Who Are You/I To Judge? Learn To See People Like Trees


I saw this post on a friend's facebook wall and was reminded of my greatest challenge and greatest work. I read it and thought, "yes. This is right. I need to do this more. I think people need to do this more."

It was especially poignant because I've been feeling my inner critic, my critical mind as Pema Chodron calls it, sort of taking over the joint lately. I know it's because my own life is in such constant and furious transition; change is so good and can also be such a challenge. I get those feelings out, in part, by displacing frustration, anxiety and feeling a lack of control via my biggest vice: judging. Judging people, judging society, judging myself--harshly. I see this happening all over facebook and hear it in the words of others more clearly, perhaps because I'm increasingly more aware of my own habit of doing it.

When we judge ourselves and others, we lose connection to them. We lose compassion for self and the beautiful imperfection of each person. We lose sight of the truth that we are all miraculous works in progress, each trying to get through a day doing our best with the best we have.

I was born and bred to be a judge. My mom passed it down from her mom. Perhaps my great-grandmother was a judge, too. I didn't know her. It's probably a safe bet.

But I grew out of it for a short while when I was in the company of a wonderful community in my early twenties. There wasn't much time or need for judging because I was surrounded by love and fun and joy in my career and my relationships.

Then, I fell in with a crowd of some fierce judges. They used the guise of "social justice" as the validation but the tone and tenor of their thoughts, words and actions were undeniably clear: JUDGMENT. Hanging around that scene nurtured what was already a really bad habit of mine so it probably wasn't an accident that I "found" that community. I must have had more work to do on that part of myself.

For years, I justified my behavior of harshly judging and criticizing others' thoughts, words and actions because that's what everyone else was doing. We rationalized the behavior and enabled it in each other. The lessons I learned about difference were framed with the message of suffering as a victim. I was taught that differences meant someone lost and someone won. I learned that it was my job to suffer because others were suffering. I learned to take a back-seat and speak up for people instead of encouraging them to find and use their own voices.

All of this has merit, but it was a flawed philosophy. It's true that I learned a lot about identity and perspective-taking and privilege, but I came away from that community more damaged than healed and it's taken me years to see it and come back from it.

I keep quite a few of those folks on my newsfeed to remind me of how far I've come and how far I have yet to go.

Judging ourselves and others is a habit. It's pervasive and rooted in my own self-esteem and self-confidence. The saying goes, "we judge in others what we don't accept about ourselves." I'm judging myself right now for sharing this so openly and honestly. But what bothers me more about this social media thing than the false sense of connection with each other, is the false sense of identity people present. I'd rather be inspiring from a place of honesty than a false pretense.

So, I am integrating the best of that old philosophy I was taught into a new model. I am learning to see people like trees, as Ram Dass says. Seeing them for the ways they've been shaped and molded based on what they've endured---but not judging them for it, because the judging won't change anything. Loving does.

I am practicing this, especially when feeling most triggered, most frustrated and most disempowered in my life. I want to practice doing the best with what I have and what I've been given and inspire others to do the same, even though we are given and have different things.

I am learning to see myself like a tree, shaped by periods of brilliant light and perhaps a lack of nutrients at certain points but standing strong, despite.


Why Your Imperfection is a Gift

NEWSFLASH: you are imperfect.Yep, it's true. So am I. It's a gift to be imperfect and know it. I'll tell you why.

I didn't think I had an issue with perfectionism until recently. I thought I was pretty present with my imperfection and had been on top of it. This past semester, while talking with my professor about my paper she said, "um, I think you're a bit of a perfectionist". I might have protested a bit and my jaw may have hit the floor. I didn't think I was, but apparently it's more obvious to others. I call those things, "blind spots".

 blind spot: something you don't see in yourself that others see in technicolor. With glitter.

That's another bummer about perfectionism, it fools us into thinking we can actually ace it. Like, with enough work, we can totally be/do it. I had a colleague once who was definitely driven by perfectionism. It made me sad, really, because he was so sure he was totally on top of everything. He crossed every t and dotted every i in his work. He wore a tie, every day, in a business casual work environment. He worked relentlessly to produce impeccable results, and he often did! The problem was, he was bound to mess up at some point. He sometimes did or said things that left people with a bad experience. This isn't bad or wrong, we are all imperfect after all, but the problem was that he didn't think he was doing that. He was pretty convinced he was perfect. In reality, he left others with exactly the opposite of what he thought he was doing.

When we are driven by perfectionism sometimes we forget that someone, somewhere, at some point will not perceive us as being perfect at all. It is completely, undeniably impossible to be perfect to all people and all things at all times. Even when we meet our own standards of being perfect, it probably means someone is seeing all those things as the opposite of perfection.

I just saved you a lot of time and energy. You're off the hook. No need to stress anymore.

Instead of trying to be perfect, I want to encourage you to ace imperfection. I want you to really settle into this and embrace it. I figure, if we are all going to fall short of our own personal ideals, and those of others, we might as well f^*&$(g rock at it.

Acing imperfection starts with basic self-awareness. The next step, after seeing the ways you aren't perfect, is to accept them. Every single one. Accept and embrace them, because they are what make you, you. The sooner you're cool with that, the sooner you stop hanging out in the Land of Denial. And that works better for everyone in your life--mostly you.

Your awareness of your own imperfection is a gift because when you know the ways you're imperfect, it makes you that much more grateful when someone loves you, anyway. When you can lean into the things that aren't so savory about you, and accept yourself for those things, the love other people have for you means so much more. They see the things that you know about or don't even see yourself and they still consider you precious.

We all want to feel ok. We want self-confidence and self-esteem. These sometimes feel so far out of reach and that's why it's so much easier to love and be around someone who is ok with being imperfect than someone who is tirelessly (and unsuccessfully) trying to be perfect. It helps when we all embrace each others' imperfection.

Lead the way and give up perfectionism. Ace imperfection, instead.

read  The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown.

photo courtesy of Google images

How to Let Your Parents (and yourself) Off the Hook


Last week, I reunited with my mom for the first time in 5 years.


5 years.


That's a long time to go without seeing your mom's face and get a hug from her. Too long for me, that's for sure.

It was really taking a toll on me, physically, mentally and emotionally. I tried to pretend it was cool and it didn't bother me but it wasn't. Not one bit.

It made sense, in a way. I got it. I came out as transgender and my mom had a hard time with it. She freaked. She withdrew. She didn't say things like, "oh honey, you have my 100% support."

Somehow, along the way, I forgot my mom wasn't perfect. And then I got mad and hurt because I forgot I am not perfect, either.

With all the Pema Chodron listening I do, you would think I would have remembered this. You would guess that I would have brought my enlightenment to this situation and be like, "hey mom, no problem." But it wasn't time for me to do that until recently. Which was the perfect time, really, because that's when it happened. It's really that simple.

You see what I did right there? I just let myself off the hook. I gave myself a break for going through something hard and being a bit imperfect and impatient and ungraceful during that process. 

And just like that, POOF! I was able to do the same for my mom.

Over the past six months, I have gradually reached out to her more and more because I knew she was struggling to understand and accept this new me. I think pretty soon she will come around to realize it isn't really a new me, but just a more complete version. Some better, sexy, updated packaging, you might say. Now the outside has integrity to the inside. She knows what I was like as a kid, she knows that she raised me to straddle the lines of life and not let anyone tell me where to draw them.

But there are new pronouns to practice. A new name. My face looks different (although some of that is just me getting on in years) but she sees my smile is still the same.

This all started when I followed my heart. When we are able to let ourselves do what we need to, we can make that space for others. I've known a lot of people who do this some of the time. I know many people who barely give themselves space to breathe, and I see what they do to the people in their lives, in their country and in the world.

We can only love and accept people to the extent that we love and forgive and accept ourselves. It's a process. It takes a long time. It takes practice. It all starts with the intention to let ourselves, and others, off the hook. 

When we embrace that we are really imperfect beings, we can relax. OMG, the pressure is off. The curtain is pulled away.  The secret is out. We aren't perfect and we won't ever be. AND, at the same time--we are completely whole and perfect in that imperfection. The more we relax and accept it, the better life gets.

During our whole lunch together, we kept expressing how good it felt---even if it felt a little weird. We just let the weird be there.

And the day after, my mom sent a text that was all I've needed to hear for the past 5 years, "I love you and I missed you very much."


Let yourself off the hook.

Let your parents off the hook. They did their darn best, otherwise they would have done more if they had it available to them.

Just like you're doing right now.



Now go give them a call.