August 21, 2014
Founder, Mindful Games Institute LLC
“Love this video.” is the message my sister sends me with a link attached.
Trusting that it will be either moving or entertaining, I click the link and listen to Michael Sam accepting the Arthur Ashe Award at the ESPYs. It’s a moving authentic speech. He talks about his experience of being the first openly gay player in the NFL and the support and love he felt from the people in his life.
There is a phrase he makes at the end that really catches my attention:
“Great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.”
If it takes courage to be who we are, then who are most of us being and why?
Have we been trained that to succeed we need to go against what feels natural and right and instead be what we have been told is required? This is so exhausting. And who is doing this to us?
We are doing it to ourselves.
I think one of the things that is at the heart of this, which keeps us in the trap of trying to figure out who we need to be instead of just being ourselves, is our fear of being judged. Paradoxically, our tendency to defend ourselves against being judged is to judge others first.
If I can find fault in someone else, it takes the heat off of me. I feel more in control in the moment and “right.”
We say things like:
“Look at what they are wearing.”
“You shouldn’t do things like that.”
“At least I did my part, you didn’t do anything.”
If those phrases are uttered by us, we feel a bit of superiority, of being better. But, if those phrases are uttered to or about us, we feel put down and made wrong, and we may feel like we need to defend ourselves by pointing out what the other person has done wrong. In essence, we are being judgmental, too. It becomes a no win situation.
It’s easy to see the destructiveness of the harsh judgment Michael and many others are subject to and the oppressiveness it causes. Much awareness and attention has been brought up around bullying lately. However, what we may need to be aware of and stop to make a more lasting difference may be the subtle judging that we have made such a habit that we don’t even realize we are doing it.
I and several others were scheduled to speak at an event. It was during the rehearsal of our presentations that I saw how judging someone else is a trap for me.
During the rehearsal, I found myself comparing others’ presentation with mine, judging which was better, what I should do differently, and feeling anxiety when their presentation seemed to be better than mine, as if that meant mine was no good.
It wasn’t until I bombed the rehearsal that I even realized I was judging everybody else in my head and how it was distracting me from my goal of telling my story. In order to judge them, I was comparing them to me, so not only were they the targets of my judgment, so was I.
To get back on track I knew I needed to refocus.
When I heard myself justify why I was judging others, I discovered that I had a belief that I needed to judge the other presenters so that I would know how to be the best.
That caught my attention.
This was not a competition. Yet I was comparing and ranking myself to how others were doing, trying to figure out what I needed to do to be better than them. I was no longer focused on my message or my audience and I hadn’t even realized it.
Thinking I had to be the best was distracting me from being my best.
When I chose to refocus on having fun and telling my own story, I felt no need to judge what or how the others were doing and actually listened to their talks. I was moved, amazed and in the moment with them. I felt connected instead of in competition.
Everyone’s talks during the actual event, including mine, went great.
When I stop judging others, I find I am freer to be me and I can allow and appreciate others for who they are.
That is being my true self.