In its simplest form, nonjudgment is to accept yourself and others without blame or condemnation. I used to think I was nonjudgmental because I believed that people should be able to do whatever they like as long as they aren’t hurting anyone in the process. Through my training in life and leadership coaching, however, I realized that being nonjudgmental is a lot deeper than that. True nonjudgment is when you accept things just the way they are, people and circumstances. It means not judging yourself and others for their choices, not being jealous, not comparing yourself to others, not putting others down, and also not judging the people who have hurt you or others. True nonjudgment means complete acceptance of everything and everyone.
To be honest, I have not achieved this level of nonjudgment nor do I think I ever will. But understanding where judgments come from and what triggers us to judge ourselves and others has helped me expand my awareness. By doing so, I become less judgmental each day. I’ve been able to reach this level with three principles I’ve learned during my coach training, which has helped me be more aware and less judgmental:
What we admire in others are the aspects of ourselves we haven’t cultivated
Have you ever doubted yourself because you thought you would never be as good as the person next to you, been jealous of someone else’s achievements, or had times when you felt less than?
Although a cliché, what we see in others is a reflection of ourselves. The reason you admire someone’s qualities is because you recognize the same qualities in yourself but may not have fully cultivated or expressed them yet. It’s not because you lack these qualities, but because you see them in yourself. If you admire someone’s fearlessness, it is because you know you too can be as fearless as that person but you haven’t fully embraced that quality in yourself. If you hadn’t recognized fearlessness in yourself, then you wouldn’t have admired it in someone else.
I admire people who have the ability to captivate others with their communication skills. This is because I know I have the potential to be as good as them but I don’t believe I’m there yet and therefore cannot fully express myself the way I would like to. Thus, we only see in others what we see in ourselves.
What we dislike in others are the aspects of ourselves that we may have rejected
I recently came across a quote by Deepak Chopra that said, “The essential nature of the universe is the coexistence of opposite values.” He further explains this stating that, “You cannot be virtuous if you do not have the capacity for evil. You cannot be wise if you do not have an inner fool. And you cannot be generous if you do not have a stingy person inside you”.
If you think someone is rude, it’s because internally you have the capability to be rude too but you dismiss that part of yourself to be polite towards others. If you can consciously choose to be polite, why can’t this person do that too? You’re frustrated with your friend because she puts her boyfriend before you, believe it or not, it has nothing to do with her and everything to do with you. Deep inside, you believe that if you were in her shoes, you’d consciously choose not to do so, hence your frustration that she can’t do the same.
When I first came across this concept, it was a light-bulb moment. Before that, I didn’t realize that the small things that bothered me about others, were never really about them but instead about me. Whenever something bothered me, it was because it went against my values and the expectations I had set for myself. The things that I wouldn’t do or the things that I thought were “wrong”. And in some cases, the things I could have done but my circumstances didn’t allow me to.
There are no mistakes
We sometimes regret the choices we’ve made in the past and dwell on the what-ifs. We also judge others by looking down on their choices and taking pride in how right we were when their choices turn out to be disastrous. Not judging someone’s choices becomes even harder when they hurt you or others in the process. But regardless of the consequences, anyone who has ever made a choice, made it because they believed it was the right choice for them at that moment.
Our choices are based on our level of awareness, and a choice that went awry in the future was still the right choice for us at that moment. In the same respect, if someone hurts you, remember they are merely acting from their level of awareness and doing what their awareness allows them to believe is the right choice for them. We learn from every choice that we make, expand our awareness, and make a choice that reflects our new level of awareness the next time around.
It is almost impossible to be nonjudgmental all the time unless you are a monk living in an isolated mountain. But knowing what triggers your judgments helps you take responsibility for your feelings. Letting go of something that is bothering you is a lot easier when you know it is coming from within you and therefore, is totally in your control. Adventurers, here’s a challenge for you: just for a day, try to see everything (good or bad) and everyone with compassion. And if you do catch yourself judging, ask what’s triggering these feelings of judgment? With these three principles, you’ll be well on your way to a nonjudgmental life!