Using judgment and prejudice as launchpads for rapid growth.
At twenty-one, I was one of the most judgmental people to ever step foot on planet Earth.
I can’t present to you any factual evidence to back-up this statement, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.
Fortunately, after some “soul searching” as my mother would call it, I used my own extreme judgmental tendencies as a launchpad into some of the greatest personal and professional growth I have ever experienced.
This article is about that weird, funky, slightly fucky but ultimately wonderful journey.
I was an ass but I wasn’t alone.
I would judge my friends.
I would judge my family.
I would judge complete strangers.
I would judge myself.
I would judge everyone.
While this might sound like I was a horrendous individual (in a way I was), I don’t think I was entirely alone.
Scratch that. I know I wasn’t alone.
The vast majority of us humans are wildly judgmental because we are raised to be.
We are taught at an early age to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong.
While this is productive in teaching us that we are not supposed to lie or cheat or kill or steal, it’s detrimental in that it turns us into black and white thinkers –– a cancer that permeates into other facets of our lives.
Suddenly, we go from judging ourselves and our own actions to judging everyone around us; categorizing each person we run into as black or white, right or wrong.
And, since we are obviously extremely biased towards ourselves, we label people living differently from us as wrong… because if they are right, it would mean we, ourselves, are wrong… and god forbid we are wrong.
Or, worse yet, that nobody is right nor wrong.
The latter is a bit of a mind-fuck for us.
For some odd reason, we struggle greatly with living in a world where nobody is right nor wrong. So, again, we place judgment.
This compounds and compounds and compounds and eventually something really nasty happens. Not only do we judge others because we are taught from an early age to do so, but we judge others to protect our own insecurities, short-comings and worries.
And, it works.
We project our own insecurities, short-comings and worries onto another person and judge that person as wrong and it makes it easier to cope.
The bible-thumping Christian judges the Muslim because somewhere, deep down, they are scared that when death comes knocking, the Muslim might be right.
The insecure wife judges younger women because she is insecure of the idea that her husband might sleep with someone younger than her.
The white father judges his daughter’s black boyfriend because he can’t stand the idea of having a baby that might be a beautiful meshing of both.
While these are all extreme examples of judgment that dance on the line of racism, everyone (and I do mean everyone) wrestles with judgment on a daily basis.
Fortunately, we can use this judgment to grow immensely in our lives, careers and creative pursuits.
Judgment is a shortcut to rapid growth.
Eventually, I realized that the judgment I was feeling towards other people was the tip of a much bigger deeper iceberg. As I mentioned earlier, I was projecting my own insecurities on other people in the form of judgment.
So, I sought out to make a few changes.
To begin, I didn’t attempt to end my judgmental tendencies but instead worked to better understand what insecurities were causing them.
I began paying close attention to the judgments that were coming up over and over again.
The first judgment I explored was judgments towards people in my community pursuing creative passions and sharing them with the world. I was labeling these people as pompous, arrogant and self-indulging.
But, when I explored deeper, I realized that I was having these judgments because I was scared to death of sharing my writing with the world.
The second judgment I explored was judgment towards free-spirited people who were living care-free. I was labeling them as unambitious and unmotivated.
Again, I began to explore these judgments deeper and realized I was having them because I was living my life dependent on the opinions of others.
The third judgment I explored was towards other men. I was finding myself extremely judgmental of other men, especially when I was in a relationship. If my girlfriend gave another man a compliment or spoke well of a man that wasn’t me, it would cripple me.
After some more exploring, I realized the judgment I was feeling towards other men was a deep-seated fear that I would be cheated on or abandoned by a woman I was in love with… for someone smarter, cooler, funnier or better looking than myself.
Once I had rounded up my judgments, gotten to the bottom of why I was having them, I then and only then sought to change my judgmental tendencies.
Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.
Mae West, an American actress, singer, screenwriter, playwright and comedian once shared a lovely bit of advice with the world…
“Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.”
This line, in my opinion, is how one goes about utilizing judgment as both a compass and a launchpad for immense personal, professional and creative growth.
Find the things that shock you (your judgments) and dive headfirst into exploring those judgments.
For me, this came down to exploring and shocking myself with the following…
I began sharing my writing, everywhere, no matter how scared or insecure I was feeling.
I began going to music festivals, letting loose and experimenting (responsibly) with a few drugs.
I began showing love to not only my male friends but men in general and stopped viewing them as competition but rather my friends and allies.
Today, four years later, I don’t experience any of the judgments I mentioned before but instead the following…
I don’t give a flying fuck about what others think of me and have no trouble having fun (at times too much fun) at bars and the occasional festival.
I have an immense amount of love and respect for the men in my life and as a result of the confidence I have found in myself, I feel more secure and safe than I ever have before in a relationship with a stunning soul (she lives a thousand miles away from me, I could have never done that a few years back).
With that said, while I am far less judgmental than I used to be, I still battle judgment… I think I will forever.
But, now, I view judgment as a tool or a launchpad of sorts for my next big personal, professional and creative breakthrough.
For example, for the past year, I’ve been very judgmental of various poets I’ve come across on Instagram… I explored and explored and explored and discovered I was really just jealous that they were courageous enough to put there words into a book.
And, guess what?
By Cole Schafer.
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