In chapter 1, I looked into what falling into transformation may feel like: like shredding your old skin without realising, and suddenly finding yourself at the other side of the mirror – the real world. The difficulty and the pain of seeing the light for the first time (and the shadows that come with it). The doubt that comes with learning how to use your new senses to navigate through an experience which might feel awfully uncertain, but ultimately – utterly true. Now, to go through this journey, one of your worst enemies will probably be yourself – and judgement. Two key ingredients can help: (self) empathy and patience. Tick tock…

So I’ve had this issue of Philosophie Magazine sitting on my desk for a few weeks now. It is half covered by my polaroid camera and on the visible half I see, shine Michel Foucault’s white teeth and the subtitle “the courage of being you”. I had paid little attention to it since I finished browsing through it the first time but today, it jumped at me like a French slap in the face.

To give you a bit of context, my freelancedom as a facilitator and consultant in soft skills, co-creation and collaborative leadership became official quite recently. I am now my very own despotic boss. And of course, with great power comes great responsibility, especially if your job means to be the vector of your fulfillment in life. With great power also comes expectations (I am not even talking about the expectation of whether you should engage in such an activity or not).

Another word for expectation: judgement. I have quite a lot of experience in this field, having evolved most of my life in quite a judgemental environment. Judgement, a quality that I myself cultivated so well that it became the hardest box to dismantle. My biggest monster? My judgement of myself: being good enough, being worthy… The perfect incarnation of Foucault’s Panopticon: we no longer need other people’s judgement to dictate our every move, since we police ourselves so well on our own (policing fragments of our imagination which are not even part of reality!). My work is a constant reminder of what my true values are: personal development practices, frugal innovation, the Collab methodology – with its integrative consent and other tools… They are all based on the same thing: perfect is the “good enough to try” – as long as it is in your stretch zone (above your comfort zone, but below the space where you totally lose control).

What is judgement? The Oxford dictionaries give four definitions:

  • The ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions
  • An opinion or conclusion
  • A decision of a law court or judge
  • A misfortune or calamity viewed as divine punishment.

The first definition is anchored in an idea of rationality. That one who judges “well” is one who is rational. As you see in many practices such as shadow work or other kinds of personal development work, I would gladly assert that in this context, judgement is on the contrary the fruit of emotions (an expression of the mind, thought’s twin – not to be amalgamated with feelings which comes from a deeper place). Very often, the judgement you put on others comes from your own experiences, memories, fears, understanding, even taste… An issue addressed for instance in Non-Violent Communication (NVC). In my humble opinion (wink), the two elements that stand out in NVC are: 1) your opinions belong to you, no-one has dominion over an absolute truth, otherwise we wouldn’t be part of humanity’s system, we would be the system itself 2) non-judgement is the apple tree standing at the cross-roads between love and being present.

I like the fourth definition. We, human beings, like playing God. We do so in our relationship with nature and “other” people, “other” societies. In the way we use our power and influence on our colleagues, and children; distribute our opinions like cookies; impose our solution (and definition of the problem?) because we have the money to back it up… The idea that constructing judgement on others may bring them misfortune or calamity seems to suit the purpose of my argument quite elegantly. I might sound blunt by saying that judgement and fear are the two plagues that have most devoured our humanity.

In my transformation process, an element I kept throughout is my mission to support others in their journey towards their own fulfillment. And still, I remind myself all the time to be kind to myself. When we judge others, it is often because we judge ourselves first. But resilient change takes time. We are so caught up in efficiency that we forget to breath. Yet breathing nourishes our body and our brains so that we can continue persevering in what we do. Change therefore requires patience, foremost towards ourselves. Accepting that change will occur at the pace at which it needs to in order to fully bloom, means that we have to accept it and also change our perception of temporality. Calmly sitting in the boat being carried by the river rather than dying of exhaustion trying to run next to it. When something takes time, it is an opportunity for you to learn even more than you expected along the way.

Non-judgement also invites you to feel and listen to your real feelings. We usually talk about empathy towards others. What if we started with ourselves? If we gathered our courage and faced what we truly felt? Once we break down the walls, we become like the wind: if there’s nothing to hit, there’s nothing to break. So going back to my initial quote, I love what I do, and I love myself when I do it. I am worth taking my courage to embrace my destiny without judgement.

So why not do a little exercise? Next time doubt clouds your mind, put the judgement aside and listen carefully. Instead of tainting what is being said, listen to what lies behind, above and below the words. Take a deep breath before answering back to yourself, take the time to assimilate what has been said and feel whatever it moves in you. It is okay to feel what you feel. In response, express an answer that belongs to you right here, right now. Gently but firmly like bamboo in the wind. Not judging yourself, will help you have empathy for others. And that is how we can better steer the boat together, as we will see next in Chapter 3.

This has been written and narrated by Atikah Lorot:

Globetrotter. Violinist. Salsa dancer. Climber. Tea-lover. Boundary-challenger. Change-explorer. Confidence-builder. Supporter of your organisational journey.

This publication is part of a series written in the framework of a partnership project “Atikah’s Collaborative Leadership Journey” between the author and Round Sky Solutions and in tandem with the author’s participation in the Level 1 Certification course in Collaborative Leadership.