What are traits you love about yourself that are integral to your character? Are you sincere? Compassionate? Resilient? Sensitive? Open-minded? Frank?
Let’s get a piece of paper. First, we’ll draw or imagine a circle in the center with one of these traits written inside. For me, let’s place “persistent” in the circle.
Next, we’ll draw a bi-directional arrow out from the circle and write an example of how we exhibited this trait next to it.
For example, I’m persistent when I show up to class, albeit late, consistently. Being seen trying is not embarrassing. Although it is inconsiderate to the professor and your classmates to disrupt the class after it has started, it is also inconsiderate and disrespectful to your education and your professor’s time to be absent. Next to my arrow, I would write “showing up to class even when I’m late.”
Now, let’s draw another bi-directional arrow that leads from that example, and instead of writing another example, we’ll write a judgment that accompanies that experience. For me, I will remind myself it is quite embarrassing to walk into a class late and be the focus of attention for a brief second. Especially since it’s disrespectful, I’m often afraid of being perceived as a delinquent.
Next to this second arrow, I’ll write down the potential judgments that could prevent me from going to class at all since being absent means being relieved of any judgment or attention.
But if that single judgment is enough to stop me from going to one class, what kind of impact will that have on my ability to attend future classes? And if I skip class when I’m late, I’m less likely to see my progress through in showing up on time.
More importantly, those arrows are connected; if my judgment hurts my ability to go to class no matter how late, that means it’ll also hurt the trait that informs my ability to show up to class, which is persistence.
Let’s write down other examples of how the trait in the center has manifested itself in our personal experiences. What judgments accompany those experiences?
Now that there are multiple arrows stemming between judgments, experiences and your central trait, you can see how collecting these judgments can impact the connection you share to your character.
Every time you let a judgment hurt the way you embody a trait, you’re losing a bit of that trait that makes you who you are. If I internalize that it’s embarrassing to be late to class and I hurt my persistence, then I’ll be less inclined to persist in another situation.
Just imagine the circle with the central trait as an apple getting bitten. These judgments eat at your trait until it’s gone. You’re not persistent anymore, just judgmental. When all you have left is judgment, that’s all you can give to other people.
And so for these experiences where your persistence is rewarded, we can replace the judgment next to the second arrow with an example of how that experience reaffirmed your trait.
We don’t consider the long-term consequences of quickly made, ill-informed judgments. And while I seem to be completely against judging, it doesn’t mean when these judgments surface, they warrant further judgment. It’s OK. In fact, they’re an opportunity to connect with yourself on a more intimate level so why don’t we start questioning these judgments instead of welcoming them?
Tenzin Wodhean is an arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org