This post is the fourth (and last) in a series exploring living in curiosity vs. judgment. Part one was an introduction to this topic, part two explored what curiosity and judgment look like, and part three looked at ways to shift from judgment to curiosity.
Curiosity as a way of life
It’s one thing to see how valuable curiosity can be in the way we approach life, but how often are we genuinely curious about our lives and the patterns and themes that appear in our relationships and our choices? How often do we carry a non-judgmental spirit of curiosity into our daily interactions with other people? How often do we jump too quickly to judging ourselves or the people with whom we interact on a daily basis without engaging in curiosity?
As an example, think for a moment about driving in traffic. Can you remember a recent time when you encountered another driver that appeared to be driving in a way that was dangerous? Perhaps this other driver was driving too fast, weaving in and out of lanes of traffic, and not coming to a complete stop at stop signs. What thoughts went through your mind? Did you automatically assume that this other driver was a jerk? An idiot? Something worse?
But imagine for a moment that you had a chance to talk to the driver of the other car and discovered that the reason for the driver’s hurry was that he or she had just received a call that a parent was dying in hospice and that it was urgent to arrive soon if there was any hope of saying goodbye. Would that change your perception of that driver? What if that person was rushing to the hospital because one of their children had just been in a bad car accident? Would you still think them an idiot?
In real life, we often have no idea what another person may be going through. We may still think that the person’s driving style (their behavior) in that moment is not very safe, but when we jump to judgmental conclusions about that person’s character, we close ourselves off from the possibility that there is a reasonable explanation for what they are doing. In so doing, we trap ourselves in the dark prison of judgment.
Does this mean that we cannot set boundaries or choose the kinds of behavior that we are willing to tolerate in our lives? Absolutely not! When we focus on the behavior we are willing to accept from others, this is healthy boundary setting. When we begin to make judgments about the character or worth of the person displaying the kind of behavior we don’t like, this is when we begin to isolate ourselves from others. We can refuse to accept to be treated in a certain way while still remaining open with curiosity about why a person is behaving as they are.
This applies first and foremost to ourselves. It is easy to jump so quickly to self-talk that is much more critical, judgmental, and condemning than anything we would say to anyone else in our lives. How often have you called yourself stupid or lazy or a whole host of other nasty names? How often do you tell yourself that you “should” be something other than what you are?
The next time you catch yourself judging yourself, take a moment to view yourself with curiosity. Explore gently and inquisitively the possible reasons why you may be behaving as you are. Are you trying to be someone you are not? Are you setting unreachable standards for your work? Are there extenuating circumstances that may be impacting you in this moment?
Bring that same curiosity to those moments when you find yourself relating to someone else from a place of judgment. Rather than heaping additional judgment on yourself for having judged, take a moment to notice the judgment pattern as it is occurring. See if you can identify the reasons that you may have adopted this way of relating to other to begin with. It is often a mechanism we adopted in our past at some point to help us deal with a painful situation that has now become our default pattern.
What things tend to trigger that state of judgment for you? Is this pattern of judgment serving you the way that you had hoped when you adopted the pattern? What might serve you better in this relationship or situation in this moment? The simple act of questioning our patterns loosens their hold on us enough to allow us to choose other behaviors or attitudes that may serve us better in the situations we face today.
This open, flexible, inquisitive way of seeing the world around us will help us become the person, friend, relative, co-worker, partner, or parent we wish to be in all parts of our lives. The way we treat others in our lives will always be a reflection of the way we treat ourselves, so start asking questions today. Start with the suggestions below, and then get curious about everything. Get curious about yourself, get curious about others, get curious about the world around you. It’s such a freeing way to live!
Additional questions for reflection:
- Think of a situation when you displayed genuine curiosity. How did curiosity feel in your body?
- How do you approach situations or people whom you are curious about?
- Think of a situation when you were stuck in judgment. How did judgment feel in your body?
- How do you approach situations or people whom you feel judgment toward?
- What words or phrases do find yourself using when you are judging? What words or phrases do you find yourself using when you are being curious?
- What structures (or reminders) can you create in your life to help you be aware of judgment when it arises and facilitate the shift to curiosity instead?
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.