Judge Not

January 15th, 2009 by Steve Pavlina

Have you ever met anyone who was normal?

I’ve met a lot of people on this planet so far, and none have ever seemed normal — or average — to me. Not even close.

Being normal is a myth. There’s no such thing.

Despite what some people say about me, I don’t consider my lifestyle radical, abnormal, or extremist. I don’t do what I do to rebel against society. That would be pointless because no matter how I live my life, it’s guaranteed to be unique anyway. I can’t possibly live a normal, average life even if I tried. No one can.

Even if it were possible to live a normal life, would you even want that? On this planet, normal means living on less than $2 a day… and that’s just for starters.

Exposing Your Uniqueness

The reason my work tends to polarize people isn’t because I’m so “out there.” The reason this happens is that I openly share my uniqueness instead of keeping it hidden. Being different is commonplace, but exposing those differences is fairly uncommon.

Most people lead with their sameness and hide their uniqueness, so as to maximize their chance of being accepted by others. I prefer to share my uniqueness openly. As you can probably guess, this exposes me to criticism — sometimes a great deal of criticism. But I’d rather be judged for the man that I am than accepted as someone I pretend to be.

The truth is that if any other human being on earth shared their honest history, thoughts, and aspirations publicly with an audience the same size as mine, they’d likely receive just as much criticism as I do. As long as they reveal the honest truth, someone, somewhere will judge them harshly for it.

Does it bother you to know that if you totally opened up and shared your real self with the world, warts and all, that you’d attract some criticism, judgment, and condemnation? Would it bother you to discover that some of the harshest judgment might come from the very friends and family you keep right now?

I’ll be totally straight with you. If you open up and share your real self with the world, you will indeed be criticized for it. Some people will take issue with your very existence, as if you’re somehow a personal threat to them. But at the same time, you will invite new connections with the most honest, authentic, compatible people you could ever wish for. Believe me — that’s a very worthwhile trade off.

When you show the world a false front, the world responds with false acceptance. When you show the world your true self, you’ll receive both harsh judgment as well as genuine acceptance.

The former approach is worthless. The latter is absolutely awesome.

Where Do We Connect?

You and I are two different people. We may have a great deal in common, but I’m sure we have many differences too. If you’ve been following my work for a while, you can probably name several things off the top of your head that you really like about me. And you can probably name other things that seriously bother you.

Some people absolutely love that I’m a raw foodist and a vegan — this deeply resonates with them. Other people go kittywompus whenever I write about diet or health. Some people are absolutely ebullient about the decision Erin and I made to have an open relationship; they genuinely look forward to watching our journey unfold. Other people are completely freaked out by this decision and predict nothing but doom and gloom.

And guess what. If I knew as much about you as you knew about me, I’d probably feel the same way about you. There would be some things I’d absolutely love about you and other things that were a total turnoff. Some things about you would attract me; other aspects would make me nauseous.

Consider that we’re all puzzle pieces in the larger body of humanity. We connect well with certain people on one side but not on all sides. We have some compatibility but never perfect compatibility. This is true even in a long-term committed relationship.

So the question is this: Should we hide our differences from each other and reveal only our commonalties, or should we expose our differences openly?

Imagine if I ran this website so as to avoid revealing anything about myself that might offend or annoy certain people. Suppose my goal was to create a website that could gain the acceptance of nearly everyone — or at least avoid any serious public condemnation. That means I’d have never written anything about polyphasic sleep, spirituality, eating vegan, raw foods, juice feasting, manifesting intentions, being arrested, my college experience, being happily jobless, and for goodness sakes — certainly not polyamory!!!

What would be left? Most likely we’d have a pretty generic self-help site. There would still be some decent articles, but I think you’ll agree that something precious would be lost. The spirit of my work would be totally absent.

However, if I actually ran a site like this, certain people might accept me more easily because they wouldn’t have as many reasons to reject me. They could more easily delude themselves into believing that we’re 100% compatible. But would they really like and accept me? Or would they merely accept the false image I projected?

When I share a part of my life that doesn’t resonate with you, there’s no need to go kittywompus and become judgmental. Simply do the best you can to accept our differences. You see… it’s our differences, not our sameness, that stimulate us to learn and grow. If you and I weren’t different, we’d learn nothing from our interactions. There’s no point in exploring the creative work of someone who agrees with you on everything; that would be a complete waste of your time. Our differences fuel our growth.

Being Nonjudgmental

When I meet people who lead lives that are very different from mine, I’m usually fascinated by them. I become intensely curious. I want to know why they live as they do and what I can learn from them. I recognize that their puzzle piece is able to make connections that my own piece cannot, and this means they’ve learned things that — without their insights — I may otherwise never learn.

I’m especially turned on by people who follow non-mainstream paths that expose them to a lot of criticism. I’ve found that such people tend to be far more conscious than most, often because the harsh judgment they receive helps them grow stronger and more committed to doing what they believe is right. When you finally realize that it’s impossible to satisfy everyone, you stop worrying so much about the opinions of others, and you start tuning in and listening to yourself more and more. This can be a powerful catalyst for a very conscious life. Not always… but quite often.

Last week I was hanging out with some friends on the Vegas Strip. The Sands Expo was hosting a popular adult convention (i.e. a porn convention). As it turned out, I had some interesting conversations with a few of the porn stars who were in town for the convention. While some people obviously hold strong opinions of those who work in this industry, I approached them with an attitude of openness and genuine curiosity. I’ve never had any connections to the porn industry, so these are people I might otherwise never meet.

Overall I found these conversations fascinating. I was surprised to learn how much I had in common with these adult performers. Perhaps my sex life has been a lot more vanilla than theirs, but I soon realized that my pre-judgments of such people were totally inaccurate.

Specifically, these people were able to communicate very openly and authentically. I could tell I was talking to a real person, not a false front. Maybe when a person has exposed themselves on camera, they feel less of a need to hide other parts of themselves. They also made no apologies or excuses for their lifestyle choices. They owned their power and were congruent with it. They may follow a path that I wouldn’t choose for myself, one that entails certain risks, but I could understand why they made the choices they did.

Does this mean I want to turn around and start shacking up with porn stars? No. But I could easily see myself connecting with some of these people as friends, hanging out and having interesting conversations about life, the universe, and everything.

Accepting Your Imperfections

One of the key turning points in my life happened when I crashed and burned after becoming addicted to shoplifting. By disappointing everyone who knew me, I stopped worrying about what other people thought about me. I reached the point where I just assumed everyone’s opinion of me was negative. I felt like I’d been rejected by virtually everyone and that there was no one in my life I could really trust. I had to learn to accept myself in order to make it through those dark times, even though no one else seemed willing to do so. Otherwise I’d have totally given up on my life.

After going through such an experience, how could I be judgmental of anyone else? To this day my attitude is, “Look where I came from. I’m a convicted criminal after all. I know what it’s like to feel the whole world is against you. How could I possibly judge you for your choices? I’d rather accept you as you are. I know you’re doing the best you can.”

Being judgmental of others and hiding your uniqueness go hand in hand. How can you go around judging others if you aren’t willing to put yourself on the line as well? If you expose yourself to daily criticism and judgment, this will teach you to be much more compassionate and non-judgmental toward others. You will see just how important it is to accept everyone as they are, including the parts you may not like.

Some people who’ve never met me mistakenly assume that I’m very judgmental. I often write in a direct, opinionated manner, and the reason is that I’ve found that style to be very effective at stimulating people to grow. I’ve been experimenting with different writing styles for years, and I know from experience that being direct and strong in my language really does have a positive, long-term impact on people. It gets people thinking and discussing issues that they’d otherwise leave buried. The process of consciously reexamining your assumptions can lead to huge personal breakthroughs.

When I use that particular writing style, it’s not because I’m criticizing you for being where you are; it’s because I’m nudging you to re-examine your motives and to consider alternatives. In order for you to make committed decisions in life, you also have to consider and accept some of the paths you’ve decided not to follow. If I post an article about an alternative choice, and you’re really bothered by what I’ve written, perhaps it means you aren’t fully comfortable with your current path, and maybe it’s time to explore alternatives. As I previously noted in the article Self-Acceptance vs. Personal Growth, it’s entirely possible to accept ourselves as we are and yet still push ourselves to learn and grow. So when I nudge you to grow in some way, please don’t interpret it to mean that I don’t accept you as you are. That simply isn’t true. I’m quite certain that you’re awesome. :)

Do I hate people who eat animals, people who are very religious, or people who can’t wake up before 10am? No, of course not. If that was how I really felt, I’d end up living a sad, lonely, and disconnected life. My life purpose is to embody and stimulate conscious growth, and I can’t do that if I put up artificial walls between myself and everyone else.

I was raised in a very judgmental environment. From my earliest memories, I remember being on the receiving end of a tremendous amount of criticism. Many times I felt I couldn’t do anything right. When I was around 4-5 years old, I would try my very best to be “good” and to avoid upsetting people. But over and over again, I kept failing. Then I’d be punished for it. As a result I began to hate myself. I felt like I was trapped in a game that was impossible to win. No matter which direction I turned, it always led to judgment and punishment. My only real defense at the time was to create a false shell around myself, one that would hopefully be satisfactory to others, while I was a totally different person on the inside. I felt no love toward anyone or anything.

It wasn’t until my teen years that I finally began to realize this game was totally unfair. I gradually stopped trying to live up to the expectations of others. I began doing what I felt was best. Initially this led to an extended period of self-destructive behavior, but eventually I got through that and learned how to meet my needs without hurting others. And much later I figured out how to meet my needs in a way that helped other people too.

When I’m really in touch with my feelings, I don’t judge other people. As a human being though, I’m not always at my best, and I often screw up. Those mistakes help me renew my commitment to being non-judgmental. First, I feel that a person with my past has no right to judge anyone. And second, I know what it’s like to be subjected to harsh criticism and punishment, and I don’t wish that on anyone.

There’s something really amazing about being around people who love and accept you as you are. This doesn’t mean such people won’t stimulate and challenge you to grow — in fact, they often will. But it means you can feel totally safe in their presence. There’s no need to worry about being rejected or condemned for being who you are.

Being nonjudgmental is a step toward unconditional love. A good place to start on this path is to love and accept yourself. Stop beating yourself up for past mistakes. If you can’t love and accept yourself, you’ll have a hard time loving and accepting others, and vice versa.

Learning to accept myself as I am was a long and difficult process. The first step, however, was to realize that it was essentially a choice. I didn’t need to meet any special conditions, satisfy any prerequisites, or gain anyone’s approval. I could simply decide that I would accept myself no matter what. In the long run, this decision has made me very happy. :)

This wasn’t remotely easy for me. I was raised from a young age to believe that life was all about judgment. As a child my entire world revolved around trying in vain to earn the conditional acceptance of others — my parents, my teachers, my peers, and God himself. Later in life I had to unload a tremendous amount of baggage, and new stuff still comes up from time to time.

My heart really goes out to those people who haven’t been able to unload such baggage yet. The simple truth, however, is that you’re free in this moment to decide to unconditionally love and accept yourself no matter what. You may have been taught all sorts of reasons why you can’t do that. None of them are true.

If you can learn to love and accept yourself completely, then it doesn’t matter if the whole world turns against you. Self-acceptance changes the way you look at people who are judgmental. Instead of seeing them as attacking you, you realize they’re battling with their own lack of self-acceptance. Deep down they wish they were free enough to be truly themselves.

Authentic Connections

When I started writing about polyamory, did I lose some friends? Yes, that has happened in a few cases. Some people became very judgmental and critical as a result of my decision. On the other hand, I attracted many new friendships as well — far more than I expected. I lost some people who couldn’t accept me as I am, but I gained many new friends who do accept me.

If friends decide to dump me as a result of the personal choices I’ve made, then at best I only had their conditional love and acceptance, so our friendship was never that deep to begin with. Consequently, I don’t feel that anything of value was truly lost. All that happened was that some inauthentic connections were revealed and released. This creates a space for more authentic connections to be formed. It also means that my future relationships can be more strongly aligned with truth and love than my old relationships that didn’t survive.

The road to misery is trying to satisfy other people’s expectations. Instead of trying to please others, decide to live congruently with your own ideals and values, and allow others the freedom to do the same. Some people will accuse you of being selfish for doing so, when in truth you’re performing one of the most important services this planet needs — demonstrating how to live honestly and authentically.

If you cannot share your true self with the world, your life will be filled with shallow, inauthentic connections at best. The relationship you maintain with your inner self, when you’re all alone with your private thoughts, will be very different than what you experience with other people. Your personality will be split between your private persona and your public one. You will probably crave solitude more and more because at least when you’re alone, you’re free to put down your mask and be yourself, without risking the judgment of others.

What would happen if you allowed your social self and your private self to become the same self? Why not allow your true self to shine as a beacon of openness and honesty?

Yes, this will require facing more rejection and judgment from false friends. But it will also open the door to the most honest, authentic connections with other human beings you can imagine.

If people want to become close friends with me (as opposed to mere acquaintances), I require that they unconditionally accept me as I am. This means accepting that I’m a raw foodist; that I’m married to a popular psychic medium, one who also happens to be my best friend; that I love working on spiritual growth, but I’m allergic to organized religion; that I have a geeky/nerdy/Trekkie side; that I have a quirky, playful, and irreverent sense of humor; that I love to write, often for hours at a time; that I’m very open-minded and love to explore new growth experiences; that I have lots of energy and don’t tire easily; that I like to get an early start to each day; that I don’t have a job, nor would I ever want one; that I don’t subscribe to scarcity thinking; that I love helping people grow; that money is very low on my list of priorities; that I tend to be very focused when I’m pursuing a new goal or activity; and that I’m currently exploring polyamory and will no longer remain monogamous.

If there’s anything about me you can’t accept, you’re welcome to keep reading my work from a distance. I hope you still find parts of it helpful and worthwhile. Just be aware that as long as you maintain such judgments, the wall you’ve erected will prevent us from becoming any closer. We’ll never be close friends, nor will we likely do any business together. So please keep that in mind if you ever decide to contact me about anything.

Some people compartmentalize their personal life and their career/business life. I do not. To me it’s all the same thing.

I don’t mind if people tease me about some of my attributes or if they challenge me to grow in various ways. In fact, I rather enjoy those kinds of interactions. I’ve been known to dish out a fair bit of teasing myself. However, don’t put yourself in the position of expecting me to change who I am just to please you. I wake up happy and excited about my life each morning, and I’m absolutely delighted with my current direction. Some days I can hardly believe how fortunate I am. If you would seek to derail me from this path, while you yourself seem largely unhappy and unfulfilled, I will likely question your intelligence and refer you to resources for the non-smart folk.

Deep down we all want the same thing, don’t we? We all want to love and be loved. We would all love to be open and honest about ourselves and be accepted for who we really are. We’d all love to lower our shields and trust that we aren’t about to get phasered. Am I so different from you in this regard? I seriously doubt it.

Imagine what a delightful world this would be if we were all open and honest with each other, while also being completely accepting and nonjudgmental with respect to our differences. This is the reality I wish to experience. I previously shared this vision in my book as the Oneness World exercise, and it’s also reproduced on this site in the article Oneness.

I understand and accept that I’ll be criticized and condemned for my choices. I imagine this will likely continue for the rest of my life as a human being. I just want to say in advance that regardless of what happens, I’m simply going to forgive all of it. I won’t always be at my best, and sometimes I get dragged down by negative energy for a little while (those slings and arrows get stuck in my teeth). However, the more people criticize and condemn me for my choices, the more it deepens my compassion and my commitment to conscious living. My greatest wish is for all of us to live conscious, happy, fulfilled lives together.



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