(It was hard to come up with an introduction for this piece written by a young woman – it beautifully speaks for itself.)
I was always confused by the value most people seem to place on being non-judgmental. Aren’t we as humans constantly evaluating and assessing the world around us, if nothing else, as a means of navigation? Why is this inherently a bad thing?
I have always known myself to be a judgmental, critical person. On many occasions I’ve been told as much, although it’s more of a running internal dialogue than a shared one. Probably in large part because of the conventional wisdom on the matter, I used to think that being critical was a bad thing—a negative trait to overcome, an inhibitor to simply enjoying things and people for what and who they are—and maybe there’s still truth to that. But one thing I’ve learned in the last year, a year where I’ve learned much about myself and people, is to view this ‘trait’ not as a habit to overcome, but as my primary means of processing the world around me. I learned too, that other people have different means of processing their worlds, and how very different they often are from mine.
With this re-categorization, I began to see being critical as a tool I could choose to utilize if and when I wanted, versus a default setting that controlled me and my experiences. It is often still my knee jerk reaction, but I’m getting better at stepping back and making a conscious choice about whether I want to give into that reaction, or cast it aside.
Let me offer an example to illustrate what I mean. Upon going to a party hosted by a friend, in my old mode of being, I would have spent a certain amount of time at the party thinking about and, ultimately, being irked by, all the things that could have been done differently or “better”, e.g. preparing food before guests arrived, better organization and coordination, a tidier apartment, more of this, less of that, and so on. But what is the value of being critical in this situation, other than maybe picking up some party planning do’s and don’ts? Zero. It takes me away from being in the moment, casts a negative shade over the party, and stops me from appreciating the hospitality of my friend and her efforts to get a group of kind, welcoming and interesting people in a room together. It inhibits me from the simple joys of the experience achieved by accepting and relaxing instead of continuously evaluating.
Now, I’d be more likely to go to the same party and feel the pull of my critical internal monologue but not give into it. I acknowledge its presence and then instead say something like, “everyone is in good spirits and having a great time and it’s nice that I was included—who cares if it’s not executed perfectly.”
I can’t claim that I’m always successful in this recalibration — but I’m working on it, along with a process of identifying and understanding what my other default modes are, and how to seize control of when and how I wield them, instead of allowing them to wield me.