As we walked together into town, I noticed a woman across the road wearing an outrageous hat and I laughingly pointed it out to my new school buddy. It was my attempt to build a connection with her; it was how my family had always done it, making fun of other people.
She was silent for a bit, and then calmly said,
"You know that comment says more about you than it does about her."
Life momentarily stopped. I felt so small, so awkward, so ashamed, I just wanted to disappear in a puff of smoke.
My dear friend Claire was right of course, but boy did it sting. We were only 16 at the time, and my fragile ego burned for days. Horribly aware now that my judgments gave me away, I was even more silent than usual.
But Claire had planted a seed in me, that bedded down and quietly grew over the years. Echoing each time I heard a judgment or thought one. I saw how it held people in their own stalemate and how it limited me to my bare minimum, terrified to do anything new or daring in case the judgment police called me out.
Today, that moment is tattooed in my memory as one of the most profound gifts anyone has given me. It's how I listen to my thoughts, it's how I listen to you. Not judging, just curious.
How do we let go of judgments?
Let's not make this complicated. It's a tiny shift from looking out making someone else wrong, to looking in and wondering what it says about ourselves. For me and that hat, I guess I wasn't giving myself permission to be seen, to be playful, to be wild, to love myself enough to wear a colourful hat. So the real question I could have asked myself was, 'what would I need to let go of in order to feel great wearing a colourful hat?'
Of course there are behaviours that I struggled to be curious about, for example, selfish people. Yet while I don't want to be like them, it's interesting to wonder, 'what would I do more or less of, if I allowed myself to be a tiny bit more selfish?