without self-judgment or criticism. Acceptance will help you move past these thoughts and engage with others based on shared values rather than comparing others to our own point of view.
3. Plant the Seeds of Change: Choose a New Way
The next step is to consciously choose how you want to perceive the world. Your thoughts and words shape your world. How can you perceive the world form a friendly, collaborative viewpoint that values and appreciates what is around you?
Choose how your world will look and feel, with less judgment and more appreciation, more compassion for others, more acceptance of situations you have no control over. This new attitude removes all labels, allowing you to see the bright side of each object or relationship.
Recently I felt judged by a dear friend of mine who has the exact opposite political views. I asked him, “Let’s agree to disagree. Let’s agree to not convince the other of our own views but to have a conversation about the common ground we share.”
Boom. Amazing shift! Our conversation became compassionate and evolutionary. We shared new, creative ideas. Imagine if you could be like that with everything and everyone in your life. Imagine the creativity and richness of relationships that are based on common ground.
Today, I’m still scanning my environment and taking the time to observe my judgments. When I have one, and see where it came from, I look at it again and ask, “What attribute can I value in this object or person?” Can I appreciate its shape, color, or the experience of observing it? Can I value a person’s beautiful eyes, kind smile, or the energy they exude?
This exercise will help you rewire your brain. And that will shift your world by altering your perception of your life and relationships. Your lenses are changing. How priceless!
4. Water the Plants: Keep Going
Over my life, I’ve done a great deal of work on non-judgment. Still, things happen, so keep practicing. Over time, you will create new neural paths and rewire your brain. This practice will open you up to new possibilities, experiences and opportunities.
Share your practice. Consider challenging your friends or colleagues at work to shift towards interacting based on common ground. Start your staff meetings by talking about what you value in the participants or in the work your team is doing.
How amazing would it be to start every conversation or interaction with this type of valuing and with less judgment!
5. Prune the Leaves: Tweak Your Practice
After practicing for some time, tweak. What works for you and what doesn’t? What negativities are you still holding on to and what can you do differently for those?
Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes you retain beliefs from your family or because you are afraid of letting them go. Remember: change is a process. It doesn’t usually happen overnight. This practice will bring sustainable change and transformation. Adjust and keep going.
6. Harvest the Fruits of Your Efforts
You will see that after practicing a while, you attract more people, feel more energy and become more productive. Energy that once went into negativity will be directed more positively. And when I say “positively,” yes, that’s still a judgment. But positivity will bring you feelings of fulfillment, contentment, and connection with others. It will help you enhance your creativity. Everything will seem possible.
You will find you have more patience with your life. Your consciousness and kindness will expand and you will be able to connect more deeply with others. Thankfully, my inner critic has been quieting down.
Be the change you want to see in your world. You can do this.