I teach a free yoga class for cancer survivors on Saturday morning. It is so humbling and I feel so honored to be able to teach this class. In my class I have my students close their eyes and acknowledge what they are thinking and feeling, but without judgement, just to simply be. This is not an easy thing to do, a specially when you fight cancer or any other disease or ailment. We tend to judge our bodies, why they are sick or hurting, why can’t our bodies just be healthy and without pain…… But does judging our bodies, our thoughts, ourselves, and others really serve us? Does it make life better and easier?
How do we judge ourselves and others
Do you ever realize when you judge yourselves and others? For most of us it is so ingrained in us that we don’t even notice. When you look in the mirror, what do you think? Do you only see the positive, which technically is a judgment as well, or do you see the negative. Todays post is about negative judgement, which is more hurtful to ourselves and others. So what do you see when you look in the mirror, and what do you think? Do you see you “ugly” stretch marks on your belly as a woman after you had children, or do you see a beautiful stomach that endured growing a baby. Do you see the wrinkles in your face or do you notice your beautiful eyes or smile. When I stand naked in front of the mirror, the first thing I notice are the scars on my chest where my breast used the be. It took time to learn to love my new body and embrace it, but now when I see those scars they remind me of the fight I fought and the things I overcame. They make me feel beautiful and strong. It was not an easy journey, do I still judge myself from time to time? yes, it has been ingrained in me from a young age, but what do I do to break the bad habit? For every negative or judgmental thought about myself, I think of 3 positive ones. It becomes even more profound when you write them down. There is such power in writing something down.
And how do we judge other, and why do we judge others. A lot of that comes from how we are socially conditioned. What we learned about what is socially accepted or not. When you think of a homeless person in shaggy cloths on the side of the road, what is the first thing you think about? Is it a negative thought, are you negatively judging that person? But do you know that persons story? Do you know how this person got into this situation? Maybe this person thought cancer, lost his job and ran out of TDI, but couldn’t find a new job because they were still on treatment. Maybe this person went to fight for this country and suffers from severe PTSD and doesn’t know how to handle it and never has been able to find the right help. But do we think about the possibilities of their struggles or do we think right away that they are dirty and lazy.
What about those pictures you see on Facebook about people in walmart and how they are dressed. Do you judge the way they look and what they wear, and why, is it because you were taught that wearing something like that is socially unaccepted. Maybe they were taught to be themselves and feel comfortable in their skin no matter what you wear. And the list goes on. There are so many ways we judge people, not just of how they look, what they do, or not do, or the way they talk. How can we break free from this, how can we change our thoughts. Same as with breaking the cycle of judging ourselves. When you have a judgmental or negative thought about someone else, think of 3 positive ones. It’s important that we learn to break this cycle. Will you never judge again? Probably not, but you will become more aware and be able to catch yourself.
Can we judge and not let it influence us
Ok so can we have a first impression, meaning negative thought or judgment about an other person, and not let it influence the relationship? That is a hard one, I think in some way it will influence the relationship, but the relationship doesn’t have to end negative or be negative. Have you ever been in a situation that you met someone new and your first thought was something negative and judgemental, but in the end you became good friends? What happened to that judgment and negative thought. Did you learn to see that person from a place of love and not fear. BTW, that’s what our judgements come from, when we judge something it’s from a place of fear, we fear people who are different, or we don’t understand etc. So can you shift it around and learn to come from a place of love, admire the things that are different in the other person.
I recently met someone, and yes my first thought was not very nice, I thought she was a little stuck up, but I left myself open to get to know her, guess what, she’s such a wonderful person with such a beautiful soul and heart. Do I still think she’s stuck up? no! But why did I think that at first? First of all she’s from a different culture than me, but also she is confident and comfortable with who she is. When people are like that, and we feel a little bit more vulnerable, we might see that as a threat. A lot of time we criticize something in others that we struggle with within ourselves. I judged, because I would love to be always that confident and comfortable with myself. But guess what, she doesn’t always feel like that either.
How did we become like this
So how and when did we start to learn to judge other people? It started with your parents, or whom ever raised you and influenced you. Do they mean to condition us like that? probably not, they are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. They were conditioned as well. My parents were a lot about appearances, what other people think or how they see us is important. Nice house, nice car, and a “good” job. When I was younger, I couldn’t date foreigners, guys wearing leather jackets, and riding motor cycles. Of course I came home with one of those, and they loved him. You know why They loved him, because he was in the TU Delft, and very smart. Yup that leather jacket didn’t say anything about his brains. Then in 2010 when my parents came visit for the first time. (I am originally from the Netherlands and moved to Hawaii in 2007) My hair had just started to grow back from chemo, I was still on chemo, but thankfully is started to come back already, and I colored it all pink for the month of October. The first thing my dad said: “I hope you don’t expect me to walk next to you while you look like that” I told him he could walk on the other side of the road for all I cared. I didn’t do this for him, I did it for me, to celebrate that my hair was growing back, but also to start conversations and be able to educate women about the risks of breast cancer. Yes and my parents are still judgmental, and I try not to judge them for that. Besides that they are wonderful people, and raised me and my sister to the best of their knowledge.
Other ways that we get conditioned to judge is the things we see on tv or in our direct enviroment, school, work place etc. The social standards on how you are supposed to look and act are sickening, and if we don’t teach our children it’s ok to be themselves, to be “different” (not according to what ever social norm, which in my opinion is not being different, but just being yourself) how will they go around and see and judge themselves and the world. I think it’s important to expose children to many aspects of life, different religions, social groups etc.
I remember when I was younger there was this girl at the end of our street, I think her name was Ingrid, who has down syndrome. She was a few years older than me, she would go with me to gymnastics. We would walk together. She was in a different group, but we both had gymnastics at the same time. The first time she conquered walking the beam, she called my name through the gym and proudly showed her new skill to me. I think most kids there were nice to her and didn’t think anything weird, I am sure everyone realized she was a little different than most of us. Ok, getting back to my point, I knew as well she was not the same, but with that I am happy my parents kind of put me in that situation so I didn’t see anything “weird” Ok I am not sure if I make sense right now. When I was in 6th grade I had this boy in my class, I think he might have been on the autistic spectrum, so was his mom, but she was very high functioning, but he had a little brother with down syndrom, that kid loved me. He was always so happy to see me. I remember being older and working at a store on the weekends and his little brother came in with his mom. He had just eaten ice cream, and was covered in it. He spotted me, his eye lit up and ran over and embraced me in his very strong bear hug. All I could do was smile and feel his love, that he so openly shared and displayed. Other people around me were looking with disgust, not just because of the ice cream, but him being “different’. Is he really different, what is different anyways. I can tell you more stories about meeting different people with down syndrom, but for me they were never weird, even though I knew and know they are not like me in some ways, but because I was “exposed” at a young age, I didn’t judge.
What do we do now
So what do we do now, now that we might be a little more aware of where our judgments come from and hopefully become more aware of when we judge. First of all, don’t start judging yourself now for judging others and yourself for so long, just accept and let it go. If you never thought of this before, I hope this gives you some things to think about and maybe you’ll decide to implement less judging into your life, or maybe not, not judgment here. But if you’re willing to give it a try, when ever you judge yourself or others, think 3 positive things to counter balance. Try to come more from a place of love and embrace what is “different” in ourselves and other and just notice how you feel after trying this for a while. Is your mindset shifting, do you feel more positive, and better? Share your thoughts and feelings with me in the comments. Let’s open this for discussion.
Take a few moments to close your eyes….. Take a few beautiful letting go breaths…… acknowledge what you are thinking and feeling, but be without judgment, just allow yourself to be. Place your hands over your heart and sent yourself some love no matter where you are in life right now, what you’re battling or going through……